Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon 42 degrees F and raining with snow tonight
I feel rather lucky to think that the most I might have to deal with tonight are a few snow flurries amidst the rain. I have been keeping up the walking plan, logging between 10,000 and 17,000 steps per day. I have walked in rain and wind but so far haven’t had to walk in snow.
That blue pyramid in the distance on the left is Humbug Mountain from Cape Blanco
The best way to keep up a walking plan, however, is to spend a few days on the Oregon coast, driving short distances between campgrounds, setting up camp, and then exploring on foot. Often when we go to the coast, we have the kayaks, and spend much of our time finding fun places to launch the boats and explore by water. This time it was different, and I was delighted to enjoy the parks and trails at a slower pace, with a different perspective.
Our goal after spending one night near Bandon at Bullards Beach State Park, was Humbug Mountain State Park, just 69 miles south on Highway 101. Between our park destinations, however, was the mystical, magical world of Cape Blanco, written about with such beauty by the Cape Blanco lighthouse queen, Nina. Ah yes, I know there are other kings and queens at that lighthouse, many of them friends of Nina and Paul, but in my opinion, Nina still reigns supreme when it comes to writing about Cape Blanco.
I had never been out on the Cape, although Mo camped once at the state park campground and remembered most how very high above the ocean it is located. Not an easy walk to the beach, by any means. We drove the few miles from 101 toward the state park, and I must say, in spite of reading about it and seeing all the photos, I was surprised at the wild, remote beauty of Cape Blanco.
With the lighthouse closed since the end of October, we knew there would be no access, no great lighthouse tours, but it was still worth the beautiful walk up the road from the gate to the lighthouse. Looking in the windows of the little gift shop I knew that I really wanted to come back again sometime during “the season”, and take the tour.
The view from the headlands high over the ocean on all sides was magnificent. We hiked a bit of distance on a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail that is on the north side of the park road. Even with dark gray clouds and windy weather, the coastline was beautiful. Driving through the campground, I was surprised at the number of people tucked away into the very dark, very tree shrouded campsites. This is not a campground for someone who needs open skies and space. It is Northwest Forest rain country dark, and on this dark rainy day, I was glad I wasn’t camped there.
Continuing south toward Port Orford and just six miles beyond the little town to Humbug Mountain State Park, we arrived at the campground early enough to take the trail that leads under the highway to the small but lovely beach. The tide was in, so we couldn’t walk far toward the north before we were stopped by big waves and rocks.
Small but lovely beach at Humbug Mountain State Park
The biggest surprise of all was 4 bars on the phone and a strong Verizon signal on the iPad. Then, wonder of wonders, we got not only the major satellite channels, but our local channels as well. We settled in comfortably to site 44 without incident and with no neighbors. Chilly night, good food, internet, and TV. Can’t beat that combination nestled up in a cozy motorhome on the Oregon Coast.
l hoped the weather predictions for a sunny if chilly day to come were correct. Humbug Mountain looms above the campground, very nearly completely blocking the southern sky with its massive steep northern slope. We could see the mountain all the way from the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.
Humbug Mountain was created about 130 million years ago, when ocean arc islands collided, uplifting primordial mountains composed of mostly sandstone. The arc islands then collided with the North American continent, uplifting Humbug Mountain in the process. At 1,756 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest mountains in the Oregon Coast Range to rise directly from the ocean.
Our hike to the summit of Humbug Mountain began at sea level, and rose to that lofty elevation in just 3 miles in one direction and 2.5 miles in the other direction. The hike was 5.5 miles round trip, following the longer eastern route on the way up and the steeper and shorter western route on the way down.
I was so happy for a gorgeous, sunny day, even though the shadows on the northern slope of the mountain were long and dark. We hiked through ancient Douglas-fir old growth forests, with huge trees that showed deep fire scars at the base of their trunks. The views from the trail were few and far between thanks to the very thick forests, but a couple of times we could see to the east over the Coast Range, and as we descended from the summit, there was one spot where the entire coast lay before us.
With the curve north toward Port Orford, we could see Cape Blanco beyond in the distance, with the tiny lighthouse just visible in the brilliant sunlight. The view from the top of the mountain is rather nondescript, with trees blocking most of the view except for a brilliant patch of sun drenched ocean toward the south. We didn’t linger long at the summit, knowing we had that long downhill hike ahead of us.
As most hikers know, going up takes energy, but can be managed. Going down is an entirely different story, and even with my hiking poles, I was extremely glad to see the end of that trail. It seemed like we were suspended high above the highway for a very long time, and the switchbacks just kept on going.
Somehow this huge Douglas-fir fell UP the hill. Must have been one of those famous Oregon coast gales.
Our planned treat for the evening after our great hike was a trip to Port Orford for some fish and chips at the Crazy Norwegian. Sadly, the highly rated little cafe was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. With a recommendation from the quilt shop across the street, we drove a bit north to find supper at a place called Port and Starboard. It was a huge disappointment. There was only a single waitress trying to manage everything, so service was minimal, and worst of all, Mo’s clam chowder was lukewarm and tasted terrible. Mo ate about two bites and gave up. I had fish and chips that was pretty greasy, a bit like that cheap frozen stuff at the grocery store. Not what we had hoped for at all.
View from the summit of Humbug Mountain. Brilliant sunshine on that ocean to the south.
We drove home in the dark, glad that our camp wasn’t far away, that we had TV and heat and everything we needed right there. I know I can cook a great meal, but it is nice to go out now and then, but not so much when it is money thrown away. In fairness, the waitress did not charge us for the soup. It might be that it was just a bad night, based on the reviews of people who seem to love the place.
The Humbug Mountain State Park was a lovely place to camp, with the surrounding mountains giving it a more wilderness feeling than many of the well groomed Oregon State parks we have visited. We had no reservation, but didn’t have any problem getting a decent site, although there are far more sites without hookups in this park than in many Oregon State parks.
Before we left for our ill fated supper, Mo laid out the fire, ready to light when we returned. The stars were brilliant without a cloud anywhere and without any sign of fog or mist to dim their light. I loved the feeling of the mountains surrounding us. Some people complain of the road noise at this campground, but we only heard it early in the morning, and the nighttime was wonderfully quiet. We had wonderful campfires both nights we were at Humbug.
With our coast trip coming to a close, we took the easy route south toward Gold Beach and Brookings, noting the big signs that proclaimed that the Harris Beach campground was definitely closed. Stopping for a bit of time at the Crissy Field Recreation Site, I walked south along the beach, wondering if those deep sand steps counted more than regular steps. After our hike on the previous day, I had insisted on walking somewhere flat, but then flat beaches aren’t any easier on the calves than steep mountains!
We arrived at the cottage in Grants Pass, and the MoHo’s winter home by early afternoon, ready for a few days working on little projects and visiting with Deborah. We celebrated Veteran’s Day with a free dinner for Mo at Applebee’s Restaurant in Grants Pass, thanks to their special giveaway for veterans. Dinner was great, especially that Perfect Marguerita that is one of my favorite things at Applebee’s. It was a great way to end our little coastal vacation.