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Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast

Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake & Honeyman State Park – 12/08/18

The first week of December greeted us with some beautiful weather. Unfortunately the forecast called for the arrival of rain Friday evening and we were unable to get time off of work during the week to take advantage of the sunny conditions.  We kept our eyes on the forecast though and by Friday there was a window of time Saturday morning where it looked like it might be dry along the coast south of Florence so we made a last minute call to take our final outing of the year.

Our plan was to end the year much as it started (post), with a three stop day along the Oregon Coast.  For this trip we’d picked three hikes just south of Florence, OR in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  Our first stop was at the Stagecoach Trailhead, eight miles south of Florence, in the Siltcoos Area.

Stagecoach Trailhead

Map at the Stagecoach Trailhead

From the trailhead we followed signs for the Waxmyrtle Trail which led us across the Siltcoos River on bridge on the entrance road to the Waxmyrtle Campground.
Waxmyrtle Trail sign

Siltcoos River

Once across the bridge we turned right along the river bank on the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Siltcoos River

It was a mostly cloudy morning, but it was dry and there was a least some breaks which gave us hope that it would turn out to be a nice day after all.
Siltcoos River

Our guidebook had mentioned that this area was one of the best areas for bird watching in the State. Although we didn’t see a large number of birds on this morning we did spot a few along the estuary here.
EgretEgret

Great blue heronGreat blue heron

Common mergansersCommon mergansers

BuffleheadBufflehead

A little under a half mile from the bridge we came to an old fork in the trail. The right hand fork had been a seasonal trail sticking closer to the river, but it has been closed due to erosion.
Closed portion of trail along the Siltcoos River

We stayed left and shortly arrived at a sandy road leading between the campground and the beach. A sign here pointed right for the continuation of the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Sign for the Waxmyrtle Trail

Waxmyrtle Trail

We followed this sandy track 3/4 of a mile to Waxmyrtle Beach. Along the way we passed through Waxmyrtle Marsh where the morning colors reflected off the still waters on either side of the trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Interpretive sign for the Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Beach

For a longer hike here we could have walked along the beach, but with two other stops ahead of us we simply stopped for a moment to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect morning for a visit, the temperature was in the upper 40’s, there was no breeze at all, and the sky above seemed to compliment the waves below.
Waxmyrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean at Wax Myrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean

Sanderlings

After enjoying a peaceful moment on the beach we headed back the way we’d come, careful to not step on any of the numerous rough skinned newts that were out and about.
Tiny rough skinned newt

After recrossing the Siltcoos River and before returning to the Stagecoach Trailhead we crossed the main road to take the .7 mile Lagoon Trail.
Lagoon Trail

On the far side of a boardwalk the Lagoon Trail began a .7 mile loop around a campground in the middle of the Siltcoos Lagoon.
Lagoon Trail map

Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Interpretive sign along the Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Squirrel

Sparrow

After finishing the loop we returned to our car. The hike here had only been 3.3 miles but had offered a nice variety of scenery and wildlife. We drove back to Highway 101 from the trailhead and crossed directly over it to reach the Siltcoos Lake Trailhead.
Siltcoos Lake Trailhead

The Siltcoos Lake Trail with a .9 mile climb inland through a second growth forest to the start of a loop.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siuslaw forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

A wide variety of mushrooms grew along the forest floor where there were also more newts to watch out for.
Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Rough skinned newt next to an upturned mushroom

We turned right at the start of the loop and followed the trail a little over three quarters of a mile to another junction.
Sunbeams in the forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

We had lost nearly all the elevation we had gained and the trail to right continued downhill for another quarter mile to South Camp, a tent site along the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake

Siltcoos Lake

The lake was very pretty and full of birds but the nearly constant sound of gunfire took a little away from the enjoyment.
Birds on Siltcoos Lake

Birds on Siltcoos Lake

We climbed back up to the Sitlcoos Lake Trail and continued a half mile on the loop which dropped to a small creek crossing before arriving at a sign for the tent sites at North Camp where we again turned right and visited the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake

American coot

Birds taking flight from Siltcoos Lake

Following paths north along the shore led us past all the sites and back to the Siltcoos Lake Trail.
Sunbeams in the Siuslaw National Forest

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Just under a mile and a quarter from North Camp we finished the loop and then returned the .9 miles to the trailhead to complete the 4.4 mile hike.

