Category Archives: Coastal hikes
They’re not actually called the Misty Moody Mountains, but the description fit on a gray day above Whittier. The rain came early and stopped. My regular trail pants got soaked from brushing against dripping trailside bushes, and made me wish I had my rain paints. Oh well. The trail did not get close to the waterfall I was attempting to spy up close, but the hike was beautiful anyway. Don’t you agree?
I’ve climbed mountains in the Rockies, walked in temperate rainforests, scrambled in the Sonorans, and ambled across eastern wildflower meadows, but Dungeness Spit might be one of the most unique spots for a hike I’ve encountered. Situated on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, the spit bends like a fishing rod into the Strait of Juan de Fuca as it reaches out to shake hands with Puget Sound.
I’d read that the spit was a nice place to visit, so when my mom visited from Virginia, I put it on our itinerary. I didn’t realize that I’d actually want more time to explore Dungeness Spit. A flat trail stretches along the top of a long bluff, accessible from a few different points. There were great views of the strait. At one point I did my best Sarah Palin impersonation. If not Russia, I could see, in fact, see Canada from the bluff. At the east end of the bluff, a trail heads through forest to the base of the spit itself. There are a few interpretive signs on viewing platforms, but I wanted to get down there. I just checked out the beginning of the driftwood-strewn, wave-lapped spit, which extends over five miles into the water, where a persistent sand hiker will find a lighthouse. I already want to return. Happy hiking.
On any weekend with good weather, Cannon Beach tends to be swarmed by tourists, yet the area scenery is always peaceful and soothing. The ocean itself feels like an endless well of calm and inspiration. I enjoy staring at the shifting swells and breaking waves, the combination of scenery and the audible whish and splash of waves and the calls of seabirds making a truly unique spectacle. Westward lies a range of possibilities. Back in reality, I wanted to take a few modest walks right there, on the sand and in the forest. The weather even cooperated surprising for the Oregon Coast in early spring.
We rented a cottage near the beach and a quick walk showed an awesome sunset on display. Inhale that marine air! The next day, after hanging out with family for a few hours, I wanted to find a nearby hike and avoid repeating earlier endeavors. Once again, the internet was my friend. A quick search found a state park I didn’t know.
Multiple sites refer to Haystack Hill State Park, but I find no mention of it on the Oregon State Parks web page. Regardless, Haystack Hill is located roughly midway through Cannon Beach, climbing to a highpoint I’d previously missed. The acreage was supposedly donated to the state for preservation, and there has been no development beyond an unsigned trail which climbs the quarter mile to the top of the hill, then splits in a couple directions. I found a few unique views looking down on famous Haystack Rock. I also enjoyed some awesome trees and lush ground cover. What a great find.
The power of nature is everywhere. Last week, before my wife and I wrapped up a brief but fantastic beach trip, we saw that power on display. While dining at a great restaurant overlooking the shore, Tidal Raves, we noticed people walking out on a rocky point. Occasional massive waves crashed onto the point, and the hikers disappeared. We both thought the hikers may have been a bit short of brain cells. It looked like an amazing spot, enhanced by the potential danger of big waves. So of course I wanted to go out there too.
After finishing our tasty meal, we found an nearby access trail, and we wandered along the shore. Denise was still recovering from a heel injury, so it was tough for her to attempt such a walk on uneven ground. Ultimately, she stayed on a grassy shelf above while I clambered out on the rocks, feeling at home.
As I headed to the end of the point, the surface became very irregular. It seemed to be some kind of volcanic rock. I definitely had to watch my step. I skirted a steep drop off and crossed a gap in the rock where wave surges came through, then clambered onto high ground to wave gawk. In moments, I was mesmerized. Such power, such beauty. Even as I wanted to move about, I could not turn my back on the waves. Not every wave was spectacular, but there was a large one on a regular basis. A human being on the rocks seemed inconsequential.
Other people were also watching the ocean further up the cliffs that resembled a bluff, and I sauntered that way after leaving the point. Denise and I looked for whales but did not see any. As we walked back to our car, a man and woman said they had seen multiple humpbacks slightly to the north. It was good day on the Oregon coast.
My wife and I were very lucky to get what was basically a free trip to the beach. The weather finally turned, so we hoped the rain would help firefighters with the many fires in the American West. Alas, the precipitation was relatively modest, but that meant our beach trip was more pleasant than expected. After romantic walks on the beach in Newport, we visited Yaquina Head. While Denise stayed in the visitor center, I strolled up Salal Hill and checked out Cobble Beach below. Great spots. I think we visited the area more than a decade ago. This was a great rediscovery, and well worth the time.
Who knew winter could be so fantastic on the Oregon coast? After a great night with my wife in Seaside, I wanted a solid hike. I had visited Neahkahnie Mountain from the south with my sisters in the 90s, and I knew the views from the top were great. There is another trailhead at a pullout just over 15 miles south of the Highway 26 and Highway 101 junction. The Oregon Coast Trail goes both ways here. There were only two other vehicles in the lot when I arrived about 9 a.m. The trail was serene but for the highway noise below in the first mile.
The route climbs steadily uphill, and there are great views immediately as the path takes a few switchbacks across a steep meadow of salal and sword fern. Eventually I entered the trees. Athough the day was perfectly sunny, it was hard to tell inside the dark forest.
Sometime when I hike a mountain, I get frustrated in the middle of the ascent, after the early motivation wears off and before the effort starts paying off in stellar view. At times, I’m a bit impatient and unrealistic, rather like Roald Dahl’s Veruca Salt. As in: I want my summit and I want it now! This time, however, the hike felt very balanced. The views at the bottom were followed by nice forest flora variety, a stream crossing, a saddle, and of course the climb into the open at the top.
Coming into the open after a couple miles reminds me of Bald Mountain to the west of Mount Hood. In this instance, the amazing view that is suddenly in your face is the Pacific Ocean. Not too shabby.
I met a fellow hiker on top. We chatted for a while and then he left. Per usual when faced with a million dollar view, I didn’t want to leave the summit. Such glorious weather! Had the wind not been whipping on top, I could have been in shirtsleeves. Eventually, of course, I had to descend. The walk was pleasant, and fast. Halfway down, I started encountering lots of people. They were lucky too.
This is a great hike for impatient folk I was up and back before noon, so I had time to spend the afternoon with my wife back in Seaside. It helped make our trip to the coast a great one.