Oregon's Cannon Beach: Storms, sun and offseason deals
Oregon's Cannon Beach is about 200 south of Seattle on the Oregon Coast. Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is a monolithic rock adjacent to the beach. Tide pools around the rock are home to many intertidal animals, including starfish and sea anemones. The rock is also a nesting site for many sea birds. The smaller formations next to Haystack are names the "The Needles." (Mike Siegel, Seattle Times, MCT / October 19, 2011)
A fleece vest and scarf were all I needed on a recent brisk afternoon as I sat on the Oregon beach, snacking on fresh crab and white wine.
Twelve hours later, the rain was coming down in slanted sheets. I took cover inside Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters, where a sign on the door warned against high winds. No one bothered taking off their hats and parkas.
"Storms on the Oregon Coast are often broken into chapters," says veteran photographer George Vetter, who chronicles daily life in Cannon Beach (www.cannon-beach.net).
"You have a wave of rain, clouds and wind, then there's a break when the sun breaks through."
Fierce winds. Crashing waves. Heavy rains. However harsh the weather might seem this time of year, his advice is to be patient.
"Stay here for a day or two, and chances are you'll see some dramatic scenery."
Trade in the shorts and flip flops for rubber boots and rain gear, and an offseason weekend in Cannon Beach in northwest Oregon will reward you in other ways. Hotel prices drop. Parking lots empty out. Baristas and shopkeepers have time to talk.
"In winter, it's a different town," says Ryan Dewey, owner of Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House, a combination hardware store and pub. "Nice and sleepy and quiet."
Dramatic ocean scenery, forested hiking trails and villagelike neighborhoods stocked with boutiques, bookstores and art galleries can draw as many as 10,000 visitors to town on a summer day.
Shopkeepers, as happy as they are to have the business, look forward to the fall when they can ease back into catering to a year-round population of just 1,700.
It's one reason pharmacists Deborah and Gordon Oakes make the four-hour drive from Seattle two or three times a year, always at least once in fall or winter.
"We wait out the storms in a cozy room with a great fireplace," said Deborah. When it lets up, "we do a lot of walking. We have all our rain gear, so it really doesn't matter to us what the weather is."
Their hotel of choice: The Ocean Lodge, beachfront in Tolovana, a quiet neighborhood at the southern end of a four-mile stretch of public beach facing Cannon Beach's 235-foot landmark Haystack Rock.
The lodge welcomes visitors with a wood-burning fireplace in the lobby, a library stocked with books and games, and oceanfront suites starting at $269 in October compared to $349 in June.
Even though my own digs were more modest — a $159-a-night studio efficiency at Sea Sprite, a 7-unit weathered cedar-shingled complex — we shared the same ocean view.
Just as important for blustery days, it was a short walk from the Waves of Grain bakery inside a cozy cedar-shake cottage a block from the beach.
Catch it on a good day, and Cannon Beach in fall and winter can almost feel like summer.
I met the Oakeses while they were flying a string of kites in rainbow colors, one shaped like a snake, another like a twirling drumstick. Couples pushed strollers across hard-packed sand. A group of boys rode by on low-slung beach bikes.