Next we drove north on Highway 101 just over 4.5 miles to signs for Jessie M. Honeyman State Park where we turned east on Canary Road. We followed this road for a half mile before turning right into the East Woahink Day Use Area.

After parking in the large parking area we walked back toward the entrance to a large sign for Cleawox Lake Day Use Areas.
Trail from the East Woahink Lake picnic area

This path led briefly through a forest before joining Canary Road to cross a portion of the lake.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Woahink Lake

After passing over the water along the road the trail dipped back into the forest and immediately forked. The right hand fork led directly into the West Woahink Day Use Area while the left fork (which we took) looped around the day use area along the lake shore passing picnic tables and a small beach.
Beach along Woahink Lake

Woahink Lake

On the far side of the West Woahink Day Use Area we once again found ourselves on the shoulder of Canary Road passing over more of the lake. The trail again veered away from the somewhat busy road and we followed pointers for Cleawox Lake to a paved bike path leading over Highway 101.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Path over Highway 101 in Jesse M. Honeyman State Park

Rough skinned newts had become the theme for the day and even the bike path was not free of them.
Rough skinned newt

Shortly after crossing over the highway we turned right off the bike path at a trail sign.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

This path led downhill past a small stone structure and across a couple of paved roads before reaching Cleawox Lake.
Stone structer in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

On the far side of lake was the day use area complete with a very nice bathhouse. We turned right at the lake and made our way around the water to the bathhouse and swimming area.
Cleawox Lake

Bathhouse at Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

We could imagine that this would be a very busy place at other times of the year but on the second weekend in December there were only a few other people that we could even see and they were all across the water in other areas. We found a dry bench and sat a for a bit listening to a sparrow sing.
Sparrow

As we started to head back an Anna’s hummingbird zoomed by and landed in a nearby tree.
Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

We passed by the trail that we had come down to the lake on and continued along the water to a large parking area on the opposite side of the bathhouse.
Cleawox Lake

At the end of the parking lot a path led to a dune along the lake, but before we headed out onto the sand we took a very short side trip on the signed Nature Trail to visit Lily Lake.
Nature Trail

Lily LakeLily Lake

After seeing the small lake we headed up the sand dune overlooking Cleawox Lake.
Dunes Trail

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

We climbed to the top of the dune and surveyed the surrounding area.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

Pacific Ocean from a dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State ParkThe Pacific Ocean from the dune.

To the south we could see our goal, the largest sand dune (at least in that area) in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park.

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

It was a half mile of sandy up and down walking between the two dunes.
Trail through the dunes at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Dune Trail

After a nearly 150′ climb we arrived at the top of the dune and its 360 degree view.
View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Although off road vehicles are allowed in much of the park this dune (and our route to and from it) are off limits. After soaking in the view (and watching a couple of motorcycles in the distance) we followed footprints steeply downhill to the east.
Path down the dune

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

After a short stint through trees we followed tracks around a sandy bowl reentering the trees just above the park’s campground.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Once in the campground we headed north following the paved roads to Loop “B”.
Campground in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

We turned east along the northern end of Loop B which brought us to the bike path that we had crossed Highway 101 on earlier.
Trail to East Woahink Lake Day Use Area

We followed path back up and over Highway 101 and returned to the East Woahink Lake Day Use Area. The path was full of birds now, mostly robins but we also spotted a nice spotted towhee.
Robins

Spotted towhee

The only thing we did differently on the way back was that we went through the West Woahink Day Use Area instead of around it which allowed us to use the facilities there before our drive home. This was our longest hike of the day at 5.2 miles bringing the days total to 12.9.

