Sunday, November 18, 2018

Cape Arago 11/2018

I've hiked Cape Arago like a million times. Now, it's not as much fun to hike the same trail over and over again, so I've tried to make each sortie different somehow. Accordingly, I've hiked the rugged coast near Charleston several times in each of the four seasons and in all kinds of conditions, weather, and routes. I've hiked to Cape Arago from Sunset Bay, Bastendorff Bog, or the Perimeter Trail. I've hiked while grazing on salmonberries and studiously avoiding ingesting poisonous fly amanita mushrooms. I've hiked in sun, rain, and fog denser than the center of a black hole. I've hiked the trails in broad daylight and on both a moonlit and pitch-black night. The only thing left to do is hike backwards on a pogo stick singing "There's no Business Like Show Business" at the top of my lungs. Oh wait, there is one thing I haven't done yet: while I have spent many a trail mile dodging spray from the massive waves that pummel the Oregon coast, I have yet to see the Cape Arago environs on a day where nothing really happens, wave-wise. And yup, you guessed it, this was the day!

Photography was nearly a contact sport
The sun was out in full ineffective glory when we started. Like an ex-spouse, it was beautiful to look at but still left one cold. But hey, we were all thankful for the blue sky and bright light, seeing as how it had rained for a solid two decades (or so it seemed) right before the hike. The ocean was a colorful blue-green in the open sunlight and lazily lapped at the shore, like ripples in a freshwater lake on a languid day. Periodic breaks in the forest cover provided awe-inspiring views of the rugged Oregon coast and the stillness of the day was broken by the sounds of camera-toting hikers pushing and shoving each other just to get an optimal photo of all the peace and tranquility below the trail.

Rock formations at Shore Acres
When we reached Shore Acres State Park, we noticed we were short two hikers: Jay and Catherine. Turned out they had gotten off trail somehow and wound up on the inland short-cut to the park, arriving just as we were dithering about what to do about our missing people. Once back to our full complement of hikers, we continued on to Simpson Beach and then the Simpson Reef overlook where we observed dozens of sea lions basking and lazing in the sun, totally in keeping with the calm ocean.

Just gotta love that coastal forest!

From the overlook, we normally hike up the Cape Arago highway to the cape itself. However, John was leading the way and John does not like road hikes. So, we crossed the highway and grabbed the tie-in trail to the Cape Arago Pack Trail and in short order legs were screaming and lungs were bursting as that short-cut trail is a little on the steep side, to put it mildly. But at least, it wasn't a long uphill distance before the path met up with the Pack Trail.

View south towards Bandon
There were a couple of newbies that were really struggling with the uphill so I hung back with them to offer words of encouragement. The trail ambled through coastal forest where thin sunlight slanted through the trees. Mushrooms and fungus sprouted from the forest duff in abundance and much photography ensued. Once on the Pack Trail (which is a gravel road, actually), we headed downhill to the cape. At this point, I could see John and several other hikers ahead of me, but after several of us availed ourselves of the public restrooms in the picnic area atop the cape, John and his contingent had all disappeared somewhere to parts unknown.

Our lunchtime view
I assumed everybody had hiked down to the picnic tables at North Cove so I herded my charges down to the North Cove John, no hiking friends. We waited a bit, eating lunch while the sweet intoxicating scent of sea lion ordure permeated the forest and took a little epicurean luster off our respective meals. After lunch was summarily dispatched, we retreated to the Cape itself and relaxed a bit, enjoying the sun reflecting off the vast ocean spreading out before us.

South Cover, at beach level
Turned out John had gone down to the South Cove for lunch and while there, had realized we were missing in action. A "lucky" hiker was designated to walk up to the cape to let me know where they were. However, my peeps were not too keen about hiking down the cove with the steep climb back up waiting afterward. So, down to South Cove I went all by myself and I was glad my version of the hike was a two-cove special, because the view of the southern coastline below South Cove was awesome. The imposing coastal cliffs stretched out all the way to Coquille Point and a light mist was forming where land met sea. Much photography ensued once again.

