We camped for three nights at Cape Blanco State Park and, given the location, considered ourselves lucky with the weather: blue skies and balmily warm the first day; the wind picked up on the second and things had to be battened down; by the afternoon of the third day, one of those summer fogs amassed offshore and we were wandering about in a swirling cloud. One mile away (inland), the skies were bright and cerulean.
1. Cape Blanco
We walked the south beach to the Elk River, and then up the bluff to the lighthouse, stopping to admire Needle Rock, a stranded beach stack that hosts cascading clumps of monkey flower and roosting cormorants. Cape Blanco is Oregon’s westernmost point on the mainland and the site of one of the state’s 12 lighthouses: this one was constructed in 1870. The Cape is also the first documented part of Oregon recorded in European exploration: in 1603, Martín de Aguilar, part of a Spanish expedition, sighted the headland and named it for its light-colored 200-foot cliffs. The lighthouse is about as close as you’ll get to that western point, as the end of the headland is part of a Coast Guard Reserve, not in the state park, and out of bounds to the public. Offshore are the rocks of the Blanco Reef, of which N W Rock (Yep, that’s its name) is Oregon’s actual westernmost point.
2. Grassy Knob
The old growth forests of the Grassy Knob Wilderness were slated for logging in the early 1980s, a move that stirred wilderness activists who wanted to protect the pristine salmon runs of Dry Creek and stands of massive (and disease-free) old-growth Port Orford cedar in this rugged roadless area. The U.S. Forest Service Powers District ranger, Herb Wick, actually authorized the construction of a road past the Grassy Knob Lookout site and into the heart of the area in order to prevent the wilderness designation. His action had the opposite effect, and the Grassy Knob Wilderness, initially opposed by such luminaries as Senator Mark Hatfield, was included in the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act. An account of the Grassy Knob saga by one of the principals, Jim Rogers, can be read here:
http://www.kalmiopsisaudubon.org/docs/A ... Rogers.pdf
The road to the wilderness passes through private timberland with the last two miles being on national forest land. These two miles of gravel strip require a modicum of clearance, and in places there is grass two feet high growing in the middle. You begin the hike on Herb Wick’s snit road (which is not in the wilderness, by the way), and it is only the last couple hundred yards where you hike up through a tanoak wood to the old lookout site when you are truly inside the wilderness itself. Anvil Mountain, also in the wilderness, is just to the south, and the Pacific Ocean can be viewed to the west through a screen of manzanita, tanoak, madrone, and silk tassel shrubbery. I identified two very youthful Port Orford cedars on the Herb Wick road, but to see the true giants, you’d have to bushwhack your way down steep slopes towards Dry Creek.
3. Port Orford Heads
This is a delightful stroll around a convoluted 250-foot-high headland on the site of a former lifeboat operation, one of nine on the Oregon coast. This one operated from 1934 to 1970. The self-righting lifeboats, housed in Nellie’s Cove, were designed to go out in all kinds of weather to assist vessels in distress, rescue crews, and salvage cargo. From 1970 to 1976, the station was used by Oregon State University for marine research projects, after which it became part of the Oregon state parks system. The trails lead to a view over Nellie’s Cove, where the breakwater remains, and then to the site of the observation tower with views south to Redfish Rocks and Humbug Mountain. From there, a short trail leads out to a northern headland with a view north to Cape Blanco and the rocky islets of the Blanco Reef out at sea.
4. Barklow Mountain
Tina elected to stay in camp for the afternoon and finish her novel about a tourist who rents a bulldozer to drive around Italy (a most appropriate choice, I would say), while I chose to tackle yet another coastal wilderness, the Copper Salmon, named after two peaks within its boundaries. The drive out to the Barklow Mountain West Trailhead is half the fun: first along the paved but narrow and sometimes slumping Elk River Road, and then a long wind up the gravel track of FR 5201 from Butler Bar. Both roads experience considerable rockfall, so it’s best to wait until the dry summer months to attempt this approach. Across the Elk River were the steep, mixed forest slopes of the Grassy Knob Wilderness, and driving up Butler Creek, I passed between it and the Copper Salmon. While driving along the northern boundary, I saw a spotted owl flap across the road and settle in a conifer to pose for a grainy photo. FR 5201 also cultivates long grass between the tire tracks and, at one point, is hacked out of the side of a cliff. The Barklow West Trailhead is well-marked, however, for such a remote and little visited destination.
