After Colorado, I made my way up to the Northwest to visit family. I spent a few fun days in Bend, then Ellensburg, and enjoyed having all the amenities of a house for a little while. As much as I like visiting family, when Mike and Carrie let me know they were ready to head south I was eager to get back out and join them. We met up along the Oregon coast in Newport, excited to see each other again after a couple weeks apart that felt much longer. As they only had a few weeks left before they had to head back to real life in Wisconsin, we opted not to linger around and moved down the coast into California relatively quickly. We did make a few short stops in Oregon to check out some of the scenery along the way. One particularly memorable spot was Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua.
A field of volcanic rock forms the barrier between land and sea. Its features shaped by millennia of waves pounding against the rock, slowly breaking down and swallowing terra firma. The result is a plain of barren rock holding the angry sea at bay. Fissures turned to small inlets form breaks in the expanse. Waves barrel in, rock walls concentrating the ocean’s energy until there is nowhere further to go and water explodes into the air, spilling out over the rocks before returning to its rightful home.
We visit on what seems like a particularly rough day, and the scene is spectacular. Signs warn against the dangers posed by the treacherous terrain as we make our way out onto the rocks. Beware Sneaker Waves one warns. We occasionally notice a few larger waves as we explore the area and become more comfortable. “Sneaker wave, watch out!” we joke.
We climb around and eventually find much anticipated Thor’s Well, a hole near the edge of the rock that seems to swallow the sea as it crashes over the surrounding rocks and drains down to some unseen ominous place. The waves seem predictable, and Mike and I are comfortable getting within a dozen feet of the intriguing pit, snapping some photos and appreciating the raw power of the sea that surrounds. Carrie, more reserved, hangs back and appreciates the view from a safer distance. We are there maybe a minute before Mike and I simultaneously notice a wave poised a second or two from overtaking the rocks we are standing on. This wave is MUCH bigger than any we have seen.
There is no time to move, no time to do anything but turn away and brace myself. Carrie yells “watchout”! I tuck the DSLR in my hand close to my body away from the wave, hoping to protect it as much as possible. I prepare for the impact, hoping not to get thrown down onto the jagged rocks which surround. It is one of those split seconds I’ve come to know, where I realize I’ve put myself in a dangerous situation. Realize that there’s a very real possibility of serious injury. At this instant, there is nothing I can do but cross my fingers and hope. Hope that this isn’t the time my luck runs out. Hope that it just turns out to be a lesson I learn for the future, and nothing worse. Hope that Mike has managed to take the second we have been afforded to prepare himself as well.
The wave breaks on the rocks and crashes into me, trying its best to throw me from my perch. I maintain my footing, and manage to stay upright through some combination of flailing my arms for balance and sheer luck. My left side is completely drenched, head to toe. Mike does not fare much better. The water recedes as quickly as it came, and we stare at each other, sopping wet but still safe on our feet, and can’t help but burst into laughter. Ok, so THAT was a sneaker wave, we chuckle.
The cool air lets us know we need to get dry quickly, and we make our way back to the vans which are luckily only a few hundred yards away. We strip down along the side of Highway 1, thankful to have all the necessary provisions to get changed and dry quickly. We put my outdoor shower to good use rinsing the saltwater from our clothes as well. My camera, surprisingly, seems to have fared relatively well, although Mike’s phone has not. We dry out, laugh some more about our stupidity and good fortune, then climb into our respective vans to continue down the coast.
We make a couple brief stops along the way, but our destination is California and we don’t have the time to meander. We are headed to the Redwoods, where we will soon begin our tour of California’s National Parks. I am somewhat sad to be skipping past the rugged beauty that is the Oregon coast, but happy to be back with friends, happy everyone is safe and sound, and excited for whatever lies ahead.