View south along a foggy Oregon beach in the late morning. A narrow strip of sandy beach extends to the horizon, with steep forested headlands marching into the distance. The sky overhead and above the ocean is sunny but fog clings to the forest inland.

The first time I saw the ocean

Published 2016-08-25

Somehow I let pass a small but significant anniversary. It was 30 years ago earlier this month that I first saw the ocean. To the best of my recollection this was at Neskowin, Oregon. I was fourteen years old. (Nebraskans and other Flyover People tell stories like “the first time I saw the ocean…”) My family were on a long vacation to the Pacific Northwest.

I remember driving a sickeningly winding road across the coast range from Portland. I remember the parking lot — this memory departs significantly from what I know of Neskowin — it was isolated and tucked behind a small headland. The headland part is mostly accurate but I don’t remember the town at all. I remember the smell; more accurately, I remember that it smelled the way I expected the ocean to smell.

The ocean wasn’t visible from the parking lot. We crossed or went around this small headland and BAM there was the mighty Pacific. It was a beach both sandy and rocky, and there was a surplus of driftwood. Offshore was a small seamount.

As a fan of cool wet weather, that summer in Oregon and Washington bewitched me. It was 100° back in Nebraska and here I was shivering on a misty beach. This place I thought. I’m gonna get myself to this place forever.