My church
An afternoon mist was coalescing in the woods on the way back and the humidity pervaded clothing as well as trees. However, the mist imbued the sunlight slanting through the coastal jungle just the right bit of heft, photographically speaking. I was working on filling up the photo card in my camera and soon found myself at my customary position bringing up the rear. I made Jay and Catherine stay in view though, as they both were in my car and we didn't need another impromptu wander through the woods.

Enticing, but definitely not good to eat!
So, we enjoyed this hike on an unusually calm ocean day at the cape. Now, to prepare for my next venture here, I'll have to start practicing on the pogo stick! For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


Sunday, November 11, 2018


In my view, one of Oregon's biggest mysteries is why Yachats is pronounced YAH-hahts but spelled like it should sound like YAH-chats. A cursory research conducted over the Internet (because if it's on the Internet, it MUST be true) revealed that the name possibly comes from the Siletz language and means "dark water at the foot of the mountain". OK, Cape Perpetua looms to the south of the small town so I get how that name could have originated. But when the first European first encountered the Siletz people and asked "What is the name of this place?", he probably got the answer "Yah-hahts". So then, said European writes in his journal "Yachats" and then from that point on, generations of Oregonians had to explain to their non-Oregon friends that the "c" is silent and as useful as a bubble-gum machine in a tetanus ward. Makes no sense to me at all, but there you go.

Abstract art found on the beach
Yachats is a quaint small town on the Oregon coast and because of the fantastic coastline scenery, hotels and house preside over shoreline vistas because we all know magnificent natural wonders need more hotels and tall buildings to enhance the view. At any rate, to get some mental health therapy that can only come from being out in nature and wilderness, I set out onto the Oregon Coast Trail and beneath my boots, welcomed the trail tread which felt a lot like...asphalt?

A churn erupts
OK, so this is not your wilderness hike. But one can look to the west and see rugged coast line and spouting churns, or one can look east and see Yachats. I prefer the view to the west. This hike began at Yachats State Park, where one can contemplate Cape Perpetua overlooking a small bay that is the estuary of the Yachats River. Immediately below were some fine tide pools with families enjoying the marine life contained within. Tidepooling is fun but I had a hike to do, so it was off on Ocean View Road, my hiking poles clacking metallically upon the pavement. 

Some of that Yachats shoreline
If I had looked closer at a map of the town, I could have ducked up 4th Street and added a park to my route but as it was, I just followed the Oregon Coast Trail signs which had me walking on public roads.  Suddenly, a dirt track appeared to the left and I grabbed it, thinking this surely must be the Oregon Coast Trail. Wrong, it was just a path down to the rocks and a small beach. Still thinking I was on the OCT, I continued over the rough shoreline terrain where a rambunctious churn at Agency Creek prevented me from safely continuing north. Still, the scenery was enjoyable so I didn't mind the wrong turn.

Yes, this really is the Oregon Coast Trail
The OCT continued north on roads until it became a paved trail that wandered behind backyards and houses. Beyond the Sea, a large hotel, loomed straight ahead but on the plus side, the trail followed the shore at this point without any asphalt being involved. I thought the hotel was oddly named because Beyond the Sea is Japan, which is easier to spell. Beyond Beyond the Sea was an even larger resort by the name of Adobe Resort which was strange, seeing how there are no adobe bricks within several time zones of Yachats. 

A perfect place for yoga and meditation
By the way, a brief moment of thanks to the two aforementioned hotels for allowing the Oregon Coast Trail to cruise between their imposing edifices and the Oregon coast. They didn't have to do that and sharing is appreciated. The next item of interest was Smelt Sands State Recreation Area, with some wild rock formations and picturesque tide pools filling up every dimple in the rocks. I can't say that I smelt anything unusual at Smelt Sands, though. Especially since Lane was not hiking with me, just sayin'.

The beach stretched all the way to Waldport
The trail left a lot of the urban feel behind when it ducked into a forest and dropped down on a beach that stretched out all the way to Waldport, about 10'ish miles away. The only hiking obstacle between me and Waldport was a wet ford across Starr Creek. From here on in, it would be a beach walk all the way to Tillicum Beach, my turnaround point. 

An ocean of silver
The beach was flanked inland by tall cliffs with imposing homes on them and after 4 miles, I had reached my beach saturation point. On the way back, the sunlight reflecting on a silver sea entertained and enthralled the camera, I have millions of photographs to support my claim of entrancement by the glimmering sea.

