Sunday, May 28, 2023

Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout on the northern Oregon coast is easily seen on any map of the state, as it extends seaward like a 1.5-mile-long finger. The 2.5-mile hike to its tip can be one of the most visually stunning coastal hikes, or it can be one of the foggiest. We have hiked it both ways; the foggy version of the hike is mysterious, moody, and quite damp, so try to find a window in the coastal fog for this walk in the woods!

Part of the Three Capes Scenic Route (along with Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda), this basalt headland was once considered for a lighthouse site, but it was decided that the towering cliffs were just too high; the light would often be hidden in the fog. Those cliffs, however, are what make this one of the most dramatic hikes on the Oregon coast. In addition, you will find miles of sandy beaches, a long, walkable spit dividing the Pacific from Nestucca Bay, and an excellent campground. 

This moderate hike is about 5 miles round-trip and can be done by most people with normal mobility, but there are a few caveats: the trail is prone to muddy areas, even in dry weather, there are some rough areas, and there are elevation gains and losses along the way. And there are cliffs. Vertiginous, abrupt, and rarely protected by any sort of fencing or rails. You will want to keep children in check and pets on a leash for this one.

The trailhead for the cape is accessed from Whiskey Creek Road, just south of, and uphill from, the Cape Lookout Campground. There is a good parking lot here, although it can fill up pretty quickly on the weekends. The State Parks system has historically charged a day-use fee here, but on our visit in May of 2023 they were not requiring a fee. 

There is more than one trail here; you will also find paths to the beach on either side, part of the Oregon Coast Trail system. Choose the trail to the cape and walk in a lush coastal forest of hemlock and Sitka spruce sheltering a thicket of salal, thimbleberries, ferns, and the usual coastal flora. From time to time the shrubbery opens for stunning views of the Pacific; these windows offer excellent opportunities to look for grey whales and sea lions in the ocean far below. A plaque on the north side of the trail commemorates the lives lost in the 1943 crash of a B-17 bomber that got disoriented in thick fog. 

About halfway through the hike you will encounter a fenced viewpoint with sweeping views to the north; sometimes you can see as far as Tillamook Head. The little town you see tucked into the cliffs is Oceanside. The scenic pause makes an excellent turnaround point for those with children. From here, the trail tends to be a bit rougher and muddier. 

Re-enter the forest and climb a root-strewn section; the forest continues to dominate the scene until shortly before the end of the hike, when the trail passes along the edge of 400-foot cliffs and the southerly and westerly views are increasingly dramatic. End at a grassy area with a (very welcome) bench. On a clear day, you can see as far as Cape Foulweather near Newport. When you are finished soaking in the views, return the way you came.

While you are in the area, be sure to check out the rest of the state park to the north of the cape. This popular area offers a long, sandy beach, a nature trail, and a path along the spit. Camping is available year-round for RVs and tents; in addition, there are 13 yurts and 5 deluxe cabins, which tend to fill up quickly during most of the year. 

The Three Capes Route is a classic Oregon drive, and Cape Lookout is arguably its finest gem. Wait for a break in the coastal fog if you can, but don't miss this opportunity to walk to the tip of this rocky finger pointing out to the sea.

Solomon's Seal

Halfway viewpoint
Trail getting rougher

Yep, that's the trail
Wood Violet

On the tip

Friday, March 10, 2023

Haven in the City: Bush's Pasture Park

In 1860, Asahel and Eugenia Bush purchased 100 acres of oak groves, orchards, and meadows just south of the city of Salem. The couple and their four children lived in the simple house that had come with the property. Sadly, Eugenia died in 1863, but the family stayed on. Asahel, a successful newspaperman, went into banking and planned a Victorian house with a view of the property and town. The house and barn were completed in 1878, with a conservatory added in 1882. The landscaping was designed by Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, the first woman-owned landscape design firm in the northwest. The family donated 57 acres to the city in 1917 to be used as a public park. Willamette University purchased 10 more acres in the 1940s to build McCullough Stadium, and the city was able to purchase the remaining acreage to enlarge the park. Asahel III, the Bush's last living child, passed away in 1953, and the Bush's house has operated as a museum since that year; the barn was converted into an art gallery in the 1960s.

And that very simple story is all there is. One family, one house preserved much as they left it, a conservatory believed to be the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, and oak groves still crowning the hilltops. Camas lilies, once gathered for food by the local Kalapuya people, still bloom beneath the oak trees and in the meadows. Wildflowers are allowed to set seed and multiply. Native maples and shrubs flourish alongside Pringle Creek.

