The calm before the crowds

Beach path in Gearhart. New rules define how vegetation can be cut or removed.

I spent the morning in Gearhart the other day. It was a Monday morning and the Pacific Way Bakery and Café was open; they’re closed Tuesday and Wednesday. I got there early enough to snag an apple turnover. If you haven’t had one of their apple turnovers, you’re missing out. In a couple of weeks when school’s out and throngs of summer vacationers start rolling in, you’ll have to get to the bakery no later than 10 a.m. if you expect to find apple turnovers, lemon tarts, chocolate croissants, maple sugar rolls, or cherry almond scones in the case, that’s how popular the pastry is. When what’s in the case sells out, it sells out. So get there early if you have your heart set on something they make there.

After my Americano and pastry break, I took a walk. I had the dog with me. We walked on Ocean Avenue and parts of south Marion. For the two years we rented a house in Gearhart I walked everywhere. I walked up and down Cottage Avenue. I walked every street. I walked in the dunes and on the pretty, narrow, root and rock rutted foot trail known as the Ridge Path.

Walking in Gearhart is a treat if you haven’t done it in awhile. True, I have to get in my car now to get there, but it’s worth the gas. This time of year is especially pretty as the rain has mostly stopped and it’s warmer and people have had a chance to get some work done in their yards. I noticed on this walk how many homes have been recently re-shingled and freshened up. There’s a building boom in Gearhart: every where I looked, I saw new homes, renovations, new or rebuilt porches, new stairs, new windows, pretty additions. I wonder if the recent ruling on short-term vacation rentals has spurred a sense of pride in homeownership.

When I was living in Gearhart, I thought it humorous when longtime, full-time residents complained about the summer crowds and how there was no parking spaces available in downtown Gearhart and how annoying to have a dozen more people walking around town. The summer people come from Portland and Seattle mostly. Sometimes they come from very far away. Some of these summer people own property in Gearhart they visit a few times a year. More often, they rent a house for a week or a weekend, or stay at the Gearhart Ocean Inn or Gearhart By the Sea.

The beach is pristine in Gearhart. And empty. Save for July and August, besides the terns and the gulls, you’re very likely to be the only one. There’s no discernible leash law in Gearhart so people bring their dogs. In the peak months of summer when it stays light until 10 p.m., and people are out riding bikes and taking sundown strolls, it can get a bit crazy, especially if you had your heart set on peace and quiet and the dream of a stellar beach to yourself and the elk.

Should you be so lucky to be a coast native, now’s the time of year to appreciate the tiny jewel that is Gearhart. Right up until 4th of July weekend, Gearhart is quiet. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate the empty beaches, walk the quiet streets, peruse the downtown. There are some really darling shops. Besides McMenamin’s, which has a full bar, there are several dining options. Try the clam chowder or the chili at Gearhart Crossing, the fresh Dough Dough scones and Sleepy Monk Coffee at By The Way. There’s a new seasonal lunch and dinner menu at the Pacific Way Bakery and Café and the chef at the Sweet Shop has even devised a keto-friendly menu, which is a great way to jumpstart your beach body diet.

Best of all, the only line you’re likely to wait on is the one in the post office.

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