The Oregon Coast stretches along the Pacific Ocean for over 300 miles. And there are many places along the coast to experience the rugged beauty that is the Oregon Coast. The iconic photograph is of the towering rocks at Canyon Beach to the north, but there are others that have their own unique beauty.
Haystack Rock at Pacific City is one such place. The rock which sits in the ocean a half mile off the beach isn’t for touring, it is a nature preserve for the many birds that breed there in the spring and summer. But it still is an impressive view with its distinctive jug-handle formed by the separation of a tall column of granite. The shape is more of a tea kettle with a handle than a haystack, but Haystack is the name it was given.
Pacific City has two other features that make it unique. First is a hill that overlooks the beach. The hill is over a football field in length, climbing toward the sky like a giant ladder. And what is best of all is the it is deep sand, so that the young and old make the arduous trip up, a trip which takes ten minutes and give real meaning to the term “muscle burn”. The view at the top is a spectacular view of the blue ocean to the west and the long curve of the Oregon Coast to the north with the white capped breakers crashing on the sandy beaches. After taking in the vistas, the trip back down the hill is a quick series of giant steps through the soft sand. As quick as you can say “Rumplestilskin”, you are back down the hill.
The last and best feature at Pacific City is the sandstone outcropping that stretches out into the ocean. This outcropping is soft sandstone, so that it is rubbed to the texture of sandpaper. Hard as rock, yet crumbly as sand, the outcropping makes for good scrambling, but dangerous climbing. A slip on a narrow path can send a climber tumbling a hundred feet to ocean or to rock. Exploring along the base of the hillock, here and there are caves formed by the pounding of the ocean waves over the years.
Be careful in exploring the base, Will and I almost became rim-rocked. We scrambled down one steep slope to the base on the ocean side. Our hope was to traverse the south side and come out along the beach. But, not knowing the lay of the land, we discovered that the rock we were traversing dumped into the pounding surf and did not allow a path to the beach. Choice number one was a climb along a new route to the top, but this route was untested and dangerous. The second choice was to return to our original descent and hope that we could find a toe hold or two to get us back up. We chose the danger that we knew and retraced our steps.
Getting back up the steep and rocky incline was accomplished with two feats of imagination. First, thinking Bear Gryllis like, I used a pointed stick like a knife to carve a toe hold in the rock where I could. The toe hold was still likely to give way, so the thought was always in my mind that I was ging to find myself back at the bottom in a heap of broken bones. The second trick was to use my hand as a toe hold for Will to hoist himself higher and grab a rock or branch. Eventually, using a combination of these tricks and with a little luck we made our way up.
There we found Hannah. She had been going from one group of climbers to the next, asking if anyone had seen a father and son lost on the rocks.