Bike Tour to the Coast: Part 1

Spring Break is always a thing.  Let me repeat.  Spring Break is always a thing.  It does not have to end when... whenever.  So yeah, my friends and I do a Spring Break adventure every single year.  Rain or shine.  And in Oregon, it is usually rain.  We always try to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  In fact, we usually procrastinate detailed planning right up to the very end, thinking that if we wait and watch the weather, maybe just maybe, there will be some bastion of brilliant sun waiting for us in some corner of the state.  That usually never happens.  It's either cool and rainy on the west side of the Cascades or damn near freezing but sunny on the east side.  

Last year, my friends and I found a magical moment of actually decent weather for a Spring Break bike tour on a 170 mile loop out of John Day, Oregon called the Old West Scenic Bikeway.  It includes a stop at John Day Fossil National Monument, opportunities to see wild horses and salmon along the North Fork of the John Day River, and views of the wild Strawberry Mountain. It imprinted me with memories of stealth camping along the Middle Fork of the John Day, frying up veggies over a fire, and skinny dipping with my gal Shelley until an old local came to see what we were up to. It was my inaugural bike tour and definitely hooked me for life on this type of self-powered, group trip along wild and scenic back roads of Oregon.

Micah at the top of the pass with the Strawberry Mountains in the background.

I knew going into this year that trying to match that tour would be difficult.  I knew that not every bike tour could be as magical as my first or as scenic.  But I was sure ready to try to recreate something as magical.  

Getting a bike tour idea started can be difficult when you're dealing with multiple people and all of the conflicting schedules.  In my experience, it is usually a good idea to spread the seed of the idea several weeks in advance and see who bites.  This year we started with a group of about 10 potentially interested friends, but due to scheduling, winnowed that down to 5 people for our trip.  I have now gone on two bike tours, one with 4 people and one with 5.  I really enjoy that size of group.  It gives you enough people to have multiple and varied interactions throughout your day and your journey, but not so many that every feels estranged, like herding cats.  

Making a set route for a tour can be tricky, especially if there are different ideas about how far and long a good day's ride should be.  As you scope your potential route, there are several methods you can use.  One option would be to follow a bike tour route that is tried and true.  Travel Oregon can hook you up with a map of the 15 scenic bikeways that it currently lists as top bike tour worthy locations. RideOregonRide.com has info on those scenic bikeways and hundreds of other user contributed routes.  There is also a sweet youtube channel with 12 short videos capturing the 12 most scenic of the bikeway tours.  I suggest starting there, but also just pulling out all the maps and dreaming with yourself and with your friends.  Consider seasonal weather.  One option is also to call to a local bike shop in the area you are considering touring and asking a few questions about the seasonal weather, accommodations, camping options, topography, etc.  Consider your weakest rider and plan your mileage around that person.  Also, consider that you may run into unexpected obstacles, such as mechanical failure, flat tires, inclement weather, etc. 

Our group finally settled on the idea that we would ride to the coast through Corvallis over to Newport and up the coast along HWY 101 and attempt to meet up with some friends at a cabin in Nehalem before biking over to Portland and catching the train back to Eugene.  We calculated the mileage on this 5 day tour.  We would have to do 2 huge days at the start of our trip.  One day being almost 90 miles with hills.  We used google maps to look at satellite images of the roads to help us choose which would be the most suitable for bike touring.  Things to consider:  how much of a shoulder is there? how much traffic is there? how well paved is the road? how remote from civilization is it?  how scenic is it?  are there accommodations or camping available at an appropriate stopping point for each days milage goal?  One option to consider for accommodations is WarmShowers which is like couch surfing for bike touring.  It does require an account setup but is a nice potential option where available.  Also, sometimes when bike touring, you may consider camping in more unusual spots than you may normally consider.  Churches, firehouses, and community buildings are sometimes willing to give a small group of weary bike tourists respite.  Advance planning is usually preferred to last minute efforts, but as you imagine, the plans don't always come to fruition.  

Our group got started out after a full breakfast in the full sun of the early March spring.  

