New Years Day, which, yes, happened over a month ago, was spent hiking with my sister. It was a beautiful cold winter day – a perfect day for hiking along the Oregon coast. We hiked the Elk Flats Trail (EFT), a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), to Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park.
We started at the trail head and parking area (more like a gravel pullout) on Highway 101 where the OCT crosses the highway. On the east side of the highway, we could see the north Neah-Kah-Nie trail signs. We took the trail on the west side, traveling north through OWSP. As we began, we took a short detour to the Devil’s Cauldron Overlook (0.1 mile). Like I said, it was beautiful day – cool and clear – perfect for scenic stops. We then proceeded along the Elk Flats Trail (1.3 miles).
Reaching Short Sand Beach, or “Shorty’s” as called by locals, was a happy moment. I’m not a huge fan of destination hikes, there and back along the same trail, but reaching the beach made the idea worth it. As we approached, we caught glimpses of the beach while still winding through the beautiful coastal forest.
Despite being winter cold, there were still surfers and boogie boarders out enjoying the waves. Photographers were out. Families and groups of friends were hanging out. Happy dogs played with their equally happy people. No doubt about it, it was apparent that this little beach is a popular spot. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have like to walk the whole beach. From the end of the trail I could see a waterfall on the other side of the cove-like area. Maybe during my next visit, I might get a closer look!
If you’re going to hike the EFT, the southern trail head is not as easily found as the northern end. The next time I hike this portion I believe I’ll park my car at the Oswald West Parking lot and hike up along the EFT to highway 101 and then meander back down the trail. Oh, and the trail isn’t flat, despite any ideas from its name! The trail seemed to predominately slope down as we traveled northward. Thinking about hiking back to our car felt like a hike back up. It was rather rough and at times, muddy, along the trail.
We actually didn’t end up hiking back up the trail. Instead we power walked the mile along Highway 101. Stupid idea. Don’t do that. Give yourself enough daylight hours and wear shoes you’ve already worn in (my poor sister was got a blister) to hike to and from along the trail. Yes, it was quicker and slightly (0.3 miles) shorter, but there is no path to speak of and the cars speed by fast. I was quite shaken (literally shaking) by time we got back to the car. Not a good way to end a hike. The next one will be better!
Stumbling on an adventure. What a great way to start my new year! I am surprised that it is already two weeks into the year and yet, here I am only now sharing my discovery!
While I enjoy a good celebration, I am not a party animal. Going out with friends and strangers, staying out late to party in the New Year just doesn’t do anything for me. At the same time, I didn’t want to just sit home either. Boring!
So, December 30th – that last Saturday before – I was on the Internet looking into renting a State Park cabin or yurt for New Year’s Eve. No such luck. Every one within a couple hours drive from my house was booked. There were several open for Monday night… but! Low and behold! I came across a promotion called: First Day Hike.
Apparently across the U.S. on New Year’s Day select State Parks waive any parking or entry fees and offer free guided hikes with a Park Ranger. The First Day Hikes have been going on for seven years now and seem to be very popular.
After browsing the 22 listed here in Oregon, I decided on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It is “the first “rails-to-trails” linear state park built in Oregon” and follows the 22 miles of an abandoned train track between the small rural towns of Banks and Vernonia, with rail tracks now replaced with asphalt. The trail features a paved eight-foot wide trail for hikers and bicyclists along with a parallel gravel and woodchip horse trail.
The hiking group met at the Buxton Trailhead. At the picnic shelter Friends of the State Park had complimentary hot drinks, fruit and breakfast cookies. By 9 a.m. when the hike started, at least 60 people of all ages had gathered. (According to the State Parks stats, 75 people showed up!) The herd of us walked about a mile north into L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park. At couple of points along the way, Ranger Betsy stopped the group to show off points of interest and talk about what we were seeing in the forest.
After turning back, we walked a short distance south of where we started and crossed the Buxton Trestle. It is 700 feet long and runs 80 feet above Mendenhall Creek. Built in 1920, the over one hundred year old train trestle still stands on the original supports. The top portion was converted to a pedestrian bridge a number of years back. It was impressive! I was in awe that train conductors once had the nerve to drive a train across it. After going across with the group, I went back over the trestle again, it was that impressive.
The day was cold, but the sun shone and with layers, the walking warmed me right up. The forest was beautiful with the sun piercing the dense woods. The camaraderie among the hikers was great, and you could tell that Ranger Betsy and her assistants were enjoying the first day of 2018 as much as anyone else. I highly recommend looking to see if there is a First Day Hike in your area! It turned out to be a great way to kick start a new adventure year!
At the end of last month, the end of May, I spent a Sunday out at Henry Hagg Lake with a friend. With all the early warm weather we had here in Oregon, the park was busy with boaters, fishers, swimmers, hikers, dog walkers and those generally looking to enjoy the outdoors. It was such a nice warm day, with blue sky and everything.
Partly because I didn’t take many photos or explore the park much, I realized I failed to post and share the location. Instead of using my camera, I read a book, ate food and dozed in comfy camp chair, all while in the warm shade of an old large tree, within earshot of Scoggins Creek and the shrieks and laughter of the children playing in it.
The 1,113 acre man-made lake is part of the Washington County Parks system. Being out in the county, just outside of the towns of Forest Grove and Gaston, there is only one road in to the park, Highway 47. The day access cost is $6, which can be paid for at the Ranger’s station and self-serve kiosks as you enter the park. From there the road loops around the lake, with side roads taking you to various recreation spots and lake access points.
With the northern half of the lake designated a “No Wake Zone”, along with motorboats, many kayaks, canoes and SUPs share the lake. At the Sain Creek Recreation Area there is even a nice open beach area for swimming, which on that particular Sunday was a little on the crowded side. It was along the northern shore of the lake, at the Scoggins Creek Recreations Area, that my friend and I found our “chill” spot – right beneath the sprawling limbs of an old coniferous tree, by a sturdy all-season picnic table and benches. Despite the park being quite popular and well visited, I appreciated the layout of the recreation areas. They made it easy for a large number of people to be there and be able to enjoy their own space.
On the way home, we drove through Aloha, and that is where I got this shot
of Mount Hood. Looking at the photos later, I realized I really should have asked my friend to pull over so I could take a better shot and should not have taken it through the glass. (*sigh* Live and learn…) Nevertheless, Mount Hood was out and certainly breath-taking.