Saturday, January 8, 2022

Oregon Coast Trail (From Humbug Mountain day use area)

Ah, there is nothing like the feel of rough trail beneath your boots to make you feel alive and well. But then again, near prominent Humbug Mountain, there's a segment of Oregon Coast Trail that's on a section of old highway, replete with old asphalt. Nonetheless, this little piece of the OCT is a favorite of mine in spite of its paved shortcomings, especially since at least half the hiking route is on a real trail with dirt, roots, rocks, and everything. The Friends of the Umpqua had never been here before so as sole keeper of the knowledge of this trail, I was tapped to lead this hike.

Brush Creek flows by the brushy banks

Setting out on a cool but sunny winter morn, we crossed a manicured lawn at the Humbug Mountain day use area and found the path running under a Highway 101 bridge. For the first part of the hike, the route followed Brush Creek, which brushed by Highway 101 (see what I did there?) on the other side of the brush-lined creek. There used to be a fish hatchery here and the trail sideswiped the crumbling ruins, giving us a look-see at what once had been in the aqueous world of fish rearing.

Typical vibe hiking in the myrtle groves

The hike was a pleasantly level amble next to the burbling creek for maybe a mile or so before turning a bit less pleasant. The route was basically going up and over a densely wooded ridge and while the uphill was work, the tedium fortunately did not last very long. The woods here were sumptuous and lush, being primarily comprised of myrtle trees, whose pleasantly aromatic leaves dispelled any other odors that may have been left behind by the odiferous hordes hiking ahead of me.

The once and former proud Coast Highway

Once the forested ridge was crested, it was a quick drop down to a gravel road, followed by a short walk on the campground road proper. Fortunately, Oregon Coast Trail markers significantly cut down on any would-be confusion and I'm glad to say no hikers (other than Brad!) were lost or misplaced. From the campground road, it was now time to grab the historical highway heading upward through the woods.

Small creeks flowed everywhere

Dry Creek isn't very dry and a stout bridge spanned the noisy stream tumbling down its ferny canyon. While the day was pleasant and sunny, the week prior it had not been. High winds and heavy rains had pummeled the coast and accordingly, all manner of creeks and seasonal runoffs were tumbling down the steep slopes next to the old road. Fortunately, because of the trail's previous incarnation as a major highway, functioning culverts made sure to run the water underneath the roadway and not across.

Wind-littered trail

As the paved trail climbed away from Humbug Mountain Campground, we traded in myrtle groves for mixed stands of maple and conifer. The winds from the prior week's storms had left behind a carpet of small branches and leafy debris on the roadway, making us sort of feel like we were walking on real trail tread after all. Fortunately, no trees had toppled onto the old road, making for an obstacle-free stroll through the coastal woods.

Autumn all year round?

I had hiked here once before during autumn and maple trees had then put on a colorful show. Now in the middle of winter's embrace, such as it is in these days of global warming, there were still some vestigial remnants of autumn. Bare-limbed alder and maple trees still clung to a yellow leaf or two, or maybe vice versa. Blackberry vines also displayed some colorful leafy plumage, the photography of which soon caused me to fall further behind my speedier comrades.


Our turnaround point was at a scenic overlook of the magnificent Oregon coast stretching in either direction, the view ranging from Humbug Mountain to Port Orford. In between, Redfish Rocks and other assorted islands bobbed in the blue sea shimmering and sparkling in the mid-day sun. Of course, to get to the overlook you had to grab an unofficial trail peeling away from the historical roadway. We all enjoyed the view, except for Brad, who had madly and blindly charged past the path both coming and going, much to everybody's amusement.

Shadows lengthened on the hike back

This was an out-and-back route, so we got to enjoy the same pleasant woods all over again on the way back. Even though it was mid-afternoon, the sun dropped behind towering Humbug Mountain, casting our route into deep shade and cooler temperatures. It felt like nightfall was nigh, even though sunset was still many hours away from happening, and I think we all quickened our pace just a bit as a result.

Slippery bridges were crossed with care

This hike had ticked off all the things I had hoped to accomplish this day. After the last couple of weeks of rain, we got to enjoy a relatively balmy day, the sunlight replenishing our depleted Vitamin D reserves. Also, I am now no longer the club's sole keeper of the knowledge and lore when it comes to this trail, there are now 14 new initiates ready to spread the gospel about the pleasant wonders to be experienced on this section of the Oregon Coast Trail.

Hikes and life are just water flowing under the bridge

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

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