Shipwrecks, Starfishes & Sea Stacks

This week I went to Ecola State Park and hiked for a few miles, discovered a new shipwreck, found an evacuation route, almost fell off a cliff on the beach, and then shot out to Portland and photographed the Milky Way at the Vista House,  a very tourist-centric area a few miles outside of city limits.

I’m in a dozen Facebook groups based on Oregon, photography or Oregon photography and by doing that I found out there was a shipwreck on Cannon Beach that happened in the early hours of June 8th after the 2 aboard had to be rescued via the Coast Guard. Someone had snapped a picture and posted it in the group and as soon as I seen it I shared the image to my own and was immediately saddened I wasn’t the one to initially discover it but also that Cannon Beach was, at the time, a 3 hour drive from me and that was too far just to take a picture of it and turn around.

On Monday (June 19th) I shot over to the coast for a day of hiking around to see what I could catch besides an odd sunburn on my face caused by a bandana and hat combination. Cannon Beach is in between Hug Point and Ecola State Park so it’s a good place to park and wander around. Either direction offers an adventure full of Martian-like sights and features. Once I get to the beach I walk over to photograph Haystack Rock. You have to, it’s a monstrous 235-foot sea stack!

After a quick few photos of the completely overly photographed Haystack Rock, I head north along the beach. I’ve been here before but I’ve never explored the area, and apparently there’s a river right on the middle of the beach. Ecola Creek, a body of water spanning about 60 feet across and dips down to about 2 feet deep and can feel rushing while you’re in the middle of it. Just passed Ecola Creek I see something large on the beach, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s the shipwreck from the week prior. But why is it still here? Why has nobody come to claim it?

Walking up to it I notice 2 kids swinging the ropes around like one sided jump rope, playing as if this ship belong to their parents. The same parents that are standing right beside them, one inside the ship, the other right behind them laughing and using a phone for the flashlight ap to shine inside so the other could explore. Explore what, someone elses property? Would you do this if it was a car on the side of the road? So I ask.

“Is this your boat?”

“No” *laughs*

What do I do now? I have no power, all I am is someone who thinks what theyre doing is gross and they’re in my way of a picture. More so I find their behavior gross so I speak up and do something that I assume is technically illegal, but for a good cause. I tell them I work for the NPS (National Park Service) and that while I don’t personally care my associates that are on their way to start removing the sea craft from the beach will and it’s an expensive fine. Nothing makes people repel from a situation like telling them they will get a fine, not even telling them what they’re doing is appalling. I find that whenever you speak direct and with a certain tone people will believe whatever you tell them. They believed me and I had zero credentials and I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and board shorts exposing my tattoos and piercings and I don’t know many officials who have that.

Everything was missing from the vessel, from personal belongings to equipment all the way down to the stickers on the back of it. Some of them could have been lost to the sea during the rescue, but I am sure some of it was caused by greedy humans who have little to no respect. A lack of self awareness. I know once I walk away and leave others will come by and begin the shenanigans all over again but at least while I am there they will stay away and off of it.

Just passed the downed ship is Chapman Point, the point itself is part of the John Yeon State Natural Site, named after the preservationist who rescued the point from becoming the site of a dance hall. Offshore are Thimble Rock and Bird Rocks and you used to be able to easily walk around Chapman Point, from Chapman Beach to Crescent Beach, at low tide, but now the channel has become flooded due to high waters leaving 3 options: Swim, hike through a small opening in the rock itself that dips down, closes in, and has a foot or more of water in it, or hike back a little ways and walk up the hill to the main road and toward Ecola Park which is the direction that the beach goes if you were to continue normally.

I take the 3rd option as I have a back pack full of equipment and don’t want to risk getting it ruined because I wanted to save a few minutes. Well, those few minutes turned into a total of 2 hours as it was a pretty good hike there and back.

Once I get up to the main road I quickly realize this isn’t going to be the easy way, I should have risked it and went into the cave. No risk, no reward – right? As soon as I get up to the road I come to a split and the main road goes to the right or I can hike straight up this evacuation route that is closed to cars but seems passable on foot, though I had to go through some yards. I get up the 100 yard vertical and get to the main road again and head upward where I pass a boy scout troop hiking down. I found a path to the left, just off the road and right before the Ecola State Park sign, that goes down to the beach. Great, this is what I needed. I just wanted on the other side of Chapman Point!

