Camping at Ocean City

Posted: July 18, 2009 in Ramblings
We went camping this weekend at Ocean City state park (Washington).  Why this particular state park?  Because as a child we always went to Ocean City, NJ (and once or twice to OCMD).  I thought it would be fun to compare.
Well, first off let me say that "beaches" in Washington seem to be just that.  The Northwest is all about the pristine beauty of majestic nature.  It sounds great, but there’s not a lemonade stand in sight!  No Boardwalk, and so no t-shirt shops or amusement parks.  Ocean Shores (the city nearest the campground, about 2 miles up the beach) has a main street with an IGA and a number of the small typical shops you’d expect in a beach town (kite shop, toy store, swimwear store, restaurants, gas station, bank).  None of these are near the ocean!  Seriously, from the town you’d never know there was a beach anywhere near, except for the signs that say "To Beaches."

Another strange thing is the way the Pacific tides flow.  In OCNJ I never noticed the tide being further out than, oh, 200 yards?  Correct me if I’m wrong.  So, on Thursday night we walked down to the beach and saw that the tide was coming in, and we paddled around in it for a little while and then went back to the campsite with plans to return to the beach all day Friday.  We found a fallen tree on the beach to mark as our "place to come back to."  Not that we really needed it – there were only about 40 people on this 1-2 mile stretch of beach – but it was distinctive so we said we’d come back to that tree.
At 9:45 Friday morning we went back to the beach.  Got to the tree – looked towards the water – and we could not see the ocean.  The fog was so thick that we couldn’t see it.  So we parked the stuff, and Alex and I went to walk into the fog towards the water, while Chris relaxed with the gear.
Alex and I walked (increasingly astounded) probably half a mile before we even SAW the wavelets.  I felt as if we’d stepped into some kind of science fiction world, where we’d walked away from the Pacific beach and onto some strange alien world.  It’s unbelievable how far out the water goes at low tide.  Later (on the way home) we noticed this same thing:  an inlet alongside the highway that we had seen filled with water on the way into town was completely empty on the way out of town.  Of course, we were leaving town at low tide.  There was an island in the middle of this inlet, maybe half a mile out, that was land-based at low tide and an island at high tide!  I don’t understand what makes the tides so wildly different from Atlantic tides, and I am going to research it.
The third strange thing was the fog.  Friday we spent the whole day at the beach.  We kept our seats near the fallen tree, and Chris and I took turns going out towards the water to play with Alex.  When it was my turn to sit, I sat there and looked towards the ocean, and I couldn’t see them.  Simply couldn’t.  I even called Chris on his cell phone at one point to make sure they were still OK!  Chris stood in the fog and waved to me, but I couldn’t see him.  I saw ghostly shapes of people in the fog, but they weren’t Chris and Alex – and they also appeared to be floating about 20′ above the horizon.  (My horizon was artificially near, because of the fog.)  When the fog began to clear – which it started to do around 4PM – I saw that the actual horizon was much higher than I’d been thinking.

The final weirdness was the wind.  This beach (and, as I recall, Cannon Beach and Seaside in Oregon) are terrifically windy!  These beaches are great for flying kites, but way uncomfortable for sitting around enjoying the weather, and uncomfortable for swimming.  The water was cold, and the wind blew steadily and coldly from the ocean towards the campground all day long.  After about half an hour the drone of the whistling wind became overpowering and annoying.  Nobody swam; Alex waded a bit.
On the whole the camping part of the trip was fine, except our tent was on a slight slope.  We had a rather typical (i.e., not gourmet) dinner at one of the restaurants on the main drag, and Chinese food last night – both were OK quality but nothing up to the standards of Coho or Jade Dragon.  Alex got to make his first s’mores and we had a fire in the fire pit at our campsite.  Bugs were kept at a minimum with bug spray; sunburn kept to a minimum with suncream.  

I only caused one camping faux pas.  When you click the car remote to open the Jeep, the headlights go on.  I tried to avoid this late at night by unlocking the car with the key.  Sounds reasonable, right?  No.  Even though I used the car key, when I opened the door, the car alarm went off.  And of course it was too dark to see the buttons on the remote, so I just started madly pressing buttons until it went off.  That was about the only real problem we had.

Now we’re making lists for the UK trip…

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