Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail: Newport to Waldport

Trip Report:
Trip Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: July 2021 | Duration: 3 days | Distance: 25 miles | Participants: 8 | Type: Hiking & Camping | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19

Day 1: The first day began at noon at the South Beach State Park day-use area. The afternoon was free-form for exploring, and some of us walked over the Yaquina Bay Bridge into Newport, where the previous Oregon Coast Trail hike ended. We stayed away from busy indoor areas as many visitors to the area were being flippant about Covid precautions, especially not wearing masks. Our walk back over the bridge proved to be very windy. The wind was knocking our feet from underneath ourselves, and with the amount of close vehicle traffic on the narrow walkway, this was a bit unnerving. in the late afternoon, we checked into the group camp and explored a bit more of the park.

Day 2: In the morning we walked a few steps to the trailhead and began our 8-mile hike to Seal Rock. The route was sunny for the first several miles then the fog moved in. At Brian Booth State Park, we had lunch next to Beaver Creek then continued south again on the beach to Seal Rock. As the beach trail ended about 1/8th of a mile from Seal Rock, we ascended a somewhat hidden and unnamed path to the highway. While walking that last couple of feet on the highway, to the parking area and our shuttle, a large truck passed us and swerved onto the highway’s shoulder to avoid hitting a car that was turning. It was a close call for us. At the parking area, we enjoyed the view of Seal Rock then returned to the campsite. For dinner, we ate at a local fish house where we could sit outside. Everyone had an early night.

Day 3: We started at Seal Rock and enjoyed a negative low tide. The tidepools were amazing! Because of the low water we easily navigated rocks that might have been problematic. The soup-like fog returned and we hiked for 5 miles on the beach in an ethereal haze. Approaching Waldport, we walked inland on some side roads, and the fog immediately cleared. We made out way down to the Alsea River and shimmied up a rough trail to the Alsea Bay Bridge. The crossing was pleasant, and we enjoyed the wide pedestrian walkway. In Waldport, we walked more on the beach, past the seawall, and to the mouth of the Alsea River. The wind was picking up again. We had a close encounter with a blue heron who flew close. At the Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Area, we ended the section of the Oregon Coast Trail.

Looking back at the massive Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, Oregon.
Crossing the 3/4 mile-long Yaquina Bay Bridge. The wind was intense at times.
After the bridge, we walked along the jetty road crossed into the South Beach State Park. The park has a number of little trails that all route to the park’s massive camping area. The campground is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the Oregon State Park system. We were fortunate our group area was mostly away from the busy campground.
A beautiful start to our O.C.T. hike today. Best of all, we could leave our group site and walk to the trailhead.
For the first 2 miles, there were blue skies and lots of sun.
Our view for the next 5 miles. This provided an other-worldly view of the coast and helped us to not see a number of large houses that rested on the unstable sandy bluffs.
We arrived at the mouth of Beaver Creek.
After a lunch break along the bank of Beaver Creek (Brian Booth State Park), we crossed over a bridge to continue south along the coast. About 2 miles later we approached Seal Rock. About an eighth of a mile before the rock was a small, and hard-to-see trail, in the fog trail that led us close to the parking area of the Seal Rock Recreation Site.
Departing Seal Rock. The dark line at the base of the rock represents the splash zone of the high tide.
A beautiful low tide!
Amazing tide pools; a minus low tide today!
The fog returned! This was our ethereal view for the next several miles.
A quarter-of-a-mile inland on the OCT the sky was clear and warm. At the end of the road, we turned onto a footpath along the river to the Alsea Bay Bridge. After a short climb up a hill, we arrived at the north end of the bridge.
Crossing the Alsea Bay Bridge into Waldport.
Another mile or so to go.
While walking near the seawall in Waldport we saw a Blue Heron.
We arrived at the Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site where this section of the hike ends. In the distance is Cape Perpetua, the heart of the next section hike on the OCT.

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail: Depoe Bay to Newport

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: July 2021 | Duration: 3 days | Distance: 19 miles | Participants: 7 | Type: Hiking & Camping | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19
Note: For logistical reasons, the trip was split into three sections with the second section being on day one and the first section on day two.

