Friday, September 16, 2011

Cool on the Coast

The second week of September brought a late-summer heat wave into the Portland area.  When hot weather strikes, heat-intolerant Oregonians know there's but one thing to do - head for the coast.

Gigantic tree!

While it's scorching in the valley, the coast stays cool.  Temps can sometimes be as much as 30-40 degrees lower.  Oregon's ocean beaches are mother nature's air conditioner.

Glimpse of the beach through the forest

Last Sunday, temps in the high 90s were forecast for the Portland Metro area.  My friend Debbie and I had been trying to plan a hike together all summer, and this was the one day the planets aligned.  I really wanted to hike near Mt. St. Helens, but with the heat and no shade (no more trees around MSH!) it would be miserable.  Not wanting to cancel, I proposed  heading west to the sea.

Cape Falcon

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I hardly ever spend time on the coast.  I'm more of a mountain person.  So I wasn't familiar with any of the coastal trails.  In the end, Debbie and I poured over Sullivan's 100 Hikes on the Oregon Coast book, and selected Cape Falcon.  Not too far of a drive, and a hike through a coastal forest to a rocky headland sounded interesting.  At least we'd have some nice ocean views!

Beachside forest

Or so I thought....... The trailhead for this hike was at the parking area for Oswald West State Park.  The parking lot was huge!  Why did they need so many spaces?  This question was soon answered, as car after car pulled up, all with surfboards on strapped on top, or stuffed inside.  Our chosen trail would lead us past Short Sand Beach, a secluded beach in Smuggler Cove.  And as we found out, it's a favorite spot for surfers.

Trailside ocean view

From the trailhead, a short path led to the beach.  Debbie and I appeared to be the only hikers on the trail.  Everyone else was wearing a wetsuit and carrying a surfboard.  We mixed in with the surfer crowd and followed the steady stream of people heading down the path.  The forest here was delightful - enormous old fir trees, mossy alder, hemlock and cedar, and ferns everywhere.  A cute little creek burbled off to one side.

Foggy coastline view

We crossed a charming footbridge over the creek, and from the bridge a break in the forest gave us our first glimpse of the beach.  The sun was out, and the ocean sparkled blue.  Soon we were marching along the sandy shoreline of Short Sand Beach.  To the north, we could see the steep cliffs of Cape Falcon, its rocky promontory jutting out into the sea.  Our day's destination!

Debbie freezing in the wind as she waits for me to finish my photo-taking

The wind was blowing hard on the beach, and I pulled on a long sleeve top to ward off the chill.  Debbie bundled up in her jacket.  Thinking maybe things would warm up once we ducked into the forest, Debbie and I didn't linger long by the ocean.  A new trail awaited!  It was time to explore.

Foggy coastal forest

When we began our hike, I could see a low fog bank hanging over the top of Cape Falcon.  I didn't think much of it, but the further we traveled down the trail, the darker the light became.  At first I thought it was just due to dense undergrowth, but after the first mile, I noticed the fog was definitely rolling in.  The air began to get colder.

Debbie finds a bunch of mushrooms

We came upon a side trail that led out to a headland covered with salal bushes.  The salal was so high, it grew up above the trail, and formed a tunnel.  I stepped out into a super-windy clearing at the cape's edge.  On a clear day, I'm sure there's a stunning view of the ocean and rocky coastline.  But thanks to the fog, there was no view today.

I become a tree-hugger

The fog got thicker and thicker, and the wind and temperature got colder.  When we stopped for lunch, I zipped the legs back on my pants, and Debbie put on every shirt and coat she had.  We both thought it ironic that while our families were roasting in the 90-plus temps in Portland, we were shivering at the coast, piling on the clothing!

Another amazing view from the trail

Even with the less-than-perfect weather, I enjoyed our hike.  It was really interesting to explore a coastal trail.  The forest was amazing!  Some of the trees were absolutely gigantic.  I tried to capture them in photos, but the light wasn't the best, so many images turned out too dark.

The beach in fog

We returned to Short Sand Beach about mid-afternoon.  By now, it was crowded with people.  Despite the cool and windy weather, families were playing in the sand, and surfers were bobbing out in the waves.  We even saw one girl in a bikini!  We were still cold, and couldn't imagine why she wasn't.

Surfer dudes

It was great to hike somewhere different.  And it was wonderful to catch up with Debbie.  I've missed her companionship on hikes this summer.  I'm hoping our schedules will allow time for one more hike before winter comes.

And now we know where to go the next time a heat wave strikes Portland!


1 comment:

  1. Poor Debbie! But awesome photos... i love a foggy coast :)


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