Harris Beach Park is one of the few swimable sandy beaches with facilities in the area.

By Linda Ballou      November 12, 2021

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Harris Beach Park is one of the few swimable sandy beaches with facilities in the area.
Harris Beach Park is one of the few swimable sandy beaches with facilities in the area.
On my first post-pandemic outing steaming temps in the inland valleys of Southern Oregon sent me to the coast to cool off. The Redwood Hwy (199) out of Grants Pass is a snaking road that takes you to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the northernmost redwood forest in California. It traces the rugged Smith River Corridor sheathed in towering sugar pines and deposits you in Hiouchi. Hot Tip #1: If you can snag a room at the budget Hiouchi Motel, next to the Hiouchi Café you will be in perfect position to explore the ancient redwood groves. The Visitor Center for the park is a block away from the Hiouchi diner. Go there to check on possible road or trail closures before heading out for the day. Simpson Reed Grove is an easy mile loop through a fern-laden forest of the giants. The star attraction is the enchanting Stout Grove. Majestic giants have slumbered here for hundreds of years shading frilly ferns lining the path and mosses blanketing the forest floor. Sunbeams stream through the canopy lighting up the moist, cool, soothing forest. I took a moment to breathe in the strength and life-giving oxygen these trees provide. Tree hugging is allowed. The trail leads to a beach park on the Smith River where you can take a dip. If you have time for a five-mile hike, take the Boy Scout trail to a waterfall. It is on Howland Hill Drive, the same unpaved track that takes you to the Stout Grove. Head north on Highway 197 to Brookings and enjoy a lovely drive through the forest where a few lucky folks live on the Smith River. Brookings is a harbor town on Hwy 101 with several lodging choices and eateries and a boat harbor. It is a good springboard for further explorations in the Redwoods and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. This 12-mile stretch of rugged coastline dotted with sea stacks (columns of rock standing in the sea after erosion of cliffs) can be viewed from several viewing points that also mark trailheads. At Cape Ferrelo, I took the path framed in shoulder-high shrubs spiked with pepper red blooms to a bench waiting just for me in the sun overlooking Lone Ranch Beach. Delightful. The stop at Rock Point is an easy amble through windswept pines shading picnic areas garnered with stunning views of aquamarine waters crashing through sea stacks to sun-splashed shores. Just north of Brookings you will find Harris Beach Park one of the few swimable sandy beaches with facilities in the area. Hot Tip #2: With Americans hitting the roads in droves it can get busy. The Oregon Redwood Trailhead at the end of a four-mile unpaved road is less popular than the California Redwoods. If tranquility and the chance to absorb in peace the beauty of the last remaining stands of redwoods appeals, it is worth the effort. You will see the sign as you near Brookings on Hwy 101. Hot Tip #3: Mornings tend to be overcast along the coast. Drive seven miles inland from Brookings to the Loeb River Park and leave the gloom behind. The hike there is an easy amble shaded by ash, manzanita, and redwood tracing an emerald green river lined by mounds of four-leaf clover and fanning ferns. The drive on 101 heading up the coast is stunning. Glide by seemingly endless stretches of white sand beaches with dramatic sea stacks off windswept shores. Dress warm and be prepared to lean into the brisk breezes. I recommend a stop at Bandon, a quaint historic district to explore and gift shops with wares from local artists. It sits on a tiny harbor and boasts the best seafood for miles around. Next stop, Gold Beach where the irascible Rogue River with headwaters at Crater Lake meets the sea. Gold Beach was a mining boom town in the 1950s made even more valuable for the annual salmon run. Today it is known for hiking, river rafting and an abundance of wildlife. Jet boat rides up the scenic river corridor to a lodge for lunch is a fun adventure. There are rival fleets of jet boats whisking up the river where they are stopped at the Blossom Bar rapids boulder garden. They leave at 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. Hot Tip #4: Downstream from the south end of Gold Beach Bridge is a free museum of Rogue River Memorabilia that is worth taking a peek. There are endless hikes and beaches to explore on the Oregon Coast. This is just a sampler of what you will find on this great American road trip. “Oregon Coast” by William L Sullivan is a handy guide to have in your pack. Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, invites you to join her on adventures in her travel collections, “Lost Angel Walkabout” and “Lost Angel in Paradise.” For more about her travel books and articles go to www.LostAngelAdventures.com. She is also the author of Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai’i; The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon; and Embrace of the Wild. For more on her books go to LindaBallouAuthor.com
Majestic redwood giants have shaded frilly ferns and mosses at Stout Grove.

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November 12, 2021

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