Day One: The trip began at the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center. Very windy. We explored Quarry Cove, the lighthouse, then rested out of the wind at Cobble Beach. We saw lots of common mures and several sea lions. Close to 4 pm we drove to the Beverly Beach State Park and stayed in a Group Camp. That afternoon, we attempted a walk south on the beach to the Mooklack Beach, but the wind was unrelenting, so we stayed more inland. We hiked the Nature Trail around the park, then later spent the evening around the campfire.

Day Two: We departed camp at 9 am and drove to Depoe Bay to explore some of the small parks and hidden lookouts adjacent to residential areas. We saw several grey whales feeding close to shore. At the Big Tire overlook, we saw lots of cormorants and a great view. The group enjoyed a coffee at a local coffeehouse. We departed for the Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint 2 miles away. This was to avoid a dangerous stretch of highway with no shoulder. We walked the Otter Crest Loop. A short walk down the road revealed several people walking a slackline suspended between two sides of the cliff and high over the ocean. If we were driving, we would not have seen them. We watched them for a time from the roadside. We continued to Cape Foulweater, curiously being re-branded as Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint, and looked at the magnificent view. We had a short bite to eat and rest. We continued to Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area then walked on the beach looking at fossils. We continued south, then under the Hwy 101 bridge into Beverly Beach State Park to our group site. We spent the evening around the campfire.

Day Three: The group broke camp and drove a short way to the Agate Beach State Recreation Area and we arranged a shuttle to the endpoint. We walked north a bit, but the high wind returned. At Nye Beach, we walked into town and the group descended upon a small bakery. Afterward, we continued on Elizabeth Street to the Yaquina Head lighthouse. We ended our trip overlooking the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

We encountered: bumblebees, grey whales, sea lions, common murres, cormorants, pelicans, humans, crows, robins, one pigeon (emerging from a small cave at the Big Tire overlook; interestingly, the bird’s pigeons descended from before they were domesticated lived in seaside cliffs). We also saw deer and a ground squirrel.

Revisiting Eugene’s Micro-art & Murals (Post Covid)

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: June 2021 | Distance: 3 miles | Participants: 7 | Type: Urban Walking | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19

After a year and a half since last seeing the murals and micro-art pieces in downtown Eugene, it was good to check everything out. A few of the pieces, particularly several “Jumpers” by WK Interact (forms that appear to be moving as though in Parkour jumps) seem to have disappeared while others have suffered some weathering. One newer piece by Bayne (shown), at the edge of Willamette Alley and Broadway, was very colorful. The group did see several production staff members that were working on a TV show, later we meet a man who said the show was called, “Burger Truck Brawl” and they were filming in Eugene. As we finished we walked through the Graduate Hotel and saw multiple athletes who were attending the U.S. 2021 Olympic Track and Field tryouts. One member of our group inadvertently stepped into a line thinking it was for the restroom and was then told it was for the Olympic drug-testing area. We finished our 2.5-mile art walk outside a nearby ice cream shop.

Eugene Book Loop Walk

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: June 2021 | Distance: 5 miles | Participants: 8 | Type: Urban Walking

After 15 months of businesses having reduced in-person visits due to Covid-19 safety measures, it was good to go for a walk to re-discover 3 locally-owned independent bookstores in Eugene. Our group walked from Amazon Park to J. Michaels Books, Smith Family Books, and lopping back to Tsunami Books. A fourth bookstore was still closed to in-person visits, we will get this on the next trip. We visited a local tea house before wrapping up the day. At least 10 books were purchased between the 3 locations.

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail: Baker Beach to Florence’s North Jetty

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: May 2021 | Duration: 2 days | Distance: 6 miles | Participants: 4 | Type: Hiking & Camping | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19

After a long delay from Covid-19, I was glad to again be leading trips. Our vaccinated small group made our way to Oregon’s Coast to begin a patchwork of hikes along Oregon’s Coast Trail (OCT). Although windy, our hike along Baker Beach was beautiful. The wind did create numerous little sand sculptures that provided endless fascination. Later, at the group campsite next to the creek at Sutton Campground we set up our tents and rested a bit. In the late afternoon, we enjoyed a walk through the woods to the Holman Day Use Area for a view of the dunes. In the evening, the wind quieted and we enjoyed a campfire and saw the stars. The next morning, we car shuttled between the North Jetty (mouth of the Siuslaw River near Florence) and Heceta Beach County Park. Our beach walk was north to Sutton Creek to link up where we left off the day before then south to the North Jetty. The total beach distance was about 7 miles, but we hiked about 11 miles in total exploring other trails. Returning to the Heceta Beach County Park parking area we saw the send-off for Shawn Cheshire, a blind athlete who is biking 3,800 miles to the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia.

