Yaquina Head

Outstanding is a word to be used carefully. Certainly the Federal Government does not bandy this word about. Yet the BLM has named this area the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, one of several in the U.S. and one of three with a lighthouse. (By the way, it is pronounced yuh-KWINN-uh, more-or-less.)

The iconic lighthouse and protected area. Thank you, BLM.

While a lighthouse has been here since the late 19th century, it was also a basalt quarry until 1983. But the scars, while still visible, are diminished by the natural beauty, the wildlife, and the iconic lighthouse.

Outstanding it is, in easy-hiker terms. Mostly paved and level, there is an easy walk from the Interpretive Center to the lighthouse.  It is safe for prams or even wheelchairs. The only impediment might be the wind that whips the headland. On a sunny day, it is easy to ignore the breeze.

The historic lighthouse. Tours available,

For those desiring more exercise, there is a short hike to the top of Salal Hill, a climb of 110 steps to the top of the lighthouse, or you can take the stairs down to Cobble Beach for some tide pool exploration. The footing here is tricky, though, as the beach is made up of polished “cobbles:” basalt rocks that over the years have been smoothed and rounded by the surf. We’ve never seen any beach like this. Well worth exploring.

Cobble beach, aptly named. Tough footing.

Low tide offers magnificent tide pool exploration.

Bird life abounds: Common murres, brown pelicans, tufted puffins, guillemots, gulls, and cormorants. Whales can be spotted when the sea is calm enough as California Gray Whales linger off the Central Oregon Coast in July and August.

Off-shore islands shelter sea birds.

I am looking forward to coming back on a nice winter day.

To complete the day, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the harbor at Newport are close by.

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Shorter hikes around Lincoln City

While the Oregon Coast and Cascade range offer oodles of hiking options — you can hike the entire coast on the Oregon Coast Trail, for example — sometimes we need to stay closer to home but want to be out in the woods. This is especially true during tourist season when Highway 101 is clogged with motor homes and the beaches are flooded with sand pails and kite flyers. It can be challenging just to go to Safeway on a Friday during THE SEASON.

So we have been busy exploring some of the little walks nearby. The city has a number of trails nicely mapped-out. We have encountered surprisingly few people on these walks, even at the height of the season.

Road’s End, near our home. A gorgeous morning, June 23, about 62 degrees.

The Villages at Cascade Head are basically out our back door.  We frequently walk to the ocean at Roads End and loop back on city streets. It takes about 35 minutes on foot to get to the water. Also classified in The Villages is The Knoll, (see Out Our Back Door), a nice climb. It is a funny area, The Villages. It was a housing development that failed in 2008 before any houses were built. The city bought it and maintains it as park land. There is a paved road with sidewalks running through it for a half-mile or so but you can walk for miles.

The other day we were aimlessly walking in The Villages on the main road when we decided to explore some of the lesser-used trails. We had the thought that we could short-cut from one of the marked trails and circle back toward our house. Those trails marked on the map led to true deer paths. Or maybe elk paths. We saw scat everywhere and were in danger of getting lost in the woods about a kilometer from our house. Yeah, the forest is that dense.

I dread the day the city sells the property and allows a developer to build there.

On to a few more local walks.

One of the possible activities here is kayaking. Bring your own.

The Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge sports a new trail that opened this spring. While the wildlife refuge is very large and includes beaches along the bay, the trail is very short and suitable for small children and even baby strollers. There are a staggering number of birds that can be found in the refuge, and other wildlife as well. No dogs allowed! It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the trail but strung together with a few other walks (below), one can get a good half-day of walking in.

Regatta Grounds Park is a destination for people with small children due to the incredible playground there, but we enjoyed a 20-minute loop through the adjacent woods where we saw a 200-foot tall, 400-year-old Sitka spruce. Magnificent.

Another short walk is available at Friends of Wildwoods Open Space. The path traverses a wetland with little brooks running even after 6 weeks without measurable rain. Even on a July day, the woods were cool enough to require a jacket. This is a 35-minute trail, with no real destination. Just a pleasant ramble through woods. Watch for tripper roots, though. Oregon trees have shallow roots!

Finally, the Spring Lake Trails offers more variety from a concrete paved walkway along the western boundary to some steeper sections near the lake. We have not fully explored this park yet and when we return we will bring our trekking sticks as there is some challenging footing and many roots to watch out for. Centered on a spring-fed lake, I have to believe there will be significant waterfowl to view later in the season.

Soon we hope to explore Drift Creek Falls and a few of the State parks along the coast. Stay tuned!



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