Oregon's Beautiful Haystack, Sisters and the Devils
Twenty-two years ago, October, 2001, to be specific, entirely by chance, I happened upon what I thought then, and still do, is one of the most beautiful sites in the continental United States.
It’s called Haystack Rock and it’s just off the Pacific Ocean shoreline in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
In fact, it’s so close to the shoreline that, at low tide, you can walk out and touch it.
Back in 2001, I was attending a conference in Seaside, Oregon, 16 miles due north of Cannon Beach. I had a free afternoon with nothing to do so hopped in the car to drive along the coast and take in the scenery.
Arriving in Cannon Beach I took a right turn to the west to check out the ocean view. Driving over a slight rise the wide beach spread out before me and there it was, a 235-foot-high rock formation just on its edge, the waves splashing around it.
Honestly, it took my breath away.
I wished I’d had my good camera with me but its size, and the challenges of air flight, meant I’d left it behind.
I wanted to stay longer, just sitting there, taking it in. Sadly, my time was short and I could stay only a few minutes before heading back north to Seaside.
I vowed I would someday return.
That someday was this past December as part of a 1,300-mile road trip from Squamish, Canada, north of Vancouver, to Los Angeles.
I’m not always great at making specific plans for my trips but this was one of the rare times I made the effort.
That included booking two nights at the Hallmark Resort and Spa with a view looking straight out at Haystack. It was well worth it to be able to sit on my deck and watch the sunset behind that wonderful formation.
I should mention that Cannon Beach is a quaint little community with shops, a brewery, always important to me, a number of places to stay near the coast and more.
It is very much a tourist town. I was there in December and nearly had the entire place to myself, it was that vacant.
However, in talking with a couple of the folks at the brewery who were in town, they told me the place is packed to the gills during the summer months, so if you're heading that way, even though it's against my nature, you might want to plan out your visit ahead of time. I’m thinking the “shoulder season” either in the early spring or later fall would be good times to plan a trip.
It’s hardly a well kept secret of just how breathtaking the coastline is. A long list of movies and television shows have used the area as a backdrop including: the Twilight Saga, Point Break, Goonies, Free Willy and at least a couple dozen others.
Haystack was formed 17 million years ago, that alone is pretty amazing, when lava flowed over the area and formed similar structures up and down the Oregon and Northern California coast. It’s made of basalt rock and was once completely underwater. Changes in the dropping of sea levels over time exposed these amazing formations.
Haystack Rock is protected as part of the Oregon Island’s National Wildlife Refuge meaning nothing, animal or material, can be removed within 300 yards of the rock formation.
That does not prevent you from walking out to it at low tide, touching it, being a part of something that is millions of years old, basking in its wonder and snapping that selfie.
As I mentioned, Haystack Rock is one of many rock formations littering the ocean front all the way from northern Oregon down into California.
Another one well worth the stop is Sisters Rock, 270 miles to the south, near the state’s border with California.
Sisters Rock is comprised of three “sister” rocks. The tallest, at 210 feet, is closest to the shore with the two remaining, each smaller than the next, leading out into the ocean. It’s almost as if some greater power set them there as stair steps down to the sea.
The great thing about Sisters Rock is that much of it is above ocean level with trails leading directly out to and around them. It’s a relatively short, easy walk with a great view up and down the coast.
For those wanting to explore more, there’s an additional trail that takes you for, maybe, a half mile further along the coastline.
The Punchbowl is 100 miles south of Haystack Rock in a residential area, the community of Otter Rock. Parking is a bit limited and people are asked to be respectful of the residents. The good news is the Punchbowl is just a few yards from the parking area.
Unlike Haystack and Sisters, the Punchbowl does not jut up out of the ground. It’s more of an outcropping that stretches from the side of the bluff with visitors looking down into it from above. The tides have eroded a large entry hole into one side of the bowl-shaped formation, so as the waves enter and recede, it appears to be a large swirling Punchbowl of water.
I happened to hit it early in the day when activity was not as pronounced. I can only imagine how forceful it must be late in the day.
You can go down inside the bowl but only at what is referred to as negative tide, that time when the tide is so far out it isn’t entering the bowl. Even though I was there early, the tide was already churning in and out so that was not in the cards for me.
Devil’s Churn is another 35 miles south of Devil’s Punchbowl.
By the way and by the by, don’t think you’ll be able to make that 35 mile drive in 35 minutes. You’ll be driving down Highway 101, a twisty two-lane highway along the coast. It has great views but don’t expect to be getting anywhere none too fast. Plan at least 45 minutes for the journey.
Located in the Siuslaw National Forest, there is a short walk to get to it from the parking lot with steps and inclines involved. It’s easy enough for the vast majority of people but those with physical disabilities may have difficulties.
The Churn is a long narrow cavern where the tide rolls in, crashes and churns through the rocks, hitting the wall at the far end, before returning back to the ocean. It’s believed to have been formed by a fracture in an ancient volcano, or the collapse of a tube inside a volcano.
There is so much to see and explore along the Oregon coastline that it’s well worth a trip.
Haystack Rock, Sisters Rock and the two Devils are only a few examples of all the wonderful things to explore.
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