Well, 2021 started out bleak, then got happier, then got sad again. This was thanks to the two V’s – variants and vaccinations. Too much of one, not enough of the other. But we survived (yet again), with The LovedOne remaining as elusively photogenic as ever. But, thanks to being vaccinated, we were able to have a few big adventures without expiring.
Our third and last hike at the coast involved traversing Cape Arago on a collection of different trails. The Cape Arago Pack Trail is the most obvious of these, with clearly signed trailheads on the Cape Arago Highway. But we’d heard about another trail – “New Trail” or “East Trail” or “East Loop” or “Perimeter Trail” – that connected with the Pack Trail and made for a slightly longer hike. That was our goal for this hike. We left Bandon under overcast skies, which wasn’t a worry since we’d be spending the early part of the hike under the canopy of the coastal forest.
Our second hike on the Oregon Coast brought us back to Blackrock Point, which we’d first hiked in the winter of 2017. At that time, we came at it from the end of the road next to the Cape Blanco airport – the shortest way to the Point. This time we did a lollipop loop starting from the north at Boice-Cope County Park on Floras Lake. There was a bit of beach walking involved but the wind had calmed considerably overnight, so it wasn’t the struggle it was yesterday at Umpqua Dunes.
The heat dome returned with a vengeance, ramming air temperatures well into the triple digits (103+°F / 39+°C). Then smoke from a host of local and not so local wildfires poured into our valley, taking air quality to startlingly (200+ AQI) unhealthy levels. It was not a good time to be outside. So it was pure luck on our part that we found ourselves on the Oregon coast, enjoying a few (too few) days of cool, clean, moist coastal air. 😁 We came home to find that little had changed – still too hot, still too smokey. 😒 But least we had those few days on the beach. We’ll always have Paris, etc.
Oh, 2020. You seemed so nice when we first met. You were fun for two months, then you turned ugly. Real ugly. A plague and a recession and wildfires and an election and continuing drought. Yes sir, you threw quite a bit of hurt at us! Yes you did! But we survived. And The LovedOne remained photogenic while social distancing from others kept her within camera range.
Our last hike on this trip to the coast had us visiting Pistol River State Park and Crook Point, and taking a loop around Lola Lake. This hike is also called the Crook Point Upland Trail. This one isn’t in all of the coastal hiking guides and all of the trails in this area aren’t in the hiking guidebooks either. This is likely because some of the trails are designated as equestrian trails (which you can hike on if you practice good trail etiquette). We ended-up cobbling together a loop out of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), the beach, some equestrian trails, and a little cross-country (when we lost an equestrian trail in the trees). It proved to be a short (4.5 mile) but interesting hike that let us see a lot of birds, a few new flowers, some sand, a good chunk of coastal forest, and Lola Lake (which is dry this time of year).
There are now 48 federally designated wilderness areas in Oregon. By 2017, we had hiked in, or at least made a passing visit to, 47 of them. Then in 2019, Congress, in a rare fit of actually doing something useful 🙄 , established the Devils Staircase Wilderness in the coastal mountains just east of Reedsport, Oregon. It was created as a refuge for wildlife and thus features no hiking trails or designated access points. It does have remnant old-growth forests, a plethora of steep slopes, and some impressively impenetrable vegetation. The wilderness’s namesake, Devils Staircase, is a series of low cascades over sandstone outcroppings along Wassen Creek, which was designated as a Wild and Scenic River at the same time the wilderness was established.
We had planned for this to be our first hike on the coast this year but rain squalls forced us to switch to a hike in the Oregon Dunes. That was yesterday. Today dawned bright and sunny 😎 – which proved to be the ideal weather for hiking through a deep, dark, exuberantly lush forest of staggeringly tall trees. We had planned to hike up the Cooks Ridge Trail #1372 but the trailhead (at the visitor center) for that one was still closed, so we diverted to the open Cummins Creek Trailhead. From there, we ascended the Cummins Creek Trail #1382 all the way to the viewpoint near its upper junction with the Cooks Ridge Trail. That viewpoint isn’t shown on every map but there’s a sign for it along the trail and it’s the only real view of anything except trees along any of these trails. We were fortunate that this sunny, clear day let us catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean from there.
Our first day at the coast was predicted to be a wet one, but weather radar suggested that there would be a break in the precipitation action for a couple of hours. So we figured we could fit this 4.6 mile loop in between rain squalls. We almost did. But the rain only lasted for a half hour or so and our time on the beach was blessed with artistically cloudy, but rain-free, skies.
Another year passes and The LovedOne remains unconvinced as to her photogenicity. Her attempts to out-hike the camera were working…until…I bought a telephoto lens! Ha! Another (probably temporary) victory for technology!
Cape Mountain, about five miles north of Florence, Oregon, is home to some 17 miles of well-graded, well-maintained trails. Although primarily intended for use by equestrians, they are perfect for hikers too. No brush, no poison oak, no ticks. We came across this trail system when we were looking for hikes along the coast that didn’t necessarily involve a beach. And, since most of the day was overcast anyway, it didn’t matter that we spent most of it in a green tunnel through an old-growth forest. Thanks to hiker’s irony, the sun popped out (briefly) just before we got back to the trailhead. 🙄