Two Hikes on the Southern Oregon Coast 10/11-Oct-2016

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

The calm before the storm

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.

Oregon Redwoods

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest tree in the world (trees can reach 377 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 30 feet), grows in natural stands in a long, thin coastal area approximately 470 miles long and 5 to 47 miles wide along the Pacific coast of the United States. The most southerly grove is in Monterey County, California, and the most northerly groves are in extreme southwestern Oregon, just outside of Brookings, Oregon.  Having made several visits to coast redwoods in California, we decided it was time to visit Oregon’s small patch of these giants.  This was easy to do since the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has built the Oregon Redwoods Trail (USFS #1106) along Peavine Ridge in the Winchuck River drainage through a grove of these majestic old-growth coast redwood trees.  This is hike #95 in Sullivan’s Oregon Coast and Coast Range travel/hiking guide (3rd edition).  After leaving U.S. Highway 101 six miles south of Brookings, and driving four miles of bumpy, but 2WD drive passable, gravel road (Forest Road 1101), we reached the trailhead (ample parking and a pit toilet).  The #1106 was designed to be barrier-free (i.e., a wide travel-way, acceptable grades, and crushed aggregate tread surfacing) and is thus very easy hiking, which is good because then you are less likely to trip over yourself as you gaze upward in awe of these giant trees!

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Starting along the Oregon Redwood Trail (#1106)

Very soon, we came to the junction of the #1106 and the #1107, a longer loop trail that is not wheelchair accessible like the #1106.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Junction of Oregon Redwood Trails #1106 and #1107

We took the #1107 and began a descent into a mixed forest of large Douglas fir trees and even larger coast redwoods.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Along the #1107

These are BIG trees – maybe not as big as their compatriates in California’s redwood parks – but still BIG (for scale, the LovedOne is just over 5 feet tall).

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

One of the big coast redwoods

We continued down and along through stands of different species of tree, all very tall and very straight.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Further along the #1107

At the low point on the #1107, we crossed a small drainage, still with some water in it,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

A small stream along the #1107

and then started a brief climb back up past yet more big redwoods,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Another big one

but taking time to notice some of the small foliage on the forest floor,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

A small fern on the forest floor

before gawking at yet another big tree,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Yep, another big one

and then appreciating a small sword fern.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

A sword fern on the forest floor

Many of the Douglas fir trees along this stretch of trail are over 3 feet in diameter, which would make them noteworthy if they were growing anywhere else. But here, among the larger coast redwoods, they are just another “small” tree.  The #1107 circles back and up, and rejoins the #1106 at a picnic table just before the hollow snag of a 12 foot in diameter redwood,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

The 12 foot in diameter, now hollow, redwood snag

which you can now walk in to,

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Inside the hollow redwood snag

and look up at the sky (sort of).

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Looking at the sky from inside the hollow tree

After that, it was back to the trailhead on the #1106.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

The accessible #1106 toward the trailhead

A short hike for us (1.8 miles round trip; 350 feet of elevation gain) but well worth it to see and marvel at Oregon’s only stand of magnificent coast redwood trees. It is almost beyond comprehension that you would destroy these venerable giants, yet an estimated 70% or more of ancient old-growth redwood trees have been displaced by environmental changes or cut down. We can’t help but think here’s going to be price to be paid for this foolishness and that it’s likely to be a steep (and unpleasant) one.

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

Our brief, but spectacular, hike amongst the redwoods

Humbug Mountain

Oregon Coast Redwoods Humbug Mountain

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 pitiously 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 rebulit 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 miracuously 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 occassional 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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3 thoughts on “Two Hikes on the Southern Oregon Coast 10/11-Oct-2016

  1. Travels with Hollie White

    Your misty pictures are gorgeous! I’ve been trying to sell a few of mine on Foap. Not sure if it’s going to be profitable, but it can’t hurt. I’ve yet to get to Oregon, but it’s on my list.

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