2021 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne

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.

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Cape Arago Loop (Oregon Coast) 12-Aug-2021

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.

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Blackrock Point (Oregon Coast) 11-Aug-2021

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.

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Dellenback Dunes Trail (Oregon Coast) 10-Aug-2021

The heat dome returned with a vengeance, ramming air temperatures well into the triple digits (103+ยฐF / 39+ยฐC). 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. ๐Ÿ˜ We came home to find that little had changed – still too hot, still too smokey. ๐Ÿ˜’ But least we had those few days on the beach. We’ll always have Paris, etc.

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2020 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne

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.

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Lola Lake Loop (Oregon Coast) 19-Jun-2020

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).

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Devils Staircase Wilderness (Oregon Coast) 18-Jun-2020

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 ๐Ÿ™„ , 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 wildernessโ€™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.

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Gwynn Creek Loop (Cape Perpetua, Oregon) 17-Jun-2020

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 ๐Ÿ˜Ž – 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.

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Oregon Dunes Loop (Oregon Coast) 16-Jun-2020

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.

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2019 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne

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!

JANUARY: We took advantage of direct flights to go hiking in the Las Vegas area. We got in several good hikes before a foothold broke off beneath me while canyoneering. The resulting back injury (since healed) limited our hiking for awhile. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

On the Fire Canyon Loop, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
On the Fire Canyon Loop, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

FEBRUARY: With my back still recovering, we contented ourselves with some short, local hikes. Things got more interesting when the weather brought gobs of snow to the hills near us.

After a snow storm on Roxy Ann Peak, Medford, Oregon
After a snow storm on Roxy Ann Peak

MARCH: Still coddling my back, we stayed with local hikes, seeking out ones that were longer but not overly rugged, like the Blue Grotto and the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail.

On the North Shore Trail to the Blue Grotto, Lost Creek Lake, Oregon
On the North Shore Trail to the Blue Grotto

APRIL: We had waited three years for sufficient runoff to allow us to run the Owyhee River in Eastern Oregon and a bad back wasn’t going to interfere with that. So, equipped with a generous supply of ibuprofen, we went with Momentum River Expeditions for a wonderful float down the Lower Owyhee.

Morning coffee below Pruitt's Castle on the Lower Owyhee River
Morning coffee below Pruitt’s Castle on the Lower Owyhee River

MAY: I had been invited to give a talk about Oregon Wilderness Areas at the Siuslaw Public Library, so we combined that with some hikes at and near the beach. Excellent weather and we were ahead of the summer crowds. ๐Ÿ™‚

On the Oregon Coast at Fivemile Point
On the Oregon Coast at Fivemile Point

JUNE: The entire month was given over to a rafting trip (with OARS and our friends Wayne & Diane) celebrating the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s first descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers. In 28 days, we went from the cold, clear waters near Flaming Gorge Dam to the considerably warmer and murkier waters of Lake Powell. Truly a trip of a lifetime!

On the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam
On the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam

JULY: We had barely returned from our J. W. Powell rafting adventure when it was time to head East for our nephew’s wedding. After those festivities, The LovedOne spent some time at WEBS in Northampton, Massachusetts. Then, reeking with lanolin, we continued north for hikes in Acadia National Park and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Standing in front of WEBS, Northampton, Massachusetts
There was NO WAY we were going hiking unless we stopped here first.

AUGUST: After two months of travel, we opted to hike locally. Classic Boccard Point in the Soda Mountain Wilderness and the Little & Big Duck Lakes in the Russian Wilderness were good choices. The decision to stay local was made easier by the lack of wildfire smoke this year (unlike the choking miasma that plagued the last two summers).

The brave hiker smile at Boccard Point, with Pilot Rock in the distance - Southern Oregon
The brave hiker smile at Boccard Point, with Pilot Rock in the distance

SEPTEMBER: We have long admired Theodore Roosevelt for his contributions to our National Parks and Monuments. So we did a hiking roadtrip that took us to Mount Rushmore, Wind and Jewel Caves, Devils Tower National Monument, Badlands National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the Black Elk Wilderness.  

Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

OCTOBER: We spent this month doing a little local hiking and then I addressed a medical issue that had come as a surprise. This put a dent in hiking but opened-up an opportunity to visit some previously overlooked local attractions.

On the trail to Sugar Lake in California's Russian Wilderness
On the trail to Sugar Lake in California’s Russian Wilderness

NOVEMBER: We took a chance and went ahead with a long-planned trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Our timing was excellent as the weather was perfect for hiking and sightseeing. ๐Ÿ˜Ž We did several short canyon hikes and then a longer one into the Chisos Mountains to see its unique forests and some of its wildlife – including two bears! ๐Ÿป ๐Ÿป

At the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, Texas
At the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park

DECEMBER: Winter weather finally arrived, so we shelved plans for sneaking in some hikes at the coast (as we’d been able to do in December 2017). But the snow that dropped at higher elevations wasn’t quite ready for snowshoes. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So we contented ourselves with reprising some of the classic lower altitude hikes near home. ๐Ÿ™‚

Strolling into winter at Prescott Park, Medford, Oregon
Strolling into winter at Prescott Park

We didn’t hike as much in 2019 as in prior years – only 102 unique (based on either location or season) hikes, covering 576 trail miles, with 94,800 feet of elevation gain. But six weeks of raft trips, plus other adventures and a wedding, more than compensated for this ambulatory shortfall. For 2020 all we’ll promise are more adventures, some of which are sure to involve hiking. ๐Ÿ˜€

A heart drawn in the snow, Medford, Oregon

Cape Mountain (Oregon Coast) 13-May-2019

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. ๐Ÿ™„

We started at the Dry Lake Trailhead, ascended the Princess Tasha Trail to the Scurvy Ridge Trail and followed that to a junction with the Berry Creek Trail. Then down across Berry Creek and up the Nelson Ridge Trail, which we followed past Dry Lake back to the trailhead. Nelson Ridge gave us some huge old-growth, a brief view of the ocean, and startlingly close views of two large black bears ๐Ÿป ๐Ÿป foraging in the meadow. We’ve now seen more black bears (4) in the wild in the last 30 days than in the last 30 years! Hey bear! There were some ups and downs and ups, so our loop consumed 7.6 miles and gained 1,200 feet.

Dry Lake Trailhead and horse camp
On the Princess Tasha Trail
Through a towering forest
The moss gave the trees a Dr. Seuss-like quality
A re-constructed Siuslaw hunting cabin (hitsi) along the Scurvey Ridge Trail
Descending the Berry Creek Trail
Luxurious growth along the Berry Creek Trail
The lower crossing of Berry Creek
Crossing upper Berry Creek on the Nelson Ridge Trail (past giant skunk cabbage)
Climbing Nelson Ridge
Old-growth on Nelson Ridge
Foraging black bears (arrows) in the meadow on Nelson Ridge
Our best view of the ocean from Nelson Ridge
Another huge old tree on Nelson Ridge
Part of the trail follows a now grassy old road
Descending the Nelson Ridge Trail toward the trailhead
The presently wet Dry Lake (with a sprinkle of sunshine)
Our loop around Cape Mountain

Thus endeth this year’s escape to the coast. Despite the overcast, it was a good one – with sunshine to start, beaches, old-growth, bears(!), and views. We managed to dodge a heat wave in the interior and it didn’t start raining until the morning we started for home. ๐Ÿ˜€

Farewell (for the moment) to the Oregon Coast