There’s Nothing Humbug About Humbug Mountain

Port Orford 2018

Today we revisit Humbug Mountain and embark on a 5-mile out and back journey through what looks like Jurassic Park.

The climb takes us over 1700 feet to the summit… an open area and a bench overlooking trees and brush obscuring the ocean view. But we already know this (been here, done it once we arrogantly remember.)

The first mile is a doozy of an uphill. Fortunately photo-ops allow us to catch our breath with artistic dignity…

The sorrels beneath the Douglas Firs are blooming.

We encounter a Snail Crossing.

The pale green moss hanging off the tree limbs reminds us of Halloween ghosts.

Yet another uphill switchback gifts us with a  trickling stream that delights and calms us as we cross.

But a few minutes later a fallen tree narrows the path.

We cross cautiously and 10 minutes later arrive at the loop trail to the summit. Last year we took the West Trail, remembering how steep and taxing it was stepping over fallen logs. So today we opt for the East Trail.

Fifteen minutes later we encounter the first of our uphill obstacle courses.

Finally, we maneuver this tangled mess and I take a pic from the other side. Can you find the trail path?

Safely across, a break in the trees provides a view of US-101 below and the ocean covered with the misty marine layer.

Hugging the side of the trail, May Apples are in full bloom.

But it’s not long before the trail is blocked again.

And again… not even 10 minutes later we see trouble ahead.

Up close we can see where lightning struck the tree. The arrow shows the trail as we approach and how much was ripped away by the uprooted tree.

After passing through, I look back to take a picture.

Oops… too soon… We pass another uprooted tree.

Then just around this bend…

These black caterpillar-like centipedes are plentiful under the soil of the uprooted trees. They start to creep us out.

Next we encounter 2 fallen tree trunks. We can’t climb over them so we have to crawl under them. Jasley, our limbo princess, we need you now!

And then…

Finally, things are looking up…

But not for long…

With a little more than 30 minutes away from the summit, we enjoy our hike.

Then another uprooted tree reminds us not to get too comfortable.

I spy a cool growth on a dead tree trunk and I just have to have a picture.

Three pictures later we reach the summit trail.

Another uphill? But just a short one…

Then a switchback and ta-da!

The geological marker makes it official.

But just in case one has any doubts, someone has carved peak into the mile post.

But the 3 mile sign is missing.

Exhausted, I make my way to the bench that used to overlook the ocean. The mile marker is lying on the ground beside it, depicting exactly how I feel at the moment… thirsty, hungry, and tired.

I hydrate and rest and eat my yogurt, banana, peanut butter, raisin and date concoction. I do my best to capture a glimpse or two of the ocean through the trees, even if I capture more clouds than ocean.

I remember from last year that Myrtle trees live here too and I take some pictures.

A half hour later we head down the mountain on the west trail. Down, what an encouraging word!

An ocean view greets us.

And we trot down through the Oregon Coast rain forest…

I take pictures of more May Apples…

…blackberry flowers…

…broken trees…

…blooming hostas…

…another peek at the ocean…

So far so good! No obstacle courses on this side of the loop trail.

Just a few tree trunks to duck under…

Uh-oh… I spoke too soon.

That was fun… Our spirits lighten again as ocean views poke through the forest windows.

Then we slide our way to the end of the loop trail.

At last, the loop and all its challenges are behind us. All we have to do is continue downhill, retracing the first mile up, and arrive to the safety of our car. What a doozy of an afternoon!

Humbug Mountain is usually not a particularly difficult trail to hike. It’s a great workout offering a continuous heart-pounding climb one way and an exhilarating descent all the way down. Your leg muscles will yell at you, but your heart will thank you. And the next time you hike here you will have forgotten all about the pain in the gain… until you reach the first switchback.

Oh, just an FYI… My reliable sources in town tell me that plans are underway to trim back all the trees and bushes at the summit so that hikers can arrive to an ocean view again.

Port Orford Heads 2018

And Coast Guard Hill Road

Today we head south from our RV site on Idaho Street to 9th Street West and up Coast Guard Hill Road to Port Orford Heads State Park and the Coast Guard Museum. It’s about a 2 mile walk from where we live.

As we climb the uphill road we encounter several deer resting in yards and staring out at us. I wave as we pass by.