A little windy on the coast; sand is seen gusting over the surface. Getting ready to cross a driftwood log over Berry Creek.
Exploring the north end of Baker Beach
Horses and riders seen on the horizon
A wind-blown sand sculpture created by a shell.
Leaving the dunes for today.
Our small group enjoying a rest at our campsite. We explored several additional miles of local trails in the evening.
A panoramic view of the ocean near the the mouth of Sutton Creek.
Arriving at the North Jetty, Siuslaw River, Florence.

Exiting Through the Gift Shop: Using Interpretive Principles to Strengthen the Park Store

Telling the story of your conservation, wildlife, or park non-profit is critical work.

Storytelling can include a wide range of activities: interpretation, outreach, communications, nurturing donors, engagement, development, and more. Ultimately, they all funnel into one significant opportunity to connect your message to your audience — at your organization’s gift shop or store

Stores provide an important and often critical source of funding for parks, zoos, museums, education travel, nature centers, aquaria, botanical gardens, conservation organizations, and historical sites. The products sold must be meaningful so they allow for emotional and intellectual connections to be made (think interpretation) — it is key to communicating why your organization’s mission is important.

How can store products be strengthened through interpretation?

Here are six principles of interpretation developed by Freeman Tilden and re-stated by Larry Beck and Ted Cable in their book, “The Gift of Interpretation.” I’ve included questions to ask when thinking if a product is appropriate for your audience/store.

To learn more about Interpretation visit the National Association for Interpretation online, www.interpnet.com.

Article originally published June, 2014; updated November, 2020.

How to Create a Water Discovery Kit for Your Tour

Creeks and rivers are amazing storytellers — they can teach, captivate, and inspire curious minds.

I always try to include creeks and rivers into the larger interpretive theme of a tour, especially when these waterways can provoke people into broadening their horizons.

It’s always fun to open up an itenary so trip participants can look under rocks, get their feet wet, observe critters in the water — to touch, hear, smell, see, and learn more about the story of a place.

To help with bringing this story to life I bring along a simple “Water Discovery Kit.” The kit can be made at home, packs well, and weighs just a few pounds. It includes:

  • 1 Gallon-sized Plastic Bucket with Handle
  • 1 10x Microscope
  • 2 Dip Nets
  • 1 Big Pipette (medium-sized turkey baster)
  • 1 Thermometer
  • 3 Magnification Loops
  • 1 Set of Laminated Instructions
  • 1 Plankton Net with ziplock
  • 6 Small Pipettes
  • 3 Round clear observation dishes
  • 3 Rectangular clear observation dishes
  • 3 Rectangular observations plates
  • 1 Funnel
  • 1 Gallon-sized ziplock
  • 1 Secchi dish (8-inch)

Everything on the list fits inside the bucket, except for the Secchi disk which I carry separately.  The kit can be used by elementary kids on up, though it works best when various generations (grandparents and grandchildren) are involved.

Seven Tour Director Survival Tips for Dealing with “Vegan Issues”

Shown: Two vegan “small plate” dishes enjoyed at an Indian restaurant while on tour; Gobi Manchurian – fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet and sour sauce, and Samosa Chaat – two savory bean and pea pastries topped with a garbanzo bean curry and house chutneys.

As a trip leader, I love creating meaningful experiences for participants — especially through food. I’m also a vegan who loves to travel and engage new places through local tastes. For me, tour directing and eating vegan are complimentary flavors.

That’s why I’m surprised when fellow tour directors express derision towards vegans. These sentiments were summed up at a recent guide training when a group presented their hot topics titled, VEGAN ISSUES.  The frustration was perplexing because to be blunt, vegans aren’t problems on tour. As with any interpretive travel what is required is a better knowledge of the audience. Here’s seven survival tips for tour directors dealing with “vegan issues.”

1. Why are vegans, vegan? And, what is plant-based?
Vegans eat the same food as everyone else, except it’s not made from animals. Vegans value compassion. They seek to eliminate, as much as practical and possible, the use of and exploitation of animals in their everyday lives.  They understand the most immediate way to enact compassion is to control what they put on their plate. Another group to know about are travelers who are plant-based; they eat plants solely for dietary or health benefits. Veganism takes plant-based a step further and includes the ethical component.

