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Fall in love with the coast

Published on November 14, 2017 1:36PM

Munson Falls

Munson Falls

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The beach access at Netarts Spit

The beach access at Netarts Spit

Story and photos by Gretchen Ammerman

For the TODAY

The abundance of natural beauty in Oregon attracts hardy folk who will hike in a hail storm for a single waterfall sighting. It seems one of the only things that will keep people from enjoying more of state’s natural attractions, regardless of the conditions, is not knowing how to find them. Luckily, a recently released guidebook, “25 Hikes on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast” is a new entry in the guidebook scene that can help you get to some of the best spots on this rugged part of the coast.

Written by Adam Sawyer, a Portland-based guide and author of previous guidebooks including “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” and “Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland,” the book also includes hikes that fall between Portland and the coast.

“The number-one question they get at the Tillamook Visitor Center is where to go hiking in the area and there wasn’t any kind of guidebook for just that,” Sawyer said. “So we made one.”

When I asked Sawyer to pick his favorite hike from the book, he said it really came down to being at the right place at right time.

“My favorite spot is probably Gales Creek,” he said. “The day I went there was not another soul around and the weather was perfect — it was magic.”

Though “25 Hikes” is primarily a guidebook, Sawyer’s descriptions are filled with personal flavor and enough background information to make it a fun read as well.

“One of the cool things about doing this project was that they gave me freedom,” he said. “Most guidebook publishers want you to stick to the facts, but don’t want you to inject personality.”

Sawyer said he wrote the book using the kind of language he would use when talking to his friends. That’s how he ended up with descriptions like the one for Kings Mountain, which he calls a “2.5-mile long hurt locker disguised as a hiking path.”

With the easily packable guidebook in hand, I grabbed my trusty canine companion and tried out a few of the trails I wasn’t already familiar with and revisited a few I already knew. Following are four coast routes I chose for their diversity in difficulty, distance and terrain.

Neahkahnie Mountain

I started this hike from the opposite end recommended in the book, which starts right at Highway 101 and climbs more than 1,000 feet in the first mile, bringing to mind Sawyer’s description of Kings Mountain. With the rapid ascent, the views of the coast and the forest, nestled within the Oswald West State Park, begin almost immediately. One hiker I spoke to said that she used the trail as a way to help her get over her fear of heights.

Though described as family-friendly, I would hesitate to take small children on this one, as there were sections of the first part of the trail that were washed out and bordered by steep drop-offs. My no-longer-young dog however, loved it, as the fast trip back down the mountain gave him a few opportunities to do flying leaps and act like a puppy again.

Nestucca Spit

Even in the summer when the crowds are thick at Cape Kiwanda, the Nestucca Spit, located in Bob Straub Sate Park just to the south of Pacific City, is rarely crowded. You can choose to walk down the beach, accessible from one of a few trails that leave from the parking lot, or head east into a series of trails that meander through shore pines and sea grass and make up a five-mile loop if followed correctly. One of my dubious talents is that I am a great person to flush out if a trail is hard to follow, as if you can get lost, I will. Though the trail was well marked, I did once manage get lost here, not a big concern because at any point you can just head toward the sound of the ocean, but the the experience of getting lost in a small park so close to a town crowded with summer visitors was actually quite enjoyable. I was lost for almost an hour though. Don’t judge me.

Munson Creek Falls

This is a great bang for the buck hike, as the less-than-a-mile-long trail ends with a view of the tallest waterfall in the Coast Range. Though I am pretty “meh” about waterfalls, as Sawyer points out in the book another highlight of the trail are the trees along the path.

“It’s hard to find accessible old growth hikes,” he said. “I think this is one of the best.”

I took a lot longer than usual for the short hike since I had to try not to fall flat on my face as looked up at the giant cedar and spruce trees.

Kilchis Point Reserve

I’m including this in honor of my late friend Dennis Gibson, who reminded me that having limited mobility doesn’t have to equal limited desire for adventure. A result of a large group effort, this flat and well-maintained series of paths which includes sections with paving stones, could be enjoyed with a partner in a good jogging stroller or wheelchair with sturdy tires. The site is steeped in local culture, including once being home to one of the largest Native American villages on the northern Oregon Coast.

Want to know more? “25 Hikes on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast” is available at any Tillamook County visitors center or order it from tillamookcoast.com/books.

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