Cannon Beach & Haystack Rock
Cannon Beach is located about 90 miles west of Portland, via US 26. Once you escape the congestion of the city, the road narrows to two lanes, which is fine unless you end up behind someone in no particular hurry to reach the beach. On most days, it's an easy drive that shouldn't take more than 1 1/2 hours. At the end of US 26, you'll have to turn south on US 101 for just a couple of miles, before reaching the Cannon Beach exits.
While I had been to Cannon Beach before, I had never been to Cannon Beach's Beach. It's a huge area of coastline that's just a few stair steps away from the downtown district. And once you're on the beach, you can easily walk for what I imagine would be a mile or two, without turning around. There aren't many sea stacks on this part of the beach, but there is one that will constantly draw your eye: Haystack Rock.
If you take your time, Haystack Rock is about a 45 minute stroll from Cannon Beach's downtown. It's a huge chunk of rock, that does in some way resemble a sight you'd find on a farm. You can't really appreciate just how large it is, until you're standing right under it.
Haystack Rock stands 235 feet over the beach, making it one of the largest features on the Pacific coastline, and the third largest monolith in the world. It's made of basalt, and was formed by lava flows and countless years of erosion.†
The smaller rock formations at the base of Haystack Rock are called the "Needles". Among them are plenty of tidal basins, which are a great place to spot a variety of sea life, such as starfish.
For the lucky folks who play on this beach every weekend, Haystack Rock isn't all that big a deal, I guess. All around, people were walking dogs, digging in the sand, and of course, surfing and boogie-boarding.
After walking towards Haystack for about an hour, I turned around and headed back to town.
As a city, Cannon Beach is quaint and charming. There are no big buildings, and certainly no Wal-Marts or Home Depots. On both my visits, I could never even find a gas station. Instead, there are t-shirt shops, ice cream and pizza parlors, and various other businesses that you'd expect to find in such a place.
Some of the pizza restaurants produced a nice aroma that filled the streets. But I didn't want to spend time eating. I knew what the real attraction was here--Ecola State Park. So, that's where I headed.
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