By Jamie Balke Explorebigsky.com Columnist

During the first week of June, I returned to the small coastal town of Neskowin, Ore. for the second summer in a row. I think this place is the bee’s knees.

Upon reaching the rental house, I convinced my boyfriend, Aaron, to walk to the beach while we waited for our friends to arrive. We had all been rather skeptical of the hand-drawn map included in an email from the owner. My Google-addicted friends and I made many a joke ending in, “Here be dragons!”

As it turns out, the map was not only handy, but also necessary. Finding the long, steep staircase down to the water felt a bit like discovering the entrance to Narnia.

Having noticed a brief reference to tidal pools in the rental house visitor’s journal, we took off for Lincoln City the next day. Little planning was involved in this adventure, and it was purely coincidental that we timed the tide just right. After a long walk down a beautiful beach, past a waterfall over the coastal cliff, we arrived at a dramatic rock outcropping. Before long, we found green sea anemones, as well as purple and orange starfish clinging to the rocks as they were sporadically drenched by waves. Having only seen these creatures in aquariums, I was ecstatic. Each time we spotted one, I fear I displayed an undignified amount of yelling and arm flapping.

One of my friends read online that by climbing around the rocks, it’s possible to explore a “secret cove” at low tide. Of course, it was impossible to resist the siren call of a secret cove, so we took turns schlepping my cumbersome purse, picking our way through the rocks. The cove did not disappoint, and I’ll admit I felt a bit like a pirate.

The next day we drove down to Newport, to the Rogue Brewery, where my appreciation for beer began during last year’s summer vacation. After lunch and brew samples, including one called Beard Beer – made with yeast created from a longtime Rogue brewmaster’s beard – we went for a walk in a touristy section of town. It was here that we stumbled upon sea lions.

The sea lions casually sprawled upon a section of pier seemingly made just for them. Some spooned; others got into brief arguments before returning to a sprawl; and one stayed posed, its back arched and its face toward the sunlight.

Our friends left the next day, and Aaron and I consoled ourselves with a trip to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. After buying more cheese than I’d like to admit, I stopped in the gift store and found the perfect souvenir for my mom. – a pad of paper decorated with cows, with packaging that boasted: “Made with real poo.”

On our last day in Neskowin, we hung out on the beach. I read and attempted to frolic in the frigid water. Aaron napped and laughed when I awkwardly ran back up the beach away from the freezing waves.

I finished off our beach day by falling painfully on some rocks behind a couple cuddling and gazing at the ocean. While I crouched like a lunatic before picking myself up, I hoped not to ruin a romantic moment for strangers. The sand that bit into my skin staunched the blood flowing from my knee.

On the long drive home, I barely resisted purchasing a squirt of “musk oil” cologne from a gas station ladies room for a quarter.

Jamie Balke would not be upset if a yearly trip to the Oregon coast became a tradition.