The Oregon Coast

If you live in British Columbia, as we do, it is but a short trip to enjoy the pleasures of the Oregon Coast. From the time one crosses the border at Blaine, WA, it may take fewer than 6 hours to reach Seaside, OR. As it happens, we chose this October to stay in Gearhart, OR, a very small “city” (population fewer than 1,500) just 3 miles north of Seaside. There are plenty of places to stay in Gearhart. For short visits there is the McMenamin’s Hotel, just off the beach and just above the Gearhart Golf Links. The McMenamin brothers own a score of properties throughout Washington and Oregon – properties that they have revitalized (vintage hotels, older school buildings, etc) and made them welcome destinations. The Gearhart property is no exception; a funky hotel with a cosy bar/restaurant. And then there is the golf course just below the hotel. Makes you feel as if you are in Scotland. The Links are advertised as the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River. The course dates back to 1892, albeit a 3 hole course at that time. A good test made greater by the 18th hole, which can be stretched to 640 yards (I played it at 588 yards, making it a nice par 6).

We stayed in a house just down the street from the hotel. The house is a weather-worn salt box, sitting atop the appropriately-named Gin Ridge, and with a nice view of the ocean. It seems also to be a favourite hang-out for elk. It is not unusual to see a herd of elk on the golf course, but on a rainy, foggy afternoon the elk – about 30 of them – decided to surround the house. Here they are, remarkably obeying the traffic sign, waiting for a car to pass.

The Gearhart herd numbers about 180 and the herd wanders freely. Must be careful where you step.

These apparently are Roosevelt elk. The females weigh up to 600 pounds; the bulls can weigh in at some 1100 pounds. By comparison, the more commonly seen black-tailed deer buck may weigh in at 200 pounds.
The elk then are huge and as a further testimonial to their size the mounds of poop they dispense seem to be the size of lava domes.

This is the rutting season, so the testosterone-fuelled males can be aggressive. Two young bulls were seen jousting with antlers, and as I wrote this a number of females were parked in grasses just in front of our rental. The ladies looked exhausted.

But on to other things. Gearhart is just up Highway 101 from Seaside. Seaside is a bustling beach town with scores of gift stores (I could never bring myself to buy a sweat shirt with “Seaside” written across the chest) and restaurants. The restaurants, fortunately, outnumber the gift stores. Nonni’s Bistro is listed by Trip Advisor as Seaside’s number 1 restaurant. Not to be disputed, as on consecutive evenings we hit Nonni’s for dinner. Noisy, friendly, great service, and even better food. I had the Baby Gem’s Caesar salad (best ever) and the BVP (beef, veal, pork) meatball stuffed with fontina cheese and served over mascarpone, marinara and asiago polenta. I had the same dinner again the second night – it was that good.
The couple at the table next to us (and now it seems our new best friends) had the cioppino as seen below. She ate the whole thing.

Prior to our first visit to Nonni’s we did a road trip to Yamhill – about 90 minutes from Gearhart. Our real destination was the Lenne Estate Winery. Lenne is owned by Steve and Karen Lutz. Karen and I worked together more than a decade ago in the pharma business and have stayed in touch. Steve and Karen have fashioned an accomplished winery in a beautiful setting, producing outstanding pinot noir, and now a superlative chardonnay.

Lenne Estate is named for Karen’s father, Len, a chicken farmer in England. It was Len who provided a down payment on the Yamhill property, and it is Len’s likeness that adorns the labels. Lenne got its start in 2000 and as noted in the winery’s website that the one truth “is that great wines come from poor soil.” So true with Lenne wines.

Here is the winery with the tasting room at right.

And Len’s likeness on the label of Karen’s Pommard.

Cannon Beach is a must visit. Quaint main street with lots of good restaurants, plenty of places to stay (but stay away in the height of summer – tourists, traffic, high prices) and then there is Haystack Rock, the most famous of monoliths that dot the Oregon Coast. We had lunch at Mo’s on the beach, with a view of Haystack. The fish tacos were also amazing!

A trip to the Oregon Coast is mainly about food and drink, and of course, some golf thrown in. On a stunning day we again made our way to Cannon Beach for another glimpse of Haystack Rock. This 235 foot sea stack of basalt dates back 10 to 15 million years. There was some time for shopping and brunch. We stopped at the “Lazy Susan Cafe” on a recommendation from Mrs. DB. She also suggested we try the gingerbread waffle. We settled on quiche and an omelette, but the very young lady at the next table ordered the waffle. It comes with pears and lemon sauce. She ate the whole thing.

Ok. We are out of here. But not by choice. Time to go home. Just a wonderful place to spend a week or more. Everyone we have met has been more than obliging. The beach, the food, the wine, the golf, have all been memorable. If you choose to come this way, do it late in September or early October. Miss the tourist season but capture some good weather. We leave you with this … a nice photo looking down at Rockaway Beach.