Friday, October 21, 2016

Cape Perpetua

Between Dollie and I, we have 6 children and despite our best efforts as parents, we have 0 children that hike. Like parents everywhere the world over, we wonder how we failed and what could have been done different. Ah, but grandchildren are a different story! Unlike the children, grandkids think we are pretty cool and they absolutely love to hike. Take for example, a recent hike to Cape Perpetua I did with Daweson and Issiah. We covered 8.2 miles and they were disappointed they did not get up to 9 miles. In addition to the 8.2 miles, the boys gained 700 feet of elevation in 1 one of those miles, and the last mile was hiked in a torrential downpour. They did their grandfather proud when they exclaimed "That was fun!" as we peeled off wet clothing at the trailhead, it's so nice to see they have the proper attitude about hiking.

The Oregon Coast Trail
The start at the Cummins Creek Trailhead was decidedly much drier than the watery finish. From this particular trailhead, we could have really tested the boys' mettle by hiking up the Cummins Creek Trail and then back down Cook's Ridge. However, I took it a little bit easier on them by heading out on the Oregon Coast Trail instead, hiking to the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, which was only about 1.5 miles away.

Gwynn Creek

So up and over a small ridge we go, dropping down to a footbridge over Gwynn Creek. The bridge gave Daweson and Issiah the opportunity to mug for the camera, clowning around like the little trail monkeys they are. Once I explained the Oregon Coast Trail runs the entire length of the Oregon coast, they could talk of little else than doing the entire trail on a summer backpack trip. They do like to challenge themselves and that's a good thing.

The amenities included nice bridges over Cape Creek
After another rolling up and down around a ridgeline, we arrived at the visitor center where it was time for a snack and a visit to the civilized restroom in the parking lot. Gotta use the amenities where we can find them. A particular amenity that I could have cared less about was the paved trail near the visitor center, but the restroom, running water, and benches were certainly appreciated.

The boys actually enjoyed the hike to the top
The paved trail ended on the way to a footbridge over Cape Creek, and the subsequent dirt path then crossed in short order the campground road and the cape road, from there it would be an uphill walk all the way to the top of the cape. The St. Perpetua Trail switchbacked to and fro across the forested face of the cape, climbing 700 feet in just a little over a mile and I am quite proud to say my two young charges were more than up to the task. Issiah led the way, his brisk hiking pace surpassing what is normal for most whiny 10 year olds. My pace was more in keeping with having a camera and my nearly newly minted age of 60 (still had two days left as a whiny 59 year old).

This picture says it all
Towards the top of the cape, the trail broke out into open areas, providing great views of the rugged Oregon coast under a cloudy sky to the south. When the trail became paved again, we knew we were near the top and shortly thereafter, we plopped down at the stone West Shelter, built by the C.C.C in 1934. The shelter is considerably older than me, just saying. An older couple were quite impressed with Issiah and Daweson hiking to the cape summit. When I pointed out where we had started from (on the other side of prominent Cook's Ridge) their jaws dropped and the boy's chests accordingly puffed out with pride.

Ho hum, another cape, another view
We didn't see any whales but if there were any, we would have seen them. Ostensibly, this was the tail end of the winter whale migration but we did not see any tell-tale blowhole plumes in the expansive ocean. Perched atop the old volcano that is now Cape Perpetua, we could almost see forever, or so it seemed. To the south were a series of steep ridges plunging precipitously into the ocean and to the west was the ocean itself. Sunlight leaked through the cloud cover and the sunbeams spotlit the water below. The shoreline at the cape is quite jagged, the result of an endless war between sea and hardened lava, and waves seethed and erupted in the various churns below. 

Right before a sneaker wave chased us
After snacks and a view soak, we headed back down the trail and down definitely was easier than up. When we returned to the visitor center, I explained that we could go back to the car and wind up with a 6 mile hike or explore further the coves, tidepools, and churns for a 9'ish mile hike. Of course, the boys made the correct choice! So, for extra mileage, we took the tunnel path under busy Highway 101, and followed a paved trail and stairs down to a small cove where Cape Creek runs into the ocean. I warned the boys about sneaker waves, admonishing them to NEVER turn their back on the ocean, and with that, we started exploring tidepools.

Why we hike!
I must make sure to personally thank the Pacific Ocean because right on cue, a large wave broke over the rocks we were standing on leaving us perched and temporarily stranded atop any high point we could find. After that encounter, the boys were a lot more malleable in terms of staying away from the edges and that was a good thing, seeing as how our next stop was Devil's Churn.

Devil's churn makes "sea butter"
Devil's Churn is a narrow crack in the lava reefs and the ocean relentlessly surges up the defile, only to explode in wave-bombs further inland. If one were to be swept off the rocks and into the churn, that'd be the end, so I was grateful the boys did not go further away from the stairs like the curious little meerkats they can be.

Blowhole that reminds me of my brother for some reason
The last item before turning back was the wild coastline at Cook's Chasm. Similar to Devil's Churn, Cook's Chasm sports a spouting horn and blowhole. Or as I put it to the boys, "...the ocean farts!" It was high tide and the horn was putting on a noisy show of flatulent blowhole glory. Nearby, Thor's Well  (an iconic landmark hole in the reef) pulsated like some kind of breathing sea creature as it filled up and emptied with each successive wave. However, we didn't stay too long as it was getting quite dark due to the lateness of the day and the incoming storm blotting out the ocean horizon.

Storm's a comin'!
To keep Daweson and Issiah invested on hoofing it back to the car before the storm hit, we did the military call and response chant where I yelled out "I don't know but I've been told" and they impertinently responded with "I hear that Grandpa's really old!" Turnabout's fair play so I countered with "You two better hike real fast...or Grandpa's gonna kick your ass!" With just under two miles to go, the rain started and at about a mile to go, the heavens opened up and we were all pretty wet when we arrived at the trailhead. And what was the verdict? "That was awesome!"  So nice to see they have the proper attitude!

We had one last adventure left and that was eating tongue taco dinner at Los Amigos Burritos in Florence. When we got home, Daweson was telling his mother about this and she had a dubious look on her face as she listened. "Mom, it's a great food" explained Daweson "You taste it and it tastes you!" Boys after my own heart!

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


  1. How wonderful your grandsons like hiking with you! I love Cape Perpetua, and have visited all those areas you describe.

  2. Oh yes, Cape Perpetua....hiked those trails too and wish we were there now, even in the rain! Great to get some hikes in with the grandkids before they get too old and become too busy. I will have to remember that military chant when our grandkids are old enough to hike. Enjoy those special times and memories -- your grandkids will!!

    1. Actually, the chant went exactly like this:
      Me: You two better walk real fast
      Boys: We two better walk real fast
      Me: Or Granpa's going to kick your ass!
      Boys: Hey, we can't say that!