Our first morning ride.

We rode toward Corvallis and stopped only for a snack and saddle break at Country Bakery owned and operated by a seemingly Amish couple.  This stop was a dream come true.  Think cinnamon roll swirls and free coffee, plus dried fruit for the road.  We stopped for a late lunch in Corvallis, some of us opting for a pub and some opting for the local health food store.  (Sometimes the most peaceful solution is to split up for a bit.)  From here, we were given the advice from a local at the grocery store to take a less traveled route to the coast.  All such insider info should be considered and usually heeded. We traveled on making a big mileage push, finally getting way off the beaten path after stocking up with some food and beer at the Country Store in Blodgett, Oregon.  *They have a walk in beer cooler that is worth checking out.*

From here, we were on a super remote, almost untraveled stretch of road that took us toward Summit, Oregon.  We were already off of our planned route and would have to find a spot to camp for the night.  A gentleman in Blodgett told us to try out the Summit Grange, as they may allow us to camp there.  This was a golden tip.  As we approached Summit, we spotted a handmade sign at a house for free eggs.  One of our group, Lee, decided to scope out the offer.  That was a wise choice.  Not only did he score a dozen eggs, but he got the local red carpet rolled out (the nod of approval) for us to camp behind the grange.  Not only did this gal secure us approval to camp behind the grange, she drove ahead and made sure that the outhouse was stocked with toilet paper!  What lovely locals!  As we rolled through Summit, Oregon we got the best vibes.  This place had rainbow flags on the community center and a string repair shop for local musicians.  Bike tourist camping heaven.  

 

 

 

Mount Pisgah from the Backside: East Trailhead

A little tree frog we saved off the path

I've hike Mount Pisgah many times.  But never from the backside trailhead.  May I just say after my experience hiking this trail in the spring sun, it is so worth it.  I preferred it greatly to the main trail up the front side and even to the side trails up the front side.  The path less traveled is definitely worth seeing.  

From the top of Mount Pisgah looking east

Mount Pisgah is unique for its many native oak groves.  There is a much more open feeling hiking at Pisgah than hiking elsewhere in Eugene where most of the trails are covered by thick doug fir giving the undergrowth a fern gully feel.  Mount Pisgah, on the other hand, is covered with oak savannah taking us back to what most of the area looked like before doug firs were brought in for their commercial profitability.  

The openings of the oak savannah provide the perfect opportunity for dappled sunlight on a bright spring day.  

You'll also love the many wildflowers popping out this time of year.  

Keep your eyes gazing the undergrowth for the many varieties.  

To find the eastside trail, drive down Hwy 58 to Pleasant Hill, turn left onto Rigdeway Drive.  Drive down about 2 miles until you see the eastside trailhead to Mount Pisgah on the left.   Park at the trailhead. It is a fee area ($2 parking fee).  Head up the gravel road until you see a Y in the path.  We took the path to the right because the path to the left was under electric lines.  The path from here is 2.3 miles up to the top.   There are a few Y's in the path.  We followed trail #2 to the top.  Near the top we found a small trail veering to the left that took us right to the top.  

There are a couple benches at the top and a wide 360 degree view.  The Cascades can be seen to the east on a clear day and the coastal range and Eugene can be seen to the west.  You can also spot the middle fork of the the Willamette River and the coastal fork as well.  You will see much of the farming valley in both directions.  

At the top you will also find a bronze sculpture with a topographical map of the area.  It will help you identify what you are seeing. 

Get out there!  The time has come for exploring.  

I'm preparing for a 5 day bike tour.  It will be the biggest I've done to date.  More on that soon!

 

Magnolias at Hendricks Park and Hiking the Ribbon Trail

Magnolia blossom

Each March, a magnificent series of blooms arrive to awaken our souls with the awakening soil.  The magnolia trees of Eugene are a favorite of mine with their enormous yet delicately feminine flowers.  Magnolia trees blossoms across Eugene in parks and neighboring yards in shades ranging from white to fuchsia.  The best spot I have found to view myriad varietals of magnolia is at the Rhododendron Garden at Hendricks Park.  There are over 1,000 rhododendron as well as hundreds of magnolia in the garden with some rare varietals and hybrid species.  The rhododendrons (aka rhodies) blossom starting in February and ending in June, but are at their peak in April and May.  

