Sunday, November 19, 2017

Siltcoos Trails

This hike was destined to be short. The Siltcoos Trails aren't very long in the first place but I could have certainly added some more miles by hiking further along the beach. However, heavy rain was in the forecast and high winds were expected to arrive around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Lucky Luna, though, she got to come along on this 4 mile exploration of the Siltcoos Recreation Area that was more photo shoot than hike. My arm can only take so much mindless leash pulling too, so there's one more reason for the shortness of the hike.

A bench with a view
There are three not-very-long trails in the Siltcoos River vicinity: Lagoon Trail, Chief Tsiltcoos Trail, and the Waxmyrtle Trail. All of them meet in the middle, so to speak, the middle in this case being the Stagecoach Trailhead. Item number one on the diminutive hiking itinerary was the Lagoon Trail, a pretty little loop path that showcases man's insensitivity to the environment.

The still waters of Siltcoos Lagoon
The Siltcoos River runs from nearby Siltcoos Lake to the ocean and it used to snake back and forth in a pronounced oxbow bend. I say "used to", because in the 1930's, the road leading to the campgrounds and beaches was laid right across the neck of the oxbow, effectively cutting it off from the river. So nowadays, the river runs straight, paralleling the road, while the tepid lagoon pools with standing rainwater. In yet another fine exhibit of our proclivity to mess with the environment, an invasive reed known as parrotfeather is taking over the swampy lagoon and over time, the lagoon will dry up and become a meadow, which will, in turn, eventually be swallowed up by the coastal forest.

Typical trail scene on the Tsiltcoos Trail
But for now, the lagoon is not without its attractions. A series of boardwalks ambled next to the black waters of the picturesque lagoon and I took a series of photographs of the glassy surface, before I let Luna frolic in the still water. Upon her frenzied entrance into the lagoon, the surface was glassy no more, The short loop followed the lagoon's edge and several benches allowed hikers to sit and contemplate a fetid swamp, if they so desired.

Next up was the Chief Tsiltcoos Trail, which was basically a walk through a coastal forest. The trail did provide a brief uphill section, though, imparting a mild burn to lazy leg muscles. Much photography ensued, mostly of sunlight slanting through the trees, mushrooms sprouting everywhere, and all the ferns, moss, lichen, and salal you could ever want to point a camera lens at. Much berry grazing also ensued, as the coastal huckleberry bushes were amply adorned with juicy black berries.

Behold the mighty Siltcoos!
So, two loops down, one to go. Well, to be technical, the Waxmyrtle Trail is not a loop but an out-and-back venture, running from Stagecoach Trailhead to the beach south of the Siltcoos River. After crossing on a roadway bridge, Luna and I grabbed the dirt path on the opposite side of the river. The trail was right on the edge of the river and when I say "right on the edge", I mean right on the edge. If the river level was to rise a foot or so, then it certainly would be a wet hike to the beach, making a certain water-addicted dog very happy. If you are not sure which dog I am referring to, her initials are Luna.

The Siltcoos journey ends here
After a short walk, the path peeled away from the river and headed uphill on a mossy set of stairs. Now sticking to the bluffs above the river, the route continued to amble through a lush coastal forest. Periodic breaks in the vegetation provided openings from which to gape at the Siltcoos River below. If there weren't openings in the tree cover, not to worry, there were plenty of use trails leading to plenty of viewpoints. The river wandered through a grassy delta in several sweeping oxbow curves before becoming one with the now-visible ocean.

Clouds were blowing in
The trail quickly morphed from a forested trail to a sandy track running through the marshes behind the foredunes. More quality splashing time for Luna and more quality camera time for me. We each do enjoy hiking in our own different way. A quick and sandy up-and-over the foredunes brought us to the beach where Luna was demonstrably overjoyed to become unleashed. She probably ran 10 miles within two minutes as she splashed in the waves and scattered seagulls, all the activity accompanied by exuberant yips of doggie delirium.

Luna hikes into wind-driven grains of sand

Off shore, there were clouds hovering over the ocean but it seemed the forecasted storm had not yet arrived. However, the high wind advisory was warranted as the wind was blowing, by my guess, close to 40 miles per hour. I considered walking north on the beach but the idea of leaning into the wind and high velocity sand grains for a mile or so on the way back wasn't very appealing so the hike was done at this point.

Fortunately, the high winds were just that: high winds, in that they were blowing high above in the treetops while leaving us ground-dwellers alone and unmolested. Well, unmolested unless I lay down to take a photo of a mushroom, then a dog licked my ear whenever that opportunity presented itself. On the drive home, a brisk rainstorm overtook us; it certainly was nice to avoid all that on this short hike on the Oregon coast.

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

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