(Have patience with the backstory stuff, it all ties together.)
From 1982 to 1984 I worked at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. Because I lived in the employee dorms it was easy to make friends and meet people to hang out with. One of the cool things about living there was that we were surrounded by National Forests so a group of us took full advantage by going camping together as often as our work schedules allowed.
Three of the people I hung out with were Chris and Connie, twin sisters and part of the camping gang, and Jody.
I moved to Seattle in 1984 and Connie moved here about two years later. Connie continued as my camping buddy for many years after that, until we both grew less enamored with sleeping on the ground in tents as middle-age set in.
In the 1990s a different friend introduced me to her group of friends, and they all introduced me to the Moonstone Beach Motel in Moclips. It was an old funky place, painted bright orange, with about 8 or 9 large units with linoleum floors and full kitchens. It was a great place for groups to go to hang out together, renting all or most of the rooms.
The Moonstone Beach was not a classy joint, but it had two huge advantages. It was one of the cheapest places to stay between Ocean Shores and Taholah, and it also had the best beach access. In those days there were no grass-covered dunes. Wood steps led from the motel’s back yard directly down to the beach sand. (It’s truly amazing how drastically the landscape has changed in less than 20 years.)
In turn I introduced Connie to the joys of Moclips, and she took additional trips there without me, including taking her nephew (Chris’ son) one time. Chris had ended up in Minneapolis after leaving Sun Valley.
A year ago, in December 2017, Connie fell ill and died unexpectedly. She was less than a month shy of her 59th birthday. At the beginning of that January Chris came out from Minnesota to handle things with Connie’s estate. Chris knew of Connie’s love for the beach at Moclips and decided to leave her ashes there. Since Chris made the roundtrip in one day (three hours each way) I didn’t feel up to going with her.
This year Chris decided to come back on the anniversary of laying Connie to rest, but this time planned to stay at the beach. I said I would like to join her since she would be staying over this time. Jody, who still lives in Idaho, saw our Facebook conversation and said she wanted to come too.
Unfortunately, the old Moonstone Beach Motel was torn down a few years ago. A new version has been built on the lot next to where the old one stood. It’s more upscale, and thus much pricier than the old funky place, with regular motel rooms instead of the spacious, group and family friendly kitchen units.
The new motel wasn’t ideal because there wouldn’t be much space for the four of us (Jody’s husband was coming too) to hang out and fix meals. So we decided to rent a beach house in Moclips. The minimum rental was for three nights, so Chris made a reservation for us to arrive on Thursday, January 3rd and leave Sunday, January 6th.
On the morning of the 3rd I picked Chris up at Seatac Airport and we headed straight for the ocean from there. The drive out was smooth as butter. We didn’t hit a single slowdown between Seatac and Olympia and I’m still amazed. It was raining, but mostly a light rain that didn’t interfere with driving.
The normal check-in time for the house is 4 pm, but we were able to get an early check-in of 2 pm. Even still, with the early start and lack of traffic we had some time to kill so we stopped off in Ocean Shores for lunch.
We drove around looking for a likely place and decided to try Maracas, a Mexican restaurant. (The pub I used to enjoy going to in Ocean Shores apparently no longer exists.) The service was great, the arroz con pollo was tasty, and the margaritas were excellent.
While we were in Ocean Shores the rain picked up and it was blowing around in sheets. We already knew there was a wind advisory in place for that day and into the night, but until then it had only been a bit breezy.
There are two kinds of people. Those who think the beach is a place to visit on sunny days in summer, and those who think the ocean is beautiful and fascinating in every kind of weather. We are the latter, so the promise of stormy weather didn’t hinder our enthusiasm in the least.
Chris and I arrived in Moclips at almost exactly 2 pm and picked up the rental house key at the new Moonstone Beach Motel’s office. The house was easy to find from there, but unloading the car was not easy!
The house was raised like most beach houses, and steep stairs led up to the door. Poor planning on the architect’s part put the stairs and door on the south, weather-exposed, side of the house. As we gathered our luggage out of the car, waded through a small lake, and struggled up the stairs, the wind blasted us with torrents of rain. We were soaked in the few minutes it took.
I was laughing and swearing at the same time by the time we got inside. Our groceries were still down in the car. I informed Chris that I didn’t really need to eat and the food could just stay down there for the rest of the weekend. Heh. (After a short recovery period we did go back for the food, and a second soaking.)
It was all totally worth it though. The house front was all windows facing the ocean, and there was a spacious great room with a full kitchen, giant dining table, and plenty of space for relaxing and watching the ocean. Chris got the gas fireplace going and we settled in.
Visibility was very poor, and it was quite dark out even though it was still over two hours until sunset. The wind made a howling noise as it came through a gap beneath the south-facing door and the rain was splattering loudly against the windows, but we were warm and cozy and happy to be there. A plaque on the windowsill read, “Take a deep breath. You’re at the beach now.” and that’s how we felt even with the wind and rain.
