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Hiking Northern Coast Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Astoria and Fort Stevens State Park

We continued our year of shuffling hikes on our latest mini-vacation.  The string of wildfires starting in  Northern California in the Klamath Mountains and continuing along the Cascade Range north to the Canadian Border had us looking for a last minute location for 4 days of hiking. We turned to the coast hoping to escape any possibly smokey conditions and wound up deciding on checking out the northern most part of the Oregon Coast as well as our first foray along the Washington Coast line.

We booked a room in Gearhart, OR and I began putting an itinerary together. We are still plodding along in our attempt to hike all of the featured hikes in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks and there were several in the area we’d yet to tackle. I managed to fit eight of his featured hikes into the four days and even threw in an additional stop at Fort Columbia on our third day.

We set our sights on three of the hikes for our first day starting with a relatively short loop around Clatsop Spit. The spit is located inside Fort Stevens State Park at the mouth of the Columbia River and is the northern terminus for the Oregon Coast Trail.

As we were driving to the spit along Jetty Road we spotted some elk and had to stop for a couple of photos.
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Once we had parked at the large parking area at the spit we checked out the view from the South Jetty observation platform.
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We then headed west beside the jetty toward the Pacific.
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We then turned north along the beach heading towards the Columbia River where we could see plenty of traffic on the water.
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We turned inland at the river we had a view of the distant Megler Bridge.
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We passed a host of people fishing along the shore but didn’t see anyone having any luck.
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We looped around a peninsula near Jetty Lagoon and located the wildlife viewing bunker near the park’s Parking Lot D.
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IMG_8084view from the bunker.

We crossed a footbridge to the parking lot and then had a 1.1 mile road walk back to the spit parking lot.
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We drove back along Jetty Road and parked in a signed lot for Battery Russell.
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We took a set of stairs up to the concrete bunker.
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For forty years (1904-44) the battery guarded the Columbia River from enemy attacks. We spent quite a while exploring the old bunker. The history made it neat but too many video games and horror movies kept us imagining what might be hiding in the dark corners of the rooms.
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We followed a path at the far end of the bunker toward Coffenbury Lake.
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The path passed another set of old buildings.
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We continued on this path a total of 1.25 miles to a signed junction where we followed a pointer to the lake.
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We headed around the lake counter-clockwise on a nice trail.
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After completing the 2 mile loop around the lake we followed “Shipwreck” pointers for 3/4 of a mile to the beach and the remains of the Peter Iredale which ran aground in 1906.
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We backtracked from the beach a short distance and turned left on a paved path at a pointer for Battery Russell (among other possible destinations).
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We followed this path for a little over half a mile before turning right at another pointer for Battery Russell.
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We followed this 1.1 mile paved path back to the parking lot.
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The total distance of the Clatsop Spit hike had been 5 miles and this hike came in just under 7.5 miles. Twelve and a half miles is pretty good for a day, but due to our typical early start we were done with these two hikes before 1pm. Our check-in time wasn’t until four so we still had a few hours to kill.

We had been prepared for that and headed north from Fort Stevens to Astoria where we parked at the Columbia River Maritime Museum
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From the museum parking lot we headed west following the Riverfront Trolley line.
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Seabirds lined the waterfront and we also heard some sea lions but never saw any.
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We more or less stuck to Sullivan’s described route (Hike #4 in the 4th edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range) following the the trolley line to 6th St. then turning inland for three blocks before taking a left on Commercial St. After a block on Commercial St. we turned right on 7th for two blocks passing the Oregon Film Museum and the Flavel House.
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We walked around the Flavel House and headed downhill on 8th St. turning right when we arrived back at Commercial St. We turned right several blocks later on 12th Street and right again a block later on Duane St. passing a Chinese Garden.
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We continued zig-zagging through town passing numerous historic homes, churches, and other buildings. One home that stood out was an old run down home that had the quintessential haunted house look.
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We also passed Fort Astoria on the corner of 15th and Exchange.
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By the time we were done we wandered around town for a total of 3 miles.
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One of the landmarks not on the route was the Astoria Column. It was visible from the waterfront rising above the city. It was one of the times the 30x zoom on the camera came in handy.
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We still arrived a little early at our hotel but luckily our room was ready. We had a nice view south to Tillamook Head.
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It had actually rained lightly on us in Astoria which was a wonderful change of pace. The sun went down behind the clouds that evening ending the first day of what was shaping up to be an interesting vacation.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: Astoria & Fort Stevens

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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Saddle Mountain

I am not sure we had completely dried out after our Hamilton Mountain hike (I know ours shoes hadn’t) but we were back in the “saddle” yesterday for another hike. Saddle Mountain state park was our destination, located in the NW corner of Oregon just 20 miles from the coastal city of Seaside. Saddle Mountain is known for it’s wildflowers and rare plants as well as being the highest point in northwest Oregon.

Once again we were we greeted at the trail head by a layer of low clouds which made for a damp morning. The good news was that there was no wind or rain this time. The trail started out amid salmon and thimble berry bushes in a forest of alders. The trail climbs 1603 feet in just 2.5 miles so the forest and plants changed often. A quick .2 climb to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint provided a view up toward Saddle Mountain’s cloud covered summit.
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We returned to the summit trail and headed up through the fog passing multiple meadows full of wildflowers and lush forests. Much like our previous hike, visibility was limited to a couple hundred feet due to the low clouds but the variety of plants and flowers we were encountering kept us entertained. The trail itself was fairly steep and much of it consisted of wire enclosed rocks which looked like it could be slick but we didn’t have any real problems. Several picnic tables were placed along the trail at switchbacks which allowed for breaks from the climb if needed.

As we approached the summit we noticed some very slight breaks in the clouds which gave us hope. We decided to have some lunch and spend some time at the summit hoping that some views would open up. The clouds were actually moving from east to west toward the Ocean which we could now occasionally see through the clouds. We spent over an hour watching the clouds pass by us as better and better views opened up on all sides. Many swallows zoomed about as we waited and a Junco and a crow also stopped by to check us out. As the view opened up to the west was the Pacific, north the city of Astoria, OR and the Columbia River flowing into the Ocean
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and to the south the coastal mountains. The only disappointment was that on a clear day the Cascade mountains from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Jefferson would have been visible to the East.

We headed back down now able to see the forest below. The wildflowers became even prettier as the increased light made their colors more intense. We took the side trail to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint again to get the cloudless view of Saddle Mountain before returning to the car.
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If you are a wildflower or plant enthusiast this is a great hike, especially from May-July when the flowers are on display. If you can find a clear day (which isn’t easy near the Oregon Coast) the view is a great bonus. Next up is Mount June and yet another attempt at a view of the Cascades. Until then-Happy Trails.

For more info on Saddle Mountain visit: http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=140
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