2. Why are vegans quiet?
Vegans are often stereotyped as being quiet. Some can be. Many vegans tend to be reserved when traveling because they don’t want to be derided. Here are some actual comments by professional-level tour directors about vegans:

“Why don’t they eat like normal people?”
“
If they can’t eat normal food on a tour, they should be made to eat what the rest eat!”
“They seem smart, too bad they can’t figure out what they’re going to eat this week.”

Is it any wonder a traveler might be quiet when a tour director’s personal biases (yes, biases) are seeping into other communications? Trip leaders need to understand that everyone on their tour want to eat good-tasting, wholesome food. Vegans just want food without the animal or the hidden animal products.

3. Why are they vegan at home, but not while traveling?
I often hear trip leaders say, “Why are they vegan at home, but not while traveling?” At home, all of us can control ingredients, quantity, salt, oils, etc., but this can be very difficult for anyone during a week-long tour. Vegans have learned to be pros when it comes to ordering food selectively at restaurants to avoid hidden animal products, substituting side dishes, or supplementing their travel meals by visiting the store.  However, on tour, most of the pre-selected restaurants on an itinerary are solidly meat-centric.  When confronted with zero choices many vegan travelers just won’t eat at all, others might order various side dishes to create something of a meal. Others might make a “what causes the least harm” decision. A few might substitute fish, though these are usually travelers who need to eat something (anything) at each meal to regulate blood sugar or taking medicine with food.

4. Why don’t they eat the special vegan meal?
The biggest frustration I’ve heard from tour directors is that the specially prepared vegan meal rarely gets eaten. I can say without hesitation – 95% of the specially prepared
vegan meals on tours are notoriously bad. These vegan meals might be made by well-intentioned kitchens, but staff often have no clue what vegans eat and the results can range from lackluster to frightful. If someone on tour is skipping meals, their basic needs are not being met.

5. What about vegans eating alternative meat on tours?
The target audience for alternative meat products aren’t plant-eaters, the target audience are meat-eaters who want to reduce the amount of meat they are eating. To many vegans, alternative meat is junk food and should be eaten sparingly.

6. What do vegans eat?
Vegan food can be as diverse as a fresh salad or pizza. I like food that is unrefined or minimally refined and excludes or minimizes meat, dairy products, and eggs.  Vegan food can include apples, bananas, blueberries, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, potatoes, corn, green peas, winter squash, barley, millet, oats, quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, tahini, almond butter, or even rice, soy, oat, almond, and cashew milk. The entire vegetable and fruit aisle at the store is vegan. A good part of the grain aisle and some of the bread aisle is vegan. Additionally, there are plant-based mayonnaise, cheeses and other sandwich condiments that taste like traditional products and are cost-effective. On the more recreation and social side, most french fries and beer are vegan. There’s no shortage of plant-based foods or creative ways to eat vegan while on tour, here’s a few:

Shown: Some of the vegan meals, desserts, and snacks served on the tours and trips I’ve led.

7. How should I talk with a vegan on my tour?
Have a conversation with them as you would with anyone on your trip. Remember, vegans want to eat delicious food too, if they have a question about food it’s originating from a place of compassion. Use compassion as a starting point in your own conversation with trip travelers. I try to set this tone in my pre-trip welcome letter, I explain that while our trip has made efforts to eat at places that offer a variety of foods some of the menus can be limited. I add that we will have an opportunity to stop by a local grocery store so all participants can supplement food, and grab something fresh and healthy if needed. At times when travelers explore a town on their own, I always find a local restaurant that offers a selection of vegan options and invite others to join me. I also communicate with the office about locating restaurants that are generally healthier. During the tour, I speak with the kitchen to see about suggestions if something can be substituted.

On a tour, everyone can experience new places through local tastes. It does requires some up-front communication with travelers about what to expect on a trip. It also requires some greater knowledge of your audience.

Note: The list of foods on #6 comes from Forks Over Knives

When Travel Experiences Are Not in Context, Guests Don’t Remember

In recent years, adventure learning companies have focused on quantity versus quality in regards to their programs. As a trip leader, I’ve seen it too often.

In a rush to increase destination offerings, for a wider audience, many of the experiences are often not in context with the purpose of the trip. The result is that after a week-long program the guest remembers they participated in some fun things, but are not exactly sure how they grew as a person. If they cannot successfully answer this, then how is your company unique? And, why should they return?

