The Columbia Pacific is a playground for every type of explorer, whether you’re an art lover, history buff, sports junkie, or wilderness nut. Here are some of our favorite ways to have an adventure when you’re out and about.

Short Sand Beach

Oswald West State Park, Oregon

Short Sand Beach

Surfers and fishers enjoy Short Sand Beach at Oswald West State Park.

About 10 miles south of Cannon Beach is a large parking lot on the east side of U.S. Highway 101, and there you’ll find the trailhead for Short Sand Beach. This half-mile-long beach may be the prettiest on the Oregon Coast, but it remains relatively unknown. On a warm summer day you’ll find plenty of people there, but it won’t seem crowded, for Short Sand is a Mecca for those with surfboards, paddle boards, kayaks, and fishing rods. If the day is balmy, plan to arrive early, and on off-season days you may find you have Short Sand almost to yourself.

A well-maintained path through primeval forest leads along and over Short Sand Creek. You find yourself walking beneath the branches of great moss-covered trees, and after half a mile of gentle slope you find yourself at a picnic area that looks out on Short Sand Beach and Smuggler Cove. There’s a waterfall at the north end of the beach, and to the south mist from breakers drifts past basalt and sandstone cliffs.

One of the advantages of Short Sand Beach is the moderate gradient. As the tide goes out there are pools and shallows far enough back from the waves to be perfect for small children who want to build sand castles and splash in the water. And there’s plenty of driftwood just waiting to be turned into forts.

Side trails take you through dense old-growth forest, and a trail of slightly more than two miles takes you to Cape Falcon. Another half-mile walk takes you to a monument that memorializes Matt Kramer, the journalist who was instrumental in preserving Oregon beaches. It has a beautiful view of Short Sand Beach.

— Dwight Caswell

The Picture Attic

Long Beach, Washington

The Picture Attic

Jean Nitzel picks out a frame to show a customer at the Picture Attic in Long Beach, Washington.

Owners and longtime Long Beach Peninsula residents Jean and Bill Nitzel founded the Picture Attic in 1981 as a portrait studio, quickly establishing itself as the area’s premier location for senior portraits, wedding pictures, and family reunion photos. With the arrival of the digital age, this aspect of their business has faded away, but the Picture Attic continues to thrive as a source for custom picture framing and a resource for the fine artists throughout the region. The Nitzels pride themselves on their economical but high-quality framing personalized for the specific needs of the customer, in addition to their rubber-stamping and scrapbooking supplies. But it’s their support and encouragement of local artists that accounts for their continued growth.

Their gallery is the home of the Northwest Artist Guild, a group of more than 20 local artists whose work is promoted and exhibited on the premises. In addition, the Picture Attic offers regular classes and workshops in watercolors, seaglass windows, needle-felting, and alcohol inking, with new programs added regularly. Plans are afoot for a paint-pouring class and “Lunch Bunch Fridays,” where artists can bring their in-progress projects for an afternoon of work and socializing on site.

Whether you are a novice or professional artist, or simply an aficionado of the local arts, the friendly and helpful staff at the Picture Attic is there to provide for your every need.

— William Ham

Get Lit at the Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Get Lit at the Beach

The five guest authors of this year’s “Get Lit at the Beach” event gather onstage at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse after Sunday’s Q-and-A. From left: Jim Lynch, Gail Tsukiyama, Nancy Pearl, Karen Joy Fowler and Terry Brooks.

We often think of authors as Olympian figures, imbued with otherworldly talent — distant demigods occupying a lofty cultural perch. One of the appeals of Get Lit at the Beach — Tolovana Arts Colony’s annual three-day literature conference that takes place every spring in Cannon Beach — is that you feel as if you get to know these great minds on a down-to-earth level and realize they, too, are human — flawed, self-doubting, in search of inspiration, drawn to beauty, forced to face down obstacles and bad habits en route to becoming who they wanted to be.

Get Lit ticket-holders enjoy a meet-and-greet, attend talks and book signings with the authors, and listen to a keynote speech. The event culminates in a public Q-and-A panel at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse, where the writers sit on stage and banter about their craft. A moderator, usually Cannon Beach’s own Terry Brooks — author of the monumentally successful Shannara series — asks them questions that touch on their journeys, their writing process, their successes and failures, and their advice for budding wordsmiths. What’s their daily routine? How do they know they’ve written something halfway decent? When is self-publishing a very bad idea? The dialogue is always edifying, entertaining, often thrilling.

Guest authors have included such luminaries as Willy Vlautin, Nancy Pearl, Jim Lynch, Molly Gloss, and the much-missed Brian Doyle and Ursula K. Le Guin. These giants of Northwest literature hail from different backgrounds, pen fiction and nonfiction, create worlds set in rugged reality and pure fantasy. But they share a belief in the importance of their work and are invested in seeing their projects through to completion. After experiencing Get Lit, anyone aspiring to do something bold and meaningful — whether become a writer, musician, athlete, or entrepreneur — will come away feeling that their dream, too, is worth chasing.

— Erick Bengel

LightBox Photographic Gallery

Astoria, Oregon

LightBox Gallery

Patrons check out images on the walls of LightBox Photographic Gallery. 

Since its founding in 2009, LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, Oregon — owned and operated by Michael and Chelsea Granger — has exhibited brilliant photographers. Both local photographers and professionals from around the world have graced its walls — artists like John Wimberley who changed the game with his revolutionary chemical processing techniques, or Jody Miller, who studied with Ansel Adams and Arthur Ollman. Last June marked LightBox’s 100th exhibit.

The inviting two-story gallery has new exhibits about once a month. In addition to selling film and photographic supplies, the gallery offers matting, archival framing, and printing services (both digital and traditional film), as well as photo restoration.

LightBox also offers memberships to people who support its mission to educate and promote the photographic arts. Members meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month to learn from each other and discuss and critique each other’s prints and images. Whether it’s alternative, historical, or modern methods you’re into, LightBox allows visitors to experience many voices and methods.

“We’ve enjoyed each and every day meeting those who come into the gallery and to have experienced and shared the vision of so many unique and individual artists,” the Grangers said.

The gallery is not to be missed by enthusiasts of the art form.

— Laura Cherau

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