Barklow Mountain, at 3,579 feet, is the highest peak in the wilderness, and the western approach leads you through alternate bands of tanoak and old growth Douglas-fir. Breaks in the trees offer views west to Star Mountain and the ocean. Once at the ridge, I found a trail dent leading to the now collapsed Barklow Trail Shelter, with the remains of a wood stove scattered nearby. Heading up to the summit, I got views south to Copper Mountain and the North Fork Elk Creek. The first fire lookout here, an L-5 cab, was constructed in 1933. It was replaced in 1955 and, strangely, that cab lookout still exists: the entire structure was transported by helicopter in 1974 to become the Lake of the Woods Lookout!
5. Humbug Mountain
Every time I have driven past Humbug Mountain in the past, I touted to my family members the fact that this is the highest prominence in Oregon, at 1,756 feet, that rises straight up from the ocean. They had always refused my offer to hike with them to the top. This time I was able to escape of an early morning and head up through the lovely myrtle grove at the beginning of the trail. Higher up there are big old-growth Douglas-firs and tanoak woods. I took the West Trail up: this route was constructed by the CCC but was wiped out by the 1962 Columbus Day storm. It was only restored in 1993. In the intervening years, the East Trail, my descent route, was laid out. There are few views from the trail, and the summit offers only glimpses through the trees of the long coastline running south; however, the shady old-growth mixed forest is ample compensation.
Humbug Mountain had been called Sugarloaf Mountain, but the current name comes from the "Bah, humbugging" of a certain Captain William Tichenor, the founding father of Port Orford in 1851. Tichenor's goal was to establish a trading post to engage in commerce with the local tribes and use Port Orford as a base for exploring the Rogue River gold fields. Instead, his party killed a number of Indians and, as part of their quest for gold, they ascended the steep, dense shrubbery of Humbug Mountain (poison oak at the bottom and lots of salmonberry) to get views east to the promised land but found only a vista west to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
6. Bandon Beach
We walked down the beach from Bandon’s South Jetty with the wind at our backs: turn around and you got a faceful of sand. Bandon’s dozens of stacks, both on the beach and offshore, and rocky islets form a stunning array of natural sculptures with names like Face Rock, Cat and Kittens Rocks, Wash Rock, and Five Foot Rock. These formations, in Bandon's case dating to the Jurassic, are known to geologists as "knockers", the remnants of various types of "hard" rock exposed after the sandstone and mudstone around them has been eroded away. Most of the beachgoers on that day were huddled in the lee of the beach stacks to escape the sandy blasts. We walked around Coquille Point, actually a mainland part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and then south past Grave Point. Then it was a stretch of beach south to Haystack Rock, as the afternoon fog closed in, to exit at the Devils Kitchen and walk back to town along the loop road.
7. Lake Marie
On the drive home, we stopped at Lake Marie for a leg-stretching break, and strolled around this little gem in the Oregon Dunes. We did walk out of the woods to the dunes themselves, but this area is used by ATVs, so we paused for a quick look only. Nearby is the Umpqua River Lighthouse, with a view to the site of Oregon’s first lighthouse (1857) at the mouth of the Umpqua River. The light was moved to its current location on a bluff in 1891, but is part of a Coast Guard Reservation, so you can only look from outside the fence.
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You covered a lot of ground in this well written and informative trip report highlighted by your wonderful photos and lots of interesting historical background. Just like your contributions to the OH online field guide your descriptions are quality material that you should compile into a book one of these days. Good read.
Thx a heap, --Paul
Thx a heap, --Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.
Very nice TR! We'll be heading to Cape Blanco in early Oct, after the summer crowds relent. Thanks for including the Grassy Knob history. I'd heard stories about how that road got as far into the wilderness as it did and this fills in some of the details. Bill Sullivan also tells part of the story in his 1988 Listening for Coyote (pg. 29). He also recounts how he bushwhacked through that wilderness to the Elk River - apparently a beautiful hike but not an easy (or particularly fun) one!