We had been all prepared for wet and rainy weather, but instead we had a nearly perfect day for hiking at the coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake, & Honeyman State Park

Categories
Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast

Taylor Dunes, Lake Marie, and Umpqua Dunes

We’d been fortunate this year having only been forced to change plans due to weather twice, in February due to snow in the coast range and at the end of our trip to the Elkhorns when thunderstorms forced us to cancel our plans to visit the lookout atop Mt. Ireland. For the third time in the last four years our September vacation coincided with a forecast for snow in the mountains. We had planned a four day trip around and up Diamond Peak, but with a chance of rain or snow showers all four days we decided to turn to our alternate plan which was a trip to Bandon, OR on the Oregon Coast.

We had three stops planned in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on our way down to Bandon. Our first stop was at the Taylor Dunes Trailhead located seven and a half miles south of Florence.IMG_2286

From the small parking area the trail immediately crossed a paved road and passed by Taylor Lake.IMG_2287

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After .4 miles we arrived at a viewpoint above the dunes.IMG_2305

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From the viewpoint we followed the trail through the sand for half a mile to a signed junction.IMG_2311

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We turned right here on a half mile trail that passed through a forest behind a foredune before arriving at the Pacific Ocean.IMG_2313

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After reaching the ocean we returned to the junction and turned right to complete a loop through the Carter Lake Campground.IMG_2338

Carter Lake

The final .4 miles of the loop was along the paved campground road.IMG_2339

Our second stop was at Lake Marie, about 18 miles south of Taylor Dunes, in the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We parked at the Lake Marie Trailhead and set off on the 1 mile loop clockwise around the lake.IMG_2340

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The fishermen around the lake had some competition from the local wildlife.IMG_2352

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Just under a mile around the lake a short spur trail led to a viewpoint overlooking more dunes.IMG_2372

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We completed the loop and then decided to walk the tenth of a mile up Lighthouse Road to see the Umpqua River Lighthouse.IMG_2381

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A viewpoint at the lighthouse looked out to the mouth of the Umpqua River.IMG_2383

There was also a gray whale jawbone nearby.IMG_2387

After visiting the lighthouse we returned to our car and continued south on Highway 101 for another 5.5 miles to the signed John Dellenback Dune Trailhead.IMG_2390

The trail left the parking area and immediately crossed Eel Creek on a footbridge.IMG_2391

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The trail passed a marshy area where a great blue heron was looking for breakfast.IMG_2401

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At the quarter mile mark the trail crossed a paved road in Eel Creek Campground.IMG_2403

In just .2 more miles the trail left the trees and entered the dunes.IMG_2407

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Poles marked the route of the trail through the shifting sands of the dunes, but we began to doubt that we were really supposed to follow the poles when they began to veer to the north (right) of a tree island. The GPS appeared to show the trail passing to the south (left) of that island.IMG_2418

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There were footprints leading to both sides of the trees so we decided to trust the GPS and headed to the left.IMG_2428

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When we reached the vegetation of the deflation plain just under two miles from the trailhead we were unable to find any sign of a trail. We did however find a lupine still in bloom.IMG_2442

We attempted to locate some sign of a trail in the area shown on the GPS but each time we thought we might have found a way through the brush it got too dense to continue. We worked our way north along the edge of the vegetation for nearly half a mile where we finally spotted some signs.IMG_2443

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For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through a variety of scenery before reaching the ocean.IMG_2445

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We followed the beach south for about a mile before turning back.IMG_2460

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On the way back we followed the posts along the north side of the island.IMG_2476

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We took a side trip up the tallest of the dunes before reaching a junction at the edge of the trees.IMG_2490

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We went right at the junction for a half mile to complete a loop back to the trailhead.IMG_2498

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With our wandering around this hike came in at 8 miles giving us a total of 12.7 on the day. We ended the day in Bandon where we explored the old downtown and had a wonderful dinner at Foley’s Irish Pub. A good start as far as backup plans go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Taylor Dunes, Lake Marie, and Umpqua Dunes

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Throwback Thursday – Cape Mountain

This week we are throwing back to an 8 mile loop we hiked at Cape Mountain north of Florence on Labor Day weekend in 2011. This hike appealed to us for two reasons at the time, it was in the 6 to 10 mile range and it was a loop. Another draw was the possibility of seeing an elk for the first time on a hike.

