Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rainy Day Nehalem Bay

Not every weekend on the beach in Oregon can be warm and sunny. If they were, then the Californians would probably sue. So, in order to be left in peace by those sun whiners, it is fair and right that we have a goodly share of God Awful cold, windy, rainy, foggy weekends on the Oregon Coast.

Why, we had one just last weekend. This happened to be the weekend that my partner and I had rented a Yurt out at Nehalem Beach State Park and had signed up to host a paddle for our Kayak Portland Meetup club thingee.

View Tillamook HIgh Tide Paddle in a larger map

We went up Friday night, right after work. It was already rainy and having the promise of cold. But that does make for light traffic on the main drag out to the beach. We stopped at camp 18 for dinner. A fun place, Camp 18. It is a restaurant and museum that pays homage to the steampunk generation of planned deforestation that was the lumber industry in the early 1900s. The place itself is a huge log cabin. Huge in so many ways. The most impressive is the main pillars and beam of the place are made from (what I assume) is one HUGE tree. I mean HUGE. The sign says that it is the largest roof rafter beam made from a single tree in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Why does my Cap Lock keep getting stuck?

Here is a picture of the beam. Hard to get a feeling for the size of the thing. I am guessing it would take three people to join hands and reach around the thing. The restaurant has good american eating. You know, steaks, potatoes, chickens, Liver and Onions. My partner had the beef stew and corn bread (a humongous slice) and I had Pot Roast (and a lot of her corn bread).

After dinner we hurried out into the dark, it was raining pretty hard by now. I was driving my trusty Subaru Forester with 2 sea kayaks and a fully loaded sky box up on my Yakima rails. I was a little worried about wind and stability, but really didn't have any problem at all (and the wind was howling some). When we hit the coast, the wind stopped, but the fog rolled in. It was pretty thick right along where Neahkahnie Mountain is. Had to go very slow as I would have looked very silly going over the cliff. The kayaks probably would have kept the car floating (submerged) upright with our frozen bodies inside. Probably not as much fun as it sounds.

And then you pass Manzanita beach and there you are at the little gas station that guards the little side road that leads to Nehalem Bay State Park. I like this park. It is out on a sand spit that guards the bay we intended to paddle in tomorrow and it is filled with sand dunes and scrub oak. We had a yurt this time around and the park host had turned on the heat and the lights and left the key sitting on the table.

What? You have never stayed in a yurt? You don't even now what a yurt is?
Well, a yurt is a traditional dwelling for nomadic people that live in the colder climes of the Eurasian continent. It is a round building with poles in a circle holding up a circular roof with a round hole in the very middle. No poles in the middle. Then you wrap the outer circle in lattice and put canvas (well, perhaps Mammoth skins) around the entire thing. In the center, then, you would have your communal fire, and since it was round, everyone could be close to the fire and you don't have to kill your brother-in-law for his better place.

These yurts don't have a fire in the middle, but they do have a queen bunk bed and a futon couch that folds into a queen bed, a square table, a heater, and some lights. So, a good place to get out of the rain and cold and have a nice dry sleep. Perhaps even a game of Cribbage. No bathrooms or running water or cooking in the yurts, thank you very much.

Out front is a picnic table and enough of a covered porch to keep half of the picnic table to stay dry if the wind would just quit blowing dammit !! You really need to bring a huge blue tarp and set it up over the front of the yurt if you expect to be able to do some protected cooking out there. Besides, there is nothing that your yurt neighbors like more than to see a huge blue amorphous tarp stretched across the yurt next to them. Just like being back home !!

See How Pretty?

We got in sort of late so we just went to bed, but when we woke up in the morning, our friend Chip was parked across the way, asleep, in his adventure-mobile. We got some breakfast going (which means that I boiled water). Did you know that if you leave your partner's nifty camp percolator at home, after he hands it to you to pack, because “you didn't need it because you have your handy drip maker” and filters, only you didn't bring your drip thing, that you can make your own drip thing by borrowing your partners pocket knife and carving up his empty beer can from the night before? Well, you can. Just be careful not to cut yourself because though your partner might like to give you shit, he surely doesn't want you to be hurt, nor get blood all over his expensive Russlock Case knife.

Anyway, We drank our coffee and ate our toasted bagels and looked out on the day. It was rainy and wet. “
Gonna need to put up a blue tarp to stay dry on the porch” Observed Chip.
“Yep, “ I replied, “This sure is mighty good coffee”.

