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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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
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Sutton Creek Trails (Oregon Coast) 12-May-2019

Clear skies and sunshine deserted us the morning we reached Florence, Oregon and our venue for our wilderness talk at the Siuslaw Public Library. This lack of sunshine was not unusual for the Oregon Coast (even in summer) and probably made for a larger audience at our talk. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Today was similarly overcast but, no matter, we went for a hike anyway. The choice was between the Oregon Dunes and Sutton Creek – we went with the creek because it promised (and delivered) a greater variety of habitats.

You can get into the Sutton Area Trails from four places: the boat ramp on Highway 101 or Loops B or C within the campground or Holman Vista. We went with Loop B because it was away from busy 101 (but parking is much more plentiful at the boat ramp or the vista). From there we went out on the Sutton Creek North Trail, visited the viewpoint via the Sutton Creek Loop Trail, and returned on the Sutton Creek South Trail. The South Trail goes entirely through the trees, while the North Trail has a brief break-out into the sand dunes north of the campground.

Pondering our options at the Loop B trailhead
Sutton Creek
Along the North Trail
Skirting the sand dunes along the North Trail
Colorful, but invasive, Scotch broom along the North Trail
Colorful, and native, rhododendrons along the North Trail
The bridge across Sutton Creek near the start of the loop
Along the Loop Trail
Sutton Creek
Through fresh growth along the Loop Trail
Hanging ferns along the Loop Trail

The Loop Trail passes the parking lot and viewing platform at Holman Vista. There’s no trail to Baker Beach from here but it is possible to ford the creek and go cross-country over the fore-dune to the beach. Maybe if it had been sunny we would have given it a go. Instead we headed back on the South Trail.

The view from Holman Vista
Sutton Creek below Holman Vista
Buldoc’s Meadow, site of a vacation resort from the 1930s to the 1970s
The South Trail is almost all in forest
Sutton Creek from the South Trail
Our path along Sutton Creek

The whole loop came to 4.5 miles with only 400 feet of gain. While the campground was fairly busy (in two weeks it’ll be full every weekend), we only saw six other people on the trail. Despite vague promises of a sunbreak, the cloud cover along the coast never fully dissipated. So after we returned from Sutton Creek and had some lunch, we headed inland and into sunshine for two short hikes to see some old-growth (Pawn Trail #1317) and an historic trail that became a pioneer road (Pioneer Hill Trail #1316). Huge old trees and bit of history, all in sunshine. Brilliant! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

The LovedOne among the old-growth (her wing span is 5 feet)
The sunset we would have gotten had the coastal cloud cover relented ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
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Oregon Wilderness at the Library 11-May-2019

Earlier this year, Kevin Mittge, the Adult Services Librarian at the Siuslaw Public Library in Florence, Oregon contacted us about doing a library program on our visits to all of Oregon’s wilderness areas. We were already planning some hikes on the Oregon Coast, so we said we’d love to do a talk. We agreed on a date in May and the coastal weather cooperated by not raining on our hikes or on our talk. We dedicated the talk to Judge John B. Waldo, the first Oregon Supreme Court chief justice born in the state and a vigorous proponent of forest conservation in the Cascade Range. But then, between the invitation and the talk, Congress designated another wilderness area in Oregon: Devil’s Staircase. We managed a drive-by of this truly wild wilderness in 2020. ๐Ÿ™‚

Wilderness exists just to be wild, irrespective of human needs or wants. So the primary โ€œhumanโ€ purpose for these wilderness areas is to protect a watershed or a threatened and endangered species or a terrestrial habitat or a fish habitat or all of the above. They were NOT created simply for our hiking pleasure. This is particularly true of the smaller, less visited areas, many of which have few or no trails and in which cross-country travel opportunities vary from good to heroically (verging on impossibly) difficult. So in our talk, we listed all the wilderness areas but focused on some (but not all) with reasonable hiking possibilities. We also included three proposed wilderness areas because we’ve hiked in them and believe they deserve formal designation too!

