Minus Tide Explorations & Eagle Viewing on Oregon’s Central Coast

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: mid-June 2022 | Duration: 3 days | Hiking Distance: 7 miles | Participants: 8 | Type: Hiking & Tent Camping

The low tide zone is always covered, except for a few times a year during the lowest tides. It was during one such minus low tide that 8 of us ventured to an area along Oregon’s central coast to explore tide pools during an impressive -2.4 feet (-73 cm) low tide!

Day 1: Our group arrived on their schedule at one of the nearby Oregon State Park group camps. That afternoon and evening were open for beach walking, exploring on your own, or watching the sunset. In the evening, everyone enjoyed a campfire and discussed plans for the next day. It was interesting that one topic of conversation that arose was the book, “Braiding Sweetgrass.” Of the 8 participants, more than half had read the book, one was in the process of reading, and the others were interested. At 10 pm a gentle rain started and continued through to the morning.

Day 2: At 7 am, we carpooled to an unnamed parking area expecting a filling parking lot, but to the trip leader’s surprise were only 3 cars. The rain, cool temperatures, and overcast skies likely contributed to the low turnout. We arrived about 2 hours before low tide to follow the tide out. This particular tide pool area is special because we can walk on sand and open rocky surfaces to visit ‘islands’ of marine life. After 2.5 hours, and a returning tide, we started back and met several rangers who helped to provide some more context to the area. One ranger said the rain had chased most away that morning. We saw numerous anemones, various seaweeds, chitons, crabs, limpets, mussels, and some small fish believed to be skulpins. Also observed were a pacific harbor seal, seagulls, and great blue heron. Later that morning, we drove to a coffee shop in Nye Beach to warm up. Then half of the group ventured back to the campground, and the other half visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center. That afternoon, we met up at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and saw at least 4 bald eagles in addition to the common murres, surf scoters, and pigeon guillemots. One participant said that in 30 years of visiting Yaquina Head she had not seen that many eagles there as that day. That evening we enjoyed dinner around a campfire. Several of the group visited the beach at sunset to see up to 8 large birds visiting what appeared to be the body of a deer on the beach (the deer had not been there 24 hours earlier). The deer had been possibly struck by a vehicle on the nearby highway and made it to the beach before dying. Near the body were 8 birds; 3 were vultures, 2 were adult bald eagles, and 3 were juvenile bald eagles. The interactions between the birds were raucous at times. Just at sunset, the eagles departed and the vultures returned. That evening the rain returned.

Day 3: We awoke to a wet campsite and decided to meet in Depoe Bay at 9 am. Some broke camp early to grab some breakfast in town. In Depot Bay the group met up again, and we looked briefly for whales, but saw no signs, then drove north to Fogarty Creek to enjoy a -1.5 foot low tide. After an hour and a half, everyone departed for home.

Pacific Harbor Seal
A visitor to the tide pools during a minus low tide.
Great Blue Heron
Wet and overcast during our visit.
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. What was most amazing today is the lack of wind.
Eagles!
An adult bald eagle and what appear to be two juvenile eagles at the ocean’s edge.
An adult bald eagle and juvenile (at left) stand over what appears to be a deer carcass on the beach. A turkey vulture is at the right.
The two juvenile eagles are much larger that the turkey vultures who are keeping their distance.
Found some fossils while tide pooling!
Mussel colonies
Up close with a starfish

Watching a Banana Slug Eat Up-Close

While recently camping on the Oregon Coast, my daughter noticed a giant banana slug. This slug was a beast measuring 8.5 inches in length! Over several hours, the slug moved from the ground to some low-hanging leaves of a Salal plant. The lower oval-shaped leaves were leathery, but the smaller leaves, just a foot away, were tender-looking and bright green. The slug found these smaller leaves within a short time and began to devour the newly-found meal. What was most amazing to me was that I have only seen banana slugs eating decomposing materials. This was the first time I observed one eating leaves. Also, because of the slug’s location, just a few feet off the ground, this was a great way to see how they eat. The slug’s mouth quickly closed and moved to the next section on the leaf, it is the microscopic teeth (or radula that can number up to 27,000) that make this creature even more fascinating. Below are some close-up pictures and a 2-second time-lapse video taken over about 3-minutes showing the slug eating.