The hike down to the beach is a windy one, and took another 10 minutes as it was a lot of zig zags at a small declining rate. I pass only one couple and their child on the path but the hike is beautiful. A wonderful forest right on the edge of the beach, and then finally I come to the clearing. The beach is at my finger tips again and it looks so beautiful.

Down on the shore I walk along the coast looking for whatever life I can find and the mountains along the coast offer an equally impressive view as there is so much going on. One section had an obvious landslide that occurred at some point with giant pieces of Earth laying spread across the shore with a bald spot right in the middle of grass.

Another section of the beach had an amazing piece of rock exposed that was contorted folding in sedimentary strata at the north end of Crescent Beach. Scientists believe this complex folding is the result of slumping in the sediment brought on by volcanic activity. A sill-like body of basalt lies at the base of the folded beds. Also tectonic processes, the subduction zone that runs along the coast line where the oceanic plate is being shoved under the continental plate. As that happens the plates are pushing and shoving against each other resulting in those folded sediments.

Since coming to the coast the first time late last year I’ve been wanting to photograph a starfish as it’s a prominent figure in a lot of cartoons growing up and it’s attached to my childhood, not to mention it’s pretty amazing in it’s own right. What I didn’t expect was finding 2 of them side-by-side, and then on top of that they’re different colors! I didn’t even know that starfish come in different colors. It took me completely by surprise, and I was happy to oblige it with it’s very own close up as I played TMZ paparazzi to it’s celebrity-like life. The purple sea star is a common starfish found among the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Identified as a keystone species it is considered an important indicator for the health of the intertidal zone. It feeds on mussels, clams, limpets, snails and barnacles using small tube-like structures on the ends of its arms to pry open its prey.

Climbing over sea stacks to get across the shore as high tide starts to come in, I see the beauty in them. These things are amazing eco-systems in it’s own right. Sea stacks are steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by wave erosion.  Stacks are formed over time by wind and water, processes of coastal geomorphology (the study of the physical features of the surface of the earth and their relation to its geological structures). They are formed when part of a headland is eroded by hydraulic action, which is the force of the sea or water crashing against the rock.

The force of the water weakens cracks in the headland, causing them to later collapse, forming free-standing stacks and even a small island. Without the constant presence of water, stacks also form when a natural arch collapses under gravity, due to sub-aerial processes like wind erosion. Erosion causes the arch to collapse, leaving the pillar of hard rock standing away from the coast—the stack. Eventually, erosion will cause the stack to collapse, leaving a stump. Stacks can provide important nesting locations for seabirds, and many are popular for rock climbing.

At the end of the hike is Tillamook Rock Light, a deactivated lighthouse approximately a mile and a half off the coast. The construction of the lighthouse was commissioned in 1878 by Congress, and began in 1880. The construction took more than 500 days, with its completion in January 1881. In early January 1881, when the lighthouse was near completion, the barque Lupatia was wrecked near the rock during inclement weather and sank, killing all 16 crew members.

The light was officially lit on January 21, 1881 and at the time it was the most expensive West Coast lighthouse ever built, but due to erratic weather conditions, and the dangerous commute for both keepers and suppliers, the lighthouse was nicknamed “Terrible Tilly”. Over the years storms have damaged the lighthouse, shattered the lens, and eroded the rock. It was decommissioned in 1957, and has since been sold to private owners, a super villain, who moved in shortly after and vowed to take over the world. Jaykay.

I climbed up an embankment and pulled myself up by the roots of a few plants and climbed my way to the top of what turned out to be the parking lot for Ecola State Park. While hiking out I passed to girls who both had cameras in hand and I warned them that there’s no route down from the direction they were going but they were ok with that as they just wanted to see the view. How boring, they should still have found a way down and made it an adventure!

Eventually I make the 3 mile hike back to my car having many cars pass me while limping due to my trail shoes splitting at some point and cutting my ankle, and yet nobody offered to let me jump in the back of their truck. I don’t know if I would have picked anyone up either had the roles been reversed, but I would like to think that I would. All in all the trip was beautiful and absolutely worth it. If you have the chance I advocate you go to Cannon Beach and hike north or south and you will definitely find an adventure, you will for sure find so much beauty.

Let me know what you think about the article, if you’ve been there, if you plan on going there, or if you hate the area and never want to read about it again!

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