I felt the same regret at having not discovered this place before as I felt when I discovered Edward Abbey only after he died. However, the latter was more embarrassing.
When I first opened the door the Oriental rug and tasteful decor invited me right in. It felt like home away from home from the beginning; antique furniture, art on every wall and a piano at the ready. It reminded me of the Sylvia Beach Hotel but a bit more private and personal. I felt like I was in a safe, beautiful hideaway. There was no one there at the moment and I walked across the living room into a dining room that held a rectangular table long enough to seat perhaps ten people, covered with a most unusual table cloth that looked like brown leather with small symmetrical bumps on it, sort of like ostrich leather. The bookshelf on one side of the table was full of books about cooking, including a lot of French cookbooks. The owner, Daryl “Hank” Johnson, later told me he lived in Paris for a few months and studied French cooking at La Varenne. The far end of this room was used as a sitting room with overstuffed chairs, antique standing pole lamps and beautiful, well-maintained indoor plants. The window there held a view of ocean waves hitting the sand about a block and a half down the street. There were original paintings, pottery and glass art on every wall that bore witness to his support of local artists. There was not a boring corner anywhere, so many interesting things to look at and all so elegantly arranged and in good condition. Everything felt natural, lived in and unpretentious.
A side doorway off of the dining room led to an immense, beautiful 1920’s style kitchen, dimly lit, appearing as if it were in repose between gourmet banquets; obviously a well used kitchen. Since it was draped off I was hesitant to enter but I couldn’t resist and walked across the beautiful, creaking wood floors (that ran throughout the whole place) to look out the back window onto the back deck where Stellar Jays and band-tailed pigeons partied. They obviously had grown accustomed to dining under a hand-built, sheltered birdseed feeder. Wisteria grew down the banister of the stairs leading off the deck. Across the lawn was a sweet old hand-built shed, a place for sitting and reflection that I later learned was built by Hank and a local carpenter named Peter Lindsey. I wasn’t sure I wasn’t intruding onto the owner’s private space, so I headed back out to the dining room and through the entry room, where I noticed another door leading to a living room with a large brick fireplace and more books and painting by familiar local artists. The room looked soft and comfortable with an overstuffed couch in the center. As I stepped back through the opened brocade drapes to the entry room, Hank appeared with a friendly smile on his face. He had an intelligent face with a wry twinkle in his eye and moved and spoke with an honest and gentle demeanor. I think he was in his sixties. A short conversation revealed a man who was well travelled, cultured, talented, busy and happy with his life. We talked a little and I think he could have discussed a lot of subjects expertly, the sign of a curious man.
He got me signed in, took me upstairs, and showed me each of the eight cozy, sloped-ceiling bedrooms with fluffy beds and sweet cotton curtains. More art on the walls, beautifully finished wood floors and quiet enough to lull me into wanting to lie down and forgetting that I came to the beach to hunt for kelp. Two rooms in the front had private bathrooms. Down the hall were three bathrooms that served the other six bedrooms, if I remember correctly. Two of them had showers, all small but in good repair, very clean and private.
I felt like I was in the house of some loving, productive grandparents before televisions arrived. Bookshelves everywhere held classics, local and international, not the usual bracketed shelves loaded with DVD’s, and VHS’s jerking me back to the urban frame of mind. Hank, when I told him I was going hunting for kelp, checked the tide tables for me. I thought to myself, what a gem; this is one of the good guys. He then went off to a meeting and I made some couscous I had brought along and tea. I considered firing up the big gas stove but then noticed the sink had a hot water dispenser, which was all I needed. I admired all the antique kitchen utensils, hanging neatly on hooks, and all the old cast iron frying pans, varying in size. The long wall shelf was cut to fit neatly against the window boards. I then noticed Hank’s bedroom off the kitchen and later he told me the health department doesn’t approve of guests in the kitchen. I’ll bet he has to fight them out with a stick, though.
I retired early, slipped under the down comforter with a good book and suffered not a single interruption as I read late into the night. The last thing I remember before going to sleep was discovering that the pillowslip was hand embroidered in little blue x’s like my grandmother’s handiwork.
It was quiet all night even though I had the room facing Hemlock Street. There were no out-of-control kids running down the hall, no drunks hollering at 2am, and no garbage trucks or recyclers shattering my dreams. I awakened at 9 or so to soft bumps downstairs as Hank tended to his birds and duties. I came downstairs to pastries on the dining table. Hank, who had been up since dawn, made me a strong, full-bodied cup of coffee before slipping away to continue his chores. He possessed a refined grace and quiet manner that made him easy to be around.
With a surge of joy I remembered he offered wireless and I didn’t have to haul all my stuff down to Bella Espresso. I sat down to check my emails and discovered I had forgotten my charger for my laptop. Hank, being a Mac man as well, happened to have a charger to fit mine and got me fixed up.
The fact that Hank was the rose curator for the Portland Park Bureau was evident all over the place. His green thumb tended to indoor and outdoor plants, and the backyard oasis would have been another place to sit and enjoy my coffee if I had come in the summer. There were a couple of orchids with generous blooms and the hardiest begonia I’d ever seen in the west window competing with the view of the ocean.
Check out is noon, rather than the usual 11am. Before I left, I gazed out the windows (with Hank’s powerful binoculars) at the ocean and the squirrely crows and then said goodbye to the back deck birds. I wondered why the Wave Crest wasn’t packed, and why I hadn’t heard people raving about this haven, only an hour and a half from Portland and a five-minute drive from downtown Cannon Beach. I could have hopped on the shuttle to town, which stopped across the street from the inn. Why hadn’t I inquired some eleven years ago as many times as I passed it? I think I thought it was something that used to be an inn. Hank did say he had had the busiest summer he’d had in a long time and, of course, now it was fall, and slowing down.
The prices at the Wave Crest Inn were actually lower than just about anywhere else in town at $85. per night. This link will lead to a few pictures that still don’t do justice to the place. http://www.hotels-flights-and-travel.com/hotel-information/beach-hotels/wave-crest-inn-cannon-beach-or/. I have stumbled upon the best-kept secret in Oregon. I imagine coming here every time I come to Cannon Beach, spending my days beachcombing and my nights reading in bed in Paradise.