Rhododendron in classic white

The rhodies range from white to red to purple and pink.  They can also be found out wild in the forests of Oregon and give the boreal forests a truly tropical feel. 

Red Rhodie

As beautiful as the rhodies are, I really recommend getting yourself to the Hendricks Park in early to mid March to spot the magnolia trees.  

Magnolia next to the path

Give each blossom you find a good whiff.  Really stop to smell the magnolias.  They will be blossoming through March.  There are still several unbloomed trees waiting for the next sunny day to open themselves to you.  

Magnolia bud

And there are others that have already blossomed and are trying to hang on through this rain.  

Magnolia varietal

Keep a lookout around the base of the plants.  Many of the plants in the Rhododendron Garden have placards with their genus and species so you can easily identify the varietal.  This way you can head to the local garden supplier such as Gray's Gardens or Down to Earth and ask for the exact varietal for your dream garden.  

Magnolia blush

If you are interested in volunteering in the gardens or want to know more about the park, check out Friends of Hendricks Park.  

There are many trails in Hendricks Park.  It is almost 80 acres with 58 of those acres being forested with some 200 year old Doug Firs.  Hendricks Park is the oldest park in the city, but has one of the newest trailheads in town.  The Ribbon Trail can be found starting in Hendricks Park and is the eastern head of the Ridgeline Trail system.  I attempted the connector section through Summit Blvd. to the Summit Blvd trailhead and on up to Mount Baldy.  This made for about 6 miles roundtrip from Hendricks Park, and much of it was in the Summit Blvd neighborhood rather than on trail, but the Ribbon Trail section is definitely worth checking out as are all of the little side trails that meander through Hendricks Park.  They are definitely all worth exploring, especially this time of year with all of the trilliums blossoming along in the undergrowth. 

Map of trails in Hendricks Park

I recommend biking to Hendricks Park when possible.  It can easily be found if you bike east on 19th Ave. There is a steep hill whether you come up Summit Avenue or Fairmount Blvd. but you will feel like a champ when you get to the top.  And you will help preserve the serenity of this local treasure.  There is also a bike lockup ring at the base of the hill on Summit Avenue if you would rather park at the base of the hill.

Happy Trails! 

Pre's Trail

The running/walking trails of Eugene are world class.  I was quickly introduced to the local trails shortly after moving to Eugene 8 years ago.  I moved to town with an avid runner who quickly showed me around the various trail systems across town:  the Ridgeline system in the south hills, the Adidas Rexius trail system in the flatter part of South Eugene, the Hendricks Park trails, and Pre's Trail in Alton Baker Park being the trails that stuck out to me the most within the city limits. I was not an avid runner when I moved to Eugene, but I can honestly say that Pre's Trail turned me onto running. 

Pre's Trail is a wood chip running and walking trail through Alton Baker Park along the north side of the Willamette River.  It is a world class running destination.  Any day, you can spot elite, professional runners doing their training run, UO college team runners on a shake out, high school champions, or even Olympians on the trail right alongside grandpa jogger and me, the casual walker/jogger/nature lover/tree hugger/trail enthusiast totally soaking it all in.  I especially love wood chip paths such as Pre's Trail because they are much easier on joints than paved paths.  

The trail is a 4.07 mile circuit with 3 connected mini loops.  I love the 1/4 mile markers which I originally used as I built up from walking to jogging to running.  When I first moved to Eugene, I would go on long, exploratory walks which led me to the river paths, the park, and to Pre's Trail.  I became inspired by seeing the other runners and eventually decided to try to jog every other quarter mile.  So I would walk a quarter mile then jog a quarter mile.  This is how I built up my stamina.  I tell you, if you think you can't run... consider this method and check out this trail!  I eventually built up to being able to run the loop non-stop and then even tried to improve my time on the loop.  

