Curry Coastline Offers More Than Great Views
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Tom Baake
February 22, 2024

A footbridge is part of the short trail to Chetco Point near mid-town Brookings. Other trails lead down to pocket beaches exposed at lower tides.

Anyone visiting or living in the beautiful South Coast community of Brookings has a variety of recreation opportunities literally out their back door.

From world-class beaches to wild and scenic rivers to forested mountains and redwood groves, the Brookings area offers a little taste of it all – and the fishing’s good, too.

You could spend many days checking out everything from hiking trails to kayak paddling to scenic back roads and beaches. Visitors can find overnight accommodations ranging from oceanfront resorts and motels to RV and tent campgrounds to U.S. Forest Service overnight rentals – including fire lookout towers!

And even if you don’t have all day – or even all afternoon – you can find places for a quick look at some of the places for which this place is so famous.

Whether you’re arriving from the north or south, you’re presented with parks and pretty beaches at both ends of the communities of Brookings and Harbor.

At the north end is Harris Beach State Park, with picturesque offshore rocks and postcard -perfect headlands. Trails lead from the bluffs down to the beach, and while the beaches aren’t the longest in the vicinity, they’re fun for strolling and getting a closer look at rock formations.

Just minutes away from the busy downtown district along US 101 is the short trail to Chetco Point – another spot favored by locals and visitors for a quick picnic lunch. From US 101 in central Brookings, turn west on Wharf St., following the sign to Chetco Point. Pass Bi-Mart in a few blocks and follow the road as it swings northwest past a couple of gated communities. Just beyond is Brookings’ wastewater treatment plant – bubbling along smoothly and not emitting any odor at all when I visited the other day – and a parking area for Chetco Point. The paved trail leads in a few steps to a grassy area with a benches and picnic tables – along with a sweeping view of the sea.

The trail skirts the sewer plant, then turns to gravel and splits in two different directions. To the left, the trail heads down in a few steps to a little pocket beach -- inundated at high tide, thick with pungent kelp and driftwood at low tide. Clear, green-tinged tidepools surround the crumbling-rock outcrops.

The trail’s right fork leads up through wildflowers and wind-sculpted trees to Chetco Point, where even greater vistas await.

Closer at hand are sweeping coves and rocky promontories. There’s a short beach to the north along Macklyn Cove, eventually curtailed by the bluffs in the vicinity of Zwagg Island.

Other beachwalking opportunities start near the community of Harbor, immediately south of Brookings across the Chetco River. A bit to the south are more beach accesses – they continue down across the Oregon-California border, in fact.

McVay Rock State Park is among the southernmost Oregon beach options, and offers a leashfree, fenced dog exercise area. Trails go down to the beach, on which you can walk south and north. Low tide reveals interesting pools teeming with little sea creatures.

Continuing down US 101, Winchuck River day-use area has a small estuary area, or walk north on the beach. South on US 101 is the Crissy Field Welcome Center, where there’s yet more beach access. As you might conclude, you’re never far from the beach in Brookings, and there’s enough variety to keep you coming back to make new discoveries. So go have fun!

(Tom Baake is author of local guidebooks available at the Coos Bay Visitor Center.)

Forest, Dunes and Beach At Dunes Day-Use Area
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Tom Baake
February 15, 2024

A visitor checks out the vantage points from the viewing platforms and ramps at the Oregon Dunes Day-Use Area.

There’s more to the Oregon Dunes Day-Use Area between Reedsport and Florence than just outstanding views. It was formerly called the Oregon Dunes Overlook, which seemed fitting because there are some impressive views as well as a sturdy wooden multi-level viewing platform, and ramps for wheelchair access to the top level.

In addition to offering restrooms, picnic tables and interpretive signs, the day-use area is also the launching point for hikes through the dunes and to the beach. The beach itself offers miles of potential walking, and ambitious hikers can trek down to the outlet of Tahkenitch Creek and observe its seething confluence with the ocean. Make an out-and-back walk to the beach, or take the full loop through some intriguing dunes country and the beach, or as noted add miles with a visit to the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek. No matter what you choose, you’ll come back with an appreciation for the foresight that went into setting aside the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area for everyone to enjoy.

Getting There

From the North Bend/Coos Bay area, head north on US 101 for 36.2 miles, and turn into the Oregon Dunes Day-Use Area. A seasonal pass or one-day $5 permit is required if you’re going to spend time here. Hikers, E-bikers and equestrians are welcome year round.

