Cape Blanco to Blacklock Point

Finally!

After several attempts driving to Cape Blanco to access the northern beach and walk from the Lighthouse to Blacklock Point, we finally succeed. Today is not foggy, windy, or cold.  And the tide is low.

We park outside of the gate leading to the Lighthouse and descend onto the beach.

Waves crash over boulders on the shore, painting them shiny black.

About an hour later we approach the southern side of Blacklock Point and make our way through the green, red, orange, and gray rocks.

High tides from winter leave piles of driftwood atop ridges of sand.

A whimsical driftwood hut has lost its roof.

Strong winds and waves wedge this large piece of wood into these boulders on the beach. Oh, did I forget to mention that this photo is facing east?

There’s the ocean peaking through. And look, the fog is rolling in.

We climb a grassy dune scattered with driftwood…

…and descend onto another rocky beach.

A path leads up to higher ground.

The deep crack in a rock resembles an upside down letter V.

The fog thickens and obscures Blacklock’s ledge of rugged rocks jutting out to sea.

Coming down the path we encounter a grandfather, his 3 grandchildren, and 2 dogs. The kids romp on the beach.

And we head back.

A sand slide!

The sea gets choppier.

The sky blends into the ocean.

The Sixes River pools into a lake.

The mouth of the river no longer reaches the Pacific.

Seagulls…

A clump of kelp…

Two and a half hours later we are back where we began, on the beach beneath the lighthouse. Trust me, Cape Blanco Lighthouse is there, buried in the fog.

Cape Blanco Part Two

North of the Lighthouse

We park the car in a grassy turnout,  across from the road leading to the Cape Blanco State Park Campground, and enter the North trails trailhead. It’s 11:30 in the morning.

Today we plan on hiking to the mouth of the Sixes River and then return along the beach just below the Lighthouse.

So, it’s over the meadow and through the woods, with viewpoints of the beach below along the way… the same beach on which we will return.

Can you find the Cape Blanco Lighthouse in the picture below?

Somewhere out there is the mouth of the Sixes River. The promontory jutting out to sea is Blacklock Point.

We return to the trail…

The tree below demonstrates how wickedly the winds blast through here.

Another short spur with an ocean view…

The pine forest greets us with a colorful display…

Jeff finds an unusual rock sitting on tree limbs…

We continue through the forest…

It’s 12:00 when we head toward the Sixes River…

Foxgloves are blooming…

We reach the Castle Beach Trailhead at 12:30. Free range cows graze here but we don’t see any as we make our way to the ocean.

Ten minutes later…

There’s Cape Blanco in the distance below. Can you find the Lighthouse?

Castle Rock and the mouth of the Sixes River are further north. We make our way through the driftwood-littered beach to see them up close.

We turn around and walk south along the beach toward the Lighthouse.

I take pictures of the amazing beach landscapes we encounter, far and near…

Note the rocks in the foreground below.

Now share my amazement of the same rocks, close up…

A mosaic of “glued” shells, barnacles, and smaller rocks…

I try to pry loose some limpet shells but they are unwilling.

Sprays from crashing waves…

And where did this come from?

Barnacles still line its crevices…

And challenge Jeff to climb…

It’s 1:00 now. The beach is mellow today, the winds are calm.

Sometimes we walk through a Zen-like garden of rocks and rippled sand…

And sometimes we crush through a colorful rough patch of sea stones waiting to be discovered…

I look up and recognize the forest…

The rocks below are covered with old barnacles and mussels that fascinate me and gross me out at the same time…

I look up and recognize the meadow…

The Lighthouse and a haystack rock…

The Lighthouse focuses into view…

Kelp attached to barnacles, or barnacles attached to kelp…?

Sea foam..

Kelp or seaweed? Or both?

Both…

Catching surf perch…

The Lighthouse looms closer overhead…

We approach the trail leading from the beach back up to the Lighthouse gate…

Can you see where all the barnacles and shells cling to the rocks below?

A tangle of mussel shells attached to kelp…

The rocks below are a beautiful shade of green…

At 1:35 we recognize the driftwood entrance to the trail leading up to the Lighthouse gate…

We walk another 1/4 mile along the road to our parked car.


