Thursday, June 17, 2021

Bandon Beach Sunset (fail) Hike

This was intended to be a nice hike on always reliably scenic Bandon Beach with a late start designed to end the beach walk right just in time for sunset. However, high tide was at 7:45 p.m. and sunset was at 8:55 p.m. and I really needed to be on the right side of Grave Point before high tide rolled in. The timing was so tricky that the hike finished about 90 minutes before sunset. At that point, my options were to wait and shiver in the stiff and unrelenting ocean breeze or sit in the very boring but wind-free car for the next hour or so. Actually, there was a third option that I did exercise, namely that of going home and missing the sunset altogether. So, as sunset hikes go, this was a fail but as a late afternoon hike, it was undeniably a rousing success.

Bullards Beach sprawls on the other side of the Coquille

Not every hike begins at 4:30 in the afternoon and like Happy Hour patrons the world over, the day already had that late afternoon glow about it. As I laced up my boots at the Coquille River's south jetty, iconic Coquille River Lighthouse presided over the relatively calm river. On the tip of the north jetty, tourists had walked out to the crumbling jetty's end in a clear temptation of fate. Good thing the surf was placid, for that jetty can be pretty dangerous even on a good day.

The ever sparkling sea

Once I actually started hiking, I pretty much stopped hiking as the sunlight glinting off of the ocean's surface immediately got my attention. The ruffled surface incessantly sparkled like the world's biggest mirror ball and this was too much for an incredibly handsome hiking dude with a camera. After several million photos (so many of the same subject, yet each photo is different) I figured I probably should give the camera a rest and actually do some hiking.

The land route past Coquille Point

The tide was incoming yet low, but not low enough to let me walk in front of Coquille Point. No worries though, a quick scramble through a rocky and sandy gap behind the point made for an easy pass-through to Bandon Beach proper, where the sea glittered in the afternoon sun like so many rhinestones on a country singer's coat.

So much of his hike was about beach and rocks

Bandon Beach is oft-visited and with good reason. The curving bay was full of waves and whitecaps, and numerous islands and sea stacks dotted the silver sea contained within. Some of the islands were pointy and in my mind, resembled my dog leaning against my legs when her neck gets scratched. The islands are part and parcel of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge which serves as an island rookery for seabirds of various specie. The larger islands' skyline were somewhat serrated looking due to the birditude standing shoulder-to-shoulder atop the jagged rocks. Meanwhile, flocks of seabirds floated around the islands like mosquitoes swarming a backpacker, the birds looking for any available square inch in which to stand among their brethren (birdren?).

When the green flag waves

A heatwave was currently baking southern Oregon but you'd never know it at Bandon. While the day was sunny and bright, a strong and cool wind kept things chill enough for me to wear a jacket for the entire hike. The wind had created interesting patterns on the beach with small rocks resembling swarms of speeding atoms in a particle accelerator. There were also small wind-created dunes, stipplings and striations which reminded me of foam floating in a cup of mocha.

And he was never heard from again

Because I wanted to beat the tide at Grave Point, Haystack Rock at the 3 mile mark was my turnaround point. Oof! The hike back to the jetty was headlong into the wind and I walked most of the way back leaning forward like a bodybuilder towing a semi on a rope, ignoring the fact that my musculature and physique more resembles spaghetti cooked well beyond al dente consistency. My legs got a healthy workout though, and that felt good, to be honest.

Art and artist

While hiking, I had run into several mandala-like designs scratched into the wet sand, with most in the process of being reclaimed by the incoming tide. Finally though, I ran into Cheri from Portland, who was the artist responsible for beautifying the beach. She was gracious enough to let me take a picture of her art and a victory pose to go with.

Forever staring at the sun

It was about an hour before high tide when Grave Point was rounded past, and since the tide was still fairly low, no hikers in my party of one suffered any wet mishaps getting past the point. Across from the point and in the ocean, Ewauna (the native name for Face Rock) is forever forced to gaze skyward and surely she must be sunblind by now.

A metallic ocean

I wasn't sunblind yet but there were plenty of sun spots in my vision due to the constant reflection from the ocean. Half the time I couldn't even tell what I was photographing because of the blinding light from the giant fireball in the sky. However, by the time I ended the hike, the onset of sunset was still over an hour away and as previously stated, I didn't hang around until then. It seems wrong to begin a hike at 5:30 or 6:00 in the afternoon but that's what I'll have to do next time if I want to make this a successful sunset hike. 

