Saturday, February 15, 2014

Heceta Head

Wow!  In this case WOW could be an acronym for Wild Oregon Weather.  Or it could be an acronym for Where's Our Window (more on that, later). Suffice to say, the recent Friends of the Umpqua hike in the Heceta Head area had a whole lot of wow, but not for the usual reasons.

And this was the "good weather" part!

The weather forecast looked fairly dire with copious amounts of rain called for and depending on whose smart phone you consulted with, wind was also going to be a problem. The most dire warnings had wind gusts reaching up to 70 miles per hour in velocity. I have a dumb phone and it told me nothing about the weather. The consensus was to drive to Heceta Head and to assess the wind and make a game-time decision about the hiking route.

No lighthouse tours today
At the trailhead, the wind was brisk but not overly so and the verdict from all 6 hikers was "Let's go hiking!". Of course, it was raining, and the pitter-patter of raindrops on hat brims was a steady backdrop to the roar of the ocean as we headed up towards the famed Heceta Head lighthouse. Next to lighthouse is the keeper's home, now a bed-and-breakfast with probably the best view ever from a bed-and-breakfast. Normally, the lighthouse is teeming with visitors but for some reason we had the place to ourselves. That wouldn't have anything to do with the high winds warning, would it?

And then the fun started as the trail switchbacked to and fro, climbing up and over Heceta Head. Steep was the watchword and we got our exercise in the dense forest on the headland. Once we made it over Heceta Head, we were sheltered somewhat from the wind as we dropped down a mossy forest to a very wet Highway 101.

The newts liked the weather

Crossing the highway where the car tires all hissed on the wet pavement, we grabbed the Valley Trail to Carl Washburne State Park. The next couple of miles were a soggy and relatively level ramble through mossy woods. Several creeks crossed the trail, each carrying more water than usual since it's been raining for about a solid week. We passed by a small pond, allegedly created by beavers. Newts were out in great numbers and the trail was crawling with the orange-bellied amphibians.

Open air dining at its finest
After we reached the campground at Carl Washburne State Park, we crossed over the highway and ate lunch at the day use area next to the beach. It was a quick and businesslike lunch as both the rain and wind picked up in intensity. After packing up our wet gear, we hit the beach and tried to walk straight into the winds blowing from the south. The sand in the wind actually stung when it hit exposed body parts like faces, and I could even feel it through my pants.

The proper technique for hiking in the wind
We didn't get very far before an emergency meeting of the Friends of the Umpqua was convened and 5 of us opted to return the way we came, John was the lone hiker opting for the beach route. I've done stupid hikes before but you just have to be in the mood and I was not in the mood to be sandblasted on this day. So, it was a workmanlike return through the woods in the rain where John rejoined us at the other end of the loop.

Oregonians have land gills
As we climbed over Heceta Head the rain was so thick I could hardly see for all the raindrops on my glasses. I had long given up on taking pictures. The trail was muddy and full of standing water and at one point my feet shot out from under me and now I was wet AND muddy. Whee.

Hairpin curve
On the ocean side of the head, the wind was shrieking like an army of banshees from the underworld. The trees were waving to and fro like grass blades and you just had to have faith that trees or tree parts would not fall on your head. I'm glad to report no heads were harmed in the hiking of this hike.

Even the bears stayed home

At the parking lot, sheets of rain were driven like the wind and it looked like a newscast of a major hurricane, all that was needed was a reporter staggering in the wind for the benefit of the camera. The water drops hit so hard they felt like cold needles on the face. One large gust of wind did stagger Bill and he nearly went down, he had to grab a post for support. Seconds later, the same thing also happened to me.


The wind was so strong that it sucked the rear window off of Jennifer's van, scattering the glass diamond shards to wherever the wind took them to. In spring, the shards will sprout and grow new windows by the end of summer. The wind also toppled over trees on the highway and we had to turn around and backtrack 25 miles to Florence and return to Roseburg via Eugene in an overly ventilated van, seeing as it had no rear window. Wow, indeed.

May the eye of
Sauron be upon you
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.



  1. Here I sit, trying to decide if I will get out and hike as planned, or stay dry and warm at home. My phone, rumored to be smart make it look like there will be mostly sun, and doesn't mention wind.

    The National Weather Service says:Washington's Birthday Rain likely, mainly before 4pm. Cloudy, with a high near 46. West wind 11 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

    Compared to Heceta Head on the beautiful day that you hike, the forecast here is like a beautiful summer day in the mountains. I almost feel guilty for hesitating to do another hike on Mt Cleman with the excuse that it might rain.

    1. No need to feel guilty Jim, you are doing the right thing! I just didn't feel like staying indoors for a second consecutive weekend because of the weather. After the Heceta Head hike, staying indoors is not all that bad.

  2. Wow is right - sounds like you and the club are now taking it to the next level - Extreme Hiking! Glad to hear everyone made it through ok. Will have to venture up that way in the summer to see if we can find one of those shards that grew into a new rear window. May come in handy for us one day.

    1. The weather was just as bad today, I was thinking we should have gone out again but Jennifer will be running out of windows if we keep it up

  3. One of your funniest - although doesn't sound as though it was fun or funny at the time

    1. Yup, it was one of those experiences where afterwards you wonder what the heck you were thinking of