Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mile 232.3 to Mile 253.5: Winchester Bay to Charleston

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

Directions for this OCT leg: Get back on the beach, start walking south, and just keep walking.

Mouth of Tenmile Creek on a winter day
Slightly more detail: From the marina at Winchester Bay, follow Salmon Harbor Drive west and south as it curves through Windy Cove Park. Take the first opportunity to go west, through the dunes to the beach on the south side of the south jetty. Altogether it's about 2 miles from marina to beach, another 7 miles on beach to the mouth of Tenmile Creek (ATVs allowed in the dunes but not on the beach), and another 7.7 miles to Horsfall Beach Access (ATVs allowed in most of this last section of beach) (16.7 miles). To find Horsfall, look for the ATV closure sign (the Forest Service calls them OHVs, or off-highway vehicles) just past the entrance to Bull Run Sand Road and, just south of that, a wooden observation platform just visible above the top of the foredune. Follow the next little break in the sand to reach the campground (just a big parking lot, with toilets and water).

If don’t plan to get a boat ride across Coos Bay, leave the beach at Horsfall Beach Access, walk out Horsfall Beach Road and Trans Pacific Lane (alternately called TransPacific Parkway) about 5 miles to U.S. 101, then continue south over McCullough Bridge to North Bend and keep walking, following road signs to Charleston, a total of 15 miles of off-beach road walking (alternately, call a cab).

Sand Road leading to North Spit Boat Launch
Otherwise, from Horsfall Beach Access, continue south on the beach another 1 mile to a sign allowing ATVs again, then 2.25 miles more, watching for footsteps leading up to a break in the foredune. (From this point, you should be able to look south and see twin FAA towers jutting out of the foredune in the distance; if you walk to them, you’ve gone 1.25 miles too far.) Climb the foredune here; a (soft) sand road leads east and northeast 0.9 miles to the North Spit trailhead. From the trailhead, walk north on Trans Pacific Lane about 0.3 mile to the North Spit Boat Launch, a.k.a. the "BLM boat launch,” where you’ll find toilets and drinking water (21.2 miles). I pre-arranged a ride from this boat launch to Charleston with Captain Thomas of Vessel Alert; in 2009 he charged $100 minimum for the trip. It appears that he is still in business (though I haven’t confirmed that lately); I reached him at 541-297-8099.  With such a large parking area, North Spit Boat Launch looks like it should be a busy boat launch and, on the right day, it should be easy to talk someone into giving you a ride. The gloomy day I arrived, there was no one around. No one. Until Capt. Thomas arrived by boat to pick me up.

From Charleston things get a bit iffy (see next post); if you call a cab to pick you up north of Coos Bay, you might ask the driver to take you all the way to Seven Devils State Recreation Site, since from Charleston you have more road walking for quite some distance.

WHERE TO SLEEP: The only campgrounds in this stretch are a couple of them catering to dune buggy folks, including Horsfall (just an RV parking lot). Bluebill, a Forest Service campground about a mile inland on Horsfall Beach Road, is a nicer setting. Plenty of primitive (sandy) camping potential, however; I camped on the beach at the mouth of Tenmile Creek, a lovely spot. There are a few motels and RV parks in Charleston and plenty of motels in Coos Bay-North Bend. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mile 207.3 to Mile 232.3: Florence to Winchester Bay

Notations such as “(Hike 76)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

From the Siuslaw River Bridge in Florence, follow US 101 south 0.6 mile to South Jetty Road; take it west 2.5 miles and get back onto the beach at the first beach parking area. Here begins what you probably pictured when you imagined walking the Oregon Coast Trail: miles and miles and miles of uninterrupted beach walking, at least two or three days' worth.
The Siltcoos River is 5.7 miles ahead. It is easy to wade at low to mid tide and probably at high tide. I didn't know that, however, and was arriving tight at high tide, so about 0.6 before reaching the river, I went east to Siltcoos Beach Access (toilets, no water) and walked 0.3 miles to Driftwood II campground (caters to ATVs; water, showers, toilets) and a short distance further to the bridge over the Siltcoos at Waxmyrtle Campground (no ATVs; water & toilets) and picked up Waxmyrtle Trail to the beach well south of the river's mouth (see Hike 70 and associated map). But let’s assume your timing is better and you wade the Siltcoos: the next creek crossing is 5.5 miles south of the Siltcoos at the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek (14.3 miles), easily waded at low tide and probably mid- or even high tide in summer.