We began our hike at the Dry Lake Horse Camp located 3 miles off of Highway 101 along Herman Cape Road which is 7 miles north of Florence. From the trailhead we set off on the Princess Tasha Trail.

Princess Tasha Trail

After .4 miles we came to a 4-way junction. Here we took a right onto the Scurvey Ridge Trail. After another .4 miles we came to a viewpoint with a bench.

View from Scurvy Ridge

We followed the ridge for another mile where we arrived at a replica of a hitsi, Siuslaw Indian hunting cabin.

A hitsi which was an Indian hunting shelter

Informationa sign near the shelter

A short distance from the hitsi we arrived at another junction near the Horse Creek Campground

We kept left at junctions following pointers for “Horse Water” for a quarter mile to the Berry Creek Trail. We turned left onto the Berry Creek Trail and followed this trail a total of 2.2 miles. It began on an old roadbed but quickly left that and switchbacked down to Berry Creek.

Berry Creek

After rock hopping across the creek the trail a short distance to another 4-way junction. We left the Berry Creek Trail here turning right on the Nelson Ridge Trail which gently climbed uphill to the ridge crest.

Nelson Ridge Trail

On top of the ridge is a meadow that the Forest Service created in an attempt to simulate the elk friendly habitat that the Native Americans created by setting fires.

Nelson Ridge Trail

Interpretive sign on Cape Mountain

Unfortunately we didn’t see any elk on this day but we took a seat on a bench and enjoyed a somewhat limited view due to low clouds.

View from the meadow on Cape Mountain

View from the Nelson Ridge Trail

After passing through the meadow we kept right at junctions for 1.8 miles back to our car, stopping briefly to take a look at Dry Lake.

Dry Lake

We were done early enough in the day that we decided to drive up Highway 101 three miles to the Sea Lion Caves. While it isn’t exactly a hike the cave tour does require walking along a path to viewpoints and is a worthwhile stop.

Pacific Ocean on the way to the Sea Lion Caves

Inside the cave sea lions lounged on the rocks.

Sea Lions in Sea Lion Cave

Windows in the cave walls also allow a look outside to seabirds on the rocky cliffs.

Pacific Ocean from the Sea Lion Caves

Pelicans

While driving home we spotted a herd of elk grazing in a field on a farm. It figured. It would be another 55 hikes (2 years) before we finally saw elk during a hike. Never the less it had been another nice hike at the coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cape Mountain

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Baker Beach and Rock Creek Wilderness

Since 2013 our first hike of the year has been somewhere along the Oregon Coast.  Often the weather at the coast during January is nicer than other parts of the State making it a great time to visit.  This was certainly the case this year as the first part of January saw near record snows and freezing temperatures over much of the State.  The coast had not escaped the weather entirely but by the time we headed out for our first hike of the year, things were much nicer there than at home in the Willamette Valley.

Our destination was Baker Beach Camp just north of Florence, OR. This was a change (already) to our plans for 2017 but the forecast for the area was just too good to pass up. Mostly sunny skies and a high of 48 degrees was what was being called for so we left 23 degree Salem early in the morning and headed down to Eugene then west to Florence on Highway 126.

Baker Beach Camp is located at the end of Baker Beach Road, 7 miles north of Florence along Highway 101.  The only signage along the highway was a small green street sign which I noticed just as we passed by it. After quickly turning around we turned onto the gravel road and followed it .5 miles to the camps parking area.

Baker Beach Camp

Baker Beach Camp sign

To start our hike we walked a short distance back along the road and turned left at a trail sign for the Lily Lake Loop.

Start of the Lily Lake Loop

A short sandy climb brought us to a trail junction at the top of a sandy ridge.

Pacific Ocean from the Lily Lake Loop Trail in the morning

The Pacific Ocean was visible beyond Baker Beach and the sand dunes.