>> Watch a time-lapse video of the banana slug eating

Central Oregon Hiking Explore 2022

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: late April / early May 2022 | Duration: 4 days | Hiking Distance: 17-20 miles | Participants: 9 | Type: Hiking & Tent Camping

Just getting to our assembly area was an adventure with snow and cold temperatures crossing the Cascades. Arriving at Oregon’s Tumalo State Park the temperatures were mild if a bit cool. The group hiked 6-miles along the picturesque Deschutes River and then enjoyed an evening around the campfire. On the morning of day 2, we made a stop at the Ogden Wayside to see and walk the impressive 500-foot canyon made by the Crooked River. The weather included dramatic downpours mixed by sun and calm. We drove to the historic town of Shaniko and were welcomed inside the historic Shaniko Hotel (1900) which is undergoing renovations for opening later in the year. The town is a page out of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the hotel has a number of ghost stories. Continuing to Cottonwood Canyon State Park we drove past a number of wind turbines, cows, and open rangeland. Arriving at the park we made camp and enjoyed a 4-mile hike. It was windy that afternoon and well into the night. On day 3, we hiked 7-miles in the morning along the John Day on the Pinnacles Trail. We had to turn around due to a trail closure because Golden Eagles were nesting. Bighorn sheep peered down at us from high above the basalt cliffs. After returning to camp and enjoying some lunch several of the party hiked another 4 miles, with some making an additional 7. We enjoyed a quiet and windless evening around a warm campfire. We went to bed as the stars were coming out. Later that night the stars were amazing, though rain clouds were rolling in. The morning of day 4 was an early departure for the group with some opting to enjoy a warm breakfast in Condon.

We observed merganser, deer, mallard ducks, turkey vultures, Canadian geese, California bighorn sheep, swallow, crows, hawks, an unidentified lizard, and several snakes along the trail. There were tracks and signs of bobcats, coyotes, more bighorn sheep, and possibly pronghorn. We heard soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo from a Great Horned Owl, and the chucks of what was believed to be Chukar partridges.

Driving over the pass to the Bend area that morning, we encountered snow with temperatures in the 30s. Arriving at Tumalo State Park in the afternoon the temperatures were mild today and provided the setting for a great hike along the Deschutes River. We stayed for an evening in the park before venturing further inland.
The often-overlooked urban caves in Redmond provided a respite from the rain.

The Shaniko Hotel is being refurbished. Our group was fortunate to be invited inside to see the renovations and hear some ghost stories.
The lobby of the Shaniko Hotel (dated 1900) is undergoing a facelift.
Horses and wind turbines
Arriving at Cottonwood Canyon State Park we enjoyed several hikes along the John Day River.
Swallows gather mud for their nests along the edge of the John Day River. They flew across the river to a cliff and disappeared among the complex shadows and crevices of the massive rock wall.
Occasionally called a white woolly bear caterpillar or “white woolly,” the hickory tussock moth caterpillar is white with a black line going down its back. According to legend, the wider the rusty brown sections, the milder the coming winter will be; the more black there is, the more severe the winter. 
Swallowtail butterfly
The beautiful John Day River amid a stunning landscape.
A herd of California bighorn sheep gazes down upon human hikers.
A quiet (and windless) evening in Cottonwood Campground. The quiet and comfortable evening led to a night of blustery weather with temperatures in the 40s (F), strong winds, and pelting rain.

What is the Tree of Life on Washington’s Coast?

Clinging to the rugged shoreline of Washington’s coast is an especially tenacious Sitka Spruce. The tree is a favorite among visitors to the area because it appears to grow suspended in the air with just a few roots clinging on for support.

A little creek flows underneath, forming a little cave, and on a rainy day I was there a little waterfall could be seen.

Sitka Spruce is known for being especially sturdy. During World War I, straight-growing Sitka Spruce was sought out because the wood was the preferred wood for bi-planes that needed a high-strength to lower-weight ratio on construction materials. This Sitka Spruce displays its heartiness as it hangs on to the western shoreline of North America.