The trail winds through forests, riparian areas, grassy fields, hazelnut groves, and sunny stretches.        There is plenty of opportunity to extend the route.  To the east the trail heads off toward Springfield and to the west it connects with the paved river path system.  I love the co-mingled usage of space in Alton Baker Park.  There is plenty of room for cyclists (on the bike path),  walkers, joggers, elite runners (on the Pre's Trail), and even disc golfers (on the new disc golf course).  

Pre's trail is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.  A unique gem that should not be missed.  It is there for you any day of the week.  Check it out and explore what it has to offer.  Maybe it will inspire you in a new direction.  

Pre's Trail was inspired and designed by Steve Prefontaine, a running legend.  It was completed after his tragic death in 1975 and is maintained by the Oregon Track Club

I recommend walking or biking to Pre's Trail if possible.  It is actually more convenient from many parts of Eugene to walk or bike along the river path to reach Pre's Trail. Generally walk or bike in the direction of Autzen Stadium to locate the path.  If you must drive, there is parking off Club Road near the Ferry Street Bridge.  

 

Mount Baldy

There is a butte just east of Spencer's along the Ridgeline Trail system called Mount Baldy.  It is no mountain and it is only partially balding;  nevertheless, it is well worth exploring.  

Today, I was biking back to my house thinking of what I could do with my day, when I suddenly turned my bike around and decided to head south to Mount Baldy.  It was a perfect spring day in late winter.  One of those lucky few we get here in Eugene.  It was the kind of day you just want to bike and hike around soaking up as much D as you can.  

I have been to Mount Baldy many times, but never by bike.  I had never biked up Dillard Road before, but I had biked down Dillard Road from the bike side and new the kind of hill I was getting myself into.  Dillard Road shoots off east from East Amazon Road in south Eugene.  It is  narrow, windy, shoulderless, potholed, and steep.  Basically perfect for a spontaneous, solo ride when your wearing street clothes, your tires aren't properly inflated, and you have no equipment necessary for any type of flat or repair.  Well, let's just say I knew the risks of the ride and I chose to do it anyway.  That's how inspired I was to get out to that sunny, quiet, not-quite-a-mountain, not-quite-bald, Mount Baldy.  

I had a great ride on my little Specialized road bike, despite the imperfections of the road.  There were very few cars out on Dillard Road as there is very little out that way, only a hand full of houses and a couple of sweet trailheads.  I made it up to the trailhead.  You'll see it on the left with a large Ridgeline Dillard Trailhead East sign.  There is no formal bike parking here, but I locked up to the stop sign.  There is a small parking lot here if you are traveling by car.  

From here, you will find a trail map of the Ridgeline Trail system.  There is a new connector trail across the street that heads west toward Fox Hollow and Spencer's Butte.  No need to hike along the road here like we used to to continue west along the trail.  But if you are going up Mount Baldy you will see the trail from the parking area here.  It is a 1.3 mile loop so at the Y you can go left or right and loop around either way.  If you are on a mountain bike you can ride right up the trail.  I locked the road bike up and proceed by foot.  If you're looking for a longer hike or trail run from here you can check out the connector across the road that heads west along the Ridgeline or there is also a trail that spurs off from the far end of the Mound Baldy loop that heads toward Spring Blvd.  

The 1.3 mile loop around Mount Baldy will afford you many great opportunities for checking out the views of the Cascades to the East and Spencer's Butte to the West.  

There is a log-hewn bench at the top of Mount Baldy that is a perfect spot for quiet reflection.  You will usually find it empty.  I recommend taking a seat and taking it all in for a moment. 

From here, you can ride back down Dillard, carefully avoiding the potholes, and pop into Hideaway Bakery for a treat. Or you can continue along Dillard to catch more scenic hills and farm views and connect to Franklin Blvd. near Mount Pisgah, heading back in towards Springfield.  

