Cape Falcon

Still feeling a little bummed about how different Christmas was this year, I knew getting outside for a hike would work its magic like always. It was going to rain all week and a friend and I decided a coast hike would be just the thing. We headed out to Nehalem to find Cape Falcon, a trail he recommended but that I had never been on.

Parking was easy and we layered up because it was 37 degrees (3 degrees C) and a little drizzly. There are multiple trails from Highway 101 to the beach, coming from multiple parking lots. Most users were surfers. We got lost on the web of trails, and instead of the beach we came to another parking lot. We tried again and found a curving wooden bridge to the wrong side of the beach. We asked some soaking wet surfers how to get to the hiking trail. They were lost and looking for the parking lot, so we exchanged directions and all was well.

Even though the bridge was not going where we wanted to go, I still had to run across because it’s so pretty. It is a suspension bridge, so naturally I jumped up and down to bounce. Someone with me (ahem) pointed to a couple on the other side, patiently waiting for me to get out of the way because there was no way to socially distance on this narrow bridge. I stopped goofing around and walked back to the trail.
View from the bridge shows one of the huge Pacific Northwest trees, blown into the creek probably during a winter storm. We would find more trees down across the trail.

Once we found the proper trail, we stopped at the beach for a few minutes to watch people playing out there. It was surprisingly busy for a cold December Tuesday afternoon. But it is the holidays and I can imagine there were college kids and families enjoying their free time, just as we were.

Looking north up the coast. Cape Falcon is behind the point you see in the center of the photo, at a distance. We were getting ready to hike up the hill and head over there.
Looking south from the same spot I took the above photo. It’s a short, but beautiful, Oregon beach.
I was captured by the beauty and neglected to take serious note of the fact that I was looking at a sunset at the beginning of a hike.

The trails were heavily trafficked and it’s been raining for a couple months, so you can use your imagination and guess the state of the trail. It was really muddy. The one saving grace is that the trail is through an old growth forest with gigantic trees and well-established root systems. These trees all had their roots up near the surface and exposed on the trails, so most of the time we could use the roots to keep some traction. We passed several dogs with mud about 5 inches (18 cm) up their legs, and I was pretty sure all of those doggos were getting baths at the end of the day, or maybe their humans would take them to run around in the ocean before getting into the car.

Spots along the trail looked like this. I was having a good time and didn’t mind it too much, but the AllTrails app I use had comments from people who gave up and went home.

As we climbed in elevation, the amount of mud declined noticeably, as well as the amount of people on the trail. I’m guessing that fewer feet means less chewing up of the trail. One thing I was a little surprised to see was almost 100% compliance with mask-wearing. We may have seen 50 people that day, and about 4 of them were not wearing masks. There were so many people on the trail on the way up that we never took our masks off. By evening, when we were headed down and it was getting dark, we passed hardly anyone, and thus took off our masks. When we saw people coming, we put them back on till the people passed, then took them off again.

And then the payoff! We got to the top of the hill and were treated to views of the sea and the waves crashing around rocks, with hemlock and cedar trees clinging to the edge of red cliffs.

Looking south across Smuggler Cove. The surfer beach is to the left out of sight behind the trees. We were delighted to have an actual view. So often the weather simply doesn’t allow much visibility on the coast.
I was fascinated with the roiling, crashing waves, the aqua colour of the water, and the dazzling array of unexpected colours on the rocks.
After you notice the red, green, yellow, orange, and slate colours, you notice the geometric block shapes interrupted by circles carved by waves, and overlying sheath of barnacles, like dragon skin. The water cascading off it all made a bazillion waterfalls.

The trail was still somewhat challenging. The spots with mud were still appearing every so often, and then there were sections with trees blown down. The farther we got away from people, the sketchier the trail was, but still pretty easy to negotiate for a regular hiker like me.

My hiking companion picks a path through the mud.
Blowdown makes the path a little trickier.
We finally made it to Cape Falcon. At this cove, when we walked north, and then later when we were walking south, we heard a sharp cry like a hawk, and spotted a large bird soaring. I looked it up later on the Cornell Ornithology website and the cry sounded like a Peregrine Falcon.
Here we are standing on Cape Falcon, and this is the view looking south. The rocks are as fabulous as this tree!
Same shot, only this one draws your eye to the horizon, as ours were.

It was only when I was finally done getting my shots from Cape Falcon (above) that I turned around and noticed a nervous hiking companion, chewing his lips to keep from asking me to get away from the edge. Oh yeah, I guess it is sorta high and steep here, haha! For those of you who carry cameras, you can understand my temptation: sometimes I forget about personal safety when it comes to a good shot.