A few landmarks along this long stretch of beach: About 3 miles south of the Siltoos, look for a trailhead sign in the foredune; it leads inland 1 mile to Oregon Dunes Day Use Area (Hike 76), which doesn’t offer a hiker anything but a flush toilet and potable water. You’ll see another trailhead sign 1.5 miles farther—part of the Hike 76 loop. Follow it inland a short distance to a nice little campsite on the right just above Tahkenitch Creek, or go a little further, up and over a "tree island," to an oxbow in the creek (in the photo; enticing, huh?); you can cross the creek and camp in the oxbow.

Continuing south from Tahkenitch Creek, it’s another 4.5 miles to the end of Sparrow Park Road and Threemile Creek (easily waded), where there are frequently people (car) camping. The Umpqua River's North Jetty 5.25 miles farther.

I know of no boat ferry service across the mouth of the Umpqua. I took my chances and hiked to the lonely end of the north spit, then followed first a sand road and then the beach inside the rock jetty about 1 mile to a sandy cove (25 miles) and was able to flag a boat for a short ride to the marina at Winchester Bay, just 0.25 mile across the water. You might be able to prearrange a ride by calling Winchester Bay RV Resort at 541/271-3407 and inquiring about options (I have not tried calling them). The sandy cove is apparently a popular boaters' campside on Fourth of July weekend and perhaps other times, but it was quite deserted when I was there on a gloomy midweek morning in midsummer. You should have more luck flagging someone down on a weekend. If you don't want to chance it, turn inland at Sparrow Park Road and follow the main road (avoiding spur routes) east 4 miles to U.S. 101, then follow the highway south through Gardiner and Reedsport to Winchester Bay—a long walk, and one I wouldn't recommend.

WHERE TO SLEEP: Not at Honeyman State Park, which has a hiker-biker camp but which is not easily accessible from the beach (you could bushwhack across the dunes, but there’s no direct trail). Camp on the beach or in one of the developed Forest Service campgrounds clustered at the mouth of the Siltcoos (see map, Hike 70); Driftwood II, catering to ATV enthusiasts, tends to be loud. For primitive camping, see notes above for campsites along Tahkenitch Creek. Also, about 1.5 miles south of the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek, look for a trail post in the dunes; from here, a footpath and posts mark the way 0.5 mile inland to the north end of Threemile Lake and a lovely primitive campsite perched at the forest's edge (Hike 79). For developed camping near Winchester Bay, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is about a 1-mile detour off the OCT route just south of Winchester Bay. Tent camping may be an option at the county's Windy Cove Park (catering to RVs). There are motels and other lodging here as well (www.reedsportcc.org.) But this is an ideal stretch for primitive camping.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mile 190.3 to Mile 207.3: Washburne State Park to Florence

Notations such as “(Hike 62)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

The last post got you to US 101 at the Hobbit Beach trailhead, 1.2 miles south of the entrance road to Washburne State Park. Now pick up the lighthouse trail (Hike 62), at the trail junction just steps west of the highway as you’re heading toward Hobbit Beach, and follow it south 1.5 miles over Heceta Head to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, then down 0.5 mile past the keepers' quarters to the beach at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint (toilets, no water). Take the park road back up to US 101 and follow the narrow highway shoulder south through a very narrow highway tunnel (I hitched a ride through the tunnel to avoid tangling with motor homes in that narrow space; at least wait until the coast is quite clear, and make sure you are visible to cars coming up behind you). Continue walking alongside the highway .7 miles to Sea Lion Caves and 1.8 more to the point just beyond milepost 181 and the sign for the Southview housing development where railroad-tie steps lead down the hill below the guardrail. The trail continues as a mowed path that zigzags 0.2 mile down to the beach (5.4 miles).

The broad beach stretches south from here, seemingly forever; other than a couple of significant river crossings, you’ll pretty much be on the beach for the next three days or so. So start walking, wading first Berry Creek and then Sutton Creek (easy in summer and fall). It is 6 miles to the north jetty of the Siuslaw River (11.4 miles). There is no hikers' ferry service here, nor any good place to be picked up and dropped off near the mouth of the river. You may need to stock up on groceries in town anyway, for the long walk down the dunes.