Our assignment of groupings to Oregon’s wilderness areas
The areas we talked about are shown in red
Badger Creek Wilderness (Mount Hood from Gunsight Butte, 2014)
Bull of the Woods Wilderness (Mount Jefferson from the fire lookout, 2014)
Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness (Rainy Lake at dawn, 2010)
Mount Hood Wilderness (Mount Hood from Yocum Ridge, 2014)
Mount Hood Wilderness (Descending from the summit, 1996)
Mount Jefferson Wilderness (Mount Jefferson from Olallie Butte, 2011)
Mount Washington Wilderness (Climbing Washington’s north ridge, 1998)
Three Sisters Wilderness (South Sister from Chambers Lakes, 2015)
Three Sisters Wilderness (Middle Sister from Chambers Lakes, 2015)
Waldo Lake Wilderness (Waldo Lake, 2016)
We also talked about proposed wilderness area (shown in green *)
Eagle Cap Wilderness (Matterhorn, 2016)
Eagle Cap Wilderness (Sacajawea Peak, 2016)
Eagle Cap Wilderness (Ice Lake and Matterhorn, 2013)
Eagle Cap Wilderness (Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap, 2016)
Gearhart Wilderness (The Dome, 2009)
Hells Canyon Wilderness (Snake River, 2016)
Monument Rock Wilderness (Table Rock Fire Lookout, 2016)
Oregon Badlands Wilderness (Along the Tumulus Trail, 2016)
Spring Basin Wilderness (Horse Mountain, 2016)
Spring Basin Wilderness (Cactus flower, 2016)
Owyhee Canyonlands – proposed (Chalk Basin, 2019)
Owyhee Canyonlands – proposed (Pruitt’s Castle at sunrise, 2019)
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness (Strawberry Lake, 2010)
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness (Strawberry Mountain, 2010)
Steens Mountain Wilderness (Snow storm over the mountain, 2015)
Steens Mountain Wilderness (Fish Lake, 2015)
Steens Mountain Wilderness (Little Blitzen Canyon, 2015)
Boulder Creek Wilderness (Pine Bench, 2016)
Crater Lake – proposed (Cowhorn Mountain, 2017)
Diamond Peak Wilderness (Diamond Peak from Mount Yoran, 2016)
Mount Thielsen Wilderness (Mounts Howlock and Thielsen from Tipsoo Peak, 2015)
Mount Thielsen Wilderness (Cottonwood Creek Basin, 2016)
Mount Thielsen Wilderness (Climbing Thielsen, 1998)
Mountain Lakes Wilderness (Mount McLoughlin from Aspen Butte, 2016)
Red Buttes Wilderness (Sucker Creek Shelter, 2015)
Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (Fish Lake and Highrock Mountain, 2015)
Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (Highrock Mountain from the divide, 2015)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Devils Peak over Cliff Lake, 2018)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Lake Alta, 2018)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Island Lake, 2015)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Judge Waldo Tree at Island Lake, 2015)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Squaw Lake, 2015)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Mount McLoughlin from Roxy Ann Peak, 2014)
Sky Lakes Wilderness (Summit of Mount McLoughlin, 2017)
Soda Mountain Wilderness (Mount McLoughlin from the summit of Pilot Rock, 2015)
Soda Mountain Wilderness (Meadow at the old Box O Ranch, 2018)
Soda Mountain Wilderness (Jenny Creek, 2018)
Cummings Creek Wilderness (Cummings Ridge Trail, 2016)
Drift Creek Wilderness (Harris Ranch Trail, 2016)
Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Wellington Butte and Eagle Mountain, 2015)
Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Illinois River at Silver Creek, 2016)
Wild Rogue Expansion – proposed (Rogue River Trail, 2015)
Wild Rogue Wilderness (Hanging Rock, 2017)
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Oregon Coast Wilderness Areas 8/9-Jan-2016

Oregon Coastal Wilderness Areas

Of the 47 established (plus 3 proposed) federal wilderness areas in Oregon, we’ve hiked in all the better known ones (Mount Hood, Three Sisters, Badger Creek, etc.) but there are some that have thus far escaped the tramp of our boots. Two of the 47 (Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks) are closed to public entry (and would require amphibious operations even if they were open). So we decided to plan some trips to hike (even just a little) in those that are hikeable or at least reachable.ย  Seizing on a partial break in January’s usually soggy weather, we headed out to visit the five wilderness areas along Oregon’s coast: Drift Creek, Cummins Creek, Rock Creek, Copper-Salmon, and Grassy Knob. UPDATE: In 2019, the trail-free Devils Staircase Wilderness was added to these.

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