Willamette Pass

Last Friday I got to mob out to Willamette Pass for a day of downhill skiing.  Willamette Pass skiing is my new jam!  It's a great resort option in between the size of Hoodoo and Mount Bachelor.  Hoodoo Thrifty Thursdays are great for a $19 cheap day of skiing on a small, quiet hill.  Mount Bachelor is obviously the choice for a large hill with a terrain park.  Willamette Pass, on the other hand, has some steeper grade runs available.  The run RTS is the steepest in the state at about 50 degrees.  But it also has great beginner and intermediate level runs.  The backside of the mountain is north facing and usually has the fresh pow and fewer people, especially on a snow day midweek!  

This is my first ski season with my own gear and I'm trying to keep up with a much more experienced partner.  We spent the morning on the backside, taking one break to come back to the frontside lodge for a bar lap.   Then after a few more runs down the blues in the back, we stopped by into the lodge on the frontside for lunch.  Lunch at Willamette Pass is not a fancy experience, but you can get a hot chicken sandwich and plenty of beer, hot toddies, irish coffees, or whatever you want at the bar from Bill the bartender.  

At $49 for a day pass, the cost of Willamette Pass is super affordable.  You can also pay per hour.  For $13 per hour, you can pay as you go.  You can ski for an hour, take a break, ski for another hour and then call it a day.  This is a great option for beginners or anyone who has a lower endurance level.  

The drive from Eugene is a short 70 mile journey.  You can drive up yourself or hop on the Berg's Ski Bus for $20 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.  If you want to stay overnight in the area, you can park your RV or van right in the parking lot for a small fee ($20 with electrical hookup or $10 without).  If you're looking for lodging, Odell Lake Lodge and Resort is my favorite option in the area.  You can stay at a room in the inn for about $75 or rent a private cabin for $100-$200 depending on size and amenities.  There is one cabin with a hot tub!  The folks at Odell Lake Resort will hook you up with a newly remodeled room and dinner and drinks are available in the lodge as well as snowshoes and cross-country skis.  

On the drive back to Eugene, don't forget to stop for a pint in Oakridge at the Brewer's Union Pub which is a traditional English style pub with their own rotating cask ale on tap as well as 6 guest taps to choose from.  You will find yummy burgers on the menu as well as daily specials, and I highly recommend adding the sweet potato fries to whatever you select.  

I highly recommend keeping track of the snow reports via Open Snow.  You can even sign up to get text alerts when there is fresh snow.  This way you'll be up-to-date on the best snow conditions and make it to the mountain for first chair on snow day, blue bird, white out, or whatever your idea of mountain bliss may be.  

 

Deschutes River Trail

While in Bend, I always take the opportunity to take a hike or go for a trail run along the Deschutes River Trail.  The trail starts in town and there are many sections worth seeing right in the heart of Bend.  I particularly enjoy the section of trail through Drake Park and south of the Old Mill District.  

If you have the chance to get out of town, however, my favorite jaunts can be found south of town via a short drive out Cascade Lakes Highway in the Deschutes National Forest.   I usually go to Forest Road 41 and stop at one of the trailheads accessible there including trailheads for Lava Island, Dillon Falls, or Benham Falls.  

 

This particular adventure started out when our day's attempts at skiing were thwarted by 60 mph gusts at Mount Bachelor.  Despite the storms at the summit, the winter weather was feeling much more like spring in the lower elevations.  Sun and 60 degree weather in winter call for a day hike!  So after an obligatory stop at Atlas Cider House, we made our way out to Lava Island trailhead.  I had been out on this section of the trail before and had vague memories of 2 waterfalls in the area worth seeing.  But there were three falls listed: Lava Island Falls, Dillon Falls, and Benham Falls.  Apparently Lava Island Falls are NOT the falls worth seeing.  Dillon and Benham Falls are much more noteworthy.  But that being said, I can still highly recommend a day hike south from Lava Island trailhead for the stunning views and peace that can be found along the Deschutes River whether or not you get to one of the more spectacular waterfalls. 

Lava Island can be seen across the river. 

Lava Island can be seen across the river. 