On this day, just feet away was a high tide, a violent ocean, and little room on a small beach littered with tree-sized logs. Turing one’s back to the water was not advised. I didn’t stay long, but it was good to see this unusual and inspiring tree.

The Tree of Life is located near Kalaloch and within the Olympic National Park.

For more information visit the Coastal Interpretive Center’s page on the tree.

The Surprising World of Washington’s Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail

During a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in March, I was excited to experience the Hoh Rainforest, but upon arriving at the Ranger’s kiosk was told that a tree had fallen over the road. The tree was large enough that outside help had been called in to help with the removal. My vehicle, along with others, was told to return another day. 🙁

But the ranger, upon hearing that I was traveling to the south shore of Lake Quinalt suggested visiting the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail -a personal favorite of his.

Upon seeing the striking beauty of the trail I was hooked. This trail was about half a mile in distance but required an hour just to meander through this old-growth forest and fern-covered canyon. There were hanging carpets of lush green moss, signs of various animals, fungi, and the wonderful smell of clean air. This place, in a word, is breathtaking. I love interpretive trails but had not expected this half-mile walk to be so encompassing. For a longer walk, the nature trail connects to the Quinalt National Recreation Trail System with several additional miles of trails. The trail has some fantastic interpretive signage – kudos to those who arranged the material! This visit was in the springtime with temperatures in the low 50s and lots and lots of rain.

UO Gargoyles & Colophons Walk

Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: March 2022 | Walking Distance: 2 miles | Participants: 10

The weather was a bit wet and windy, but it did not lessen our enjoyment of the University of Oregon’s iconography. Our walk focused on the historic head sculptures at the Knight Library representing historic figures from the disciplines taught in academia, the science gargoyles of the Lokey Science Complex, and the printer’s marks (colophons) at Allen Hall. Shown is the humorous Einstein gargoyle.

Walking Eugene’s Downtown Murals, Spring 2022

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: March 2022 | Walking Distance: 3 miles | Participants: 10

Downtown Eugene has some colorful building-sized murals along with multiple micro-art pieces. It’s been about 9-months since a previous walk downtown, it was good to see several old favorites, and a few new pieces too.

Shown are two recent additions: “We Rise” by Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith & a colorful Tyrannosaurus mural by Bayne.

Thomas Condon’s 200th Birthday Walk

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 6.5 miles | Participants: 10

Our walk through the Masonic cemetery and across the UO campus recognized the 200th birthday of Thomas Condon, a fossil-hunting minister who was Oregon’s first state geologist, the University of Oregon’s first science professor, and the first to recognize the paleontological importance of the John Day region: an area with a fossil record that spans over 40 million years.

Re-visiting the Kalayapua Talking Stones, Spring 2022

Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 5 miles | Participants: 11

Scattered throughout the Whilamut Natural Area in Eugene, Oregon (and nearby Springfield) are 15 boulders etched with words from the Kalapuya language. These are the Kalapuya Talking Stones, and they help educate and remind visitors that the Kalapuya people, the original inhabitants of the area, are still here. The writing on the stones reflects natural items in the traditional landscape. We enjoyed visiting all 15 stones on our walk.

On Saturday, February 26th, attend the Kalapuya Storytelling & Drumming event (Downtown & Online) at the Eugene Public Library.
https://www.eugene-or.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=25128&month=2&year=2022&day=5&calType=0

Walk de Pre

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 6 miles | Participants: 10

Steve Prefontaine “Pre” is one of Oregon’s greatest sports legends. He is a former Duck (University of Oregon) athlete who helped to fuel the American running craze in the mid-1970s, earned a fourth-place Olympic finish in 1972 (5K), and numerous American records including seven NCAA titles. He is the inspiration for many runners in the decades since. Tragically, he was killed in a car crash at the age of 24 near the UO. On this walk, we learn more about “Pre” through some of the places he visited, urban trials he likely ran on during trainings at the UO, his memorial, and ending by visiting the world-class Hayward Field. Please share any stories or knowledge you have of this running legend while on our walk. The image is from Hayward Hall at Hayward Field, University of Oregon.

