Letter from Elk City: The other Brookings
ELK CITY, Ore. – While the entire Oregon coast is beautiful, you’ll find different features depending on what portion of the coast you’re visiting. The northern coast, for example, has more trees and vegetation – often right up to the shoreline. At the central coast the ocean turns bluer, nearly aquamarine. And on the southern coast, rock formations, known as “haystacks”, abound as in a farmer’s field.
After camping at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park and visiting Umpqua lighthouse, I made my way down 101 into some territory I hadn’t visited before.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offered mile after mile of sand dunes, many open to recreational vehicles. Then it was on to North Bend and Coos Bay. From there 101 meanders inland for a few miles, moving closer to the coast at Bandon before going inland again. After that, starting at Port Orford, 101 hugs the Oregon coastline all the way to California.
At Brookings, I made camp that night at Harris Beach State Park, reserving the campsite for two days. While you can’t really hear the ocean from the campground, something I really prefer, it’s an easy walk through a small wood to a commanding view of the Pacific then a path down to the beach.
The beach there is magnificent. It has everything a coastal beach could have and more. The sand is well packed from heavy surf and rock formations make for some spectacular waves as the surf breaks into them. I probably spent four hours photographing the surf as it roared over the rocks, telling myself it couldn’t get any more spectacular – but it did. By nightfall the second day, waves were crashing over the rocks 12-15 feet high.
While the ocean always has that constant roar, the surf at Brookings was a constant roar pocked by explosions, the mist reddening the setting sun.
One thing that is certain about the ocean is that is timeless. Another is that the beach is ever-changing. You might visit one year and picnic on a giant drift log and come again years later, fully expecting that same log to be there. But it is gone, washed upcoast, finding another beach to make a table for other diners. And that could happen next year, 10 years, 50 years from now.
While the ocean is ever-changing, that in a real sense tells us something about ourselves. We, too, are always changing. We are not the same person we were the last time we visited a place nor we be the same person the next time we visit.
Someone told me once she was sad that we did not have a picture taken of us together when we visited an Oregon beach a few years ago. Later, we watched a video we had done that shows our shadows on the sand, sand that changed by the hour if not the minute as wave after wave crashed upon it. Certainly, years later the sand would be changed and the shadow gone. But each grain of sand would still have within its memory the impression of the shadows cast upon it.
That’s why I feel so drawn to the ocean – for its primordial power that makes us look more deeply inside ourselves.
If for no other reason, it’s worth a visit for that.