The closer we approach the Heads, we catch a glimpse of the ocean and Humbug Mountain.

Then the Coast Guard Museum comes into view.

We’re almost there and our cardiovascular system thanks us.

Finally, we arrive and take the Headland Trail leading to spectacular ocean views where we can observe the sea lions hanging out and, in the past, a whale or two.  The very end of the trail overlooks Agate Beach and Garrison Lake. Cape Blanco juts out in the distance.

The east trail hugs Nellie’s Cove where Coast Guard crews once descended 532 steps to the boathouse that held two 36-foot motor lifeboats.

The water here is a vivid turquoise.

From this side of the Heads you can see Humbug Mountain and Battle Rock Beach in the distance.

Just look at the trunk of this humongous tree or is it trees? We come across quite a few of these high risers with fat trunks. Jeff guesses they are yews because of their leaves. Pacific yews maybe? Apparently their bark contains a chemical called taxol which has been used in treating some types of cancer.

The trail ends at the Lookout Tower Site  with a southeast view of Humbug Mountain, Redfish Rocks, and Island Rock.

The southwest view overlooks hills that roll into the ocean.

We leisurely walk back through the sloping west side meadow. As we exit the forest and head in to the sun, a cluster of irises greets us.

As I pause to take a picture, I glance back and capture this perspective of the rolling meadow curving into the forest above.

We head back toward the Coast Guard Museum.

The ocean views keep coming. Jeff and I repeat over and over to each other, “So beautiful.”

It’s time to return home. I wonder what picture opportunities await me and it doesn’t take me long to find some.

Oh, before I forget… While walking the trails today we crossed paths twice with an older gentleman who walks around the Heads everyday it’s not raining. Later we discover he lives behind us at Camp Blanco RV Park. A fitting ending to my trail tale…

New River Nature Center

An Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)

Seventeen miles north of Port Orford is a 1200-acre “preserve” managed by the Bureau of Land Management. ACECs are areas where the BLM has determined that special control is required to protect unique plant and animal resources.

From US-101, we take Croft Lake Lane for 2 miles, passing cranberry bogs on both sides of the road.

Croft Lake Lane ends at the New River Learning Center, which is closed the day we visit, and continues as River Road leading to the boat ramp and picnicking area.

We park across from the Learning Center as we are interested in hiking the 3 miles of trails. It’s an overcast day with intermittent showers, but it turns out to be an amazing day for taking pictures… hint, hint for what’s to come…

On our way to the North Trail, a sheltered kiosk detains me with information…

According to local lore, the Great Flood of 1890 caused waters to rage into the lowlands and create a new northbound channel for Floras Creek. A rancher, witnessing this new channel exclaimed, “It’s a new river!”

But before settlers ranched here, Coquille and Qua-to-mah Indians once fished for salmon, picked mussels, and hunted clams along these shores.

So, let’s hit the trail… the North Trail… bordered by manzanita and rhododendron…

We take the Ridge Trail loop and I just have to share these pictures!

The loop ends at the Huckleberry Hill Trail that winds through sand dunes.

As the dunes fade into forest, we travel on the Ocean View Trail through a dense forest.

We take the spur to the overlook for views of the river, ocean, and dune restoration work where European beachgrass has been removed.

This fast-growing plant was introduced here by Europeans in the 1930s to slow the growth of sand dunes to protect their land investments. Unfortunately the beachgrass has choked out many native plants and altered the habitat for the western snowy plover. (plaque and brochure)

The Ocean View Trail exits onto New River Road and the boat launch.

We walk along River Road to access the West Muddy Lake Trail.

A side trail leads to a spot along the river.

Back on the main trail, we arrive at the edge of the freshwater Muddy Lake.

We cross through a coastal shore pine forest…

…that leads to an open meadow and the Old Bog Trail.

At the end of the trail we reach a natural bog. A natural bog takes hundreds of years to create. Clay-laden soil lines the bottom of a bog holding water, much like a swimming pool liner. As organic materials collect and decompose, the water becomes acidic. Only specially adapted plant species, such as sedges, salal, wild cranberries, and shore pine can thrive in these soggy conditions. (plaque)

These bogs were transformed into one of the oldest cranberry bogs on the southern coast of Oregon, the Westmoor Cranberry Bogs, as a way to supplement the income of eastern settlers.

In order to harvest cranberries, the farmers had to find a way to pump water out of the bog, prevent sedges from growing, and keep the deer away. Hauling sand from the nearby dunes to spread by hand over the site aided in this.

From 1914-1950 these cranberries were shipped as faraway as Portland and Los Angeles for the holidays. Berry pickers were paid in tickets redeemable at local stores for food and clothing. (plaque and brochure)

Today this natural bog has returned to its organic state filling with sediments and vegetation. The bench below symbolizes this process for me.

On the way back to the Muddy Lake Trail I get close up and personal with salal shrubs.

And I peek into a gap in the shore pines to discover manzanita branches sculptured by the wind and resting on the yellow-green moss below.

And then these delicate white snowflakes stare up at me.

We return to the East Muddy Lake Trail and the open meadow.

We enter another pine forest. A hanging moss beard captures my attention.

And more flowers…

The end of the trail, or the beginning, displays a plaque explaining the rich mosaic of habitats and life living within the New River Trail System.

As we exit onto River Road we meet a woman from Gold Beach. Then a “milk truck-looking vehicle” slowly passes by and my new friend and I stop them for a chat. We learn that they just converted this vehicle into a camper.

I say goodbye to my new friends and head to our car.

After turning the bend I take one last picture of an old farm machine. Jeff and I convince ourselves that it has something to do with harvesting cranberries.

What an unexpectedly wonderful day!

Beach Bumming

Agate Beach Again…

Today we head north from our RV site to Paradise Point Road that takes us along Garrison Lake to the ocean. Then we walk south along Agate Beach and exit across the dunes at Tseriadun Recreation Site.

Paradise Point is a parking area overlooking an expansive coastal vista stretching from Port Orford Heads to Cape Blanco and the lighthouse. It’s a great spot for watching the sun set or just visiting the ocean without leaving your car.

The pictures below are taken from above the beach.

At the end of the parking area a steep hill curves through the dunes and leads to the beach.

Descending the dunes we notice 2 kites flying and 3 fishermen casting their lines a safe distance from the water, atop a sand ledge sculptured by the crashing waves.

For an hour we dig for agates and slowly make our way south toward the Heads and Tseriadun. Each time we find an agate we have to find just one more before moving on.

Then we stop digging and attempt a serious effort to continue along the beach, all the while looking down at the tiny rocks and stopping to pick up “could-be” agates.

As I stand tall to stretch my back, I capture the flavor of the beach.

Instead of sand castles, visitors build sculptures out of driftwood.

A tangle of bull kelp…

The picture below is a huge driftwood log bent at a 90 degree angle, the thickest part buried in pebbly sand imported from some powerful waves.

The Heads jutting out ahead…

More sculpture…

We’re getting close to Tseriadun.

On the way home I spy with my little eye this spider web made from driftwood.

Then this colorful shrub catches my attention. New growth arrives in spurts of yellow, red, and lime-green leaves before turning spring green.

Here’s our cache from today… agates, jaspers, driftwood, and seashells.

Bet you couldn’t just find one either!

A Scenic Road Trip

Close to Home

It’s an overcast drizzly day in Port Orford so we decide to check out the town of Langlois, 13 miles north of Port Orford.

Oregon author Jane Kirkpatrick is scheduled to speak on April 28th at the Langlois Cheese Factory so we head there first.

 google maps 

Jane has written 30 historical fiction and non-fiction titles. A lively, humorous, and inspirational speaker, 72 year-old Kirkpatrick is a frequent presenter for conferences, women’s retreats, and workshops. (

Unfortunately we don’t find this venue (with no cheese). All we see are old dilapidated buildings. I know it’s there somewhere.

What we do find are sheep… so cute… so vocal. As I get out of the car to take a picture, a few wander over to greet me. I take a video but when I play it back you can’t hear them baa-ing. Just look at these cuties!

Langlois is a quaint little community between mileposts 287 and 288 along Highway 101. The Langlois Market is the gathering place for local farmers and ranchers, especially at lunchtime where hungry customers order deli sandwiches or the house specialty, a hot dog famous for its special mustard sauce. Groceries available include Oregon wines, cheeses, and craft beers. For $5 you can fill up your growler with some local brew.

