In our attempt to fit in everything awesome while the weather is nice, we checked two things off our “Oregon to-do” list on Saturday. A hiking trip to Kentucky Falls and a visit to the Oregon coastline. We were also celebrating our 6-year dating anniversary, which seemed to require an adventure of this magnitude.
We started the day bright and early with a two-hour drive to the Kentucky Falls trailhead, which is in the Siuslaw National Forest in the Oregon Coastal Mountains. I would like to point out that this was only 40-something miles away from our apartment, but the majority of the drive is done on a mountain, which makes for very windy, narrow, sometimes gravel roads. But the views. Oh my goodness, the views. Absolutely spectacular. We started the day early enough that the mountains were still full of fog, so we had an incredible feeling of being above the clouds as we drove up the mountain.
The drive, itself, was a bit of a harrowing journey, since we were essentially driving on a narrow strip of flat land that dropped off on both sides. And I think the path that we took to get to the trailhead involved a bit of driving through park maintenance roads, which were gravel and full of potholes. If you make this drive yourself, I would highly recommend driving an SUV, rather than a little car. But our Mazda did pretty well, although I think I heard it crying by the end.
I was really afraid that we were going to run into another car on the road and would have to finagle our way around them, but we didn’t encounter a single soul on our drive through the forest, or along our hike. I’ll admit that we were slightly concerned that we were seemingly alone. Did we miss a road closure sign? Was there some natural disaster that we were not aware of? Who knows? But we didn’t see another car until about an hour after we left the trail.
Anywho, onto the hike. The Kentucky Falls hike is somewhere around 5 miles, roundtrip. You hike downhill for the first half, passing Upper Kentucky Falls before reaching Smith Falls and Lower Kentucky Falls at the bottom of the hike. Smith Falls and Lower Kentucky Falls are side by side, which is pretty awesome. This was extra exciting for me because my maiden name is Smith and I’m from Kentucky. All kinds of fun. For anyone who plans on making this hike, I’ll recommend dressing in layers, as it’s pretty cold and dark because of all the tree cover. As in, it was cold enough to make my hands go numb. And if you want to take photos, bring a tripod with you. It’s too dark to get non-blurry handheld photos.
But the falls were gorgeous, even if they refused to be photographed well. I imagine they would be even more impressive during the rainy season.
After our hike, we made our way down the opposite side of the mountains to visit the coast. The closet ocean town to Eugene is Florence, Oregon. It’s not a very attractive town, and you can’t really see the ocean because of the forest between the highway and the water, but if you drive a little bit north, suddenly the highway is running along the edge of the cliffs that drop straight into the ocean. It’s really spectacular. I’ll give the highway creators big points for the shock factor involved in seeing the ocean for the first time. It’s just so incredible.
We were driving up the coast when we realized that this is exactly where we were at this time last year. You can read about last year’s vacation/school scouting trip to the Northwest starting here. It’s crazy what a difference a year makes.
Our plan for visiting the Pacific Ocean this time around was to visit the Heceta Head Lighthouse, which sits on a cliff jutting out into the water. Unfortunately, the lighthouse isn’t much to see right now because it is under construction for the next year or so. But the rest of the view is amazing. We parked at a little beach near the trailhead for “hiking” (it’s just walking up a gravel path) to the lighthouse. But we stopped at the beach to put our feet in the water so that we can officially say we’ve driven coast to coast since July, when we took a little weekend trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I just have to point out the stark contrast between the east coast and the west coast. One is hot and humid. One is cold and windy. One is completely flat. One is just where the mountains reach the water. It’s an incredible difference. I love the look of the west coast, but I was definitely longing for the warmth of the southeast. Of course, everybody deals with the weather a little differently around here. There were people at this particular beach in shorts and t-shirts. And there were people in winter coats, toboggans, and boots. Crazy.
We have a few beach towns that we’ve heard great things about since arriving in Oregon. We’ll have to save those for another day. I’m sure there are many trips to the beach in our future!