At this time I would like to mention some of the other visitors to the park that weekend. When I got up during the night to answer the call of the wild I ran into a little pack of Racoons. They were hanging out in the bushes and pretty much ignored me when I walked up to them and shined my flashlight on them. We also had a flock of deer that would wander through the area at different times. We saw them in the afternoon, and the evening, and then the next morning. The also didn't seem to care that we were there as long as we didn't walk to aggressively in their direction.


Enough fauna watching. Time for adventure. We went out to the launch site, out on the river side of the park, and checked things out. It was very windy. And Raining. And Cold. And I decided that it just wasn't safe enough for group event at 10:00. So I cancelled it. So much for Adventure.

Besides, most everybody except the 3 of us had cancelled already.

But still. We three had come all of this way and had hauled our kayaks and our cold weather gear and all and...... we could go out and just be careful, right? Sure we could.

The Tide was very high and just starting to ebb when we put our kayaks in at the launch. The wind was still whipping up pretty high and a little rain shower pelted through just as we were starting out. We put on our hats (they should have been rain hats, but I couldn't find mine so I am wearing a wool watch cap) and headed up into the bay.

Chip and I have done this paddle before, and even though that was also a rainy cold weekend, the weather out on the bay that time was much....... less complex. So, with the wind and down (up?) the bay we go. The tide is high. The tide is really high. I remember these logs as being in the mud, but now this one is actually floating (I am supposed to remember to put a picture in here).

My partner reminded me to add this. 

Well, good. That means more water under our buts and more time to make it through the not at all there at low tide channel over to the main part of the river. That is our float plan.

But. When the water is this high, you can't see where the channels are! Everything thing is big wide water bay. A big wide water bay that, with the wind at our backs and the wind waves giving us a good little surf east, we crossed quickly. Those wind waves also made for a little excitement. These are the times when my Partner says things like “ How you doin, Jon?” and “I want my kayak partners to stay close to me in case I flip over “ , when what she really means is she wants me to stay close in case I flip over.
Fair enough.


But we couldn't find the channel and we ran up into the low land marsh area that is on the East side of the bay. I could tell that the channel was off to the north a bit, over by the cliffs, but how to get there? As mentioned before, the tide was very high, and it look like there was enough water over the top of the marsh that we could just paddle right over it. So that is what I did. Well, that is what I ¾ did. I got stuck . Dammit. I turned around to tell my partner that we couldn't make it this way, but she was way the hell back by open water waiting for me to turn around. Damn. She didn't trust me. Chip and I got back out to her and she had found a more open channel running up through the marsh. She didn't like it. The current was starting to move now and she has had a bad experience with taking a 17 foot sea kayak up a windy little current before. Not fun. But..... she tried it anyway. We finally got to a place where she just didn't want to continue. I said, “Beach and stand up. You should be able to see where the current goes.”. So she did. She couldn't see anything. So we decided to go back with the current out to the bay. If you look on the map, you can see where we turned around. Good thing we did. The outgoing tide would have stranded us. The funny thing about that channel is how deep to it was. I know that when the tide is at medium, the grass is like a couple of feet over your head. The channel was only like 6 foot wide, but it was deeper than the length of my paddle.


Action Adventure Girl

Out in the main bay the wind was in our face and the waves were building up again. There was a group of stranded tree logs a few hundred yards away and I thought they looked like the trees where we had seen the eagles on a previous excursion. Chip didn't think so. But I really think so. I am provided photographic evidence of my inherent correctocity.

Low Tide
High Tide. The Eagles are underwater

Once past those snags I knew we were in the channel, and, in truth, we could now see around the marsh grass up to the cliff of land that runs south into the bay from the town of Nehalem. Once more the wind pushed us quickly up this channel. My partner was getting a little cold and tired and we decided to beach and have a rest and a Cliff Bar. I had holiday flavors: Pecan Pie and...... and.... oh, other things. I had the Pecan pie. We parked right by this little stretch of sand and live trees and.... a park bench? We discussed our plan. To continue on to the river, or to head back?

My partner thought we could go to the river and then ride the tide down the south side of the river and cross over the main channel close to the boat ramp where are cars are parked. I didn't like this idea. I didn't like the idea of the exposed crossing where outgoing river and tide meet incoming wind and wave. I wimped out. All of us agreed that we had been paddling downhill for the last hour or so and we had a long way back slugging upwind to get to where our warm dinner may or may not be. So we started back toward our put in. And the wind was really roaring in our faces. It made it hard to paddle and hard to talk to each other. Had work to stay together. For a time a rain storm passed through and the wind was blowing us backward almost as fast as we could paddle and the rain was smacking us in the face so hard that it stung. Mama. At least we were going directly into the incoming waves. That is by far the easiest way to deal with waves. Just slam through them. Maybe with a little bit of angle. I was heading pretty much West (perhaps a little north of West) thinking that we could get up into the lee of the Nehalem peninsula (where the park is) and out of the wind. I don't know if that worked for us or not. I think the little squall we were in passed by before we got close enough to the trees and the weather ameliorated by itself. At least for now.