An easy way to help guests grow, and nurture them for joining future trips, is to keep all of the travel program’s experiences in context with a big idea. In short, what is the big idea you want your guests/participants to remember? Think of a big idea as a unifying theme for the trip. All of the site visits, excursions, and explorations on the trip should gravitate around this big idea.

It is very easy to build a program around generic information, which is what most tourism companies do (see photo below). It is more challenging to design an adventure learning travel program around a unifying message where all of the experiences (walks, food, guest speakers, site visits, etc) are in context with a big idea. When travel experiences are in context, guests remember they had fun, but also their discoveries.

The Essential Ingredient for Designing a Tour is Understanding Its Theme

All program managers at learning/adventure travel companies wrestle with how best to design quality programs. The most common approach is to think of a subject or a destination (as fire, central Oregon, or Crater Lake) and build the program around it. This seems simple enough, yet themes are a continuous source of frustration, ambiguity, and pain. I’ve seen friends and co-workers, who are solid program managers, struggle with themes that never effectively come together into a cohesive whole.

The problem arises because themes are thought of as nouns. While they do include destinations and things, the essential ingredient for designing a theme is to think of it as a verb.

Some examples:
A multi-day program built around a topic of “fire” now becomes the theme, “Discover how fire helps forge every aspect of our life (sub-themes include: homes/communities, food preparation, entertainment, arts, places we play, and our survival).”

A week-long bus/hiking/rafting program with a topic of the “Seven Wonders of Oregon” transforms into a theme of, “Exploring Oregon’s dynamic geology allows for first-hand discovery and connection to one of the most fundamental forces of nature – in both its creative and destructive roles.”

An active hiking program with a topic of “Exploring Crater Lake” evolves into the theme, “Crater Lake’s breathtaking beauty, seasonal weather extremes, and distinguishing natural and cultural features, combined with a variety of recreational opportunities, provide visitors with abundant chances for discovery, reflection, and inspiration.”

Another way of thinking about a theme is to answer, “What is the big idea I want participants to remember?” Creating a theme in this light focus all of the activities and interactions around a single idea; it helps the program designer and the trip leaders focus on what is relevant while bringing the program to life.

Urban Walks & Explores in Track Town (Eugene, Oregon)

Winter is a wonderful time to explore Eugene, Oregon. Here’s a sampling of several group tours I led in late 2019 to see local murals, holiday lights, the university, and historic districts.

Leading an evening walk to see some of the holiday lights.

Learning about a local author (Opal Whiteley) and the statue commemorating her life. This was part of a local art walk.

After a tour, I always ask if participants would like to continue their day (or evening) enjoying some local flavors.

A walk through the grounds of the University of Oregon to see local art and craftsmanship.


Enjoying a brief side-trip to learn about some of the participant’s explorations in Oregon with this wall-sized map.

There are always curious things to see on my trips, this Holiday skeleton was spotted in a car while I was leading a recent group walk.


Eugene was once home to 18-miles of electric streetcars (trolleys). On this neighborhood walk, our group was able to see some of the original tracks that are resurfacing.

This location is actually near an old stop on the historic trolley line (from the previous photo), but today the stop is home to little free tea kiosk where a person can get a hot cup of tea and enjoy a book.


Walk participants are finding some micro-art pieces for themselves in this photo. This is a trompe-l’Å“il art piece, it uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that looks three dimensional.

Some of the curious street art in Eugene.

Exploring & Hiking on Oregon’s Central Coast

Our group was fortunate with sunny weather this week as our program was bookended by storms. Our local study leaders, who were well-versed in the area’s natural history, really brought the program to life – thank you for their expertise! This was a great trip to discover how the natural history of the central coast has changed, especially over the past 150 years. I’m happy to have helped with bringing my own experiences and knowledge to help such a wonderful program.

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Road Scholar | Date: September 2019 | Duration: 6 days | Participants: 20+ | Type: hiking

A pleasant walk on the last day.
A dune ride to see how the dunes looked prior to the introduction of European Beach Grass.
Walking across the dunes.
Left alone, everything grows big here.
A wonderful walk in the woods.
An out-of-shoe experience on the beach.
A lovely sunset seen during a quiet beach walk after dinner.
Experiencing the lush temperate rain forest.
Enjoying a walk on the beach