Some rocks and shells… including an agate, a tiny sand dollar, and blue sea glass.

Jeff posts the Oregon painted rock on Facebook but takes it down after he is deluged with comments.

He decides to hide it again…

Cape Blanco Part One

South of the Lighthouse

We have never explored the trails beyond the Cape Blanco Lighthouse except to walk down to visit the beach near Gull Rock and return.

Today we start at the South Cape Trailhead, take the beach to the mouth of the Elk River, and return via the beach to Needle Rock where we find a path back up the hill to our parked car.

oregonhikers.org

Cape Blanco Lighthouse…

Needle Rock as it appears from the parking area…

The trailhead leads us through an open meadow with several detours leading to spectacular views of the Oregon coast. I circled the first viewpoint in the picture below. Some people are standing there now.

And here we are, replacing those people I circled before. That’s Needle Rock below, looking less needle-like from this perspective. The land form to the right,  jutting out to the sea, is the most westerly point in Oregon. The lighthouse is located on this promontory.

To the south is Humbug Mountain and the Port Orford Heads where the Lifeboat Museum is located.

North…

South…

Due west…

More viewpoints…

We enter the woods that run parallel to the Cape Blanco State Park Campground.

The woods emerge into a large grassy area with picnic tables overlooking the ocean.

We end up on a road that descends onto the beach.

To the north is a view of Needle Rock, the most westerly point in Oregon, and barely visible is the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

The beach is calm here and flat. Jeff wiggles his 10 piggies in the cold waters.

We walk to the mouth of the Elk River.

Two kids just slid down this sand dune on their butts!

We arrive at the Elk River where it meets the Pacific Ocean.

Then we meet Rover, the dog who loves to run and swim. He even catches a fish as he frolicks in the river waters.

It’s possible to cross the river, but we start back instead.

This is the most populated beach we have encountered in Port Orford. Of course, it is Memorial Day weekend and the closest beach to the campground. A few families with lots of kids and sand toys. Two sunbathers tanning on the sand dunes. Many beach bums like us. (I try to take pictures without people in them.)

Notice the sand drifts surrounding this piece of driftwood.

The south side of Needle Rock.

The east side of Needle Rock.

From the beach we search for a pathway leading up to the parking area. We can’t see it from here but we saw it from above and could trace it from the first viewpoint we came to on the South Cape Trail. I remember it went down to a pile of driftwood  to the left of the Needle.

I get a hunch and send Jeff up to survey. Eureka!

We make it!

Our beach souvenirs…

Cape Blanco Lighthouse


image …oldest working lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Six miles west of Highway 101 and 6 miles north of Port Orford, Cape Blanco is the most western point of land in the continental United States. The picture below was taken from space in October of 1994.

image en.wikipedia.org

Early Spanish explorers appropriately named this area after its chalky white cliffs.

Cape Blanco is a prominent headland northwest of Port Orford,

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a settlement where the Hughes family lived and farmed,

image lighthousekeeper.com

a state park,

image freeguidetonwcamping.com

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and home to a lighthouse that still produces a beam that can be seen from 26 miles out at sea.

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image google maps


image lighthousefriends.com

The primary functions of the lighthouse were to warn ships of the dangerous reef extending from the cape and to provide a fixed position for navigators.

Before the headlight first shined on December 20, 1870, the only warning announcing this dangerous passage on the coast came from a lantern in the Knapp Hotel’s large window overlooking the ocean in Port Orford.

At the time of its construction, no roads led to the lighthouse so a cost saving plan was suggested and implemented in 1869. Supplies required to construct the lighthouse were shipped directly to the cape, including a kiln to make all the bricks on the premises.

A 2-story brick duplex was built just south of the lighthouse for the principal keeper and family to live on one side and the 2 assistants and their families to live on the other.

image lighthousefriends.com

Two lighthouse keepers lived here for their entire careers.

