Humbug Mountain State Park (Oregon Coast) 11-Oct-2016

Humbug Mountain State Park Oregon Coast

This weather forecast was calling for rain by the end of the week, with up to 10 inches in 24 hours predicted for places on the Southern Oregon Coast (a forecast that has since been upgraded to “…more than the typical rainfall for the entire month of October, and for the Medford airport, could be the wettest 5 day period in October since 1962…” {the year of the infamous Columbus Day Storm}).  With this ominous prognostication in mind, we decided to make a run for the coast and do a couple of short, but unique, hikes that had been on the edge of our to do list for awhile.

A little further north, and just south of Port Orford, is Humbug Mountain State Park, surrounded by forested hills and home to Humbug Mountain (1,756 feet). The mountain was originally known as Me-Tus but, in 1851, began to be called Tichenor’s Humbug after an exploring party (either sent or lead by Captain William V. Tichenor, founder of Port Orford), intent on finding a route to the interior, instead got piteously confused and defeated by the deep ravines, thick forest, and dense undergrowth characteristic of Oregon’s coast ranges.  Perhaps a cautionary tale for today’s hikers who venture forth with minimal navigational skills?  Anyway, the whole adventure was deemed a “humbug” and hence the name.  Today, the ascent begins on one trail that forks into West and East trails about one mile from the trailhead, forming a lollipop loop (OSP brochure).  The  West Trail was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1934, but was washed out in the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, and not rebuilt until 1993. In the intervening years, the East Trail was built and now forms a loop with the restored West Trail.

This is hike #80 in Sullivan’s Oregon Coast and Coast Range travel/hiking guide (3rd edition).  The guide intimated that there would be views from the trail but that’s only true in the most minimal sense, as the Pacific Ocean and part of U.S. 101 can only be seen through a thin gap in the forest on the summit and along the West Trail.  And then everything was shrouded in mists and clouds anyway. But the mountain is covered with an old-growth temperate rainforest, hosting some very large Douglas fir trees on alarmingly steep slopes, with all kinds of smaller plants and animals to marvel at.  So, once we got past the no-big-view thing, this proved to be a really fun hike. The trailhead (ample parking with potholes but no amenities) is right along U.S. Highway 101, about 0.25 miles north of the entrance to the State Park campground.  From the trailhead, the trail started up fairly steeply – through mist and fog that gave the hike a gentle Fall feeling –

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Starting up the main trail

and then moderated to an easy uphill grade as it took us further up into the fog-infused rainforest.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Further up the main trail

Along the way, we started looking at some of the smaller features in the forest, like the spiders whose uncanny cross-trail web-building ability kept us streaming with numerous strands of web for the whole hike,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Charlotte, is that you?

and tiny ferns sprouting from the elaborate ecologies growing on the walls along the trail.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
A tiny fern in a forest of giants

This is a mixed forest and the falling leaves littering the trail really invoked that comforting, mellow feeling that comes with the onset of Fall weather (it’s not clear why another year passing by and the onset of winter brews up these feelings, but it does…).  Both of us were raised in (or sought out) seasonal climates, so maybe this is some deeply ingrained response to the stirring of the seasonal round?  Or maybe it’s just the hot toddies?

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Fall comes to the forest

We elected to go up along the slightly longer East Trail, in hopes that, given a little extra time, the clouds and mists would miraculously lift.  Well, that would have been a miracle and one that we were not granted.  So, a little higher up on the East Trail, we strode through a cathedral of trees,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Through the hall of the slender giants

and past some very large Douglas firs – there are no coast redwoods here to make the firs look “small.”

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
A 7-foot in diameter Douglas fir next to the trail (LovedOne for scale)

We had thought we might climb above the clouds (still thinking – falsely as it turned out – that there were expansive views ahead) but the erie, yet comforting, mists persisted.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
The Mists of Humbug
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Trail maintenance
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
One last turn on the trail

After ~3 miles, just like the sign said, we reached the summit, tagged the 1937 benchmark,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
On the summit

and looked around for the view – only to finally realize that, even without the clouds swirling over the summit, you only get a small sliver of an opening to the south.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
The view from the summit

We’d planned this as a short hike with lunch later, so we quickly turned around and headed back down on the shorter and steeper West Trail,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Going down the West Trail

through more mists and clouds,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
The mists persist…
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
and persist some more.

but with a very occasional sunbreak.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
A stray ray of sunshine graces the trail

Having put aside the view issue, we spent time looking down at the little things that added intricacy, and some color, to this misty world.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Tree fungus
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
The colors of Fall and decay
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Drops on leaf on leaves
Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Oh, Canada…

Taking the West Trail down shaved 0.5 miles off the return, so we were back in time for lunch in Port Orford.  A short, somewhat steep (at the start) hike (5 miles round-trip; 1,700 feet of elevation gain) best done for the unique rainforest experience it offers, and not the views.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain
Our lollipop track to and from Humbug Mountain

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