US 101 - Cannon Beach & Hug Point
While this trip begins in Portland, I didn't really feel like it had begun, until I reached the coast at Cannon Beach, one of my all-time favorite Pacific beaches. Besides, I had seen Portland and the route to the coast on two previous trips. So, I didn't take a single picture until the ocean came into view.
From Portland, take US Hwy. 26 west. It's about a 90 minute drive from the city to US 101. The last half of the drive is on 2-lanes, with occasional passing lanes. US 26 is not the most direct route from Portland for a south-bound coastal trip--if you don't care about missing Cannon Beach and the Manzanita area, you could take US 26 to Ore. Rte. 6, which ends in Tillamook. I didn't want to miss an inch of coastline (my Washington State trip ended at Cannon Beach) so I chose the more lengthy route.
There it is, Haystack Rock, viewed from the south. I gotta tell you, it's a thrilling moment when the ocean (and Haystack) comes into view along US 101 for the first time. In a hopelessly corny moment, I caught myself quoting Lewis and Clark, saying "O! The joy!"
For the first few hours of a drive along the Pacific coast, every sea stack and rocky formation seems worthy of a photograph. Eventually, it wears off--a little.
The thing that I really like about the Oregon Coast, and I'll probably mention this many times, so forgive me, is the easy and free access to the beach in dozens of locations. Take this small, rocky cove known as Hug Point. Because the area is managed by the Oregon State Parks department, the parking area is well-signed, and there's no fee. So, you can pause for five minutes, walk on the beach, and never think twice about spending any money.
Out of the hundreds of day-use parks in the Oregon system, only about two dozen charge a fee. Even then, the fee is only a reasonable $5 (as of 2010), and is good for the entire day, even if you jump from one park to another.
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