Across the street is the wool factory, a co-op of local merchants who knit, sew, and design amazing items out of wool in its various forms. Did you know you can make felt out of raw fleece?

The building that houses the Wild Rivers Wool Factory Outlet used to be a Catholic Church. It was built in 1917 under the direction of a young priest, just 20 years-old. Father Joseph P. Clancy was assigned to south coast mission churches, traveling the stagecoach line from Bandon to Gold Beach. (

On our way back, we head east on Elk River Road in Port Orford. Two summers ago we stayed a few nights at Elk River Campground off this road. The road runs parallel to the river and we decide to take a scenic drive through rolling pastures and hillsides covered in yellow gorse.

In 2 miles we pass Elk River Campground and continue another 5.5 miles east to the fish hatchery. The Elk River Hatchery collects salmon, incubates eggs, and raises natural and hatchery Fall Chinook and Winter Steelhead salmon. (

We continue for 10 more miles pulling over every now and then to take pictures of the delightful scenery, such as this unique mailbox below…

The rolling hills and pastoral settings give way to a narrow road lined with leaning trees.

Finally, Elk River Road, aka Curry County Route 208, ends and we pick up a U.S. Forest Service road which eventually turns into a one-lane parkway.

But here the river changes color.

The water becomes crystal clear and turns a beautiful aquamarine…

…And flows rapidly over rocks churning into foamy pools the color of milk.

Waterfalls seep from the hillside on the other side of the road.

Some trickle.

Others roar.

What a great day finding hidden treasures along Oregon’s southern coast.

Agate Hunting

Port Orford 2018

Agates come from erosion of cliffs along beaches and rivers where they wash out to the ocean and get polished in the surf over time. In the summer months, agates on beaches are deep beneath the sand. But from December to March winter storms remove sand and expose the agates underneath. (

Today we walk down to dinosaur park, my name for Tseriadun State Recreation Site, one way to access what locals call Agate Beach.

Apparently the name refers to a Native American village site that existed here or near here some 5,000 years ago in Port Orford. But the name Tseriadun, pronounced serry-AH-dun, sounds like a dinosaur to me. (

Sandwiched between Garrison Lake, where locals enjoy boating and trout fishing, and the Pacific Ocean, this beach is popular for finding agates and jasper.

And, like a dinosaur, the waters of the ocean command this beach with their thunderous roars. The waves crashing against invisible rocks are dangerous. Locals warn, never turn your back to the water. Deep soft sand, severe drop offs where water meets shore, and rip tides also make this beach a hazard.

These waves have led to several deaths.

In 2005 a wave swept 3 people into the Pacific Ocean, killing two and injuring one. Seventy-two year-old Pamela Flynn and her older son, Thomas, were pronounced dead on Agate Beach in Port Orford. Rescue crews pulled Pamela and her younger son, Brian, from the water. Brian survived and was treated for hypothermia in a local hospital. Thomas, however, was spotted by a fishing boat a half-mile offshore. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter dropped a rescue swimmer to retrieve him and airlift him to the beach. Unfortunately medics could not revive him. ( According to, Pamela and her sons were from Slagle, Idaho and we’re scattering the ashes of her late husband into the ocean when they were swept away.

Then, in 2010 a 78 year-old local woman’s body washed ashore on Agate Beach in Port Orford. According to her husband, she left that morning for a walk on the beach and by late afternoon had not yet returned. ( Later it was learned that the deceased woman had gone to the beach with another local resident who was 53 years-old. A check of the younger woman’s residence and her mother’s and daughter’s houses revealed she too was missing. Three days later, on a beach some 30 miles from Port Orford, the body of the second woman was found by a passer-by. No one knows what really happened but this Port Orford beach, a good site for collecting agates and jasper, is also known for its dangerous sneaker waves that rush up on the shore. ( According to the dictionary, a sneaker wave is an unexpected coastal wave that is much greater in force  and height than the waves preceding it.

And as recently as 2015 reported Sea Claims Life, Two Survive. A woman and her husband tell the following story… On a Sunday afternoon, while they were searching for agates on the beach near Paradise Point in Port Orford, they noticed a small boat caught between the big swells of the ocean and the crashing surf. Then the boat capsized, dumping its 3 passengers into the water.

