Winter Wanderings

With the onset of rain, wind and cold, Coastal residents and visitors take stock of what winter represents; perhaps a needed vacation or catching up on reading. But let not the weather dampen your sense of adventure. The Oregon Coast’s beauty is not limited by season. Get outside now and see things many ignore when the rains come. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke fondly of measuring health by the number of shoes one has worn out. In other words, take a hike!

Perched north of Manzanita, Oswald West State Park is boundlessly beautiful; winding trails, lush undergrowth, regal trees, and breathtaking vistas of sea and sand. Stretching along four miles of coastline between Arch Cape and Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain, this 2,500 acre preserve is a place of quiet contemplation and regenerative power. Though camping is no longer permitted, the plentiful trails offer something for hikers of every skill level.

One spirals up Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain for magnificent views of winter storms building over the Pacific. Another stretches between Cape Falcon and Arch Cape. The two mile Cape Falcon Trail begins at the northwest parking lot along Highway 101. A half-mile hike gives way to a brilliant overlook of Short Sand Beach. There, the trail forks to Cape Falcon, where on a clear winter day you can see north to Tillamook Head and south to Cape Lookout. For the more adventurous, a 13 mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail twists through the park, from Arch Cape to Manzanita.

The most accessible trail winds through old growth from the south parking lot, ending above Short Sands Beach. Here lies the park’s essence; trees out of Tolkein, pounding waves, and supplies for driftwood fort-building. A popular cove with surfers, several are always bobbing in the waves. In the fall and winter, the park quiets considerably, anticipating thundering surf and lashing wind. The hissing rain on the emerald canopy adds a serenity found only outdoors in a Coastal winter.

Dan Haag
Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the north Oregon Coast in the early 90s. Finding that rain never needed to be shoveled, he married an Oregon girl and settled in Manzanita, where he works as director of the Manzanita Visitors Center. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of state and national publications. He spends his free time wandering the area’s many trails, supporting the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing coastal bookstores, and chasing his black Labrador, Lilo, along the beach.