Cape Perpetua and Smelt Sands: Day 7 of the Oregon Trails

Cummins Creek Overlook (click for slideshow)

Cummins Creek Overlook (click for slideshow)

The day began with a big breakfast of French toast, scrambled egg, and bacon at the Adobe Inn Restaurant a bit south of my motel.  I knew I’d be snacking at lunchtime, so I was glad to take some leftover bacon along to complement my “Fiber Fit S’Mores” on the trail.

I drove over to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, paid my day use fee, and headed out for another long hike.  I traveled ten miles in about five-and-a-half hours, starting out on the Oregon Coast Trail southward for 1.3 miles to the Cummins Creek Trail, which rose gently but steadily for several miles.  Then it narrowed considerably with a steeper ascent and, after another couple of miles, I was beginning to wonder if I’d missed a turn since I hadn’t seen another soul and the trail was becoming overgrown.

But then a sign told me I was still doing fine as the trail turned north and became steeper still, ascending to an overlook hundreds of feet above the ocean about five miles out with a nice panorama.  This high section of the trail had bald knobs, allowing more wildflowers to bloom.  I took shots of a daisy, common yarrow, self-heal, foxglove, thistle, and a pollinating bee.  I was struck by the enormous leaves on one plant at a particular section of trail, taking a shot comparing one to the size of my hand.

I’ll confess it took many internet searches to identify those botanical specimens.  On the trail I was only confident they were plants.  Quite confident.  And I could positively identify trees covered in moss.  Can you believe I’m certified to teach botany?  Plant identification was never an interest of mine, despite my parents’ and teachers’ best efforts.

Then I began the long descent back to the coast along Cook’s Ridge Trail, which rides the ridge between Cape and Gwynn Creeks.  This part of the trail was prettier with a nice breeze, and I was glad I took the Cummins Creek trail on the ascent, as Cook’s Ridge was far less steady in its elevation change.

For the first 4.5 hours of this hike I never saw another person and there was no cell phone service, so my iPhone GPS couldn’t provide a map to orient me.  Finally on the lower part of the Cook’s Ridge Trail I encountered two couples, but that was it for the entire day.  Clearly almost all of the visitors to Cape Perpetua stick to the coastal trails and their stunning vistas, but I took those in back in 2006.

I completed the hike around 2:30 pm and drove back to my motel room for a shower, then drove south toward Florence so I could take some snapshots of Heceta Head Lighthouse and the nearby beach in the afternoon light with sunning sea lions, as well as the sandy beach stretching south to Florence.

In Florence I bought some supplies and drove to its tiny harbor before dining at Pomodori Ristorante, which supplied some delicious cheese and spinach ravioli and salad.  Then I headed back north to my motel at Yachats and walked the 804 trail.  This trail is an old county road that local citizens saved for the public after much litigation and runs by my motel and is yet another part of the Oregon Coast Trail.  The Hypomesus pretiosus, or surf smelt, arrive along here annually to lay eggs in the gravelly sands.

There are the remnants of native American shell middens here.  The Alsi and Yahute Indians formed huge piles of clam, oyster, crab, and mussel shells when, after a seafood feast, the diners threw sand over the shells to lessen the odor. Some middens reached over 100 feet high, but the material was later used to build roads in the area so now there are only small nubs of shell material left with some hardy plants.

Today’s slideshow wraps up a week in Oregon.  Tomorrow I leave the coast behind with a long drive inland to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend.  Goodbye, Pacific!

[Next post: Lava Tubes, Cinder Cones, and Sisters: Day 8 of the Oregon Trails]

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife, Wendy, and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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One Response to Cape Perpetua and Smelt Sands: Day 7 of the Oregon Trails

  1. Pingback: Waterfalls: Day 6 of the Oregon Trails « MEADOR.ORG ~ The virtual world of Granger Meador

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