Texture of a receding wave

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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Blacklock Point

With a missionary's zeal, I preach the Gospel of Hiking and to indoctrinate a would-be lifelong devotee, it usually takes one good hike explicitly selected by yours truly for that purpose. However, some converts are more challenging than others. Case in point being long-time friend Anne, who submitted a voluminous pre-hike list of things that could not occur on this outing. Apparently she reads my blog so the list had things like " poison oak, no ticks, no wading of rivers...etc." It also had more esoteric items like " puns, no spontaneous songs, no armpit farts..." Sheesh, I wasn't sure I had any such hike (or behaviors) in my repertoire!

Archway on the beach

Also enumerated on that list were some weather-related edicts like no thunder, lightning, hail, wind, rain, or any combination thereof. Fortunately, a perfect day awaited the three of us (Anne's husband David came along, too) at the Oregon coast. The forecast had called for a cold, windy, and sometime rainy day but the reality was that the sky was cloudlessly blue, the temperature mild, and the breezes minimal. All signs pointed to a great hike for distrusting newbies and one erstwhile jaded veteran.

The Oregon Coast Trail tunnels through a dark forest

The long version of the Blacklock Point hike is a loop route and we opted to do the less scenic portion of the hike first. That meant starting out by walking behind an airport runway while keeping an eye on the sky for any approaching planes (running from airplanes was on Anne's list, too). After that propeller-free travail, the next couple of miles were a gradual descent on a jeep road through what admittedly were beautiful woods, even if there were no big-ticket items to see.

This bud's for you!

It was late spring and accordingly, the rhododendrons were still putting on a show. The large pink flowers festooned branches well above our heads and my two charges soon found out I brake for flowers. Close to the ground, the trail was flanked by blooming trapper's tea bushes and one patch of beargrass, somewhat out of place at the coast, proffered their distinctive white flowery plumes beneath the rhodies for our perusal. 

Our view of Floras Lake

Well, after a nice little three mile stroll through the trees and wildflowers we popped and plopped out onto a bare open area overlooking Floras Lake. This little lake is often busy with gossamer-winged kite surfers but not today, probably due to the lack of wind. David has a friend who lives at Floras Lake and he tried to spot the home from our vantage point. Whether looking for homes or kite surfers, we all agreed this was the first of many grand views on the day.

Fern tentacles

We backtracked a little bit on the Oregon Coast Trail which tunneled through a forest of dense trees twisted into all sorts of phantasmagorical shapes by near-constant sea breezes. The mix of sun and shade dappled the trail and delighted us hikers striding purposefully on the path. Rhododendrons were not as much of a thing in this part of the forest but the trail was graced nonetheless by ample quantities of wild irises ranging from purple to pale lavender in color.

It's a Richard Hike!

So far, I had managed to keep within the bounds of Anne's oppressive pre-hike manifesto, but a foot-deep creek presented the first test of our friendship. I simply splashed through, David walked across on some small branches, and Anne, surrendering to the inevitable, took off her shoes and waded barefoot, the mud presumably oozing between her toes. Expecting to immediately get unfriended, I was pleasantly surprised when she said the cool water felt good. 

Life on the edge

There is a viewpoint atop the coastal cliffs that, in my opinion, presents the Best View Ever. In years past, a bushwhack through dense coastal shrubbery was required to get there but eventually that faint path became overgrown and lost forever. Nonetheless, we tried to use the old path but couldn't get past the impenetrable growth and we all sported scratches as souvenirs of our failed attempt. Fortunately, I knew of an easier way to get there ("Why didn't you go there in the first place?" says everybody) and while that did require some bushwhacking, at least the bushwhacking took place on the edge of a sheer cliff. 

Our reward for the bushwhack

We did attain the intended viewpoint where the cliffs were covered by dense mats of inch-high dwarf lupines. We all plopped down to lupine level to take photographs of the diminutive flowers and their many attendant bumblebees. And of course, there was the epic surf, coast, and cliff scenery curving to the north under an amazingly superlative blue sky. Much nature appreciation abounded.

Cape Blanco presides over this bay

On the latter part of the hike, we stopped at other, and easier to access, viewpoints but none were imbued with the very secretness enhancing the vista seen from the special hidden overlook we had visited. However, the ever evolving coastal panoramas were still worthy in their own right. The last of these viewpoints was atop Blacklock Point itself, with a row of islands stretching west like an oceanic chain of pearls. Wind-stunted wildflowers grew on the point's summit while Cape Blanco presided at the end of a long curving beach to the south and we just sat and soaked in the view for a while.

One hiker is warier than the other

While I profusely apologized to Anne for the scratchy bushwhack thing, she said that if that was the worst thing that happened to her, then this had been a good day. Deciding to push my luck, I whipped out Anne's weighty tome of hiking don't-do's and found out that eating ice cream was not included in that interminable screed. So we did that very thing in Bandon to close off what had been an awesome 9.7 mile hike with some awesome friends.

Best View Ever

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