If you are walking south from the Lava Island trailhead, you will see the large piles of black lava rocks stacked on the opposite banks of the river.  The Deschutes River splits around a section of lava rocks creating Lava Island.  

Snow on the Deschutes River Trail. 

If you do attempt a winter hike along the Deschutes River Trail, consider recent snow fall amounts.  If it has been warm, the trail may be cleared enough for a day hike.  But if there has been a recent snow, access along the trail may not be clear.  In the summer you will have other considerations such as mosquitos on the trail.  This trail is very popular and you are guaranteed to see many other folks enjoying the trail system including folks with dogs, trail runners, and mountain bikers.  Though there is opportunity for peace and solitude, be prepared to share the trail.  One thing we particularly noted along this trail was its excellently clean condition.  We saw no signs of trash as we have seen on trails on the west side of the Cascades recently.  The culture of the Bend community is clearly one that respects its outdoors and its trail systems.  The only waste we saw was the little doggie bags of poo.  Hopefully, those folks were going to pick that SHIT up on their way back through.  Putting your dog's doo in a plastic bag doesn't do any help to anyone if you don't pack that out with you! Okay, rant over.  Breathe deep. Back to the calm Deschutes... 

Some spots along the river are calm. 

Some spots along the river are calm. 

After a serene out and back with friends along the river, we returned to town and met up with some locals at the Broken Top Bottle Shop.  This restaurant and beer stop was an excellent end to the day.  Whether you are a meat eater (I had ribs!) or the gluten-free, vegan type, or even a dog (yes they have a tri tip and jasmine rice doggie bowl!), you will definitely enjoy this bottle shop which is a little further away from the main Bend crowds.  

We may not have made any turns at the mountain, but a trip to Bend is never in vain if only for the day.  

 

Umpqua Hot Springs

Umpqua Hot Springs is a series of geothermal hot springs in the Umpqua National Forest.  It has recently been reopened.  The road to the hot springs is however currently gated as of February 9, 2016.  The gate is closed 2 miles before the hot springs due to downed trees, snow, and ice and and thus a 2 mile hike in on Road 3401 is required to reach the trailhead.  

Our hike down FR 3401.  It got even snowier and icier.  It was February though. 

We called the Umpqua N.F. ranger station in advance to check current conditions.  (541) 957-3200

The road to the hot springs along HWY 138 is a scenic drive along the wild Umpqua river.  Look for forest road 34 at mile marker 59.  Once on FR 34 turn left over a concrete bridge, drive down a couple miles to FR 3401 on the right.  If there is a gate closed here, you will have to hike in 2 miles to the trailhead.  If you go when the road has been cleared, you can drive up to the parking area at the trailhead.  You will be required to pay a day-use fee of $5 per vehicle at this small parking area. 

From the trailhead it is a steep 0.3 mile trail up to the hot springs.  Be sure to stop and enjoy views of the beautiful Umpqua.  

umpqua.jpg

It appears that there have been 2 soaking tubs added.  The park had closed down the hot springs for several months.  I suppose they were not only cleaning the tubs but installing 2 new ones.  

One of the new soaking tubs


There are 6 or 7 soaking tubs up top (one is covered with an open-air roof).  And I have heard rumor there is another down the hill closer to the river.  I will definitely want to check that one out next time.  The main soaking tubs are all set on a rock face overlooking the Umpqua from 150 feet above.  You may also be able to spot Surprise Falls across the river.  

The soaking tubs are not professionally maintained.  Using the hot springs is at your own risks.  They are not cleaned to regulatory safety standards.  The water ranges in temperature from 115 degrees in the hottest tub to 100 degrees in the lower tubs. 

The hottest tub at the top of the hill

Don't expect to enjoy these tubs in solitude.  They are very popular.  Please be respectful while at the tubs and help clean up any trash left by others.  Also, expect nudity at the tubs.  Take plenty of water to keep hydrated while soaking and a towel to dry off after the soak.  Be aware that dehydration and quick changes in body temperature can lead you and others to feel woozy.  If you don't drink enough water or jump out of the soaking tub too quickly, you can experience light headedness.  Take breaks from the tub to cool off and ease your body out of the hot soak by gradually sitting further out of the tub.

