Saturday, May 6, 2017

Blacklock Point

Blacklock Point is a frequent repeat customer hike of mine. Rinse, wash, repeat: Blacklock Point, over and over again, like a trail version of Groundhog Day. But why not? The coastline is particularly dramatic with imposing cliffs looming over a narrow beach, and the trail spends lots of quality shade time in between all the awesome viewpoints. Catch this little section of the Oregon Coast Trail in spring and you will be rewarded with impressive wildflower displays of rhododendron, lupine, iris, wild strawberry, and coastal huckleberry (see photo above). Frogs and newts populate the vernal pools covering the trail and naturally, feet get wet and muddy, always the sign of a great hike. Of course, catch the Blacklock Point and Floras Lake area in winter, and hikers will be "rewarded" with nasty wind and rain; been there and done that, too. But for me, the prime attraction is one clifftop viewpoint in particular that seems to get harder and harder to get to due to encroaching brush. But until it becomes impossible, as opposed to plain old very difficult, I'll take yet another spin on the Blacklock Point merry-go-round.

Yes, it was windy
I'm not the only one that feels that way, for The Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club is also a frequent flyer to Blacklock Point and thus, an early May hike was scheduled there. It was time to get back on the Blacklock Point hamster wheel to renew my never-ending acquaintanceship with the aforementioned fantastic coastal scenery. Grandson Daweson had never been, though, so he was only too eager to come along with me.

Daweson demonstrates the proper technique
for getting past standing water
It was a gorgeous day at the coast. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the trail was covered with deep puddles that were nearly ponds, or whatever is the next rank up from deep puddles. Well, two out of three isn't bad! When we arrived at the first puddle covering the trail, Daweson looked at me, and I at him, and without discussing the matter further, we simply splashed through like the two boys we are. Once across, we had to wait for our comrades to finish beating their way through the brush and side trails to get around. It's amazing the lengths people go through just to keep their feet from getting wet, like the Wicked Witch of the West was their podiatrist, "My feet are melting! My feet are melting! Oh what a world!"

The trail was newty

Snakey, too!
Newts and cute little baby garter snakes were in abundance on the wet trail, delighting amateur herpetologists and horrifying squeamish hikers with equal amplitude. Neither specie was afraid of the puddles, either. Anyway, after dodging puddles, newts, and snakes; we arrived at the junction with the Oregon Coast Trail and made the left turn toward Blacklock Point.

Into the deep, dark, woods
The woods were as dark and cool as a troll's lair, and I liked it. Shade loving plants like rhododendron and skunk cabbage thrived in the undergrowth just off trail. And just past an awesome backpacking campsite (I speak from personal experience), the forest ended and we walked out into bright sunlight, blinking myopically like so many cave newts. Sun and blue sky, it's finally summer: not! Despite the sunny day, a blustery arctic wind had teeth chattering in no time at all, while cuffing us around on the grassy cliff south of Blacklock Point. Jackets were quickly donned, and loose hats and caps were quickly doffed and stuffed into packs and pockets so they wouldn't blow away.  

View to Cape Blanco on a fine day
Despite the wind that made photography difficult (lets see you try to take a picture while staggering in the wind like a spastic marionette!), the views were awesome. To the south, the coast arced gracefully to Cape Blanco with the little bay bisected by the Sixes River and Castle Rock. Wind-driven whitecaps dotted the deep blue ocean's surface like a bad case of marine dandruff. I thought I spotted a tell-tale spout from a whale's blowhole but really, it could have been a whitecap too, it really was hard to tell the difference.

Yay,we got us some cliffs!
A short walk along the grassy edge of the Oregon world brought us to the Blacklock Point overlook. Directly below, reposed the black rocky crag of Blacklock Point itself, with a chain of islands dot-dot-dotting a stepping-stone path away from land. Normally, we stop longer to enjoy the view but the consensus was we all just wanted to get out of the wind. It really was cold!

This was the easy part of the bushwhack
So, back to the coastal trail we go and the next item on the itinerary was a clifftop viewpoint overlooking a waterfall. Rheo swears there is a path to the cliff but once again (this happened last year, too) we didn't see an obvious path. There was a less obvious path though, and for some reason, I found myself in front, leading the way for a pack of increasingly disgruntled hikers.

Straight down
The brush was thick and scratchy and we had to duck a number of scraggly tree limbs, the clawing branches seemingly intent on applying a tree tribal tattoo to the unwilling. The end result was we didn't get to the cliff Rheo wanted but we did manage to get to my favorite viewpoint in all of Oregon. Or, at least my favorite view until the next great view on the next great hike. 

No caption needed
The cliff here is orange dirt and is oddly barren. But oh, the view! The abrupt and cliffy edge of Oregon was visible for maybe about 20 miles or so with the sandy coastline curving north towards an unseen town of Bandon. And yes, we could see a bit of the waterfall, even though Rheo said the view thereof was cooler from the southern cliff. For some reason, nobody wanted to bushwhack over to the other viewpoint to the south. A hasty retreat was beat to tall grass, and lunch was eaten in an impromptu windbreak of grass and coastal scrub. 

Bushwhackers, and not all that happy, either
The enjoyment was short-lived however, as again I was designated like a Vibrum-soled and incredibly handsome Moses, to lead my people to the Promised Land, the sanctified destination in this case being a return to the trail. Yikes! I was familiar with the bushwhack route away from the viewpoint but the brush has really overgrown what was really a faint path to begin with. I knew I was about to get foul invective hurled my way when I had to butt-scoot, fully prone on my back, under a dense thicket of wind-twisted spruce trees. When we finally made the trail with most of us scratched and bloody, six-year old Emma (our youngest hiker) sported a toothy grin and gave me a high-five. "That was fun!", she said. I couldn't agree more, although most hikers agreed less.

A rock arch decorates the beach below
Our next little bushwhack venture further down the coastline, was to an overlook of a stately rock arch on the beach below. However, the bushwhack was nowhere as arduous as what we had done earlier, darn it. At this point, we split up into two groups with six mileage addicts following me further down the coast.

Trail through woods most excellent

The Oregon Coast Trail here peels away from the coast and follows an old road bed through a sublimely beautiful forest. The undergrowth was lush and green, and the tree branches overhead were as gnarled and twisted as a wizened hag's fingers, but enough about my ex-wife!. You could almost hear the Wicked Witch of the West cackle from the tangle of limbs "Come here, my prettys!". Then suddenly, we strode out into bright sunlight where we overlooked wind surfers flitting on and above Floras Lake, our turnaround point.  

Boots were harmed in the hiking of this hike
Daweson and I explored the beach a bit while the others headed back on the Oregon Coast Trail. The OCT had more puddles deep enough to nearly attain pond status. Frogs jumped into the water in panic but we could see them on the bottom, eyes closed and clicking their webbed heels frantically: "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home!" 

Cleared for takeoff!
Well the OCT portion of the route, while pretty and all, was over 3 miles long in returning back to the trailhead at Cape Arago Airport. At the airport, the proper and safe route calls for hikers to cross a field above the runway and return via the Blacklock Point Trail. But tired hikers and tired grandsons cheat and walk down the runway, nervously looking over their shoulders for incoming planes. As Daweson and I drove home to Roseburg, he started planning a return trip for his younger brother Issiah. Looks like Daweson, wants another ride on the Blacklock Point Twirl-a-Whirl, and I completely understand.

Rhododendron bugs me
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Sometimes the best viewpoints are the ones you work the hardest to reach. Looks like a fantastic hike! (and a fun recap to read)