For Mother’s Day last month, Tara and I camped at South Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon. Rains fell in the night, and we woke up to more rain. Tara had a great idea and was undaunted. We would brew some coffee and fill travel mugs for warmth and energy, we would gather our to-go boxes with leftover supper from the night before, and we would go find a stone shelter on a trail somewhere that Tara recalled.
They weren’t exactly sure where it was, but we had all day and as long as we were driving around the Oregon Coast in the Jeep, we were warm and dry. Eventually, I turned onto a road at Cape Perpetua and Tara recognized it. “Yes! This is it!” We wound up, up, up to the top and found a parking area, and restrooms which are a necessity when you’ve been traveling with mugs of coffee. Then we put our things into a bag and went in search of the trailhead.
We were getting increasingly wet, but the hike was short and the rewards were great.
It turns out the trails all around Cape Perpetua were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and this shelter was built by them too. The CCC was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and it operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States. It was a voluntary work program for unemployed, unmarried men ages 17–28. Providing a lifeline to young men, the work gave them purpose, experience, camaraderie, a paycheck and very importantly, something to do. Naturally, American Republicans hate the New Deal vehemently, insisting that the only way a man should ever be proud of his accomplishments is if he does it without any government intervention. But since I was a kid I always thought this was a great idea: the government invents a whole bunch of jobs and puts a whole bunch of people to work. Nobody got rich, but they could afford to eat and buy clothes, and trails are not on par with rocket science, but generations will benefit from the labor of those men.
Anyway, it’s called The West Shelter, and was built during the winter of 1934-35 and is now on the National Registry of Historic Places. The CCC also built the reinforced parapet, and the walls you see. They developed the parking area and trails directly below us, at a place called Devil’s Churn, and they also reinforced the road that climbs up here.
We sat and looked out over the ocean and talked. By the time we had finished our meal, the sun was teasing us and yes, sometimes sunbeams stayed long enough to tempt me to jump up with my camera. Though I didn’t find out the real reason, I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason this shelter was built was for the exact reason we used it: a shelter from the rain when it was time to eat. It was built during the winter, right? Those kids must have been sick of working day after day in the rain.
From our perch, now that the rain had stopped, Tara took me to the edge and gave me a geology lesson.
In the photo above you can see a few “cracks” in the continental plate. The largest is a “churn” near the center of the photo, where ocean water splashes relatively far inland, and you can see the highway must curve back to the left to get around it. That is not the mouth of a river, that is the shape of the coastline. There is another large one in this photo, not as easy to see, in the top right of the photo. In that one, the highway does not curve, but if you look carefully you can see parked cars, and right behind them, a bridge arches over the crack.
I hope that at this point you are thinking earthquakes. Yes, that is what Tara was showing me. Here is a place where you can actually see the big picture movement of tectonic plates. They are not smooth, neat blocks of rock floating on magma, but are quite rough clumps of earth’s crust (at least they are here), and all the little cracks are places where pieces of plates are moving around, independent of the main plate. At this spot we are on top of the North American plate, right next to the small Juan de Fuca plate, which is out in the Pacific. Beyond that is the Pacific plate. There is a lot going on right here, geologically.
As the sun evaporated clouds and water from the mountainside, we continued to explore up there, at the top of Cape Perpetua.
Now that we had seen the top, we were ready to explore the bottom. We drove back down the mountain and crossed the highway and parked in the very parking lot you see in the photo above.
Back up the hill at the parking area, we took a trail going the other direction. You’ll remember this area from my vacation here in February with Pedro, when we watched people taking risks with their lives to stand at the lip of Thor’s Well. This time, Tara and I found an area that looked like it might have tide pools to explore. We didn’t find much in the way of tide pools, but it was still fun.
It was well into afternoon by now and we were beginning to think about food again. We hopped back into the Jeep and drove to Newport, which is the topic of my next post.