Camping is available nearby.  There is an official campground near the trailhead (a 1/4 mile upstream of the trailhead) or you can camp at Toketee Campground at Toketee Lake which you will see on the short drive between the trailhead and hwy 138 which may offer more privacy as it is further from the hot springs.  

At Toketee Lake Campground

Don't miss Toketee Falls nearby.  If you haven't seen it.  It is well worth the 1 mile hike in (with stairs).  It is perhaps the best waterfall in Oregon... And enjoy the wild Umpqua River and North Umpqua Trail which skirts the banks for almost 80 miles.  The adventures await. 

  

Silver Falls

Silver Falls State Park is the home of quintessential Oregon beauty.  More than ten large waterfalls can be visited in the park via walking trails.  Silver Falls State Park is a short drive (about half an hour) east of Salem, near the town of Silverton, Oregon.

I got to revisit the park recently and hiked a 5.5 mile loop to see about 7 of the larger waterfalls on the North Side of the park.  We started our hike at the North Falls Trailhead and visited Upper North Falls as our first stop.  It is just north of the North Falls trailhead on a short trail spur.    

We then headed back south past the trailhead and followed the canyon trail south.  The canyon trail is where most of the waterfall action is.  

Image from oregon.com

The next falls on the hike was North Falls.  It is a tall waterfall with an amphitheater-shape hollow in the rocks that allows the trail to pass right behind the falls.  It is expansive and incredible.  A bench allows hikers to sit and take it all in.  As we passed behind the falls, some fellow hikers were enjoying a rest there.  I commented on one of the hiker's Cascadian flag patch.  This place is purely Cascadian waters.  How appropriate to don the flag representing clear waters, clean air, and green forests in this place.   

From North Falls we hiked south past the rather small Twin Falls to Middle North Falls.  Take a short spur off the main Canyon Trail to see Middle North Falls.  It may be my favorite falls of the day.  It is short but wide with a trail that cuts just behind the water fall.  You feel so close and surrounded by this fall.  I highly recommend making it to this one while you are in the park!  

We had a moment of solitude behind the falls.  I recommend going in the off season, mid-week if you want this kind of privacy.  We than made our way on to Drake Falls and then Double Falls.  Drake Falls is quite small, but Double Falls is the tallest in the park.  

We turned around after peaking at Lower Middle Falls and then went over the bridge toward Winter Falls.   Lower Middle Falls is quite small, but Winter Falls is quite tall, though thin, even in winter and may dry up completely in summer.  It is on a small tributary of the main Silver Creek that is only flowing at its strongest in the winter months.  

From Winter Falls, we hiked back along the Rim Trail.  The Rim Trail follows the road and is pretty uneventful though there is one good viewpoint of North Falls.  I would only use the Rim Trail as a quick route to get back to your car, or perhaps if you don't feel up to the rigor of hiking down into the canyon via the canyon trail which can be somewhat steep and slippery in places.  

Overall, I would say that Silver Falls is one of the gems of Oregon.  It can seem crowded in the high season (summer), especially on weekends. It does have a slightly touristy kind of vibe.  You will not feel like you are in the remote wilderness.  But it is still a gem.  And there is nowhere near the congestion that parks of this caliber encounter in more populated states.  

For more history on the park please visit Friends of Silver Falls website for details on the rough and tumble past of Silver Falls before it was turned into a state park.  There are tales of the previous owner who tried to lure visitors with gimmicks such as riding cars off of the falls and sending people over the falls in protective cases.  Bizarre histoire!