We left the ledge and returned to the main trail and discovered it was already 4pm! We had been hiking a couple hours and had about 30 minutes of daylight left. ooops. We returned the way we had come and got 2/3 of the way back with some light above us (made darker though because we were under forest canopy most of the time). In the dim light, we could no longer see as well to skirt the mud bogs, and I discovered that the appearance was worse than it seemed, and I could step right into the mud in places, and often only sink an inch. Eventually we pulled out our phones to use the flashlights, but those tended to blind us, and we had better luck just using shadows and sounds. There was still somehow some light – maybe starlight or moonlight being refracted through the clouds? But it was barely detectable, and finally we got close enough to the highway to use distant headlights blinking through the trees to show us which direction to walk. Neither of us walked into a tree or sat in the mud, so I call it success!

After climbing into the Jeep we were STARVING and tried a couple of restaurants on our way back toward Portland, but they were closed. To the best of our recollection, the rural counties are in a pandemic phase that allows for distanced indoor seating, and we were cold and wet and muddy, so indoor sounded best. But…we eventually had to go all the way back to Portland before we found a place to eat. And that was outdoor seating. But we were in luck! The place we found had tiny outdoor greenhouses and inside the little greenhouses were tiny heaters on the tables. It warmed us from a chilly 36 degrees outside to a toasty 43 degrees inside! When our server would come with hands full of things, she would ask us to open the door for her. Part of our desire to eat at restaurants is to support the businesses and their employees. Part of it is that humans just love eating at restaurants. Even if that means being in public during a pandemic, and even if it means keeping my scarf and gloves on because it is so cold inside my tiny greenhouse. It was a familiar ritual (sort of) to end a day at the coast, and after I put some hot food in my belly, I was so happy.

In our tiny house of safety, bundled up for warmth, masked for health.
Outdoor seating that is sort of indoors, at Bethany Public House in Portland. On the right edge of the photo you can see a table with people seated; a woman still wearing her coat because it was darn cold.

How often do you catch yourself marveling at the world around you and thinking “This is all so bizarre?” Today is New Years Eve and I will never, ever write to you during 2020 again. I’m ok with that. Happy New Year to all of you in the blogosphere. I love you all. I really do. I wish for a 2021 that brings some goodness your way, and I wish for hugs for us all. We need a lot of hugs to make up for all of the hugs we missed this year.

10 thoughts on “Cape Falcon

  1. A different sense of fun than mine but it seems to make you happy. I climbed to the top of my road today. 😉 Your views are much better. It was a bummer of a Christmas but so many lately have been as I’ve run out of steam to do them. I’ll send a note shortly. Hugs and Happy New Year.

    1. Many hugs for you my sweet friend. It meant so much to me to visit you and H the other day. I’ll be celebrating with you both on the 20th too, even if only in my mind. I’m so proud of you for being so consistent about getting out, even in yucky December. Happy New Year and more hugs and honey to come. ~Crystal

  2. Oh those muddy trails! Good for you and your friend for getting out there, Crystal. I really like the Pacific during storms but I think I will leave all of that mud for you. 🙂 Peggy and I have a goal of getting out for one week each month this year, and the Oregon Coast will be one of our main destinations. We’ve made three trips so far. A very Happy New Year to you Crystal. Hopefully, we will be able to get together with you again in 2021! –Curt

    1. Happy New Year Curt!! 2020 made it even more clear to me how important my friends are and I decided to make friends more of a priority when I ever get to travel again. I would LOVE to spend some time with you and Peggy in your paradise world. I like your goal of getting out for one week each month and I think the Oregon Coast is always a win. No worries on the mud. I don’t mind it. I’ll hike extra in the mud and that way you don’t have to, ha ha!

  3. Another splendid photo tour. Having seen a pic of you jumping before I have no trouble imagining you bouncing like a kid on the bridge. Re the cliff edge I can identify both with you and with you companion. Your good wishes reciprocated, Crystal

    1. Yes, I know just which photo you’re talking about too: me on a high rock in the Wadi Rum desert, with hair flying in all directions. To be honest, I realized the same as you about the edge of the cliff. Just imagining that *I* am the one watching someone else on the edge, taking photos, makes my stomach turn over. But yes, as a photographer, you have also taken chances. I’ve seen your photos where you change your position, like getting down low, or leaning out, so I’ll bet you can relate. I wish all the best for you and Jackie in this new year full of unknowns. What, indeed, will it all turn out to be like? I guess we’ll have to live it to know. ❤

  4. Oh, Crystal, thank you for taking me with you! I remember mud on occasion from Slovenia and never enjoyed walking my first dog in those conditions. And in such cold too! Hard work, but you like that. Plus you got your photo awards. Huuuuugs!

    1. Yes!! Beautiful photos as awards. It was prettier when I was actually there, but the light was poor. Ah well, they still give you a good sense of what we saw. I wish I could have taken a shot of the trail through the dense forest when it was pitch black out. THAT was something. But… probably would have been a boring photo. Oh my goodness, yes, I felt for all the families with their doggos out there. All the puppies seemed inordinately happy, and their owners sort of grimaced more than smiled at us. I saw one big poodle with mud up her furry legs almost to her belly. Happy happy poodle. I exclaimed, “I know someone who is getting a bath tonight!” And her daddy laughed.

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