I made a day of it at the coast on Sunday and walked all the main trails in Cape Lookout State Park (North Trail, Cape Trail, South Trail), a total of about 13.6 miles. I parked at the day-use area and went out to the bluff to get a view of Cape Lookout thrusting imperiously into a relatively calm ocean. Then, I hiked up the North Trail into a lovely coastal woodland of Sitka spruce festooned with leathery polypody ferns. There’s a viewpoint looking north across Netarts Spit to Oceanside, Maxwell Point, and Three Arch Rocks. The trail now takes a higher alignment than the original tread, so there is no longer a clear view of Sphinx Island. Then I dropped into the lush gully carved by Cape Creek before switchbacking up among more large spruce to the parking area at the top of the cape.
The well-traveled Cape Trail heads out along the Cape Lookout peninsula through thickets of salal, sword fern, red and evergreen huckleberry, salmonberry, and lichen-draped spruce. Soon, I passed the memorial plaque for the World War II airmen who died when a B-17 bomber on a training run smacked into the south side of the cape. Here’s a link to an article from the Salem Statesman-Journal written upon the death, in 2009, of the only survivor to that crash. The trail is as soggy as ever, but wooden palettes and boardwalks mitigate some of the squelching. The route drops to a notch and then rises before heading along the vegetated cliffs on the south side. It was a glorious day and the views south took in the Sand Lake area, Cascade Head, and Cape Foulweather.
Eventually, I reached the cabled off viewpoint on a cliff edge, about 400 feet above ocean waves crashing against the rocks below. I was hoping for a whale or two, but saw none. A couple of sea lions were lollygagging about in the swells, and there were several surf scoters. A few years ago, on my last visit here, I was fortunate to observe several whales close in, a group of sea lions, a pod of dolphins, and whole rafts of seabirds (murres, gulls, etc.). That day the sky was dull and the seas were rough under a steady drizzle. My sunny Sunday yielded much less.
Returning along the Cape Trail, I encountered legions of midday hikers taking the plunge. Near the parking area, I headed down the South Trail, which makes a number of very gradual switchbacks (too gradual for some, as there are a lot of shortcuts) in younger spruce woods to turn above the Cub Scouts’ Camp Clark and then drop steeply to the secluded beach which runs four miles from the base of Cape Lookout to Sand Lake (The last two miles of the beach are open to vehicles, but I didn’t see or hear any on Sunday).
The tide was well out by the time I sat down for lunch, and I did a little exploring of some tide pools. It was also a chance to admire the basalt cliffs of Cape Lookout, with some columnar and some pillow lavas. The Cape, like other promontories on the north coast is a tongue of lava from the Columbia River basalts, Grande Ronde formation, which reached the ocean about 15 million years ago.
After some basking on the beach, I headed back up. By the time I left the beach, there were four paragliders suspended high above Cape Lookout. I took the North Trail back down to the day-use area and walked along the beach a little. The soft sedimentary layers abutting the hard basalts of the cape are eroding at a much faster rate and this has affected some of the facilities at the state park. When the tide is out, the beach is a smooth expanse 60 yards wide, but the incoming tides daily chew away at the bluffs all along the spit here.
Finally, here is a salacious little gallery of private parts (mature adults only):
Now blooming: woods violet, salmonberry, red alder, western trillium, skunk-cabbage, evergreen huckleberry + six non-native species.
Creatures observed: sea lions, surf scoters, gulls of various persuasions, bald eagle, peregrine falcon near its nest, ravens.
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
3 posts • Page 1 of 1