Trail signs along the Lily Lake Loop

The Berry Creek Loop would have kept us up on the sandy ridge while the Lily Lake Loop dropped down and passed near Lily Lake before climbing back up to the ridge top and rejoining the Berry Creek Loop Trail. We wanted to see the lake so we followed the Lily Lake pointer passing through a salal filled forest before things opened up along the lake.

Lily Lake Loop Trail

Trail along Lily Lake

We stayed on the paths closest to the lake thinking that one would bring us right to it but instead the lake remained mostly hidden behind first a row of trees then by a reed filled marsh near it’s outlet.

Lily Lake

We could see that there was quite a bit of activity on the lake with several types of ducks and some Canada geese floating on the water, but it was hard to get any clear photos with the vegetation in the way.

Canada geese on Lily Lake

Bufflehead

Bufflehead on Lily Lake

From the lake we climbed back up to the top of the Sandy Ridge which overlooked a small pond and Berry Creek flowing out toward the Pacific.

Moon over the Pacific Ocean

Berry Creek flowing toward the Pacific

There was no sign here and we could have followed the sandy ridge back to the junction we’d been at earlier, but instead we followed a path down to the base of the ridge which led us back to the start of the Baker Beach Trail at Baker Beach Camp. This little loop was just under 1.5 miles.

Baker Beach Trail

Here we turned right following the pointer for Baker Beach. (The Lily Lake/Berry Creek Loop continued from this junction creating an additional 1.7 mile loop to the north of the camp.)

The trail passes through a deflation plain behind the beaches foredune for .4 miles.

Foredune at Baker Beach

Looking north along the Baker Beach Trail

The deflation plain is the result of the dunes no longer expanding due to the loss of additional sand being blown from the beach. European bunchgrass which was introduced in the early 1900’s to help stabilize jetties but spread along the beaches and began stopping the blowing sand from leaving the beach which created the foredunes denying the dunes further inland any additional sand.

Baker Beach

Pacific Ocean from the foredune at Baker Beach

Cape Mountain from the foredune at Baker Beach

When we reached the beach we turned south heading toward Sutton Creek which was 3 miles away. Aside from a few birds we had the beach to ourselves.

Sanderlings on Baker Beach

Seagull and sanderlings

After about 3/4 of a mile along the beach we climbed back up the foredune to get a look at Sutton Creek which we had visited the previous February.

Sutton Creek behind the foredune

Ducks on Sutton Creek

We traveled along the foredune for a bit before dropping back down to the beach.

Patterns in the sand

Baker Beach

We had been considering crossing Sutton Creek and continuing south along Heceta Beach another 2.5 miles to the Siuslaw River but the creek was wide and it wasn’t that warm out.

Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek

After watching several large chunks of sand fall into the creek we headed back with the Heceta Head Lighthouse blinking in the distance to the north.

Heceta Head Lighthouse from Baker Beach

As we were recrossing the deflation plain we spotted a doe amid the grass and pines.

Heading back toward Baker Beach Camp

Doe

Doe

Since we’d cut our hike short (8.2 miles instead of the 13.2 planned) we had time to do another. We could have hiked Heceta Beach like we had planned by driving back to Florence and parking at the end of South Jetty Road, but we had noticed that that beach was already busy when we were at Sutton Creek earlier. We preferred something a little less crowded which led us to the Rock Creek Wilderness.

This was one of the wilderness areas that we had yet to visit and it was just another 8 miles north on Highway 101 from Baker Beach Road. We hopped in our car and drove to the gated entrance to the Rock Creek Campground.

Rock Creek Campground sign along Highway 101

The campground was closed for the season so we had to walk along the paved entrance road for approximately .4 miles.

Road to Rock Creek Campground

There had been one other vehicle parked at the gate and we passed it’s owner on his way back up from the campground area. The little campground was located right along Rock Creek.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek

The 7,486 Rock Creek Wilderness was designated as such in 1984 and has no Forest Service developed or maintained trials. That being said there is a use trail leading from the end of the Rock Creek Campground that can be followed into the wilderness.

Use trail leading from the Campground into the Rock Creek Wilderness

The path was brushy and narrow but passable as it followed along the creek.