This is that same "floating" tree

So after that the slugging up hill wasn't quite so bad. We spent a little more time enjoying the scenery. With the tide lower we could see the wide array of ancient forest debris (most of it logging induced) that had washed up on the shores. Many a huge log and stump line the shore like so many white dinosaur bones. My partner kids me because I so enjoy taking pictures of the dead trees. They have a lot of character.

When we got back to the ramp the cold wind was blowing right down the ramp. This is when I discovered that I was a little wet under my dry suit. Here is the deal, you step into a dry suit through a hole in the chest. You wiggle in your feet, and then the arms, and then you pull your head in and through the tight fitting neck gasket. My Suit is nice, but it is lighter than many others and it has a neoprene neck gasket instead of a tight rubber gasket. So it is more comfortable but may leak a little. Normally this is no big deal because even if you tip over, you don't have your head long underwater. But today I was wearing a wool watch cap to keep my head warm in the rain. It is true what they say about wool, it will keep you warm even when it is wet. But it drips down the back of your neck and some of that water runs through your neoprene seal and there you have a wet back; cold in the wind.

Good thing I can go warm up in the yurt.

So we got back to our campsite cold and tired, but all of us were happy with our little outing. We went to a new place (perhaps by accident) were few people ever go. We had a nice time out on the water with friends. We saw some grebes. We had a little adventure in the rain and waves and wind. A little challenge. A little excitement. And now we were ready for a nice dinner. We could either make spaghetti or drive 15 minutes into Manzanita for a steak. We did the drive.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Perfect Beach Weekend: Part 3, Cape Falcon

Perfect Beach Weekend: Part 3, Cape Falcon

That is right. Part 3. Cause a Fantasy Weekend has THREE DAYS in it. This day started with one last romantic breakfast at the Scrumptious Arch Cape Inn (no more murders, I promise) and a heavy downright beach-like fog.

My partner informed me that she 'really' wanted to go to see Oswald West and do some hiking. I think she promised me that the sun would come out. Don't worry, I am not that gullible.

View Falcon Point Hike in a larger map

I could find Oswald West on the maps. It got me wondering where Oswald East was. I couldn't find it anywhere. A little bit of research reveals that the park was named after Oswald West, once governor of the state or Oregon. In my view, that is a strange thing to name a park after. I mean, the place has been sitting there for thousands of years and you up and name it after some guy who just happened to have died right around when you acquired the land. Same thing happened with Stub Stewart State Park. It was going to be Hare Canyon State Park, but then good old Stub kicked the bucket and bang, they changed the name of the park. If he had lived just one more year we could have gone camping in Hare Canyon.


Anyway. Oswald West. This is the place of a few cool things, a couple of which we will visit today.

Neahkahnie Mountain

Also called Nekahanie Mountain or Naked Hinie Mountain. Depends on how I am feeling. There is a great view from the rocky summit of Nehalem Bay and the state beach there (where we are going in a couple of weekends). The hike up the mountain from the North end of the park is something my hiking club does every year, but it is not one of my favorites. A lot of slugging on a not very good trail. You can go up on the trail from the south side and it is much shorter and has less tripping hazards.

View from Neahkahnie Mountain. (See, I have to been there)

Short Sands Beach. 

This is the place where all of the surfers go. I mean there were a LOT of surfers there on this foggy fall morning. The 2 parking lots were pretty full. I hear that you really can't find a place to park on a nice summer day because of all of the surfers. And they have like a half mile hike to get their boards down to the water!!

oh, lets do a little logging. What can it hurt?

Cape Falcon. 

I looked all over for some interesting facts about the name for this cape and came up blank. So I am going to make some up relying on the internet to magnify my verisimilitude.