Exploring & Hiking on Oregon’s Central Coast 2021

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Road Scholar | Date: August & September 2021 | Departures: 4 | Duration per Program: 6 days | Hiking Distance: 30 miles each departure | Participants: ~20 per departure | Type: Hiking | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19

Sunny weather and pleasant temperatures greeted participants on 4 hiking programs exploring Oregon’s central coast. The focus of each program was learning about how the coast has changed especially over the last 100 years. Hikes included exploring the temperate rain forest, old-growth Sitka Spruce, the rugged Oregon coast, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area which is one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world.

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail: Waldport to Heceta Head

Trip Report:
Trip Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: August 2021 | Duration: 3 days | Distance: 25 miles | Participants: 6 | Type: Hiking & Camping | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid; masking precautions were taken as needed.

The trip began at the Cape Perpetua main parking area at noon on Sunday. For logistical reasons, we switched the day 1 and 2 sections with each other. We arranged several shuttles to Yachats and walked through town, then on a side street, then a pathway next to the highway before venturing inland to the Amanda statue. After that, the trail had an unrelenting elevation gain. Finally, we reached the top at just over 1,000 feet and descended to 800 feet to the shelter at Cape Perpetua for amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and Oregon Coast. We walked down the switch-back laden trail, with some continuing to the group camp while others retrieved vehicles from the nearby visitor center parking area. The evening was quiet and we were able to enjoy a campfire in the cool ocean air.

The next day, we broke camp and arranged several shuttles between Yachats and the Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site, about 7.5 miles away from where our hike began. The fog quickly returned. We passed the Big Stump, a relic of a “ghost forest.” The card attached to the tree says this is an ancient redwood tree that died about 1,200 years ago. The associated website for additional information is not active at the time of this writing. A second, seeming ancient redwood was found about a quarter-mile top the south on the beach. The group made several creek crossings. The wind kicked up. Entering Yachats, we walked on the 804 trail along the rocky coast and through Yachats to where our car shuttles waited at the Yachats State Park Recreation Area. The group split up, with those in town finding some lunch with several shuttled back to pick up our vehicles. Near the parking area, we watched several whales just off the coast. That afternoon, we returned to the group camp, where we relaxed and hiked local trails. BTW, on the interpretive display at Perpetua about the CCC camp from the 1930s, a Thanksgiving Day menu is shown. One of the items is “Goat’s Milk,” which is code for beer. That evening, a juvenile bard owl visited the camp. The owl sat on a prominent dead, broken tree about forty feet away for about 45-minutes. The owl looked at us and was very curious about some rustling in the nearby grass. The owl departed, and we enjoyed the evening.

On the third day, we broke camp and drove south by-passing several hard-to-access beaches or areas with a hazardous shoulder for walked to the Heceta Head parking overflow lot. We arranged a shuttle to the Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial State Scenic Viewpoint. We walked south to the Heceta Head, where we observed an osprey and briefly two bald eagles. We traversed the hobbit trail and over to Heceta Head Lighthouse. Just beyond the lighthouse, there were two possibly three juvenile gray whales playing and having lunch. We continued under the Cape Creek Bridge to the picnic area, where we ended the trip. Over three days, we hiked 25 miles and saw some fantastic wildlife.

Back on the beach just south of Waldport.
Big Stump
Crossing a creek.
Walking the 804 trail in Yachats.
The hike is nearly done for day 1 of this section. Yachats, Oregon.
Creative Covid awareness signs in Yachats.
A Barred Owl visited our camp for 40-45 minutes. The owl flew off and I snapped this photo.
Back on the trail in Yachats.
The Amanda statue. Her story is saddening, yet her legacy inspiring.
On the trail up the Cape Perpetua.
Cape Perpetua
Cape Perpetua
The CCC shelter at Cape Perpetua
Sunset at the coast, Cape Perpetua.
Day 3: Crossing a creek.
South on the Oregon Coast Trail. Heceta Head in the distance.
An osprey
The Hobbit Trail
Looking north on the OCT, and where we just hiked.
A Sitka Spruce with ferns.
A Gray Whale
A Gray Whale
The Heceta Head Lighthouse
The Heceta Head Lighthouse
The end of our hike at the Cape Creek Bridge