Get access to the dunes and beach trails from the south end of the overlook platform, or on a trail near the restrooms. Once at the dunes below the observation decks, head west, following blue-banded posts that serve as trail markers.

About midway across the expanse of sand is a sign to the left that says Beach, ½ mile, Oregon Dunes Return Loop, 3 and Tahkenitch Creek, 1.5. There doesn’t seem to be any particular advantage in going one way or the other, unless you want to get to the beach quickly. The other issue might be the wind. If it’s coming from the north, head to the beach and then walk south with the wind at your back, and return through the more-sheltered inland route. Reverse the formula if the wind’s from the south.

I headed right for the beach the other day, crossing the trail’s initial stand of open sand, then following it into the woods. Like nearly all trails in the Oregon Dunes this time of year, the trail was flooded in places. Visitor-created bridges of branches and small trees spanned some of the inundated places, while others had short detours around them. Waterproof boots or sandals are highly recommended.

In a bit over a half-mile was the beach, its wide expanses beckoning in either direction.

Big storms cast up tons of driftwood, along with large plastic fishing floats. Strewn along the sand like lost cannon balls, they even arrived in pairs sometimes. Although I’ve never found a glass float here, it would seem a likely place.

About 1.6 miles down the beach were trail markers and signs indicating the way inland back on the Dunes Loop trail. (To visit the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek and to add mileage, go another 2-plus miles south down the beach to the creek.)

Returning on the Dunes Loop trail, the path headed north briefly and switched back, encountering a couple of places with a view of Tahkenitch Creek as it rushed seaward. It literally carved its way through high sand walls in some places, with occasional chunks of embankment, letting go with a deep plunk into the swirling eddies.

This hike’s lone climb was next, but brief. The trail crossed open dunes – watch for the blue-banded posts – then settled into a northerly route for about 1.5 miles though soft, slowing-going sand, hugging the margins of the dunes and the forest.

And then here was my starting point, with the observation platforms looming out of the coastal forest like medieval ramparts. One last push and I was upon them! And took in all the views one last time...

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks available at bookstores and the Coos Bay Visitor Center.)

Have Fun Exploring Trails At Bandon Dunes Resort
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Tom Baake
February 8, 2024

A visitor strolls toward Madrone Lake, one of many pleasant settings at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

You don’t have to be an upscale golfer to enjoy the setting and scenery at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort north of Bandon. More than 6 miles of hiking trails take you to places golfers don’t usually see. Access is free and the trails are open year round during daylight.

Make fun loops or out-and-back hikes to such features as a full-sized labyrinth, multiple impressive vistas, a little-visited beach, and possibly even the remnants of a shipwreck.

Well-marked and regularly maintained, the trails meander through dunes and forests, passing picturesque lakes and offering sweeping views of the resort and Pacific Ocean. At the beach is the outlet of Cut Creek, lined with gigantic tossed-up logs and root wads. On the creek’s north side the timbers of the 1928 shipwreck Acme are sometimes visible, especially in winter when storms scour away surrounding sand.

While the Beach Trail is an out-and-back, the other trails can be made into loops of varying lengths.  Many start near the resort’s eating and drinking establishments. You can use the trails to tour some of the facilities, stopping at wind-protected clubhouse decks.

Away from the links, the footpaths ramble under towering trees and through dense brush, while the forest floor hosts luxuriant mosses, colorful fungi, fluorescent lichen and tiny wildflowers, not to mention a healthy mix of birds, bugs and four-footed critters.

And then there is the gorse. This nightmarishly-invasive, unforgivingly thorny pest virtually blanketed what is today the golf resort, and large swaths remain for golfers to use as what’s known as a “hazards challenge.” In other areas grounds crews battle to keep it at bay.

As for the aforementioned labyrinth, visit it on a long or short hike. Or save it for another day. For this is the kind of place you’ll want to revisit...

Getting There

Make your way to one of the two Bandon Dunes resort entry roads off US 101 north of Bandon, and follow it west to the main lodge. The best way to explore is to get a map at the resort’s front desk. Or go online at www.bandondunesgolf.com and click on the three bars in the upper left corner, then choose Resort Amenities, then select Hiking Trails. Or go directly to https://www.bandondunesgolf.com/resort-amenities/bandon-dunes-hiking-fishing/ The trails are color-coded on the map. Posts with corresponding colored bands at the top mark the trails on the ground.

