Tuesday, July 31, 2018

University Falls

Time to play catch up!

I've been hiking lots over the past couple of months, exploring many beautiful "new to me" trails around home.  Hopefully I'll be able to share some of these adventures without getting too far behind (but no guarantees!)

Spring forest

When my kids were little I used to have a tradition of taking the family hiking on Mother's Day.  However, now that both kids are grown and moved away, the past few Mother's Days have been spent hiking by myself (or doing other things).  So when my daughter offered to visit the weekend before M-day and accompany me on the activity of my choice, you know what I decided to do.

Not a pretty trailhead

University Falls Trail in the Oregon Coast Range was a hike that'd been on my radar for a few years.  A mere 40-minute drive from home, with the advantage of avoiding Portland and it's congested freeways to get there!  It was a nice 8-mile forested loop, plus I'd heard the waterfall was quite striking.

Devils Lake Fork of the Wilson River

Armed with instructions from a 10-year old hiking book, my daughter and I set out one warm morning in early May.  After locating the designated parking area, we wandered along the shoulder of Hwy 6 with traffic whizzing by, trying to find the trailhead.  (Yes, sometimes it's not good to rely on old directions.)  We finally stumbled upon a gravel access road leading to an off-road vehicle staging area.  A nearby sign announced the Gravelle Brothers Trail, which according to the guidebook was our return route.  But since the designated trailhead was not apparent, my daughter and I made a snap decision to hike the loop in reverse.

My daughter on the footbridge

Although the first portion of our path led around an ugly highway maintenance yard, it soon dived into a lovely forest, full of newly-unfurled green leaves.  A mile later we crossed the scenic Devils Lake Fork of the Wilson River via a sturdy wooden footbridge.

Bleeding heart flowers were everywhere!

On the other side our path was lined with hundreds of bleeding heart flowers.  Their cheery pink colors  brightened the forest and made a steep climb out of the creek's drainage much more bearable.

Old, gnarled trees

We then entered an older forest, full of large, mossy trees.  Vegetation grew thick here, shading the sunny sky.  The forest floor was carpeted with bright green oxalis.

This tree was covered with moss

Oregon's coast range is far from pristine wilderness.  Heavily logged for years, it's become a playground for hunters, target shooters, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts.  So it shouldn't have been a surprise when the trail opened up to cross a huge clear cut.  But it was quite alarming just the same.  Not a happy sight to see when your goal is to get up close with Nature.

The trail went through this ugly clearcut

Past the ugly clear cut, we plunged back into the cool green forest.  Another half mile had us descending again along another creek.  We began to hear rushing water.  A cute homemade sign at the trail junction informed us we'd arrived at our destination.

We reach the falls!

University Falls was indeed a lovely cascade!  Spilling 100 feet from it's source, the water tumbled down a basalt cliff, fanning out as it hit the rocky surface.

University Falls was prettier than I expected

My daughter enjoyed a quick rest and snack, while I prowled around with my camera, attempting to capture the beauty.  Although I didn't bring my tripod, a few of my hand held shots didn't turn out too badly.

Salmonberry flower

Of course, sometimes it's fun to capture a waterfall using fast shutter speeds too.

One final falls photo

My daughter and I finally tore ourselves away from the beauty, and headed back to the junction.  We still had quite a bit of trail to cover and couldn't stick around all day.  The loop's continuation climbed steeply up another hill before wandering through more thick forest.

Loved the homemade sign

Throughout our hike, my daughter insisted that I lead.  At first, I thought she was just letting me navigate (since I had the map), but after walking through several dozen spider webs and freaking out every time (much to my daughter's amusement) I realized she was really using me as a web-breaker.  Smart kid, huh?


Our trail frequently intersected with old logging roads, now used by off-roading vehicles.  We heard and saw a few trucks, atvs, and motorcycles roaring through the bumpy gravel.

Deyoe Creek view

After a quick snack break atop a forested knoll, our path descended through a few boggy patches until it was level with cute, burbling Deyoe Creek.

Skipping rocks

We scrambled down to it's banks to check out the water.  A picturesque slow-moving stream, Deyoe Creek was a perfect place to skip rocks and contemplate nature (and far enough away from roads to minimize motor vehicle noises).  My daughter spotted a small waterfall splashing down the nearby bank and jokingly dubbed it "High School Falls."

Lovely striped flower

The flowers were blooming here - trillium, yellow violets and an unknown beautiful pink striped bloom.

Another view of Deyoe Creek

We ended up missing a trail junction, so had to backtrack a bit, climbing steeply up the opposite side of Deyoe Creek (which my daughter didn't like at all) to reach our missed connection.


By now the early afternoon sun had warmed things up considerably.  Luckily, we passed through more nice shaded forest that kept the temps at bay.

Climbing high above the creek

With only a mile left to go, we both were tiring, and looking forward to a cold drink and shower at home.  However, our trail cruelly popped back out onto another clearcut, and this one was all uphill in the hot sun.

A hot uphill trek through another clear cut

Not a fun way to end a hike!  But we survived.  As a reward, a bunch of lovely pink flowering currant bushes adorned the top of the hill and gave us something to admire while catching our breath.

Currant flowers

Now climbing down a steep grade, our trail popped out onto the off-road vehicle parking lot, where, lo and behold, was the trailhead we'd been searching for that morning.  Oh well, hiking the loop in reverse had worked out just fine (except for that hot climb at the very end......)

