Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mile 118.4 to Mile 127.4: Cascade Head to Siletz Bay

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

The route of the OCT from the south side of Cascade Head to Lincoln City is somewhat in play and will change in the next couple of years. There is the ideal route (not possible now, or maybe ever, due to private land management issues), the second-best alternative route (not yet built), and the too-much-highway-walking route (the only current option).

Let’s start with the current reality. Beginning where Three Rocks Road meets U.S. 101 on the south side of Cascade Head, walk south along US 101 for 3.8 miles, crossing the Salmon River, and leave the highway at the north end of Lincoln City on NW 40th Street, following signs west to Chinook Winds Resort and to a beach access site (4.1 miles). Head south on the beach about 2 miles to the mouth of the D River (easy to wade) and continue another 2.7 miles to the mouth of Siletz Bay (8.7 miles). If you plan to camp at Devil's Lake State Park (my least favorite coastal hiker-biker camp; see below), leave the beach at the D River, cross U.S. 101 to NE First Avenue, and pick up the boardwalk trail leading north a short distance into the state park.

If this section and the previous one have just too much highway walking for your taste, consider calling a cab (several taxi companies in Lincoln City) or taking the bus ( from Neskowin to the north end of Lincoln City (four southbound trips a day at this writing).

The Second-Best Future Alternative Route: The U.S. Forest Service, which manages a chunk of land south of the Salmon River, plans to build (in summer 2014) an informational kiosk on the south side of the Salmon River describing the work done to preserve and rehabilitate and study the forest on Cascade Head and the wetlands along the river. From there they hope, in the next few years, to build a trail that will lead up through the forested headland west of here and connect with public land owned by the City of Lincoln City, then to neighborhood roads leading down to beach access in the community of Road’s End, giving hikers more beach time and cutting off 2.8 mile of highway shoulder misery.  But that trail doesn’t yet exist.

The In-My-Dreams Ideal Route: That would be to hitch a ride across the Salmon River from Knight Boat Landing on Three Rocks Road, walk the beach along the river to the ocean, and cut over the headland using existing trails through the Camp Westwind property to link with existing Forest Service trails and, ultimately, beach access at Road’s End. This route, which would completely bypass Highway 101, would be the most expedient, most scenic, most convenient, most beachy, and safest route and would require no new trail construction. But the owners of the Camp Westwind property have, historically, been unwilling to let hikers on their land, especially in summer, while camp is in session. So it’s back to the highway for OCT hikers for the foreseeable future.

Regarding overnighting, Devils Lake State Park is very convenient to the beach, but it's noisy, and the hiker-biker camp is not great (right next to the campground entrance); I camped here but opted for a more expensive but quieter campsite closer to the lake (where I met Radler the dog, pictured at top). There are plenty of hotels and motels in Lincoln City. At the north end of Lincoln City, where you leave US 101 to rejoin the beach, there's a huge shopping mall where you can buy groceries or get a meal. There are more restaurants and cafes clustered around beach access at the D River and at Siletz Bay (in photo), where the beach ends.

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