Sunday, July 23rd, 2023, 0600-2000
Humbug State Park to Gold Beach
23 miles, Gain 1000′, Loss 1000′, elevation 340′
I departed early, eager to get a head-start on the traffic. I had the second longest HWY 101 road walk coming up at nearly 5 miles. My timing was perfect, as it doesn’t get quieter than a Sunday morning. I had my breakfast at a day use area in Humbug State Park, happy to find flush toilets, but no sink or tap water. I’d sort of been counting on water being there, since it was listed in the guidebook. Luckily there was a pretty little stream, so I just filtered water from it. The guidebook said not to trust any surface water and it was true, I’d seen some pretty questionable sources along the coast, running from places where there were heavy agriculture and forestry activities. But some sources seemed pretty good, especially this one. It’s always hard to say for sure, though.
The initial highway walk was very easy and without worry. There was little traffic, as anticipated. Leading back to the coast was fairly straight and with a decent shoulder. I switched sides several times where there were blind curves. I made great time to the Arizona beach access, which I hit perfectly at low tide. The guidebook said one might have to do some large boulder scrambling but it was low enough to just walk around on the sand. Certainly the beach walking was slower than if I’d just stayed on the highway for another 2.5 miles…but then there was another 3 miles of road walking after that, which would have meant an 11 mile stretch, so it was good to break it up with some beach walking in between.
In fact, it was some of the best beach walking the whole trip. Thank goodness the tide allowed it! It reminded me of the remoteness and complexity of the stretch between Indian and Cannon beach on my second day. There were so many sea stars, anemones, and muscles, it was incredible. I took my time picking around all the individual sea stacks and big rocks, with easy access along hard packed sand in between. This was by far the best part of the day. I also found a shipwreck, which wasn’t as cool as it sounds. It was a modern boat, with plastics, fiberglass, and other assorted unsightly stuff. A huge section of fiberglass had actually washed ashore inside a sea cave. I even found life jackets and an inflatable small boat, from which I tried to recover the name of the ship, but had no luck. I wondered if the crew had been rescued and if anyone (owner or insurance company) was being tasked with cleaning up the mess? Did anyone even know the ship had wrecked? Maybe it had sunk and then washed ashore. The debris field stretched for a quarter mile, so I couldn’t imagine that a ship seemingly so large could go unnoticed. I at least salvaged a stainless steel carabiner from it, doing my small part in the clean-up… yeah right, not so much.
At the Sisters Rocks, I visited one of the most awesome sea caves. It had a huge opening, like the maw of a giant wormhole. A man was hanging out there and had conveniently placed a rope to climb down inside. I peaked over the edge, at first happy to have a rope assist, then finding it totally unnecessary as I down climbed. It was like any one of 20 easy scrambles every day on the Hayduke. This made me happy, feeling like maybe I was actually good at scrambling, where others felt the need for ropes. On the Hayduke, I’d always felt like I was the one who was weakest at that sort of thing. I guess it’s all relative.
The inside was so cool, with a view all the way out to the other side of the massive sea stack, as big as Haystack Rock near Cannon beach. The tide was low and the water calm enough that I could have paddled my kayak through! How I yearned to paddle through every sea arch I’d seen…I didn’t know the reason for this desire, it just seemed really fun. It’s probably not even legal to paddle so close to the offshore islands, given all the nesting birds. The conditions rarely allowed for it anyway.
I couldn’t go any further because of a series of steep points to the south, but I sure was tempted to try. I could see Ophir and Nesika beaches just around the corner…if I could just do a little scrambling. I decided against it and reluctantly went back to the highway for another 3 miles. Unfortunately the masses had woken and were all out for a Sunday drive. I came to a curve where I needed to cross the road, but a caravan of VW bugs and buses came along at that moment, probably 50 vehicles in strength. It was a continuous parade, so I just sat down on the guardrail and watched. I’d seen a similar thing with Mazda Miatas in Colorado, oddly enough. I guess these traveling caravans of certain car fandoms are probably a Facebook group or Meetup thing. The buses and bugs were very cool, all different colors and decorations…loud though!
I was happy and eager to get to the Ophir trail and back to the beach. Sadly, my beach time lasted only an hour and I was back on a road. At least the rest of the road walking this day was on side roads through Nesika and then a dirt road that was the Old Coast road. I’m not sure that road was better than the highway because I ended up having to fend of the most aggressive rural dogs I’d encountered yet on any of my hikes. The two came from a property with a high fence but wide-open gate. As soon as I realized the devil-hounds were loose, I moved to the far side of the road and stood to face them. Sometimes dogs will stop at the property line, very much aware of their defensible area. Not these, they came out the gate, across the road, and right up to the tip of my outstretched pole, barking and snarling furiously. The biggest challenge is convincing a pack to stop and think. I was yelling at the top of my lungs “No! Stay! Bad dogs!” The black lab folded as soon as it realized I wasn’t an easy target. It was just following the lead of the aggressor, a large husky. This was the one I really had to threaten. It stopped just feet away and was calculating where to best sink its teeth in. I took a swing with my pole, not intending to hit it, just showing what I could do. After some tense moments, it retreated to the yard. I still yelled after it “no, bad dog!” but also had some choice words to yell at the house. I didn’t see anyone around. I did some flexing later in the form of a formal complaint lodged with the Gold Beach animal control office.
I made it back to a beach at Otter point (false advertising as there were no otters), which took me all the way to the jetty at the Rogue river. Popping onto the jetty to follow it inland, I was surprised to see dozens of small boats in the channel. I wondered about getting a ride across but realized it would be too difficult and dangerous for a boat to pull up to the jetty rocks, especially with a slight current. But some boats were so close, I almost could have jumped onto one. The walk around and over the bridge was easy and scenic anyway, so no need for a boat ride.
I hadn’t quite intended to go as far as the town this day, so as was often the case, I was stuck trying to figure out where to sleep. The one easy part of towns is finding food, but even here there weren’t a lot of options on a Sunday. It was basically pizza or Chinese, and the pizza place had a big line. The Chinese place was only open for take away, so I ate my dinner at some picnic tables in front of a closed Thai food truck. I walked up the road to a city park that was no doubt a high target for other ‘outdoor’ persons. It seemed that this place had been hit so hard that the city had removed the toilets from the bathrooms…people doing drugs inside and trashing the place was probably the reason. I sat down in a pavilion to reassess and almost immediately was joined by a woman bearing her bottle of hootch for the night. She then proceeded to root through the trash, which was my cue to split. I needed to walk a ways up the hill, requiring effort and stamina, which most tweakers didn’t have. I found a powerline road breaking off the main road and followed that a ways into the forest. It was probably my worst site yet but would do for one night. Crappy logged forest with hard lumpy ground, yuck. But I guess it was free, so I can’t complain too much.