Saturday, September 23, 2017

Floras Lake

Hiking with grandson Liam went like this:

Mile 1: Grandpa, I'm tired, can we stop now?

Mile 2: Now I'm tired AND hungry, can we go back pleeeeeze?

Mile 3: I want my mommy!

Mile 4: No more words, just lots of tears

Where there is water, there is Luna
Well, if truth be told, none of those things happened but I did mention (or threaten) to Liam that I would write in my blog that he cried the whole time. So, there it is, I kept my promise and put it in the blog, but now here's the real story about our hike in the Floras Lake area.

My peeps
Liam had relocated from Spokane, Washington to Grants Pass, Oregon a couple of summers ago, and while we see him fairly regularly, the sad fact remained that up until this hike, we had only talked about hiking together. Well, when you have a grandson that politely nags you vicariously through his mother, plans get made. And so it came to be that on a cool mid-September morning, Liam and I headed out to the Oregon coast for a moderate hike. Other strenuous routes had been considered, but in the end Liam decided to take it easy on me.

Open-mouthed joy

The other hiker in our little trail party was my dog, Luna. Hiking festivities commenced with a tiring trudge in the soft soils comprising the sandy shore of Floras Lake, but Luna wasted no time running at breakneck speed through the lake's water. It is impossible for anybody else to ever have as much fun hiking as Luna does. Liam and I did not run at breakneck speed, as our inadequate human legs were already feeling the sweet-hot muscle burn that comes with hiking in soft sand.

Spooky trail
Once the lake was left behind, the Oregon Coast Trail entered a deep dark forest comprised of gnarly trees that so resemble the spooky trees surrounding witches's houses in fairy tale books. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, though, we did not get lost in the forest. As an aside, Hansel and Gretel could have avoided a lot of witch-generated stress if they would have simply consulted their GPS on a more frequent basis.

Much of the hike was through beautiful forest
Not that it was a hot day or anything like that, but the forest was luxuriously shaded and the absence of light was eminently enjoyable. After several miles of this, the trail dropped down to a languid creek which required a long jump across, Luna being seemingly happier to simply wade through the still water. There used to be a wooden boardwalk spanning the knee-deep water but winter floods have since swept it downstream and it is probably a thousand pieces of kindling by now.

One of several view-stops
After leaving the creek, the path climbed up to the forested coastal bluffs and would remain there for the next mile or so. Periodic bushwhacks led to the cliff's edges with awesome views of the untamed Oregon coast being our ample reward. At one such viewpoint, a rock arch on a beach below provided a notable point of geologic interest.

Why we hike
There used to be a faint path through the scratchy coastal scrub to a particular overlook that provides my favorite view in all of Oregon. However, over the years, robust vegetation has overgrown the trail and the last time I hiked here, I led a group literally inching on our backs underneath all the thick growth. But today, coming in from the north, a faint path angled away from the main trail and we followed it to see where it went.

It's a Richard Hike!
It led, as all faint paths do here, to the edge of the cliffs. The good news though, was that it was low vegetation and grass all the way to my favorite viewpoint, about a quarter-mile away. A wade through knee-high salal was performed by the two humans while the dog contingent joyfully leapfrogged over all the scratchy and pokey growth.

A flock of seagulls
From the orange-colored bluff, the cliffs stretched for several miles to the north, while the coast arced beyond until it could be seen no more. Below, the surf seethed and churned, throwing itself onto the dark sandy beach in an endless succession of waves. A large flock of seagulls flew out over the ocean and "I Ran" (gratuitous 80's synthpop band Flock of Seagulls reference).

Imposing Battleship Bow
Immediately below and to the south of our cliff-top perch, waves crashed upon the rocky wall of Battleship Bow while a small waterfall splash-landed at the feet of the craggy point. Life is good when surrounded by such stupendous scenery, especially when properly spiced up by a jalapeƱo sandwich, although I noticed Liam's sandwich contained an appalling lack of jalapeƱos.

The side trails were faint and overgrown
After a nice long lunch 'n laze, it was time to pack up and bushwhack back to the trail. Upon our return to the languid creek, we opted to drop down an overgrown path to the beach. This beach is kind of on the wild side, with tall cliffs forcing hikers to have to hike near the water's edge on a narrow strip of sand. The shore slopes away rather steeply from the cliffs, which means the waves crash noisily upon the shore but do not run inland much at all. But it can be dangerous, though, slipping down the sandy slope will drop you down into an unforgiving ocean churn, and if waves roll up all the way to the cliffs, there is no place to run and hide. 

Imposing cliff, seen from beach level
Naturally, our progress along the cliffs was painstaking and careful, we walked as close as we could to the the tall wall of orange rock. After a half-mile or so, the beach widened and all thoughts of mortal danger were left behind on the narrow beach. Piles of kelp, stranded by waning tides, littered the beach and resembled giant green spaghetti noodles on a sandy dinner plate. Continuing further along the beach, the cliffs became less and less imposing: either we were getting taller or they were getting shorter. I'm guessing it was the latter.  And just like that and without ceremony, the cliffs disappeared altogether underneath the sand, leaving a long sand-only beach stretching out into the distance under a blue sky.

Liam on the return, by way of Floras Lake
A short walk along Floras Lake finished off this hike while Luna ran mindlessly in the water all over again. I said nobody can enjoy a hike like Luna does, but I think Liam and I came close. We both agreed we will have to do this again, soon.

Zen moment
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Your dog looks like he had a blast. I do enjoy hiking on the Oregon coast, but often they coast loses out to the mountains and gorge.

  2. The dog (she, by the way) always has a blast. Yes, we have been getting lots of quality coast time, mostly because I tend to hike the mountains in summer but this year, the wildfires took the mountains away