Who doesn’t like the beach? Let’s go.
Which beach? (The one above is on the coast of Oregon.) There are tens of thousands of miles of coastline on the planet, and a lot of beaches. There are white, black, red and yellow sand beaches, rocky beaches, popular and deserted beaches; tropical, temperate and Arctic ones, too. There are beaches backed by craggy cliffs, sodden swamps and rugged tracts of heather and gorse. Rivers and lakes have beaches, not just oceans. For all I know, cruise ships have beaches, so you never have to stray far from the buffet line and the water slide and encounter the inconvenience of leaving the ship to loll around on the sand.
I just wrote about the desert, so let’s go somewhere extremely un-desert-like: the coast of Washington in the Pacific Northwest.
Now, that’s a beach. Swinburne might’ve stood on a similar dramatic strand in Northumbria howling long lines of dactyllic verse into the wind off the North Sea. Beowulf’s funeral pyre was probably built on a promontory overlooking such a beach. Odysseus himself may have been sailing past such a beach, but his attention was all on those Sirens, or maybe he was wondering if he should’ve left Calypso, after all. SHE had a great beach and a pretty good set of pipes, herself.
Washington has one of the world’s most dramatic coastlines, peppered with sea stacks: rocky, eroded remnants of former headlands.
The coastline, however, is difficult to see along much of its length if you’re limited to driving and short walks away from Highway 101. The photos in this post were all shot along a 10-mile stretch of the highway from where it swings west from Quinault, then bends right on the coast north to Ruby Beach before heading inland and continuing on to Forks (dear to the hearts of “Twilight” fans). This map indicates the area.
Much of the rest of the Washington coast is remote, virtually unreachable except on foot, and for the most part protected in a number of national wildlife preserves.
Ruby Beach, Washington, though, delivers all the aficionado of rugged, storm-tossed strands could desire.
There are good reasons to be in that part of the Northwest, even if you’re not a Twilight fan. Olympic National Park is just a few miles inland. There are dense rain forests, the snowcapped Olympic Range, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, some of the world’s largest trees and wildlife, including elk, deer and bear, as well as bald eagles perched in trees, eyeing the water for fish.
I’d have taken more photos, but … well, sometimes it’s important to stop looking through the camera and simply be somewhere. As the poet said,
Oh, the beach is a place where a man can feel
He’s the only soul in the world’s that real.
In my reverie, did I regard the tempest-wracked sea and regale it with a dactyllic dithyramb of my own?
That’s between me and the beach.
Where’s your beach? Please leave a comment. We may want to go there.
© Brad Nixon 2017. Quotation © Pete Townshend, “Bell Boy.” Map © Google. The title is from “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot.
I’ve written several pieces about the Olympic Peninsula, including the even more remote and craggy Cape Flattery (with lots more poetry), a portion of the forest in the Olympic Range, and Lake Quinault and bald eagles. For others, see Travel: Washington in “Categories” in the right-hand column.