Low Tide

Bubbles and Breaths on the Oregon Coast

Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock from the hills.

There are few places that will capture the imagination of a two-year old, thirty-somethings, retirees, and an English bulldog alike. The rugged Oregon coast is just that place. Beaches stretch on for miles peppered with giant rock formations. The vastness and power of the ocean is made known as waves crash against these rocks as big as buildings. But it’s not the big things that have interested the few people gathered, sporting unconventional beach attire – puffy winter coats and woolen hats.

Escape to the Oregon Coast

My two-year-old bundled up to explore the beach.

The early Spring air is bracing, but worth it as I escaped to the beach for the long weekend with my husband, son, and in-laws. A short ninety miles from Portland, Cannon Beach is a popular tourist destination. It is less crowded these days, but no less beautiful. Haystack Rock, a 235 foot sea stack has called people to this 8-mile stretch of beach for centuries. The charming town features local seafood cuisine and art galleries making this a spot my family and I return to again and again.

Tide Pools

Sea anemones found in the tide pools.

At this time of the day, the waves are gentler on the sand as they make their way out to sea. It’s low tide. The retreating water reveals hundreds of tide pools. Balancing on slippery stones, looking for the next sure-footed step, toddlers, parents, and grandparents hunch over the pools to see what’s inside. “Sea-nenomeees!” The two-year-old squeals.

What I thought was a bubble, is actually a small jellyfish.

He’s right, sea anemones with purple and yellow tentacles look like neon flowers under water. A big starfish clings to the underside of a rock. Failing to be inconspicuous, it’s the size and color of a basketball. I reached down to touch what I thought was a small bubble from a burrowing clam. I was shocked to feel the gelatinous bulb of what the Oregon Coast Beach Connection would later tell me is a sea gooseberry (a small, non-stinging jelly fish).

Deep Breaths

With the pandemic still threatening our health, this somewhat secluded area of Cannon Beach feels like a reprieve. We can breathe the fresh air and be together, though six-feet apart. A young couple makes the most out of this mini-adventure by braving bare feet on the hard sand. Their bright red toes betray the bracing temperature of the water. I relate to the creatures living in the tide pools. When the tide is high, they’re free to move about, following the course of the ocean, but when the tide goes out, they’re left in these pools. They’re safe, but stuck.

Clashes of Nature

Bald eagle, perched in a tree.

I imagine how jarring it must be for a sand crab making his way along only to be met with the curious sniffs of a small beast on a leash. Dogs seem so out of place covered in sea foam but love it none the less. A bald eagle perches in an impossibly tall pine tree, just above the bluffs, reminding the sea gulls who is in charge.

This Too Shall Pass

The sun just manages to warm my face as I turn to it, willing spring to come. A mask-less moment is always fleeting because the constant COVID worrying creeps back. Just as the tide will make it’s way back in, with waters rushing, hiding the tidepools and sending their inhabitants free to float with the bubbles, this too shall pass.

Sea stacks and rock formations along Cannon Beach.

Find Out More
What the Oregon Coast Has to Offer

  • Art and artists are celebrated in galleries throughout Cannon Beach. Learn more about local art festivals here and here.
  • Does Haystack Rock look familiar? It has been featured as a filming location for many popular movies such as The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, and Twilight. Learn more about how Hollywood meets Oregon here.
  • Cannon Beach and the surrounding communities are on the tribal land of the Tillamook. Learn more about the Tillamook people here.

Publishing Information

Tide Charts | Cannon Beach” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cannonbeach.org, 2021.

What is That Translucent Thing on Oregon Coast Beaches? Surprising Science” by Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff, Oregon Coast Beach Connection, May 31, 2015.

Wildlife And Bird Watching – Oregon Coast”  Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, cannonbeach.org, 2021.

All photos courtesy of the author, Beckah Selnick.

Beckah Selnick

Beckah Selnick is a writer and podcaster. She is currently studying Digital Storytelling at the Harvard Extension School. Beckah is living at the intersection of faith, funny, and feminism in Portland, Oregon.

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