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed sites in Lane County.  It is located on a promontory named Heceta Head after a Basque sailor Don Bruno de Heceta who secretly sailed the west coast on a mission for the queen of Spain in 1775.  Heceta Head can be reached by driving North from Florence 12 miles on HWY 101.  It is at mile marker 178 1/4,  which is 1/2 mile north of the sea lion caves.  There is  a small beach here and it's only a short 1/2 mile hike up to view the lighthouse.  On the way up you will pass one of the last remaining lightkeeper's cottages on the coast.  It is still in use today as a 5 bedroom bed and breakfast.  Reservations are recommended if you would like to stay at the bed and breakfast.  (Winter rates on the most affordable room are as low as $133. I still haven't tried out the stay yet but it's now on my list. Apparently there is a 7 course breakfast included!) There is also an interpretive center and gift shop on the bottom floor of the b and b. There you can learn more about the history of the lighthouse and lightkeepers.

Wild Iris near the Heceta Head Bed and Breakfast.

 

Heceta Head lighthouse is a short walk up the hill past the cottage.  The history of the lighthouse begins with this land belonging traditionally to the native Siuslaw people who collected sea bird eggs and hunted sea lions in the area.  In 1888, settlers claimed an area of 164 acres including Heceta Head.  A lighthouse was requested by sailors and commissioned in 1892.  Construction included a crew of 56 men and materials were shipped in or wagoned up from Florence.  The fresnel lens was ordered from England. 

The light was originally created by kerosene lamp but electricity came to the site in 1930.  During WW2 the Coast Guard manned the site and continued to maintain the site until the light was fully automated and turned over to computer operation in 1963.  The light can now be seen for 24 miles (21 nautical miles.)  From 1970-1995 the forest service turned the light keepers quarter's over to Lane Community College who used the facility as a satellite campus.  Then in 1995, the cottage was transformed into the bed and breakfast it is today.  

Near the top of the hill who will see a trail map and a trail head that connects Heceta Head to Hobbit Beach.  It is about a mile and a half hike from Heceta Head to Hobbit Beach.  Or you can drive further north on the 101 to the Hobbit Beach Trailhead for closer access.  

 

 

 

Larison Creek Hike

Had a lovely day hiking near Oakridge, Oregon at Larison Creek.  We had been hoping to snowshoe today but had to turn around due to a truck fire on HWY 58.  Luckily, there are numerous trail adventures to be had in the Oakridge area and were quickly enroute to hike instead of heading further up into the mountains for snow adventuring.  One thing I've learned about adventuring is to be flexible and understand the area.  Always have a plan B.  Larison Creek is a multi-use trail just east and south of Oakridge, Oregon.  Traveling east out of Oakridge turn right (south) at the signs for Hills Creek Lake.  Take a right onto FR 21.  About 3 miles down you will see a trailhead on the right just before a bridge.  This is the lower Larison Creek Trailhead. There is also an upper trailhead that can be accessed by gravel roads rather than paved roads.  

Two of my buddies and I hiked out along the trail which starts out along a cove of the Hills Creek Lake.  The cove is flanked by stumps, reminders of logging days gone by.  But the trail quickly escapes the stumps into an old fir and hemlock forest.

The trail skirts the creek with one small creek crossing not far into the hike.  We adventured along taking the opportunity each time a side trail ventured off to the creek.  We had plenty of photo opportunities and spotted a little lizard-like newt on the trail.  

We had our eyes open for black trumpet mushrooms or hedgehog mushrooms but spotted neither.  At the second left-venturing side trail to the creek, we found a tiny cascade along the creek and set up for a picnic.  We had brought some baguettes, brie, avocado, and some locally made, 15 year aged balsamic along with a bottle of Sarver Wine, some Wandering Goat Coffee, and a gose from Oakshire Brewing.  There were three of us hiking, of course we all had to bring our own drink.   It was a fine setting to enjoy good food with two of my homeboys. 

After the picnic, we hiked back as the sun began to set behind the Cascade foothills.  This was my second time at Larison Creek.  The first visit I did a short trail run with my running pal on a damp fall afternoon and literally ran into patches of chanterelles a couple miles into the trail.  We were quickly loading up our pockets with as many edible mushrooms as we could haul.  Now that I have experienced this trail in autumn and winter I'd like to return in spring for wildflowers.  And of course some blissfully warm summer day we will return to check out the rest of the trail and a swimming hole I've heard is further up the hike.