Use trail in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek

Occasional flagging was present but really unnecessary as the brush was so thick that we had to follow the path in order to keep moving forward. The only real obstacle to speak of was a large downed tree that had fallen over the best path, but game trails led around the root ball.

BIg tree down in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Without an official trail there were no signs to mark the beginning of the wilderness area so we just followed the path as long as we could. After awhile the path led into a frosty meadow where the canyon widened.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

It was a muddy in spots but enough of the ground was still frozen to make it passable. Elk and deer sign were everywhere. It was a beautiful spot with the white frost contrasted against the green of a coastal forest while rays of sunlight attempted to penetrate the canopy.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Sunlight through the trees in the Rock Creek Wilderness

The sound of water flowing on every side only added to the ambiance. There was more flagging at the far end of the meadow and some on the far side of Rock Creek but again this wasn’t a day for fording creeks so we declared victory here and turned around.

Our turn around point (too cold to ford the creek today)

When we got home I wanted to make sure we’d actually made it into the wilderness so I pulled up the interactive map on Wilderness.net. The actual wilderness boundary bows away from the Rock Creek Campground making it further up along the creek than I had thought, but comparing our GPS track to that map showed we had managed to get about .4 miles into the Rock Creek Wilderness.

The Wilderness.net map

Rock Creek Wilderness

Our GPS track

Rock Creek Wilderness Track

On a warmer day when you don’t mind spending some time in the creek it’s possible to get further into the wilderness as this trip report indicates.a href=”http://www.cascadiahiking.com/2012/08/rock-creek-wilderness-no-trail-no.html” target=”_blank”>Cascadia Hiking

Our adventure was only 2.2 miles round trip including the road walk to and from the campground but the solitude and remote feeling of the Rock Creek Wilderness made it seem much more removed from civilization.

With that our 2017 hiking year is officially under way. We checked off our 27th Oregon Wilderness Area and still have 18 to go, 4 more of which are planned this year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157679106715756

Categories
Central Coast Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Florence Area Trails

It’s been over a month since our last hike and I was beginning to go a bit stir crazy so when the forecast called for a mostly sunny Saturday we jumped on the chance and hit the trails.  We try and make sure our hikes are long enough so that we spend as much or more time hiking rather than driving.  On this day we did this by visiting several shorter trails near Florence, OR.

We started the day at the Whittaker Creek Recreation Site just off Highway 126.
Whititaker Creek Recreation Site sign

From there we walked through the campground and headed across Whittaker Creek on a footbridge.
Footbridge over Whittaker Creek

Whittaker Creek

A young bald eagle had flown over our heads and landed in a tree along the creek and allowed us to get fairly close before taking flight again.
Bald Eagle flying over Whittaker Creek

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle taking off

Meanwhile some common mergansers were floating the creek.
Mergansers

From the NW end of the campground we took the Old Growth Trail 1.2 miles up to the summit of the ridge. A mix of sunlight and morning fog created some interesting lighting in the forest.
Old Growth Ridge Trailhead sign

Old Growth Ridge Trail

Old Growth Ridge Trail

Along the way up we spotted a number of little snow queen flowers and stopped at a tall Douglas fir tree that had been struck by lighting at some point.
Snow Queen

Sign along the Old Growth Ridge Trail

Lightning struck Douglas fir

At the summit were benches and a sign giving the history of the trail. The low clouds and fog hid much of the view on this day.
Summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

Interpretive sign at the summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

View from the summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

On the way back down we turned on the signed Armantrout Loop Trail which led back to the campground in 1.5 miles.
Armantrout Loop Trail

There were a few spots of blowdown along this trail that were easily passed and numerous interpretive signs to stop and read.
Just a little blowdown along the Armantrout Loop Trail

After returning to our car we continued west on Highway 126 to Mapleton and turned west on Sweet Creek Road for 10.2 miles to the Homestead Trailhead.
Swee Creek Trailhead

There are a total of four trailheads that access the Sweet Creek Trail with the Homestead Trailhead being the most northerly. From there we followed the Sweet Creek Trail south for .9 miles to a junction with the connector trail from the second trailhead. Both the creek and surrounding forest were beautiful. A series of small falls and cascades line this section of Sweet Creek and on this day there was plenty of water flowing over them.
Sweet Creek