So head off the beach at the jetty, then pick up North Jetty Road, following it 1.3 miles to Rhododendron Drive; Harbor Vista County Park is on the right just before you reach Rhododendron Drive. Walk south on Rhododendron Drive to the intersection with US 101 in 3.9 miles. Across the road and slightly north is a shopping center with a big grocery store and other services. To the south and just upriver of the bridge is the Old Town bay front with lots of shops and restaurants. If you’ve no interest in stopping and shopping in Florence, continue on US 101 south 0.4 mile from Rhododendron Drive to the start of the bridge over the Siuslaw (17 miles). If you want to skip all the road walking (there’s more to come), try calling a cab in Florence to drive you from the north jetty to the south jetty (see next post).

You have many options for overnighting in this section; I’ll list them north to south.

You could bivouac on the beach or dunes just below Heceta Head, though it’s not very remote. (I think there are vault toilets at the Baker Beach parking area, a short hike inland from the beach south of Berry Creek, see Hike 63.)

There is also a Forest Service campground with toilets/water and developed campsites on Sutton Creek; see map and narrative for Hike 67 to get there from the beach. (For just a pit stop, the day use area at Sutton Beach has toilets; not sure about water. You'll need to wade the creek, as my friends are doing at right, unless there happens to be a downed log in just the right spot.)
Driftwood Shores, a large condo complex and the only oceanfront lodging for many miles, is just off the beach 1.25 miles north of the north jetty.

Harbor Vista County Park, mentioned above, has developed campsites.

And then there’s the Port of Siuslaw RV Park Marina at the end of Old Town in Florence (www.portofsiuslaw.com), which has tent sites. Not remote in the least, but it’s  cheap, has showers, and is a short walk from a number of restaurants where you can celebrate having about reached the halfway point on the OCT!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mile 174.4 to Mile 190.3: Yachats to Washburne State Park

Notations such as “(Hike 50)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

After Yachats, southbound OCT hikers enter a stretch of coastline characterized by a couple of rocky headlands, which means some nice forest trails—and some highway walking, though not too much. Once you get to the other side of Heceta Head you will have no shortage of uninterrupted beach to walk on. For days.

From the end of the Yachats 804 trail, follow US 101 south over the Yachats River bridge and immediately turn right on Yachats Ocean Road and follow it for a mile, until it loops back to US 101. Pick up the little path parallel to the highway’s west shoulder, following it south 0.4 mile as it crosses a little footbridge and  then crosses the highway at Windy Way and continues south on the east side of US 101, a total of 0.4 miles, to the bottom of Amanda's Trail, in photo at right (Hike 50). Follow the trail up Cape Perpetua 2.2 miles (fairly steep for the first 1.5 miles) to a junction; go right and right again to reach the stone shelter and viewpoint at the top of Cape Perpetua (4.1 miles).
Continue through the shelter on the path to where it meets St. Perpetua Trail (Hike 51) and follow it 1.5 miles down the south side of Cape Perpetua to the interpretive center (toilets/water). The OCT resumes as a path parallel and just west of the entrance road; shortly it crosses that road and continues south, just above the highway, crossing Gwynn Creek after 1 mile and ending at a gravel road leading east to Cummins Creek Trail; take it west 0.1 mile to U.S. Highway 101 (7 miles). Now you’re back on the highway shoulder for about 1.5 miles to Bob Creek and perhaps another 0.6 mile or so until you can find a way to squeeze between houses and get back to the beach. You get about 0.7 miles on the beach until you wade across Tenmile Creek and, just beyond it, must return to the highway at Stonefield Beach Wayside (10 miles). Walk the highway shoulder for 2.8 miles to Rock Creek, where the Forest Service has a small (15 sites) campground with potable water and vault toilets (see below). Cross the creek and follow a little trail down to the beach, continuing south for 1.1 miles to China Creek (13.9).

If you want to continue hiking at this point, cross China Creek and go about 1.7 miles more; approaching Heceta Head (photo at left), watch for an OCT trail post in the brush at the edge of the beach; it's the end of the Hobbit Trail (Hike 60), which leads out to US 101 and the start of the southbound lighthouse trail (Hike 62).

 If, at China Creek, you're ready to call it a day, cross the creek and pick up the asphalt path that starts just over the foredune; it leads 0.5 mile to Washburne State Park, which has a hiker-biker camp. When you’re ready to resume your trek, pick up China Creek Trail (Hike 61) at the south end of the park and walk it 1.6 miles to US 101, Cross the highway to pick up the southbound lighthouse trail (Hike 62).

Rock Creek Campground is typically open from mid-May to mid-September; it’s quiet and small, with no RV hook-ups. Sites may be reserved in advance, so it’s possible it will be booked up when you arrive (there is no hiker-biker camp).  There are a few motels scattered along the highway in this stretch.