Cell phone selfie

There's no better Mother's Day gift than spending time with your children!  So glad my daughter was able to visit, and better yet, willing to brave a hike with her old mom.

Stats:  8.5 miles, round trip, 1200 feet elevation gain

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Puppy Cuteness!

I'm a grandma!

Well, sort of....

All together now, awwwww!!

About a month ago, my daughter sent me a photo of a cute baby dog with the message "Got you a grandpuppy!"

Sprawled in the grass

She and her boyfriend had adopted a golden retriever puppy and named him Jack.  Last weekend I got to meet the fluffy bundle of energy in person.

Love his fluffy puppy fur

He was even more adorable than I imagined!  I loved his tiny ears and nose, soft puppy fur, and laughed at his large paws.

Jack looks cute when he runs

Jack was especially comical when he tried to run.  Looked like a gangly teenager.

Playing with "mom"

My daughter and her boyfriend are now experiencing the responsibilities that come with a new puppy.  The potty training, the chewing of everything, playtime to burn the endless amount of energy...... (good preparation for future children - wink, wink)

Adorable puppy eyes

Of course I had a grand time following Jack with my camera, attempting to capture his cuteness - when he sat still long enough!  (Which didn't happen often)

Soon he will be too big to fit in my daughter's lap

Although Jack's only about 25 pounds at 9 weeks, my daughter said he'll weigh 75-80 pounds full grown.  It won't be long before he doesn't fit in her lap anymore!

Jack loves chewing on water bottles

In an effort to keep Jack from chewing on everything in her house, my daughter purchased tons of dog toys.  What does he like the most?  Plastic water bottles!  And the little guy loves to sit in front of the refrigerator.  He's already figured out where the food comes from.

And he knows where the food comes from

I had a great time playing with my new "grandpuppy."  So much fun to have a dog around again.  But, as any grandparent will tell you, the best thing about "grands" is when the going gets messy or tough - you can give them back!  :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Morning Beach Walk

(Continuing the recap of my Southern Oregon Coast trip in late April....)

After a fine afternoon and evening exploring the beaches of lovely Bandon, Oregon, I awoke early the next morning, ready for more.

Flowers on the bluff

Sadly it was the last day of my Southern Oregon coast trip, and I was facing a long 5-hour drive home.  But I had one final morning and aimed to make the best of it.

Table Rock dotted with seabirds

I drove back to the beaches near Coquille Point, and parked at the terminus of a dead-end street.  A paved walking path connected here and led down to the beach.  From up on the bluff, I got a great view of flat-topped Table Rock, dotted with seabirds.

Close encounter of the feathery kind

As I wound my way down the switchbacking path, I came face to face with a bird sitting in the tall grass.  The little guy held still long enough for a couple of photos.

Scenic place to sit

Flowers were blooming along the side of the bluff.  Morning light illuminated them nicely.  I passed a well-placed bench.  What a great vantage to sit and watch the crashing waves!

Tidepool view

I hadn't paid attention to the tide tables, so was delighted to discover I'd arrived at low tide.  Instantly, I headed towards the rocks nearest the water.  Usually inundated, low tide had left their bases high and dry.

Open anemone

The receding water had exposed all kinds of interesting sea creatures.  Like these funny green, spiky anemone.


And seastars!  In bright orange and purple.

Seastar doing the splits

Some sort of disease had been killing off seastars along the West coast for the past few years, so I was happy to spot several clinging to the rock's undersides.  Hopefully this means they are making a comeback.

Lots of life hidden under the rocks!

When anemones are exposed to air, their spiky tops disappear and the entire body morphs into a long, green slimy tube.  They look like creatures from outer space!

Birds flying everywhere

At that early hour, I was pleased to find there weren't many people on the beach.  I did run into a lady with her dog, and we kept meeting at the same tidepools.  We'd point out interesting starfish and other finds to each other.

A seal!

After a few meetings, I again caught up to the lady.  She pointed out a seal sitting on a nearby rock.  Jazzed by such a find, I whipped out my camera and zoomed in as close as I could.  But I only managed two shots before her dog also made the discovery.  Off-leash, her dog ran towards the seal at top speed, barking loudly.  Of course, this spooked the seal who quickly slipped into the water and was gone.

Dramatic ocean views

I couldn't believe the lady didn't have the sense to restrain her dog!  That was the end of being friendly to her.  Shocked and disappointed, I distanced myself.  Looking back I probably should've said something.  I'm pretty sure allowing your dog to harass wildlife is against the law.

More tidepool life

I spent the next hour wandering around the tidepools, looking for more colorful creatures (and hoping the seal would return.  He didn't).

Lone seastar on the rocks

This section of coastline was so beautiful.  The offshore rocks created some impressive scenery.

Loved these sea stacks

The low tide enabled me to get much closer to the rocks that I ordinarily would.

Starfish buddies

After a couple of hours, the world began waking up, and more people began to appear on the beach. Solitude gone, I began having to wait for people to move out of my frame.

Lots of stuff to see

That, coupled with a growling stomach and chilly hands and feet (it was cold and windy out there!) made me decide it was time for breakfast at my favorite bakery, the Bandon Baking Company.  They make the best white chocolate chip cranberry cookies!  I ordered a breakfast burrito and a half dozen of those cookies (which were nearly gone by the time I arrived home).

One final view

Another wonderful long weekend on the Oregon coast!  I explored new territory and revisited a few old favorites.  Time to bid this area goodbye -  until next spring (if not sooner......)