Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cape Falcon

The first week of August was a scorcher.  Temps in Portland rose above 100 degrees every day, extremely unusual for this part of Oregon.  The kicker came when Thursday's high hit 105, close to Portland's all-time record.  Enough!  On Friday I decided to escape this inferno with a hike on the cool Oregon coast.

Lush coastal forest

When things heat up in the Willamette River Valley, Portlanders head to the ocean beaches to get relief.  When I pulled into the Oswald West State Park's huge lot that Friday morning, it was a pleasant, foggy 58 degrees.  Heaven!

Fireweed blooming on the beach

There's a few trail choices here, but I decided my hike today would explore Cape Falcon's rugged headlands.

 Short Sand BeachS

After getting my stuff together, I shouldered my pack, crossed under Hwy 101, and followed the path through a lovely uber-green coastal forest of huge spruce trees.  Quite a few surfers joined me on the trail, lugging surfboards and wetsuits.  A half mile later I came upon Short Sand Beach's picturesque cove.

Fireweed along the beach

Although foggy here at the beach, it was lovely nonetheless.  I lingered for several minutes, watching the waves crash on shore and photographing a huge patch of surprise fireweed blooms.

This way to the trail

Then I located a marker for the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT).  My plan was to follow this trail northward to Cape Falcon, and possibly beyond.

Foggy Cape Falcon from Short Sand Beach

From the beach, the OCT's windy path charged upward through lush woods.  Anything but smooth, this first climb forced hikers to navigate over large, bumpy tree roots.

Look out for the tree roots!

I was enjoying the cool, foggy conditions.  I was even comfortable in a long-sleeve shirt!  It seemed like ages since it had been chilly enough to don layers.  Perfect hiking weather.

More trail signs

Oh, how I love coastal forests!  The tall spruce trees, with giant trunks.  The moss draped over their branches, like an old man's beard.  The lush trailside ferns covering the forest floor.

Uber-green forest

There must've been moisture in that heavy fog, as I noticed all the vegetation was covered in misty water droplets.  After so many dry weeks without even a hint of rain, it was a welcome sight!  I didn't even mind that my arms and pant legs got wet shimmying through some of the brushier portions of the trail.

Dewdrops on the leaves

And the dewdrops on nearby leaves and flowers made for fantastic photo ops.

Fireweed bloom sparkling with dew

After two miles of winding along the steep cliffside trail with occasional ocean glimpses through the trees, I came to the trail junction for Cape Falcon itself.  A short trail through a huge field of salal bushes led me to the tip of the headland.

Cape Falcon headland

Lucky for me, the fog retreated upon my arrival.  I was able to enjoy clear views of the craggy rocks and crashing waves below.  Seabirds flitted in and out of the rocky point.  A golden colored slope showed remnants of what appeared to have been an impressive white daisy bloom.  I was about a week too late.

Small cove barely visible through the fog

After a snack and many photos, I decided to continue northward on the OCT.  For the next mile, the trail rounded another scenic cove, visible from occasional viewpoints through the thick forest.  About then the fog decided to roll back in, slowly obscuring cliffs and beaches.

Salal berries

From the final foggy viewpoint, the trail then turned inland, climbing steadily through the woods.  The undergrowth became thicker and began to intrude onto the path.  I also started to encounter lots of blown down trees, requiring scrambling skills to scale over or under.  And of course, everything was covered with dew.

Foggy forest

Although the foggy forest was beautiful, my arms and legs were starting to get soaking wet.  When I stopped, my body became chilled.  Tired of crashing through damp underbrush, I decided it was time to turn around.

Lots of moss!

As I retraced my steps back through the woods, the fog became thicker.

Huge spruce trees in a row

Made for some great photos in the forest, but not so great for capturing shots of the ocean viewpoints.

Another hidden cove

Passing back by the Cape Falcon headland, I decided to check out the views again.  But now the entire headland was shrouded in fog and you couldn't even see the ocean below.  Glad I took so many photos the first time around!

Short Sand Beach through the trees

I'd started my hike fairly early in the morning, and had the trail nearly to myself on the trip in.  But on the return, as I came closer to the trailhead, I encountered more and more people.  It seemed everyone in Portland had woke up and decided to head to Cape Falcon.  I judged my distance from the trailhead by the people's footwear, and when I began to see flip-flops, I knew it was close.

Lots more people here now!

Now Short Sand Beach was packed with people.  Glad I'd spent some time photographing in early morning when it was nearly empty.  I looked back towards fog-covered Cape Lookout one final time before trekking up the trail to my car.

I'm glad Oregon has these refreshingly cool ocean beaches to escape to when things heat up in town.  The best way to spend a hot summer's day!

Stats:  7.5 miles, 800 feet elevation gain.


  1. You found the perfect place to beat the heat. Love this area so much, especially when it's foggy.
    Great post!

  2. ...what a gorgeous series of images!

  3. What a beautiful trail. I love the combination of forest and sea. Wow!

  4. Another nice series- especially like the first - lovely scene

  5. Thanks for taking me back to the lovely OR coast! Isn't it nice to start a hike early enough to practically have the trail to yourself?! You are fortunate to have an easy escape from the heat.

  6. Hello, the Oregon coastline is beautiful. Even in the foggy weather and rain. The hike looks great, beautiful trees and I love the ferns. It looks like a great decision to avoid the heat and head for the beach. Great hike and photos. Have a happy day!

  7. Beautiful photo's, can't wait to get back there!!!

  8. What a perfect hike for a hot summer day. I love foggy days at the beach, and love this series of photos.

  9. Beautiful hike especially when you're escaping the heat.

  10. Absolutely gorgeous, all of it, including the misty ones. I just love the pictures you take, Linda. :-)

  11. Looks a lovely coastline. Records are being smashed all over the world practically every year at the moment for lack of Arctic ice sheets,rain, flooding or heat. Never knew until recently USA hurricanes start in the Sahara desert which is getting hotter and expanding. A change is as good as a rest my mum used to say :o)

  12. Fantastic scenery and photos. But you can keep that heat - we haven't hit 90 at my house this summer and that's the way I like it.

  13. Looks spectacular to me! We really must try to get out and see the Oregon coast someday!

  14. Lovely photos, I am glad you escaped the heat if only for a little while:)

  15. Nice to be able to escape the heat with a cool coastal and forest hike.

  16. Very pleasant post. - I loved the Foggy Shots of the Coves, makes them look so mysterious.

  17. What a contrast in temperatures. Our coastal trees so very different to ours. Loved the mist and moss.

  18. Beautiful beaches! I just learned of the OCT from another blog. It looks interesting.

  19. Way to beat the heat, Linda. Is it smoky by you now? I hate to think of that beautiful landscape burning! It snowed a bit here yesterday - luckily it melted immediately!

    1. Hi Barb, yes we've had some really smoky days. Yesterday it was really bad but we finally got some rain today and it's cleared things up.

  20. You are such a blessed lady to live within driving distance of all this gorgeous scenery.

  21. What a beautiful hike you took! I love the dark colors of the growth, and the fog was even pretty to me ;-)


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