From the northeast side of the parking lot, the Ridge Loop Trails begin with a set of stairs that lead up to a spectacular viewpoint.

The trail heads north, skirting the links and staying clear of thorny gorse. It switchbacks down and emerges near the Pacific Dunes clubhouse.

The trail heads back uphill, then down to pretty Madrone Lake, then follows the lakeshore briefly before meeting a service road that goes past practice greens. Watch for signs to the left (E) for the Woodland Trail, which plunges through classic coastal forest of red cedar, shorepine, spruce, fir and madrone, with an understory of swordfern, salal, huckleberry and rhododendrons.

Signs on the Woodland Trail also point the way to the labyrinth, a circular arrangement of specially-cut travertine limestone pieces laid out in a maze-like pattern. The idea is to walk within the lines and complete a circuit of the whole thing – presumably while contemplating your life, for which the labyrinth is said to be a metaphor. Obviously this will add time and mileage to your hike, even if you only reminisce about good things.

Keep following the trail southward, crossing a bridge over Chrome Lake and emerging amid the resort’s distinctive, black-clad lodging units. Go right to return to the main lodge, or keep going straight for a longer loop. You could eventually connect with the Beach Trail, or start from the Beach Trail trailhead at the Bandon Trails clubhouse. No matter what your route, you may find yourself wanting to return to this special place. And you don’t even need a tee time!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of guidebooks available at bookstores and the Coos Bay Visitor Center.)

High Water Creates More Possibilities for Paddling
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Tom Baake
February 1, 2024

A kayak heads to a landing spot on a small peninsula below the Millicoma Marsh Trails in Coos Bay’s Eastside district.

Recent conditions of a full moon, high tides and lots of rain meant “water water everywhere,” but tucked in between days of deluge were some inspiring days of bright sunshine and no wind. The bay lay as flat as a mirror, beckoning – no, make that taunting -- me to get out there in my kayak.

As is often the case during high water, the low-lying islands and many areas of the shoreline were inundated. Places usually separated by channels and arms of the estuary were all one vast body of water, with only navigational markers and old rotting posts along the shoreline remaining as reference points.

Even when it’s not at flood level, the bay seems massive from the perspective one gets sitting in a kayak basically right down at water-level. The bay seems to stretch for miles in many directions. The towns of Coos Bay and North Bend look far away and almost toylike, as does the McCullough Bridge.

At low tide, the estuary is revealed to be relatively shallow in most places, and often seems to be equal parts soft, sticky mud and actual water. That water comes not just from the ocean and the sky, but also from about 30 tributaries entering Coos Bay from its 605-mile drainage system, according to the Division of State Lands. It spreads nearly 20 square miles, which is less than it once did, before extensive filling, diking and draining was done to create townsites, farmlands and pastures. Dumping dredge spoils year in and year out in the same places created islands that also reduced the amount of the estuary’s surface water.

Hard to believe it could be larger.

Getting There

For an exploration of the upper bay, I put in at the unofficial boat ramp at the east end of Catching Slough Bridge. Now that fishing season is over, I had it all to myself, all 11,000 acres of it (another DSL statistic).

I paddled quickly and carefully across the channel and turned north. The tide was still coming in, but the wind was from the south, so there was a sort of equilibrium in the forces. The water was turgid as bespoke but more importantly, no whitecaps.

Instantly and as usual, I was rewarded with sights not seen from roads and land, starting with close-up views of birds that seem quite unconcerned as I glided by. They craned their necks and seemed to pose, but didn’t bother to fly away.

The shoreline was a tangle of dying blackberry vines and other foliage, with all manner of drift and wrack caught up in lower branches along the waterline.

Next came huge iron walls of a barge berthed at the Southern Oregon Marine shipyards, along with an equally-awesome drydock.

Beyond that, battered pilings lay at odd angles, and then the last bit of dry land gave way to a watery world. I paddled the main channel north and then followed it as it turned west, with a stop to explore Bull Island before heading for little peninsula created by White Point.

I found the perfect landing spot on Bull Island’s north side, sandy and just wide enough for my kayak. After a bit of roaming, I got back in my kayak and headed for White Point, arriving about 2.8 miles into this trip.

The tide was still coming in but some rainclouds were forming up, so I departed the little peninsula and gave into temptation, taking a shortcut back across the flooded fields and then back toward the boat ramp at the head of Catching Slough.

