My wife and I spent a little time at the coast, bunking in the metropolis of Wheeler on Nehalem Bay. I got away for the better part of a drizzly morning to hike the spit in Nehalem Bay State Park. It was high tide, so I kept close to the dunes. Looking north, the great hump of Neahkanie Mountain loomed. One or two others were out, but as I got close to the mouth of the Nehalem River, I had the beach to myself.
Shore birds were foraging in the sand – flocks of sanderlings scuttling in and out with the wash and least sandpipers finding pickings at the wrack line. A few seals swam by going north. The surf was roaring with 10 – 15 foot breakers that brought foam way up the beach and necessitated a sprint for the dunes on more than one occasion. This spit was where many of the artifacts from the famous Beeswax Galleon shipwreck (c. 1650-1700) have been found although the wreck was soon followed by the tsunami from the last great Cascadia earthquake, around 1700, which redistributed galleon treasure over a much wider area; every so often something turns up although the galleon itself may have been buried by tsunami forces.
The south end of the spit is buried under a five-foot deep driftwood forest, most of these trees no doubt having been transported out of the Coast Range via the Nehalem and its North Fork. The mouth of the Nehalem itself is contained by jetties, the points of which were buried by each incoming surge. As I walked towards the bay along the riprap, I was given a real start as Captain Cowabunga sped by in his winter suit. I stopped to watch him paddle back in the lee of the south jetty and then expertly catch his ride again from the river mouth to the bay.
The riprap ended at a brackish lake and a shallow beach being swamped by the breakers. This beach is a haul out spot for the local seal population, but not at high tide. I continued to walk in soft sand along the edge of the calm bay. Crabbers were out checking their pots, and soon I realized that about two dozen faces were peering at me from the still waters. I ran out of sand and headed inland, picking up a deer trail that soon got boggy. There was plenty of deer, elk, and coyote sign. After sloshing through 6 to 12 inches of water for a while, I bushwhacked west, sometimes through the hobbit-like woods of stunted shore pine and Sitka spruce, to the gravel track that runs through the center of the spit and back to the day-use area.
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Now I know what a sanderling looks like - thanks to you. I even got a photo of a few on Nestucca Spit. Thank you for another instructive TR.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…