Jody and her husband Calvin arrived later on after dark and faced the same rain-blasted stairs gauntlet that we had. We formed a chain up the stairs to make things a bit easier, with me at the top holding the door so the wind wouldn’t crash it and break the glass.
After settling in Calvin made berry margaritas for everyone and all was right with the world.
Friday dawned as a big surprise. It was supposed to be rainy also, but instead there were large breaks in the low clouds and only some thin hazy clouds up high.
The wind was mostly calm, but the breakers stretched out for at least a quarter of a mile as a result of the storm the night before. It was mesmerizing to watch them. We hung out and watched the tide come in.
In the early afternoon, after the tide had receded enough, Chris and I hopped in the car and used the access road in Moclips to drive out onto the beach. We drove a bit north to visit Connie’s final resting place and parked there. Chris headed out towards the waves and I played around with my camera taking closeups of things in the sand.
We then drove up to where the Moclips River empties into the ocean on the north side of town, then south to where we got a beachside view of the house we were renting.
Even though it was a Friday there were a lot of people out on the beach, with more arriving as the afternoon went on. It turned out the beach was open for clamming that one day.
We didn’t get a good sunset because there was a bank of clouds on the horizon, but you can’t have everything. It had been an unexpectedly beautiful day on the Pacific coast in January.
As the sun set and twilight deepened the intrepid clammers out on the beach turned on headlamps and flashlights to continue their hunt. It was neat to watch the scattered lights as darkness fell. It was like dozens of mini lighthouses spread out before us. Unfortunately I don’t have any pics of that because my tripod was down in the car and my bad knee didn’t want to make another trip back up those stairs.
Saturday arrived in monochrome. The sky was like a watercolor painting filled with varying shades of gray, and the ocean was gray too, with only the white of the breakers to add a touch of contrast.
The breakers were all in close to shore following the nice weather from Friday. Even though the air seemed relatively calm at the house, it must have been windy out over the water because large bursts of spray were flying off of the largest wave crests.
I spent a long time just watching the waves and taking photos of them as the tide came in. Each wave is its own unique work of art, and when a big wave crashed hard and sent up a particularly good amount of spray I felt like applauding and whooping, as if I were at a fireworks display.
In the early afternoon two friends of Jody’s from southwest Washington joined us for our last day and night, adding to our merry group of ocean gazers.
Rain started up again, but it was fairly light and intermittent, and the wind was still light. The big storm warning was for that night, with expected gusts of 50+ mph.
After the tide had been going out for a while Chris and I once again hopped in the car for a short outing to take advantage of the day before the weather worsened.
We stopped in at the Museum of the North Beach, which is on the east side of Hwy 109 just north of the Ocean Crest Resort. Admission is free, though donations are gladly accepted. The museum is in a very small old building, with tons of artifacts and displays related to the area and its history crammed into every nook and cranny. (The museum is in the process of building a new, larger home nearby.)
When we finished at the museum we headed out to the beach again, this time using an access road on the north side of the town of Pacific Beach.
After we returned to the house Jody prepared a delicious spaghetti dinner for us, with a lovely sauce made from scratch. Then it was time for the big game.
A few days before the trip I had informed Chris and Jody that I had dibs on the TV on Saturday at 5 pm. The Seahawks were playing the Cowboys in a Wild Card playoff game. Alas, my beloved Hawks lost, but any disappointment I felt was eased by the fact I was at the ocean!
During the evening the rain had grown constant and somewhat heavy again, and it was pretty breezy, but there was so sign of the big winds that had been forecast by the time we went to bed.
I woke up at around 1:30 am to hear the wind howling like mad, gusting to 60+ mph, with the house shuddering and creaking. Those who slept up in the loft told us the next morning that it had sounded like the roof was going to blow off.
I finally got back to sleep, but woke up again a bit over an hour later. The power was out, but while the wind was still blowing hard it had lessened considerably. We (meaning all of Western Washington) were lucky that the worst of the storm had moved through so quickly.
By morning the power was back on and the wind was calm. It was another gray watercolor sky that greeted us. Thankfully it was dry as we packed up, loaded the cars, and said our farewells. The rain didn’t start up again until we hit the road.
Also thankfully, crews had been hard at work and all of the many downed trees from the storm had been cleared from the highways before we started out. We only ran into one storm-related speed bump on our trip. A traffic light was out at a major highway intersection between the freeway and Chris’ hotel in Kent where I dropped her off for the night. She flew back to Minnesota the next morning.
When I arrived home I was practically comatose. I was mentally and physically exhausted and couldn’t have formed a coherent sentence if required. I had packed practically a year’s worth of socializing for me into four days. But it was so worth it.
The Pacific Ocean is glorious in sun and storm. Watching the waves roll in hour after hour is soothing in a primal way. And it was wonderful to spend time with old friends and meet new people who were cool to hang with.