Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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North Spit Trails Lead To Fun Discoveries
By Tom Baake
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A visitor checks out one of the many little lakes out on the North Spit of Coos Bay.

Hiking, biking, four-wheeling, horseback riding, fishing, surfing and even disc golf – that’s a pretty impressive list of recreational opportunities. Would you believe they can all be found in one special place on the South Coast?

That would be the North Spit of the Coos Bay Estuary. It’s mostly administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with other areas controlled by agencies such as the Port of Coos Bay and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the adjacent Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.     Weyerhaeuser, Roseburg Lumber Co. and other firms also have holdings. Nearly all of them provide for public access.

Even if you’re not into any of the esoteric activities listed above, you can enjoy the surroundings or just take a leisurely drive out on the Transpacific Parkway, past dense stands of coastal forest dotted with beautiful sapphire-blue lakes.

Some of the lakes are deep and hold water year round, while others are seasonal, and pretty much dry out in late summer. Some got so overfilled by the late spring rains that they never did completely dry out this year.

A few of the lakes are easily accessible, while others take some getting-to. Trails are mostly sandy, with nice interludes where surrounding shorepines and brush have laid down a carpet of needles and leaves that build up soil. As noted, the sand dries up a lot in summer, making for slow-going, while autumn rains firm-up the footing. And then next thing you know it’s winter -- flooded again.

It’s all part of the fun, some might say, and it’s also interesting to return at different times of the year to see how the places change with the seasons.

You might even want to bring your Frisbee disc and check out the unofficial “course” out along the way.

Getting There

From the North Bend/Coos Bay area, go north on US 101, crossing McCullough Bridge. In 0.7 mile, turn left (W) on Transpacific Parkway, following the sign to Oregon Dunes, Horsfall Beach. The road crosses a causeway, then a bridge, then railroad tracks. Keep going past the Boxcar Hill ATV facility and the Oregon Dunes Horsfall Beach access road, following the sign to the BLM boat ramp.

In about a half-mile the road passes Jordan Cove Rd. to the left (S). About two-tenths of a mile beyond are some parking spots beside the road. Look for trailheads on either side of the road marked with brown signposts.

The trail to the south heads through the sand past big bowl-like valleys that hold seasonal lakes. It’s possible to walk up the sand ridges for views of the bay, the bridge, and North Bend.

The trail to the north from Transpacific Lane (marked with a brown signpost) splits a few feet from its start, with the lower trail heading down to the lake, and the upper following a higher course. Either way you go, keep heading north. The trails converge and follow an old service road.

At about 0.5 mile at a “T” intersection, you have a choice of destinations. You can keep following the trail (the old service road) north just under 1 mile to meet Horsfall Beach access road in the vicinity of Bull Run Staging Area.

Or follow the footsteps in the sand to the west and go uphill into a forested area. At the top is a big old fallen weathered snag that looks like some kind of natural compass, its bleached branches pointing to surrounding side trails.

Some are dead ends; others narrow into impassable game paths. Still others, though, lead to wooden posts and benches that are part of the unofficial disc golf course. (The wooden posts serve as targets or “holes” for the golfers.)

A main trail heads south, tops a little rise, and passes more short trails to disc golf posts. If you keep following the main trail south, you’ll emerge on Transpacific Ln. about an eighth-mile west of where this trek began. Now you can either walk back along the road’s margin, or retrace your route through the woods and dunes. Or find a whole new way; that’s part of the fun!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.) 
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