Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sixes River backpack trip

This was an unusually lazy weekend backpack trip. None of the usual tests of endurance and manhood, nosiree. Nope, we eschewed the Man Hike in favor of a Dog Hike. In particular, the dog in question was Teddy as my Maggie can run circles around us humans as we trudge along. John, who was dogsitting Teddy, said Teddy "...has the heart of a lion" but alas, he was born with the stubby legs of a Welsh Corgi and the unassuming shape of a Tootsie Roll.

Day 1

John and the children

We started on a beautiful sunny morning at Floras Lake, on the Oregon coast. A short walk along the sandy shore of the preternaturally still lake joined us up with the Oregon Coast Trail. We didn't stay long on the OCT for long as we cut across a dense patch of vegetation to get on the beach, our "trail" for the next couple of miles.
On the beach until Battleship Bow says to stop
The coarse sand sloping away from the imposing cliffs made for pleasant hiking, especially with fully loaded backpacks on. Discerning readers can sense the sarcasm rolling off the keyboard as I type this. Our cue to leave the beach was the imposing wall of Battleship Bow, otherwise we'd do a slow hiker-speed splat onto the bow as the beach ends rather abruptly there.

Aargh, the trail be here mateys!

A small valley had been cut into the cliffs where a creek makes made its way onto the beach; a trail started there, heading back up to the OCT. In case we were not sure where to find the trail, some enterprising beachgoer had marked the spot by hoisting and raising a mast from a log found on the beach. All that was needed was a Jolly Roger on the top, blowing in the breeze.

A "wow!" moment
The next several miles on the OCT took us through wonderfully shaded coastal forests, the shade not particularly needed on this cool day. Occasionally, we'd beat through the bush to scramble out on top of the cliffs with magnificent view after magnificent view of the coastline stretching out towards Bandon. We had lots of "Wow!" moments on this portion of the trip while simultaneously keeping hold of gnat-brained dogs (yes, I'm talking about you, Maggie) at the cliff's edges.

View towards the Sixes River
Near Blacklock Point, a path dropped off the bluffs and returned us to sea level on a dark-sand beach. The sea had been somewhat boisterous  here because the sand had been carved into slopes, bars, and canyons. Pretty to look at but again, tedious to walk through. Small creeks trickled across the sand and grateful dogs lapped up the refreshing water.

Let the show begin
After setting up camp above a debris strewn beach at the mouth of the Sixes River, we kicked back and watched a magnificent sunset show. I got up in the middle of the night and the wind had blown all the clouds away and I lay in the grass gazing at the multitude of stars above while the beam from the nearby Cape Blanco lighthouse swept overhead, all accompanied by the steady roar of the surf. It was just perfect.

Day 2

Scene from a horror movie
The day dawned brisk and clear, but not for long as fog swept in and became the theme of the day.  A sand bar had dammed the Sixes River but it sure made getting to the other side of the river much easier as all we had to do was walk across it.  The bar served double duty as a seagull hotel and clouds of them lifted off into the air, shrieking indignant at our intrusion.

Maggie wants a new owner

We followed the beach to Cape Blanco and the sand was packed hard and was easy to walk on, unlike the day before. Not much to see but fog and rocks, and at the end of the beach we took the trail up to the top of the cape. Once there, we could not even see the lighthouse which was only a quarter-mile away. Not even the light emanating from the lighthouse was visible. So this wound up being a long water walk as we refilled bottles and hydration bladders at the Cape Blanco campground. The dogs refilled their bladders, too.

Land bridge across the Sixes

So back we go, overland on the Oregon Coast Trail this time, as the fog dripped from the seine of pine branches overhead. We had a limited but nice overlook of the Sixes River. The natural dam at the mouth had caused the river to back up and the river trail was now on an island. But not to worry as there was an alternate trail through the grasses that brought us back to the beach with half a day to kill.

Killed half a day watching waves and birds, yup

Basically, the rest of the day was spent sitting on a log watching the winter migration fly by. Squads of pelicans flew by every few minutes or so, flying in a follow-the-leader formation that undulated like some feathered sine wave. The Sixes River seemed to be the dividing line between fog and sun as it was gray and dreary to the south but sunny and clear to the north; the birds were flying from warm sunshine to cold fog and I know just how they must have felt. In the late afternoon, fog won out and there would be no sunset.

Day 3

Driftwood and rocks
This was getaway day and we had noticed the dogs' paws were bothered by the sand so we hiked on a cow trail in the beachgrass back towards Blacklock Point. We made it about halfway up the beach before the going got too tough so we scrabbled through piles of logs and driftwood back to the soft sands of the beach.

First light transforms a rock island

We had begun the hike out in early morning and we observed the rock islands catching, each in turn, the first light of the day. Eventually it was our turn to be shined on and we enjoyed the sudden warmth of the sun. A short climb away from the beach provided the always pleasing view to Cape Blanco while waves crashed on the rocks below.

You hike barefoot, see if you like it!
Eschewing the sandy beach walk north of Blacklock Point in order to take it easy on the dogs, we stayed on the OCT the rest of the way, hiking through viewless but beautiful woods. The forest ended at Floras Lake and we followed the sandy shore back to our car. All in all, a lazy and unambitious backpack trip but I really should do that more often.

For more pictures of this relaxed weekender, visit the photo album in Flickr.


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