Sunday, August 5, 2012

Long Beach in Washington is the longest beach on the west coast of North America. At 30 miles long, it's actually the 6th longest beach in the world. With the Moonlander, a wound-up Brittany Spaniel and a 3-day weekend, it was time to ride the sand.

We drove up from Portland past the town of Long Beach, where I'd park the car for the next 24 hours and pedal down to the end of the beach for an overnight. The temperatures hit 102F in Portland, but the cool Pacific ocean water at the beach kept it closer to 85F.

The beach was typical of the Pacific Northwest- flat and wide, with a sand dune ridge covered in beach grass. The only thing different was the lack of mountains, cliffs or rivers that you normally see because Long Beach is a peninsula. The headwind made it a slow going 7 MPH for several hours. After a quick trip inland for a Snickers bar and some beers, we both ended up napping back on the beach in the shade of the Moonlander.

Back on the bike and still reeling from the heat and headwinds, a sudden blast of cold air hit us at the 25-mile mark. It was the biggest sudden temp change I've ever felt, and the cooler air felt good.

Penny and I rolled north towards the end of the line. We finally hit the 29 mile mark and didn't have anywhere to go but to find a flat spot in the grass to pitch the tent. This was her longest run ever and she was chasing birds the whole time. 

After camp was set, I brought dinner up to the highest sand dune around, at about 20 feet above sea level. I could see everything around me, and had about 2 hours before the sunset. That 2nd Coors I bought was stored in my puffy jacket and still ice cold. We sat on the dune and just watched- birds, clouds, beach grass and then something else about a half a mile away. I grabbed the monocular and noticed an elk. Then a few more, until I could count 9 of them. They slowly wandered through the grasslands, munching and looking around, at the pace of hippies getting high. They didn't notice me for 90 minutes until the bull, wandering ahead, finally caught our scent downwind from us. He stood up and stared right at us for a couple minutes, then slowly walked the herd back into the woods as it got dark.

Notice the little tent in the middle of paradise

Cheesy 360 degree panoramic on the northern tip of Long Beach.

As I brushed my teeth for the night, an owl flew a couple feet over my head and started going after Penny. Keep in mind, she's a 40-pound dog, but it didn't deter the owl from divebombing her a few times. The owl would circle, then divebomb, then rest on the sand. Each time it rested, Penny would go after it. I knew neither animal would win, so I just watched.

Sleeping in a tent is usually just a series of naps, where you wake up and wonder where you are, or wonder what that noise was, or just wonder how long you can stay in the tent until nature calls. Well, nature called just when the sunlight brightened the grassland, by the sound of coyotes howling nearby. We quickly sprang up, I grabbed my bear spray and Penny let out a surprisingly intimidating growl. I saw three brown heads sticking up above the grass just 50 feet from the tent. They howled and yalped for a minute, then trotted off. I've seen several coyotes in the wild and they're either curious and slightly scared, or they're wolf-like, willing to take steps towards you and show their teeth.

After breakfast, we broke camp and headed back south for another full day. The weather had completely changed overnight- it was cooler, cloudy and the wind did a 180, so it was going to be another day with a direct headwind.
Mega dog is rested and ready for round 2

Super soft sand

After 12 miles of battling the breeze, we took the next road inland, off the beach, and found a nice cafe. Perhaps a caramel pecan roll and some coffee would get me motivated. Nope. We ended up skipping the rest of the beach and opting for side streets and the highway during the last 8 miles back to the car. Despite the relative lack of scenery on the road, it was a calm and easy pedal back to the car.

Overview- Long Beach lives up to it's name, but aside from the stunning northern tip of the beach, it's relatively low on the scenery factor when compared to other Pacific Northwest beaches. Go there.

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