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How to beat the crowds on the Oregon Coast

The only other people on the miles-long stretch of beach aren’t even on it, technically speaking.

They are two kitesurfers, who launched at quaint Floras Lake, hopped the sand dunes, and are now skimming across the ocean, beyond the breakers, like flying fish.

Call me and my wife boring, but we crossed the dunes by simply taking the quarter-mile trail from the lake’s day-use area.

Yes, if riding a surfboard while strapped to a giant sail is your thing, you’ll feel right at home in Oregon. But what’s great about our state is that you can also have a piece of its natural beauty all to yourself for a while with very little effort.

We spent three days at the coast on this trip, concentrating on the area between the busy towns of Bandon and Port Orford. We logged no more than 10 miles on foot, yet this moderate amount of hiking resulted in some exhilarating views, some great nature observing, and lots of peace and quiet.

Breathing air gloriously free of wildfire smoke was a tremendous bonus.

Every Oregon beach feels different, and the one adjacent to Floras Lake felt slanted. That’s because the sand cuts down to the surf at a pronounced angle, making it difficult to establish a level track.

OK, so it was a bit of a strain to walk like a pirate with a peg leg. But in just 15 minutes, heading south, we reached a brown sandstone cliff that, through erosion, has segmented into a row of slots. My wife and I picked one of them as our “living room,” stretched out in the sand, and pulled paperbacks from our daypacks.

The day before, we were in Bandon, where the activity by Face Rock seemed hectic to us. There must have been 50 people milling on the beach, plus several frolicking dogs.

In our sandstone hideaway, on the other hand, we passed a lazy afternoon reading with just a few seagulls for company, and the constant low rumble of the sea soothing us.

Later on this trip, we parked at the end of Airport Road off Highway 101, and picked up a marked trail through the woods to Blacklock Point. After 45 minutes, we broke into the clear to find the vast ocean spread out below us.

Cut five minutes off the time if you don’t get wrapped up in watching a very green frog hop through the ferns, as we did.

There were no amenities at the point, such as picnic tables or spotting scopes. Sitting on a natural bench of solid rock, we sighted a few whales spouting beyond some jagged islets.

We shifted our eyes south just in time to catch the Cape Blanco lighthouse flash its signal.

The only people we saw during our stay at the point were a foursome of hikers, who passed through the tall grass above our perch without noticing us. We heard one of them exclaim, “This is a dream hike!”

At noon in Port Orford, we got seated at our favorite fish-and-chips place, just before the lady at the counter started a waiting list. She kept up a steady banter with the growing number of people seeking a table, telling one grumpy guy, “This isn’t McDonald’s, you know.”

This was enough town life for us. So after our delicious meal, we headed away from the hubbub. Within five minutes, we were parked at the old Coast Guard station — now a maritime museum — on Port Orford Heads.

Two trails lead across these rugged bluffs, neither longer than a half mile, and both lined by some of the largest Sitka spruce trees we’ve ever seen. Though we passed a few other people, the chatty chickadees foraging in the berry bushes outnumbered the human presence.

We chose a south-facing spot to sit, affording a view of Humbug Mountain, a few miles down the coast. A long, thin cloud was brushing across its top.

Once again, we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for a whale show.

One surfaced so close below us that we could hear it exhale, like the air brakes on a bus. This alone made our visit to the Heads a five-star experience.

This alone renewed our love for the slightly out-of-the-way places on the Oregon Coast.

Paul Hadella is a freelance writer living in Talent. Reach him at talenthouse@charter.net.


Share Your Adventure

The Mail Tribune wants to share your adventure. We’re looking for accounts of hikes, climbs, river runs, fishing trips, bike rides, ocean outings, camping trips, wildlife encounters and anything else you’ve done outdoors. Email your story and pictures to Mail Tribune features editor Dave Smigelski at dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com.

PHOTO BY PAUL HADELLA The "slanted" beach adjacent to Floras Lake was a good place to escape the nonexistent crowds on the Oregon Coast.
PHOTO BY PAUL HADELLA A lone kite surfer enjoys some solitude on the Oregon Coast near Floras Lake.