Sunday, November 30, 2014

Whaleshead Beach to Cape Ferrelo

My little tour of the southern Oregon coast continued with a recent hike from Whaleshead Beach to Cape Ferrelo. Unlike the prior hike on Cape Blanco, the weather was only considering dropping water on me instead actually doing the wet deed. Just the same, I brought my raincoat along.

"Trail" is loosely defined, here
There are two basic routes to to Cape Ferrelo from Whaleshead Beach. Option One is to hike away from the beach up on the Oregon Coast Trail. The main drawback is that the trail is incredibly steep. Option Two is to hike down the beach and then take the connector trail up to the Oregon Coast Trail. The main drawback is that the trail is incredibly steep. Option Three is to stay home and not do this hike at all. The main drawback to that is staying home and not doing this hike at all.

Deer track also known as
the Oregon Coast Trail
Since steep was going to be part of my miserable experience anyway, I started high and went low, taking the Oregon Coast Trail down to the beach. This was a trail more suited to goats or deer than hikers and I could only pity anyone brave or naive enough to carry a backpack up the steep and muddy path. I can't believe they even call it a trail, for the path down (or up) is not worthy of the word.

Whaleshead Beach
The good news though, it was nothing but blue skies in the early morning as I slid down the hill to the beach. Immediately, there was a nice view of a couple of islands, one of which is Whaleshead Island, so named for a blowhole which just like me, puts on a spouting display when the tides are right.

The most spectacular waterfall
you've never heard of
There were several creeks to wade across on the beach and one of them was the proud owner of a world class waterfall. If any readers are wondering why they have never heard of this watery wonder, it's because the spectacular cascade is inaccessible by trail. I suppose the waterfall could be accessed via a bushwhack up an overgrown cliff, but I was still sober in the early morning.

House Rock, all by its loneseome
After a mile or so, the beach petered out at a pile of rocks and now it was time to begin The Big Climb. Because the trail is so ill-defined at beach level, some mild mountaineering was required to reach the actual trail tread about 20 feet above the sand. The bluff here was grassy and windblown and quickly provided views of House Rock to the south. Looking like ants crawling across the kitchen floor, a couple out for a walk made slow progress on the beach below. The dude spotted me up the hill and pointed me out. The woman then shook her head and they both turned around and walked back the way they had come. No words were necessary for me to understand their conversation.

Deer cave
After gaining 500 feet in a half mile, the junction with the Oregon Coast Trail was reached and call me thankful I didn't have to climb 501 feet. The trail then spent a lot of forest time as it headed south to Cape Ferrelo. The coastal woods were beautiful and heavily mossed while ferns sprouted everywhere beneath the trees. Unfortunately, the trail insisted on going down then up then down then up then...repeat for the next couple of miles.

Either a big mushroom or a small head
Seeing how the woods were fairly damp and moist due to the recent rains, it was not at all surprising to see a fair amount of slugs sliming up the the trail. Nor was it surprising to see mushrooms of all sizes, shapes, and colors bursting forth from the muddy depths of wherever they hang out when not bursting forth. What was surprising was to find woolly bears in fuzzy abundance in the grassy areas of the trail. It seems to me that late November would not normally be time of year where one would expect to find fuzzy caterpillars in such great numbers. Maybe they know something we don't about the upcoming weather.

The view
A little after the three-mile mark, rocky Cape Ferrelo hove into view. Grass replaced the forest and the wind cuffed me about as I approached the Cape. Solely for the sake of closure, I took a left fork down to Lone Rock Beach, my intended turnaround point. However, when the steep, slippery, and muddy path disappeared into Lone Ranch Creek, I called "dry feet" and proceeded to walk back uphill to Cape Ferrelo.

Island vista, near Lone Ranch Beach
The spectacular view from the cape just called for a more contemplative stop and I obliged, eating lunch in the damp grass. There were a few other hikers out and about and a friendly dog came by to visit and politely inquire as to the availability of any doggie treats; no snacks were handed out, but he did get a friendly head pat in the process. Gone were the blue skies from the morning, replaced by dark gray cloud cover that presaged an incoming rainstorm. Rays of sunlight leaked through holes in the cloudy tapestry, the resultant spots of light dancing across the ocean and islands. I would have stayed longer but I could just sense the coming rain.

House Rock enjoys the light show
So back I go, down and up and up and down and down and up through the damp forest. However, instead of taking the goat path down to the beach again, I stayed high, following the Oregon Coast Trail. The OCT is not the most well marked trail in the world and a number of confusing intersections befuddled me a bit, not that it's particularly difficult to confuse me. At any rate, several of my trail choices wound up with me walking along Highway 101 a bit before reaching the trailhead.

Late afternoon panorama
As I was divesting myself of my backpack and wet boots, a car pulled into the parking lot and a young man and his dog got out. He asked me about the trail to the beach and I made sure to stress how godawful steep the trail down was. He smiled and said "I'm good with that". Me too.

Alder going all leafless for the winter
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment