Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bastendorff Bog Trail

I've hiked in the Cape Arago area for what seems like a million times. Despite being overly familiar, the cape is one of my favorite places and is always spectacular; be it at night, in the fog, in a torrential downpour, or on a sunny day. Unfortunately, the relatively small state parks in the area don't offer much options for hiking other than the spectacular trail along the coast. However, thanks to the South Coast Striders, a Coos Bay hiking group, I've had my horizons broadened as they've exposed me to the Perimeter Trail and now, the Bastendorff Bog Trail.

The forest needs no "sprucing" up!

The Bastendorff Bog Trail is a mile'ish long path that runs from Sunset Bay Campground to Cape Arago Highway near Yoakam Point. I've driven by the trail many times but unless you know where it is, you'd never know it was there; it's like the ninja night assassin of trails. Although the Bastendorff Bog Trail officially ends at the highway, a loose network of use-trails on the other side takes hikers to various viewpoints and beaches on and below Yoakam Point and is the answer to the age-old question "why did the hiker cross the road?"

Skunk cabbage
Approximately 30 hikers took the green flag and began ambling through Sunset Bay Campground, exchanging morning greetings with campers rubbing the smoke and sleep out of their eyes around their respective campfires. The trail officially began in the hiker and biker camp which somehow seemed appropriate enough. On a slippery footbridge, we crossed Big Creek's muddy bog replete with blooming odiferous skunk cabbage, and then began a short but brisk charge uphill through lush coastal forest.

On the Bastendorff Bog Trail
After a half mile or so on a trail flanked with dense salal and coastal huckleberry bushes waving green fronds over the trail, a loosely defined Bastendorff Bog made an appearance on the right side of the trail. Apparently, the bog is home to a population of rare and endangered western bog lily; the showy blooms would make spring a good time for a return visit. However, in February, there was not a lot going on in the bog.

A big lump of coal for Christmas
Past the bog, the trail spit us out onto Cape Arago Highway from the aforementioned hidden trailhead after a mile or so. But no worries, the hike hadn't ended yet. Across the busy highway was that collection of rough paths that wander the forested bench of Yoakam Point. Mild bushwhacking yielded intermittent open areas in the forest with the open areas providing views of the rugged Oregon coast and Cape Arago Lighthouse perched atop Gregory Point (actually an island). Below the point, an exposed seam of coal flashed back to the time when Coos Bay actually had a coal industry,

View from Yoakam Point
The actual point of  Yoakam Point is narrow and exposed and there was not room enough for 30 plus hikers on it, although we did try. In the end, we took turns and cameras were kept busy on the point. The view north was stunning as mile-long Bastendorff Beach curved gracefully before dead-ending at Coos Bay's south jetty. Directly below, waves crashed upon exposed rocky reefs and crags. Way cool.

And then the fun started! The route led from the top of Yoakam Point down to a sheltered cove immediately below by means of a rope descent on a treacherously muddy track that even mountain goats would find too dangerous. Some of us more sure-footed hikers aided the less nimble on the way down and I'm glad to report I saw only one hiker rolling down the trail with the sole injury being that of a sprained dignity. The patient is expected to recover. It is also worthy to note that the hike organizers gave no hint of this descent until the very moment it was time to descend, thereby neatly avoiding a pre-descent mutiny.

Temporary respite after the descent
So, 30 plus hikers were milling around on the secluded and sandy cove, grateful to be done with the muddy drop, when we were informed that we now had to scramble up and over a rocky point to get to Bastendorff Beach. It was then that the phrase "kill the hike leader" was first muttered. Options were limited if one did not want to risk that scramble because the only way back was by means of a rope ascent up a treacherous muddy track that even mountain goats would find dangerous. For me, this was like being on a Richard Hike but with none of the criminal liability.

And it's not even a Richard Hike!
The scramble up and over the point was not particularly tall, but the rocks were covered with slimy green seaweed that had us yearning for a treacherously muddy track instead. But again, with help from the sure-footed, all hikers made it safely over with no injuries to dignity or any body parts. And now, it was a simple mile-plus beach walk along Bastendorff Beach until we reached the south jetty.

While some ate lunch, others scrambled (your merry blogster included) atop the jetty boulders to observe waves marching up Coos Bay's (the bay) entrance, seemingly intent to administer a watery smiting to Coos Bay (the city). The waves were rather robust and after a few close calls atop the jetty we promptly departed lest we receive a watery smiting ourselves.

Rocky shoal near Yoakam Point
Our egress off of Bastendorff Beach was on a rather civilized trail with a footbridge or two. The tameness of the trail raised the question of why we had to make that wild descent in the first place but on the other hand, there simply is no glory in a tame trail. So, in the end,  this 6 miler was a tasty hiking smorgasbord of coastal delights. It was nice to get a new trail experience out of the familiar paths of Cape Arago.

Standing room only on Yoakam Point
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Ok, now you have us yearning for the coast. It's great to follow you on these "new" hikes along the coast and see if you survive. We keep making notes and will have to try a few of these hikes next time in that area. We were just up there last year when we camped at Tugman State Park and went down to Sunset Bay SP. Looking forward to the March hike with you and the club -- I have lots and lots of goodies!!