I had been hiking in a rising tide and apart from an occasional wave chasing me up the beach every now and then, there was so much beach to hike on that that I was pretty much unaware of the incoming ocean. However, once back above the coast at Smelt Sands, the churns were very active with throngs of appreciative observers enjoying the show. Waves would surge up the narrow churns only to seemingly erupt out of the black rock at the end of the churn. It was quite a show and I soon forgot I was walking on an urban trail.

Shadow Man enjoyed the hike, too
All good things come to an end though, and I was tired and happy when I reached the parking lot at the end of the hike. Spending the day on the coast is always a good thing. For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rogue River Trail

I was sort of playing hooky from work (although it's not really playing hooky if you have permission from your employer) and joined friends John, Jennifer, Lindsay, and Penny on a mid-week hike. This was the day after the 2018 mid-term elections and already the sonic space that had previously been filled up with toxic political ads was blissfully quiet. Given our politics these days, the reflexive cacophony will soon resume, the relative silence being fleeting and ephemeral. Just a thought: Let's suppose I am going to vote for Candidate A. At the halftime break of a Portland Timber's game, while I'm assembling a taco in the kitchen, a commercial runs and the narrator says with snark and condescension dripping off of every hanging syllable, "Candidate A: Bad for you, bad for America". Am I supposed to think to myself "Wow, I had no idea Candidate A was bad for me, thanks for letting me know!. And bad for America too? Why, I'd be unpatriotic if I voted for him or her so I'm switching to Candidate B!" Does that ever really happen? And what happens to my vote when next I see an anti-Candidate B ad? Yeesh, my mind yearns for more intelligent discussion and a world with no election ads of any sort.

A photographic metaphor for elections
Speaking of more intelligence, we were out hiking on the Rogue River Trail. The trail showed signs of recent use but not by people avoiding election commercials. Nope, the frequent piles of dark black/purple poop evidenced fitness-oriented bears also enjoy hiking on the cliffs above the Rogue River. Or maybe they were expressing in their own bear way, their opinion of all the "Vote for Smokey" ads. Not that I am a poop connoisseur or poopologist, but many of the piles were seemingly just a few minutes old and answered the age old question "Do bears poop in the woods?", the answer being "No, but they do poop on the trail!" At any rate, I'm glad to report that no live bears were encountered by live hikers on this hike. I daresay there'd be a few more piles of poop on the path if that were that to happen.

The mountains were mist-covered
before the morning burn-off
It was a chill morning but the day was mostly sunny. The tall peaks surrounding the river all had their noses up in the clouds but after a mile or so of hiking, the clouds had burned off. The river was running a dark green but still had a little silt due to the rains from the week prior. The air had that pre-winter snap to it and we all hiked in jackets, despite the sun.

A weak sun filters through the trees
I tend to hike this trail in the early spring so it was a little surprising to see the small tributary creeks either dried up or just barely trickling, Sunlight trickled through the maze of tree leaves and branches arching over the trail, illuminating some of the autumnal-colored leaves and warming the hearts of hikers, if not their actual bodies.

The iPads of yore

We hiked as far as the historic Whiskey Creek Cabin where we took in the artifacts and rusting mining equipment surrounding the rustic abode. After the cursory visit to the backwoods museum, we plopped down in cool sand by the river at Whiskey Creek Camp. Jennifer, John, Lindsay, and I had all previously hiked full 40 mile length of the Rogue River Trail, and we regaled Penny with tales of our respective ventures, some of which were surely embellished.

Madrones, with some winter fur
Penny and I were both taking photographs and we soon lagged behind the front three of our small group. But hey. the river was ensconced deep in it's canyon with tranquil pools that reflected nicely in the shade, and each pool just had to be photographed. The big-leaf maples still had yellow leaves hanging off their limbs, further adding to our lagging behind.

Candidates A and B
After taking photos of everything we could think of, which included bear poop, we eventually arrived at the trailhead and our patiently waiting comrades, It had been a pleasant day and we all averred we had enjoyed the chilly weather, if only for the rare sunlight between rainy days. As we left the parking area, we spotted some goat creatures that for some reason, reminded me of Candidate B.  At least the they didn't bleat "Vote for me-e-e-e-...!"

I'm likin' the lichen
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Panther and Mott Segments

On a hike several years ago, our group was debating whether to return or continue on for a more lengthy and arduous hiking endeavor. One of our hikers said "Is it farther? Is it steeper? Good, then I will hike it!" Those are good words to live by but not everybody agrees with me on that. That's why, on a recent hike I led for the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club, it was most gratifying when all but two hikers opted to take the longer option on the North Umpqua Trail, which consisted of stringing together both the Panther and Mott segments of the 78 mile trail, affectionately referred to as the NUT. Yay all ye hikers, and a tip of the hat to the hiking newbies who dared to challenge themselves by hiking the full route.

Tiny mushroom sprouted on a fallen tree
It had been raining off and on all week, but fortunately this day was all off. It still was fairly brisk, though, the air had that cold snap that hinted at the coming winter. The forest was damp but the encroaching vegetation was not all that encroaching so there was no repeat of the leg-soaking that was an issue on my last hike. At least not the leg-soaking related to rain on shrubbery and I shall say no more on this subject. 

A hikin' we will go
Beginning at the eastern terminus of the Panther Segment, we wasted no time gaining elevation as the trail charged up a densely forested slope. The group quickly separated into two canps: athletic uber-hikers in the front and huffers and puffers bringing up the rear. Not totally uncoincidental, the two groups also were without and with cameras, respectively.

Just gotta hike uphill, always
The trail, once it gained peak elevation, then spent a lot of time going up and down; the net effect was that it felt like we were constantly walking uphill. You tend to pay more attention to the slope when your legs are burning with exertion. The North Umpqua River flowed several hundred feet or so below the trail but was only occasionally visible through the dense forest comprised mostly of Douglas fir with a thin interspersing of big-leaf maple and madrone.

I can still hear the swish of the
eaves as we walked through
There wasn't much in the way of leaf color but the trail still had that autumn vibe due to a thick blanket of maple leaves covering pretty much all of the ground on the forest floor. I can still hear the swish of dead leaves as we waded through the autumnal detritus.

Small creeks crossed the trail
Periodically, small streams would cross the trail and moss-covered rocky outcrops would flank the path on the uphill side. And always, ferns fought through the dead leaves to grace the trail with their ferny greenery. you might say this was a "frondly" hike for the Fronds of the Umpqua. I've got a million of them, folks.

The North Umpqua River, seen from its namesake trail
After several miles well above the river, the trail lost elevation, eventually winding up on the banks of the North Umpqua River. And that's where it would stay for the duration of the hike as we closed out the Panther Segment when the trail spit us out on the roadway over the historic Mott Bridge. As mentioned, everybody was feeling walky and willing to tack on another five miles by hiking the Mott Segment of the NUT.

Steamboat Falls
The Mott Segment is one of my favorite sections of the NUT, for virtually all of its five-ish miles are spent within close proximity of the river. With the recent run of rain, the river was swollen, alternating between tranquil and languid pools to seething and roiling rapids. Steamboat Falls, more wide than high, was putting on a show as it made a short drop into a series of noisy whitewatered chutes. 

Red-head in the forest

About halfway through the Mott, several hikers began walking slower and slower, feeling the unaccustomed miles on their legs. No problem, since I was leading from the rear anyway. Much of this segment was spent photographing lichen, moss, and mushrooms; all of which were found in ample quantities on trees both standing and fallen. Waxing professorial, I was able to show my newbies what a wild ginger, British Soldier, and a drum tree was.

Decaying leaves made bridges treacherous
There were several creeks crossing the trail, each big enough to warrant a footbridge across. The bridges were coated with decaying maple leaves which can be treacherously slippery. After admonishing my people to "walk like a penguin", I'm glad to report all hikers remained in an upright position as we carefully waddled across the bridges and boardwalks on the slippery boards.

Leaves upon leaves
The hike ended at the small campground at Wright Creek and we all gratefully hopped into automobiles full of that wonderfully warm air emanating from heater vents. All our newbies were suitably impressed with themselves at tossing off a ten-mile hike on their first attempt.

A zen garden of leaves and logs
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.