But time marches on, and so has Salem. The Bush's home on the south edge of town is now in the middle of everything, edged by Mission Street/Highway 22 and the city's hospital to the north. Neighborhoods have expanded to the west and south. The Bush's patch of oaks and meadows is now much more than acreage; it has become a destination for the residents of Salem, as well as for visitors to Oregon's capitol. 

Over the years, the popular park has been embellished: a gazebo now stands in the large rose garden, which has continued to expand over the years with species both new and old (look for "Miss Sally's Roses," named for daughter Sally Bush, to find roses original to the farm). 130 rhododendron varieties bloom every spring in the shady rhododendron garden. An amphitheater hosts various events. Three playgrounds, including an All-accessible playground, appeal to the younger crowd. How about a soap box derby? The only official track this side of the Mississippi is here. Four lit tennis courts, the WU stadium, and a baseball field attract sports enthusiasts. Walkers and joggers will find about 2 miles of trails through the park, or meet up with friends for a picnic and game of frisbee in one of the open fields. If rain threatens, tour the house, or if it really sets in, visit the Art Center in the old barn, with a variety of exhibits and an excellent gift shop.

But much has stayed the same on the 90.5 acres that remain of the original 100. Time has paused inside the grand old house encircled by lush landscape beds. The venerable conservatory shelters exotic species that would have been treasured during Victorian times. The gardens fill themselves with flowers every spring, and the grand old oaks rattle with dry, brown leaves in the fall. The camas lilies bloom and fade among the grasses. as they have for time immemorial. 

Deepwood Estate

Bush's Pasture is worth visiting any season of the year. Look for it on the south side of Mission Street in Salem, or on the east side of High Street. Click here for an excellent map of the entire park. Of course, the house, conservatory, and art barn are very popular destinations, so that parking lot is generally a busy place; if mobility is not a concern, consider parking at another lot and taking in more of the park on your way to the house. While you are there, take a side trip to the neighboring property, Deepwood Estate; a relative newcomer to the area, Deepwood dates to 1894 and is known for its lavish gardens and capacious conservatory. During the summer, Pringle Creek gets low enough to cross and you can see both estates in one visit.

So one family's haven on the edge of a fledgling town has morphed into a city retreat for countless visitors. Stop by to see snow on the oaks, or swaths of camas lilies, or lush beds of antique roses. Picnic in the fields, or catch a game. With their vision for the town's growth and development, we think Asahel and Eugenia would be pleased.

Bush House
Art Barn

Rose garden in the fall...

...and in the winter

Rhododendron garden (out of bloom)

Soap box derby track

Don't laugh. It has happened.

Late-evening ball game

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Christmas in Keizer: The Miracle of Christmas Light Display

Portland's Peacock Lane is possibly Oregon's best-known neighborhood for Christmas light displays, but Oregonians in the central Willamette Valley have their own version: Keizer's Miracle of Christmas. Unlike Portland's block-long, intensive experience, this is a more casual, spread-out affair; many homes throughout the Gubser neighborhood are lavishly decorated, while some residents choose not to participate. Quite a few visitors opt to drive through the display due to its more dispersed nature, but traffic can be heavy and walking offers more opportunities to linger and take pictures. We opt to find a likely spot to park and then walk through that part of the neighborhood, then return to our car and move on. However you choose to view it, though, this unsung display is well worth a trip to Keizer, just north of the capitol city of Salem.

Begun back in the 1980s as a friendly rivalry between neighbors, this laid-back display now involves the whole neighborhood in spreading Christmas cheer while collecting donations for Marion-Polk Food Share; of course, donations are voluntary, but over 160,000 meals were collected in 2021.

To kick off the festivities, a parade takes place each year on the second Saturday in December from 7 to 9:00 PM. River Road is closed to traffic during the parade, which runs between Lockhaven and Glynbrook; those familiar with Keizer will know that this is a major traffic route, so be prepared for detours if your arrival is timed for after 6:00 on parade day! This is a serious parade, with lighted vehicles, floats, and holiday music.

The light display itself runs from early December through the 26th from 6-10:00 PM nightly (this year, 2022, it begins on December 6). If you are so inclined, bring non-perishable food to drop off at the Food Share booth, where you will be greeted by friendly volunteers. 

To find the neighborhood, take Exit 260a from I-5 and head west on Chemawa Road, which turns into Lockhaven. Turn right on 14th Avenue and follow the directional "snow cop" signs through the neighborhood. It's that easy. Bring your camera, hang out a while, and enjoy the display!

Following the friendly "snow cop" through the display

Santa goin' fishing

From the Case family to yours: what they said.