|A multitude of trailhead signs|
A windswept, grassy headland just north of Lincoln City, Cascade Head is one of a handful of locations where the Cascde Head Catchfly and the threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly are found. Because of this ecological rarity, the Nature Conservancy maintains this area as an experimental forest and nature preserve. It's a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve.
|Breaking out of the woods|
What drew me to visit were several glowing descriptions of gorgeous wildflower summit meadows, as well as dramatic ocean views. Although several trails cross this 270-acre site, many are closed during winter and spring months to protect the endangered flora and fauna. So today my path of choice was accessed from the headland's southern side.
|The ocean in sight!|
The actual trailhead for this hike was beside a narrow gravel road, where parking is no longer allowed. Visitors must park at a nearby boat ramp, and follow a new, well-made trail along this road about half a mile. My foot, still a bit sore from this morning's deep sand trek, wasn't super happy about the road walk. But I soldiered on anyway, figuring it would loosen up once I got going.
|Leaving the forest behind|
At the old trailhead, things went vertical. A check of my hiking book confirmed I was in for a climb - 1100 feet in 1.7 miles. Realizing the elevation gain, I hoped my foot was up for the challenge.
|Lovely wide-open views|
The first part of the trail wasn't too exciting. An uphill slog through a boring forest, it didn't take long before I was sweating bullets and pulling off my long sleeve layer. In my backpack were three heavy camera lenses, that I now regretted carrying. More than once I asked myself if this was going to be worth it.
|The Salmon River Estuary|
A sunny February Sunday brings out people, and there was no shortage of company on this trail. I met lots of parties heading down, and pretty much everyone passed me on the way up. I was surprised by the number of dogs I saw (at least six) despite the numerous signs, both at the trailhead and several places along the way, specifically prohibiting dogs.
After nearly a mile of slogging, the forest suddenly opened up, and I was treated to my first view of the blue Pacific Ocean. And boy, was it dramatic! Water as far as the eye could see.
|Crashing waves below|
The path continued, cutting a deep track through a grassy plain. The higher it climbed, the better the views got. Southward, I began to see Roads End Beach, the Salmon River Estuary, and the town of Lincoln City. Before me, the land appeared to culminate in a sharp, green point.
|More ocean waves|
I took a water and snack break overlooking the green headland. Although a faint user trail meandered along it's apex, I was sure it wasn't an approved path. (Although I was tempted to go check it out!) Views to the north included a cute little cove, surrounded by steep cliffs. Despite what looked to be amazing views, I kept my distance from the edge.
|Peek-a-boo sea view|
A father and son joined my grassy perch. We had a pleasant conversation, while watching the waves crash at the base of the steep cliffs, far below. A lovely spot for a break!
|The higher I climb, the better the scenery|
But the summit was calling, so I packed up my snacks and continued to slog up Cascade Head's grassy slopes. With sunny skies and no shade, it didn't take much before temps heated up. I was climbing in a t-shirt, sweating buckets.....in February!
|Looking back down on the lower viewpoint|
By now, my foot was beginning to throb. My body, out of shape after three months of no exercise, was also protesting the uphill climb. I briefly considered turning around. After all, I still had to get myself back down this thing. I didn't want to damage my still-healing right foot, and the views were pretty good already. Was there anything to gain by going all the way to the top?
|The full panorama|
But.....I like summits. Once I've started on an uphill path, I hate to admit defeat by turning around short of my goal. So I ignored my body's complaints and kept going.
And, in the end I was glad I did. Finally atop the summit, resting in the grass, I relished the wonderful coast panorama I'd worked so hard for.
|I can see for miles|
Views were jaw-dropping! The entire coastline south spread out before my eyes. A large sandy beach at the Salmon River Estuary's mouth was front and center. I could see the entire town of Lincoln City. A blue Salmon River wound back towards the Coast Range. And of course, the Pacific Ocean spread beyond the western horizon.
The only disappointment was that I was too early for the wildflowers. Blooming in the summer months, the only vegetation I saw now was lots of green grass. (Don't get me wrong, it's always great to see green in winter.) I made a mental bookmark to return in July.
|Close up of Road's End Beach|
The return trip wasn't a lot of fun. Going downhill was hard on both feet, and by the time I finally reached the car, they were both sore and throbbing. I'd initially planned one more stop at the beach in Neskowin, but realizing I'd probably overdone it, instead headed for home.
No worries, my feet recovered just fine the following week. And now with this latest trip, I'd filled another gap in the Oregon Coast map. Not a bad way to spend a sunny winter's day!
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.