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Wild Side: Go coastal to beat the furnace

As the heat wave sets in and heroic firefighters are busy battling several dozen wildfires across Southern Oregon, you might ask yourself: How do I get a break from the dreaded heat? Well, the very best way that I know to really beat the heat is to go coastal.

I wish I had better news, but it looks like we are in for several more weeks of debilitating heat. The good news: the Southern Oregon and Northern California coast can be 40 degrees cooler than the interior valleys. You might even need a sweatshirt when you get there!

By far my favorite place on the coast is the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor managed by Oregon State Parks. I am always amazing at how few people there are on what is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline anywhere in the world.

The Scenic Corridor is 12 miles long just north of Brookings, but every single hike is unique and those who venture out are rewarded with stunning views. There are also 27 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail that meander around the cliffs through the corridor and down to the beaches.

Samuel H. Boardman was the first Oregon Parks superintendent, serving from 1929-1950. He pushed hard to protect this coastline for the public. Much of the land was purchased in the early 1950s from private owners and the Bureau of Land Management. Many parcels had agreements for logging and sheep grazing. Borax Consolidated, Ltd., of London, England, gave 300 acres for the park in 1950.

Mr. Boardman went so far as to approach the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Harold Ickes with a proposal for a National Park in this area. Officials toured the proposal in the early 1940s, but the idea never came to fruition. While the corridor is a small set-aside from his original vision, it is special and he was rewarded with commemorative monument located at House Rock Viewpoint.

The corridor includes a diversity of rugged cliffs, enormous arched rocks, 300-year old Sitka spruce, with the mighty Pacific Ocean stretching the horizon. The secluded cove beaches are such a treasure. If you have the time, nothing quite beats a day on the beach while the crashing waves calm your heat-worn soul.

Here are a few of my favorite spots at Boardman:

Natural Bridges to China Beach. This is an easy trail about a half-mile long, but it has expansive views and is worth a stop if you don’t want a longer adventure.

Arch Rock Point and Spruce Island Point. An easy trail takes you a quarter-mile to vistas of the incredible Arch Rock. A must-see.

Thomas Creek and Whaleshead Beach. I have spent quite a bit of time with the kids lounging at Whaleshead Beach, and using the picnic area for a lunch spot, but the trails around this area are great to explore. The trail to Thomas Creek is about 3 miles and is moderate in difficulty with some elevation gain, but it offers incredible views of the coast.

Indian Sands. OK, this is one of my favorites, because it is such a unique location. The steep sandy banks seem to come out of nowhere, which are formed from eroding sandstone (not the beach), provide endless fun for those looking for a more active beach experience (e.g. climbing up sand dunes and sliding down).

Thunder Rock Cove. This is an easy, short hike with little elevation change along dramatic coastal cliffs. During swells, the crashing waves make for awesome sights and sounds against the rocks.

Secret Beach. Well, I can’t tell you about this one other than it is quite amazing. I do promise you that if you spend some time at the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor, you will find this slice of paradise. (Another secret ... I think you can probably also find it on the Internet.)

Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.

Photo by Michael Dotson / KS WildView of the Pacific Ocean from Indian Sands.