Here's a map that I created a few years ago. And, may I say, that in 1998 when I made my first visit, I was scared to death. Petrified is more like it. Suffice it to say that those feelings have passed away.
It's always a little game each year. The first time. The first day. Is the (Columbia River) water too high? Last year the water was so high, for so long, that I actually had to wade through several feet of water holding my sand chair and backpack up above my head while traversing the Columbia River waters. This year, we apparently haven't had quite as much water. The path is already dry.
And you just never know what you'll see, hear, or find out there. Some days, you see people you know. Other times, a bunch of doggies. Sometimes a whole pile of younger people scared to death to ditch their panties so they flounce around in their $100 designer swim suits. Sometimes families with kids. Or just a man and wife. It's all over the map. I've seen bald eagles dive for fish right in front of my face. I've watched giant ocean-going ships pass by on their way from the Port of Portland to/from the Pacific Ocean. I've been scared to death more than once by little tiny black and green snakes and rabbits.
I've been hit on. I've heard people talk about being released from jail. I've heard conversations about being kicked out of the house.....or school. I've listened while a guy ventured on about his tale of being kicked out of "every bar in Portland....except for one......nobody likes me in this town." Oh brother. I've watched plenty of people smoke dope. And the alcohol flows freely most times. I had a pretty young kid ask me if I wanted to meet his dog. Well, you don't have to ask me twice! Of course I do. And while he was introducing me to a cute little Bichon-Poodle mix, he proceeded to ask me if I wanted to see his vagina. Pardon me? Your vagina? Yes, he said. I've had a tattoo of a vagina put on my penis. By golly, he sure had. "Because I like both men and women," he tells me. This is the same guy that had been kicked out of house and school, by the way.
I've overheard plenty of conversations about current affairs, politics, the latest gadgets, iPhones and iPads, cars, the long drive to and from the beach, the cops who patrol the parking lots like flies, and music. Music. You see, a Billy Ocean song came on. And the guy yells to his buddy, "Hey, turn that off....that's a song for old guys. My dad would like that." I about decked him. And then there is the fairly clear sign "End of the Nude Beach" that delineates the marker past which point one must cover up their bits. And tits.
I like to go early. And I like to go during the week. Weekends are terrible. The 27 mile drive is packed with families in minivans headed out to "the family section" of the beach. People double park their cars. Traffic comes to a standstill. And the roadways are dotted with bicyclists vying for space on the concrete. I like the quiet of weekday mornings. I've been the first one out there more than once. And I've been the only one more than once. I go early, I leave early. I like to walk up and down the river's edge. Sometimes I massage the muscle in my feet on a rock or log. And I pick up rocks and carry them around. I wonder how old they are, how they got on that particular beach, and where they've been in their lives. Sometimes I do a few easy yoga stretches which always feel amazing. I've got a sand chair that has been with me for years. And I usually take a peanut butter sandwich. Or some fruit. And water. Always water. I like to chat with people and stare. At the river, the airplanes coming and going into the Portland airport. And the hawks and eagles circling overhead.