The couple called 911 and ran down to the ocean’s edge, joined by several other beachcombers, to help. A naked 38 year-old man, his clothes ripped from his body in the rough surf or caught on a rock and ripped off, and a 19 year-old woman wearing a life vest were struggling to get to shore. The 3rd passenger, a 37 year-old man, was yelling for help in the surf, about 75 yards from the shore, but nobody could reach him before he disappeared into the waves. The Coast Guard searched for 9 hours, covering an area of more than 169 miles but could not locate the man. The search continued for several days but this 3rd passenger was never found. (

Lessons to be learned on Agate Beach:

  • Don’t wade into the ocean.
  • Don’t get too close to the ocean.
  • Don’t turn your back to the ocean.
  • Dangerous conditions happen fast.

You won’t find people wading in the waves, surfing, building sandcastles, or sunbathing here. Actually you won’t find many people on the beach at the same time. Occasionally you will see people fishing, casting their lines atop one of the sand cliffs contoured by the pounding waves, walking their dogs, flying kites, or most likely digging in the sand hunting for agates.

So… what is agate? Agate is a semitransparent chalcedony. And a chalcedony is a very hard material composed of microcrystalline quartz. Quartz is a mineral composed of silicon and oxygen. Microcrystalline means that the quartz is in the form of crystals so small that a microscope must be used to see them. ( TMI? Or maybe not enough? You can go online to find out more yadda-yadda.

Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony. Jeff and I call jasper rocks jellybeans.

Here are the treasures we found today… our gifts from the sea.


Study the collection of rocks below:

Can you find at least one agate?

Can you find at least one jasper?

Cheat sheet:

Battle Rock Beach

Port Orford 2018

We start today with a walk down to Battle Rock Beach, about a mile from Camp Blanco RV Park.

The tide is receding. Notice the high tide water mark on the rock below.

Truthfully, I don’t even know if that is a water line. All I do know is that I can see a starfish clinging to the side of a rock, but the encroaching waves prevent me from getting close enough to take a proper picture. And that’s the only starfish I spy along our beautiful beach walk. So, perhaps the tide is flowing in again.

But it doesn’t matter… The rocky shoreline is the real star of the show.

Rocks are a powerful metaphor lending meaning to life.

Strong, but fragile… Solid but broken… Rough but smooth… Connected but abandoned… Powerfully intimidating but gently reassuring… Gigantic but tiny… Dull but colorful… Rare but ordinary… Prized but discarded…

Rocks speak to my spirit and tell me extraordinary tales of adventure, endurance, patience, suffering and preciousness.

As I grow older and turn back the pages of my life’s story, I have similar tales to share. Once I was the king of my mountain until one day I was pushed off balance and found myself floating in mid air, scared, shocked, and out of control. Then a strange thing happened. I grew a pair… of wings… and I surprised myself. I flew! 

As we walk Battle Rock Beach, Jeff and I become mesmerized into our own worlds.

Jeff finds a good-sized agate, some wave-smoothed pieces of driftwood, and a marbled rock of black and white that called his name.

I bury myself in the sand and take pictures instead.

A still life arranged by nature…

A washed up jellyfish…

A large mussel shell…

The remains of tiny crab-like crustaceans…

A loooooooooooong bull kelp… (from left to right)

Bull kelp is the fastest growing seaweed and can grow up to 20 feet long in one season. After I take my pictures, Jeff picks the kelp up and tries to whip me.

Meanwhile, as I escape the bull kelp whipping, I notice this colorful boulder planted in the sand.

Looking toward the eastern bank of the shoreline, green rocks cascade onto the beach.

I love this color green!

The only people we see on the beach have dogs. Each dog runs up to us for some attention and love pats. Two such dogs run through the low tide waters and romp among the rocks.

Then, a single man strides toward us… He is blowing bubbles, colorful bubbles along the beach! As he passes I give him a shout out and he tells me how the bubbles form a vortex among the rock stacks.

As Jeff and I leave the beach and meander up the pathway towards the Visitor Center, spring blooms capture my attention.

Outside the Visitor Center driftwood benches beckon sightseers.

As I pop in to say hello, Jeff meets a professional fisher woman and her visiting sister.

We leave the parking area and a single orange California poppy waves goodbye to me.