Cape Falcon was named after Captain Falcon, a pirate that sailed the waters from San Francisco to the San Juans. He preyed mostly on ships carrying gold from the San Francisco Gold Rush, but he also would indulge in the smuggling of fine ground coffee from the Starbuck Isles into the strictly anti-caffiene culture of 1840's Oregon. He would land his goods and ill gotten gold into what is now referred to as Smugglers Cove.  One night, during a thick onset of Oregon Coast Fog, he ran his ship aground on the Cape that bears his name. He managed to make it to shore in an open boat with 2 chests of gold and a Grande Latte, but he was caught by Coffee Revenuers out of Tillamook who pinned him down with musket fire somewhere close to Falls Creek.  He was forced to bury his treasure. To this day that gold lies waiting for some innocent hiker to come across and the surf that pounds over the wreck of his smuggling ship still runs brown from the bags of smuggled coffee beans.

 photo CapeFalcon.jpg

So Cape Falcon is the place that we have decided to go to today. Looks like a 2 mile hike out to the point. And since neither of us has ever been there, let's Go !!

The first thing we notice on leaving the parking lot is the Green Green Green. This is major rain forest moss, fern and cedar green. There are two creeks that run through the area and old growth ceder and sitka spruce abound. Take your time on this early part of the hike whist you wind your way down to Short Sands. Take some pictures. They will look like this:

We decide we will wait to visit the beach after we get back from the point, and so set right out. Though I am sure there are lots of people who do this trail bare foot or in flip flops, I actually recommend some good waterproof boots. We come across a number of really muddy places and some especially slippery ones too. Actually the really muddy places are not the slippery ones. The slippery ones are the places where there are rounded river rock (ocean shore rock?) mixed in with the hard mud. Sometimes there are gold coins embedded in the mud, those are really slippery. Here my good old hiking boots are even loosing their grip. Actually, I have probably worn the grip off of them and that is my problem.

Whatever the issue or combination of issues, my partner says I look very graceful as I hit the mud flat on my back. Splat.

“Are you hurt?”

“No, just needed a little rest.” I scramble up. Why do I always have to fall when people are watching? Well, except for those times when I was alone.

“Can I please have the backpack?” she asks me.

What, she thinks I am too old and frail to carry the lunch? Well, I do hurt a bit, and her request is so fraking reasonable. Dammit. I give her the backpack.

You know, it really is much easier to keep your balance on a slippery slope when you aren't wearing a 20lb pack on your high center of gravity back. Now I can just skip along. So much fun.

“Hey, wait for me, Mr. Lightfoot.”

Oops. Sorry.

The first part of the trail from Short Sands is mainly up hill, but not too much. Through a couple of cedar groves, some really nice Sitka and then we come out on an overview dedicated to another dead guy. From here we can seen the surfers spread out all across the …..... well......ok, all I can see is this dense fog bank. But I am sure there are like surfers and such down there some place. And there is this Falcon Point thing that I am sure is just off to the right in that other Fog bank. So lets go.

Dead Guys all over the place out here

From here the trail is following the cliff face. It is very steep too and like 300 feet down to the narrow sandy beach. I think we are going to have a set of switch backs that will take us down there, but no, it seems that we are going to stay up here on the cliffs.

At one point we cross a little stream and a small set of rapids. We can see where it winds away from us and then disappears over the cliff. Must be a nice waterfall over there. Someplace. Perhaps in that fog.

I know there is a good burl story here.

This is that waterfall. And more fog.

Great White Shark Fishing

On some more. Another good slippery part. And then we come to an unmarked T in the road. We head left (West) through the thick growth of blackberry and Salal. And then, Suddenly.... Bingo !! We are there. Falcon Point !! What a great foggy place !!. Looks like it would be a terrific place to be if there was like..... Sunshine. It is very rugged and romantic. We take some pictures and enjoy the sound of the wind whipping around us. Tendrils of fog are blowing up and over the point from the south; streaming by in ghostly tendrils.

Is that…… Sort of … Gold Looking?

We start back. It is still a bit slippery, but halfway back, the fog blows off and the sun comes out and Wow, look at all of those surfers !! Way down there in the.... hey, there is water. And more Cliffs !! What a cool thing.

Blue Sky !!

We make our way down to the beach and lay in the sand for a rest. It is nice and warm in the sun and we watch the surfers out frolicking. After a while we wade through the little creek and have a little hunt for Agates but we don'tt find any. Someday I hope to find a beach other than that one on Ross Island and find some really big agates. Not today though. Today we just get this really awesome sunny view.

And so we are faced with a glorious end to a glorious long weekend. We have climbed mountains, eaten great food, watched glorious sunsets,  explored the history of the Oregon Coast, viewed wonderful contemporary art, and heartily enjoyed the warming goodness of a overly large sunken bath; but now it is time to head home. So we gather up our belongings and head back up the trail to the parking lot by the road. Our trusty Subaru is waiting there to take us back down the long road to home.

Next time we come out here for the weekend, we are so bringing Kayaks.