James Langlois was the First Assistant Keeper from 1876-1883 and then served as Head Keeper until 1918.

image lighthousefriends.com

James Hughes, a son of Patrick Hughes from the bordering dairy farm turned ranch, served as First Assistant Keeper from 1889-1918 and then took over as Head Keeper, replacing James Langlois, until 1926.

The photo below was taken in 1901 of Keepers Langlois and Hughes with some members of their families.

image lighthousefriends.com

From 1903-1905 Mabel Bretherton served as the first female Second Assistant Keeper in Oregon. As the widow of a First Assistant Keeper, she was offered employment to support her 3 young children.


The light emanating from the Cape Blanco Lighthouse came from a fixed white light Fresnel lens.

image en.wikipedi.org

The first fixed light came from a lard-oil lamp. In 1885 the lard-oil lamp was replaced with a mineral-oil lamp. In 1936 the original lens was replaced with a second order revolving Fresnel lens.(lighthousefriends.com)

A Fresnel lens is a compact lens with a large aperture and short focal point. This means the hole through which the light travels is big and the rays of light travel a shorter distance to converge, allowing for more focusing power. The Fresnel lens is a thinner, lighter lens made in separate sections and mounted on a frame. Because this type of lens can capture more non-direct light from a light source, it’s light can be seen from greater distances. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

This short video from Artworks Florida Classic Fresnel Lenses, LLC explains how the rotating lens operates.


Today the Cape Blanco Lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Full-time RVers act as docents from April through May in exchange for a full hookup campsite in Cape Blanco State Park. They work with the Cape Blanco Heritage Society taking visitors up the winding staircase into the working lantern room. (enjoyportorford.com)

image Q.T. Luong, terragalleria.com

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I know what you’re thinking! Yes, I would love to be a lighthouse docent!! Now I just have to convince Jeff…

Thanks to ShootTheMan, I can take you along for a 97 second tour of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse Fresnel Lens.

Cape Blanco

image A Victorian Farmhouse

Six miles north of Port Orford, Cape Blanco offers breathtaking views of the coast… Seriously! Wind gusts up to 184 miles per hour have been recorded here.(visittheoregoncoast.com)

We don’t notice the wind, though, as we take a short detour east to look at the Patrick Hughes House first, a restored Victorian home located on what was once the family farm.

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I think the story of Patrick and Jane Hughes deserves to be shared.

image lighthousekeeper.com

image lighthousekeeper.com

The couple arrived here in the 1860s from Ireland by way of Boston and San Francisco. He wanted to prospect for gold and she wanted to settle down and raise a family. Over the next 30 years, they carved out a farm of some 2,000 acres from scratch, raised 7 children, and made a living off a herd of 100 dairy cows.

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In 1898 they built the house pictured above. Unfortunately, Patrick died in 1901 from a horse accident. His 3 sons, Edward, Thomas, and Francis took over the farm.

The 1900s ushered in some new farming inventions that the brothers eagerly tried. Churning butter with a steam-driven paddle allowed them to produce enough butter to ship to San Francisco. A gas-powered milking machine, however, was not as successful so hand-milking was still favored. But that didn’t prevent them from selling milk to the Oregon cheese makers who were just starting into the business.

By the early 1940s most of the dairy hands were called to WWII. Ed, Tom, and Frank focused on sheep and cattle ranching as a result. (all info from plaque on site)

Although no traces of the farm and ranch remain, the Sixes River still flows through the coastal forests north of Port Orford into the Pacific Ocean and along the Hughes farm property.(en.m.wikipedia.org)

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According to the plaque, the family enjoyed the river for swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking.

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However, after inquiring about the origins of the name for the river, I discover that in 1856 gold was found in the Sixes River. (blm.gov) Looks like both Jane and Patrick reached a good compromise by settling in Cape Blanco.

After sifting through varying accounts that explain how the river was named according to en.m.wikipedia.org, the following 2 make the most sense to me:

  1. Sixes derived from the local Native American tribe’s word “Siksestene”, meaning “people by the far north country”.
  2. Sixes derived from the Chinook Jargon (a pidgin trade language) word “Sikhs”, for “friend” of which early gold rush prospectors were familiar.