As the wintertime surf floods and then ebbs, beachcombers wander...seeking secrets from the tides.
K. Myers insists that the best beach adventures begin down the long staircase at the Moolack Shores Motel where it doesn’t take long and you don’t go far to reach buried treasures.
“Most newcomers usually go down by the waterline because it’s freshly agitated and they can find stuff that’s fresh but they don’t realize that there’s stuff up here too.”
The “stuff” that Myers relishes finding includes opaque white agates and raspberry red jaspers plus clam fossils that date back millions of years.
While the fossils are fun, it’s the rocks that get the twice over with Myers’ handy gem tool that has a scoop on the end to make the searching easy.
“Ah, there’s an agate right under that rock,” noted Myers as she pried loose a lovely stone.
Agates are little rocky nuggets of silica that formed inside ancient rocks or shells across millions of years; as the outer layer wears away the agate remains.
I was surprised to learn that the shoreline agates and jasper that we found didn’t come from the sea, but actually originated high in the watershed.
“They wash down the rivers into the ocean," said Myers. "They are tumbled about in the sea and then are re-deposited up on the beach.”
Agates come in varied colors ranging from orange to red or pink to lavender – even black.
In less than an hour, we each located a handful of the gorgeous stones – they were of varied colors and sizes and I wondered aloud, while the agates and jaspers are certainly easy on the eyes, "Was the best yet to come?"
“Oh yes,” noted Myers. “They’ll polish up well and become really nice collectible pieces.”
Myers has been manager and co-owner of Facets Gem & Mineral Gallery in Newport, Oregon since 1987. The small gem shop is located just off the U.S. Coastal Highway 101 and you can see the stunning possibilities that polishing provides your agate treasures.
“The polishing techniques enhance the stones, make them smooth and finish them out. Usually, nature has done a good job of rounding off the hard edges of the agates but polishing brings a high luster to them – plus, you can make jewelry or whatever you want with each one.”
Myers knows much about where and when to go rock hounding along the coast; she’s even written a couple of popular booklets (Agates of the Oregon Coast) on Oregon’s fascinating geology that will set you on the right track for your own adventures.
“It’s relaxing, it’s fun and I have enjoyed doing it ever since first grade ‘show and tell.’ I’ve never lost that zest for it because it’s always exciting to find a new treasure. We’re trying to help everyone enjoy all that the Oregon coast offers.”
Beach Safety is a must!
Robert Smith, Oregon State Park’s Beach Safety Manager, said that when you head to the beach in winter it’s critical to stay alert because huge logs are often washed ashore. He said that just 5 inches of water can move a five-ton log.
“It’s such a big powerful ocean and we enjoy looking at that power, but people have to recognize that power can also prove dangerous and turn a log into a weapon.”
Smith added that rocky jetties might seem inviting because they offer a front row seat to the ocean’s action, but people should stay in their cars to enjoy the show and not walk out on the jetty rocks.
“The jetties are designed to protect the channels for safe shipping traffic and not designed for pedestrian use. The rocks – as large as they are – shift and can have caverns and sinkholes that you never see. Plus, you’ve got poor footing because it’s slippery. It’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Smith added that even the popular coastal hiking trails require caution:
“The amount of water and rain that we get here – coupled with the amount of sea spray adds up to increased erosion on our trails.”
But there’s no shortage of Oregon State Park Beach Waysides to enjoy winter storms, and Smith noted that some of his state park favorites include overlooks like Cape Meares or Heceta Head State Parks because both are fine vantage points that have lighthouses too.