Small fall on Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek Trail

Sweet Creek Trail
Annice Falls
Sweet Creek and Annice Falls

Sweet Creek

Small cascade along Sweet Creek

Unnamed waterfall (possibly seasonal) on the far side of Sweet Creek

Unnamed waterfall (possibly seasonal) on the far side of Sweet Creek

Elk Wallow Falls
Elk Wallow Falls

Trail sign along the Sweet Creek Trail

From the junction another scenic half mile of the Sweet Creek Trail brought us to Sweet Creek Falls and the end of the trail.
Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

A short trail leads up to an upper viewpoint.
Sweet Creek Falls from the upper viewpoint

It is possible during lower flow times to cross the creek below the falls and pick up the continuation of the Sweet Creek Tail on the far side, but that wasn’t going to happen given the volume of water that was currently flowing over the falls. After returning to the Homestead Trailhead we drove to the Wagon Road Trailhead 1.3 miles further south along Sweet Creek Road.
Wagon Road Trailhead for the Sweet Creek Trail

The Sweet Creek Trail heads away from the road in both directions from this trailhead. We began with the segment on the west side of Sweet Creek Road which would lead bus back down to Sweet Creek Falls on the opposite side of the creek.
Sweet Creek Trail

Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

Near the bottom of this trail were a number of skunk cabbage flowers.
Skunk cabbage

After visiting the base of Sweet Creek Falls we returned to the Wagon Road Trailhead and took the .6 mile segment of the Sweet Creek Trail to Beaver Creek Falls.
Sweet Creek Trail

Beaver Creek Falls

Beaver Creek Falls

We left the Wagon Road Trailhead and headed back to Highway 126 and headed toward Florence. We made a quick stop at Florence Yamaha to pick up a Northwest Forest Pass which we needed for our final hike at the Holman Vista Day Use Area just north of Florence.
Sutton Creek Trailhead

We started this hike by taking a short paved path to an overlook of Sutton Creek and a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek and the Pacific Ocean

Next we set off on the Sutton Creek Loop Trail which led along Sutton Creek through a coastal forest .8 miles to a trail junction near Bolduc’s Meadow.
Sutton Creek Trail

Sutton Creek Trail

Crazy tree along the Sutton Creek Loop Trail.
Crazy tree along the Sutton Creek Trail

Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek

We kept straight at the junction passing Bolduc’s meadow where we spotted a lone daffodil and a single grape hyacinth.
Bolduc's Meadow

Daffodil in Boluduc's Meadow

Grape Hyacinths

We were now on the South Sutton Creek Trail which continued to follow the creek for 1.5 miles of short ups and downs. This trail brought us to the Sutton Campground where we picked up the continuation of the trail at a footbridge near site B16.
Footbridge across Sutton Creek

After crossing the footbridge we had the option to go left or right on the North Sutton Creek Trail. The left hand trail led a quarter mile to a dune while the right and would have brought us to the same dune on a .6 mile loop.
Sutton Creek Trail

At the dune we found a swing which Heather made use of.
Sutton Creek Trail

Dune along the Sutton Creek Trail

Swing break along the Sutton Creek Trail

From the swing we followed the North Sutton Creek Trail for 1.3 miles back to the trail junction near Bolduc’s Meadow. This section of trail passed dunes with a less dense forest. Common gorse and manzanita was beginning to bloom along the trail and some areas were covered in a light green moss that reminded us of snow.
Sutton Creek Trail

Moss

Common Gorse
common gorse

common gorse//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Common manzanita
Common manzanita

Sutton Creek Trail

Bearberry
Bearberry

Dunes along the Sutton Creek Trail

Footbridge across Sutton Creek to the trail junction near Buldoc’s Meadow
Fottbridge over Sutton Creek near Buldoc's Meadow

After crossing the footbridge we turned right and then quickly turned left on an unsigned trail which led us .5 miles back to the parking lot at the Holman Vista Day Use Area.