Those clouds were sending down a thickening mist, and I felt the coming brunt of the latest stormfront getting my face wet, so I dug in and let the last of the floodtide shoot me like a spear through the water. And j-u-u-u-st about made it back before the new deluge let loose. Oh boy! More water!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is co-author “Oregon South Coast Canoe and Kayak Guide,” available at bookstores and the Coos Bay Visitor Center.)

Lionel Youst’s New Book Chronicles His Early Days
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Tom Baake
January 25, 2024

Allegany author Lionel Youst has written another absorbing new book, this about the early logging days of ‘Tramp Loggers.’ He’ll give a presentation on February 6 at the Coos History Museum.

Lionel Youst had an idea for me. The prolific author of a half-dozen books ranging from local Indian culture such as Annie Miner Peterson: She’s Tricky Like Coyote,” to Coquille Thompson Athabaskan Witness to historical narratives such as Above the Falls, Lost in Coos, and Sawdust in the Western Woods. He later shared recollections of a 22-year U.S. Air Force career in aircraft maintenance in his 134-page book, “Touring the Cold War, A Long Learning Curve.”

With an impressive memory at the amazing age of 90, his latest book is Tramp Logger, chronicling in his years before and after the Korean War. As a youngster, he was expected to help with the family logging business, learning just about every trick, technique and life-saving maneuver. His passion for logging was clear, and he was adept at just about every job involving cutting trees, moving trees, loading trees and other steps in their eventual delivery to sawmills.

But the outside world beckoned, and the Korean War (and the draft for it) loomed, so he joined the Air Force, eventually earning a posting that sent him around the world, seeing the places and meeting the people. He met and married his cherished Hilda, and they soon had a son and twin daughters.

Through the years before and after the Korean war he “tramped around,” landing short-term gigs for independent loggers, and working at some the biggest mills in their final years..

They worked at so many places, Lionel and his buddies jokingly referred to themselves as “camp inspectors.” But to Lionel they were “logging tramps. That’s what we were. We bounced around a lot.”

His 144-page book follows the tramping from his teenage years to his 1957 military discharge. The book is full of interesting photos and explanations of some of the tools and devices used in the early days – although some are still used, notes Lionel.

But by the late 1950s an era was ending. It was clear everywhere from corporate board rooms to logged-over hillsides. As the trees were cut and cut and cut, Coos Bay lost its distinction as the world’s largest port for woods products, mills reduced shifts or shut down, environmental regulations loomed. But up in the woods of Coos County were some of the last of the old-style logging camps, with bunkhouses and cook shacks and other rustic touches, including a classic steam locomotive.

As they were in Coos County, “The boom time days in Northern California were over,” writes Lionel. “The scene moved to Southeast Alaska. But the ‘short stake’ years of the tramp logger were over, never to return. Subsequent generations will never know the freedom we had in those days.”

Not a trace of all the activity remains. Not a chunk of concrete, not a busted brick. What wasn’t scavenged by people was reclaimed by jungly underbush. Some of the hills were replanted into Douglas fir tree farms. You’d probably never know anything was ever there.

Which is partly the point of Lionel’s new book; and his pitch to me: “You like to write about people going back into the woods, he said. “They drive right by these places not knowing the history.”

Places like Tioga eastern Coos County. “There used to be a two-story hotel there for the loggers,” as well as other amenities, recalled Lionel

I protested. “But now there’s nothing to see. Some places have interpretive signs or plaques. Otherwise why would you drive all that way? No features or waterfalls or mountaintop vistas. Except maybe elk hunters.”

I was clearly struggling. Would people find it interesting, or interesting enough, to visit the site of something no longer there? Or read about it?

Well, cemeteries are still there bearing mute witness, and there are well-attended historical tours from time to time. And there’s a sold-out 8-week session on South Coast place names happening now at the Coos History Museum. So maybe Lionel’s on to something.

I ended up struggling again figuring out some way to promote his new book. (It’s available at the Coos History Museum gift shop and Books by the Bay in North Bend.) He’d already done talks at the Coos History Museum and the North Bend Library, so now what? Thus my relief on hearing he’ll give another presentation from 6.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6 as part of the museum’s “First Tuesday talks.” Admission is free for CHM members, and $7.00 for non-members. Tramps would appreciate that.

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of local guidebooks available at bookstores and the Coos Bay Visitor Center.)

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