show: pnw

It’s not ‘the Beach’, here. 

Sure, there are coastal towns with the word ‘Beach’ in the name. 

But people here do not go ‘to the beach’. 

‘Beaches’ are were you go to sunbathe, play volleyball, swim in the moderately-to-very pleasant temperature water. They are warmish, inviting, a place where you can wear sandals and a swimsuit, maybe have an ice cream cone or flirt with a lifeguard. You might be concerned about sunburns, stingrays, sharks, or stepping on coral. You might worry about looking fat in your swimsuit, or being ‘too pale’. 

We go ‘to the coast’. 

We go to the ragged edge of the continent, where the Pacific ocean (the name seems laughably ill-fitting, even deceptive at this latitude) meets the Ring of Fire. Where the water hovers around 50 F year round, where rip tides, sneaker waves, driftwood, hypothermia, and powerful storms sometimes kill. We know that our section of the Pacific coast is known as the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’. 

We know, when you visit the coast, that you pack your rain coat, a hat, your warm clothing, in layers. Spare shoes, when the first pair inevitably get soggy and full of sand. A towel or two– but not because you plan on sunbathing. We know that the inevitable rain drops are fat, plenty, and sting like rocks when they hit you. We know that they come at you sideways, driven by the howling coastal wind. We know that umbrellas are laughably useless.

We have waded out into those waves, pants rolled up to our knees. We have waded back out a few minutes later, unable to feel our feet. It’s almost a rite of passage. We do not swim at the coast. Not without a wet suit and a buddy system. 

We keep one eye on the tsunami escape routes, just in case we lost the cosmic lotto system and were on the sand in time for ‘the Big One’. 

We love our rugged sea mounts. Our sea lions, giant octopus, killer whales, tide pools, and massive fir trees inhabiting our coastal old-growth forests. We love the whales that pass through in winter. We love the soaring cliffs, the fresh seafood, the raw salt air, the spectacular sunsets. We love to hole up in a hotel room or restaurant with a view, warming ourselves with coffee or clam chowder, and watch the waves thunder upon the shore, and the wind bends the trees into tortured shapes. We treasure the rare days when the sun is shining, there’s no wind, and the temperature is warm enough for t-shirts.

We love that we can point due west and say ‘The closest land mass in that direction… is Japan.’

We love our beautiful, inhospitable coast. We just don’t trust it. 

It’s not ‘the Beach’.