We had a great time on these trails and it was nice that they were all very different from one another. We wound up doing a little over 13 miles of hiking but each of these trails are worthy of doing on their own. The Old Growth Ridge/Armantrout Loop hike was approximately 3.5 miles with about 800′ of elevation gain. Our first hike along Sweet Creek from the Homestead Trailhead was a little under 2.5 miles with 350′ of elevation gain while the segments from the Wagon Road Trailhead totaled just under 3 miles and 300′ of elevation gain. The hike on the Sutton Creek Trails was 4.5 miles with only about 100′ of total elevation gain. Happy Trails!

flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157662585681453

Categories
Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast Trip report

Oregon & Tahkenitch Dunes

Happy New Year. It didn’t take us long to get our first hike of 2015 in. We had planned on visiting the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area later this month, but a day off from work and a forecast for clear skies on New Years Day was too tempting to pass up. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is nearly 40 miles of dunes, creeks, lakes, and forest along the Oregon Coast between the cities of Florence and Coos Bay.

The area offers numerous hikes, most of which are fairly short. Our plan was to combine three of these shorter hikes into a longer trek. We started off from the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area 10 miles south of Florence.
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The sun had just risen in the east as we set off creating a colorful scene from the dunes overlook.
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A .3 mile descent brought us to the dunes where we followed footprints and posts toward the ocean.
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Between the dunes and the ocean the trail passed through the deflation plain, an area created by a non-native beachgrass introduced in the early 1900s which has cut off the supply of sand to the dunes. In the deflation plain marshes and a forest have formed.
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After crossing the plain we arrived at the foredune where the European beachgrass gives way to the beach.
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We turned south and headed down the beach. The beach was quite except for the sound of the ocean waves. We were the only people on the beach as far as we could see. Snowy Plovers and gulls were the only company we had.
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There was quite a bit of debris on this section of beach. There were plenty of the usual pieces of shell and sand dollars along with many items that may have been washed up from the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.
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Our original plan was to hike the beach to Tahkenitch Creek then cross the creek and pick up another network of trails on the other side. These other trails would take us on a loop past Threemile Lake, through the Tahkenitch Dunes and back across Tahkenitch Creek further inland where we would then finish the Oregon Dunes Loop. We abandoned that plan upon arriving at Tahkenitch Creek. It was wider and deeper than I had anticipated and neither of us were willing to wade across with the temperatures hovering around freezing.
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We turned to Plan B which was to backtrack to the continuation of the Oregon Dunes Loop, return to the car and then drive to the Tahkenitch Dunes Trailhead. We turned around and made our way back up the beach to a hiker sign marking the loop.
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This section of trail passed by a bend in Tahkenitch Creek before returning to the dunes and completing the loop.
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We had wound up hiking a little over 8 miles by the time we reached our car (We didn’t realize we had gone that far until later when I reviewed the GPS information.) and were glad for a short rest while we drove the 3 miles to the next trailhead.
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The trail here started in a nice forest leading .2 miles to the start of our next loop.
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We went right at the junction and headed for the dunes.
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The trail passed over the dunes and then through a more substantial forest before reaching Tahkenitch Creek near the ocean.
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The trail led down to the beach where we again turned south for a mile (the final few tenths of beach are open to vehicles) to another sign marking the loop. The sign was a bit hard to spot as it was back away from the foredune a bit. The beach on this side of the creek was much less cluttered.
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After heading inland for half a mile we arrived at an overlook of Threemile Lake. The lake was 200 feet below us and we decided not to head down the sandy hill to visit it because neither of us felt like climbing back up that much sand. We opted to take a short snack break above the lake before continuing on our loop.
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The loop continued for 2.7 miles passing through an impressive forest before arriving back at the junction .2 miles from the car.
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It had been a beautiful day on the beach despite the cold temperatures so we were surprised to have only seen a total of three other people during the day. Two were just heading down on the Oregon Dunes Trail as we finished that loop and the other had driven his pickup down onto the beach south of Tahkenitch Creek. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our 2015 hikes. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157650068860795/