- Location: Oswald West State Park
- Start: Shingle Mill Trailhead
- Distance: 11.9 miles (12.4 if we’d made it to junction with Cape Falcon Trail)
- Type: Out-and-back
- Time: 2 hours 37 minutes (breaks not included)
- References: Oregon Hikers
Between sickness, injuries, and work obligations, our last few weekends have been pretty low-key. As per usual, we (well, mostly me) were starting to go a little stir crazy. With sunshine and clear skies in the forecast this past Saturday, we decided to head out to the coast for another adventure/training run. Although our original plan was to run Arch Cape to Short Sand Beach (around 16 miles done as an out-and-back), we ran (no pun intended) into a small mishap and ended up shortening the route to Cape Falcon. Despite the disappointing alteration, we were grateful to have gotten outside to explore a new area of the always breathtaking Oregon Coast.
The route begins off a gravel driveway on Shingle Mill Lane in a remote Arch Cape neighborhood. Interesting place for a trailhead. After crossing the suspension bridge (which scared the crap out of poor Cassie), the trail immediately enters the forest and gains elevation. Our run was off to a slow start since neither of us had the energy to charge up that first hill. Mack mentioned later that his initial thought in that first quarter mile or so was, “What did she [me] get us into?!” Thankfully, the incline becomes more gradual, and after crossing Hwy 101 it stays relatively flat for a little while. Nonetheless, our pace remained on the slower side due to numerous blowdowns; slick, muddy patches; and tree roots that basically comprise a majority of the trail surface. After running the Tillamook Head Traverse back in December, these conditions didn’t really surprise us.
The section between Falcon Cove Rd and Cape Falcon is the longest stretch of the route (roughly 4 miles). It’s also the most beautiful. The trail pulls away from the highway, and the woods grow dense and lush. Every once in awhile we just had to stop, gaze up, and admire the towering beauties surrounding us. Forests on the Oregon Coast are hands down some of the most enchanting places in the Pacific Northwest. I grow fonder and fonder of them each time we visit.
After a flat section, we started uphill, switchbacking deeper into the forest until we were running along the cliffside and listening to the waves crash against the rocks below. Every once in awhile we got a glimpse of the rugged coastline beyond the trees. Up until this point, we’d been fairly cautious and alert while we ran because of the trail conditions, but here the trail became far less riddled with tree roots and other obstacles (save some overgrown sword fern). I thought we’d be in for some smooth sailing for a stretch, so I let my guard down.
I’m still not quite sure how it happened. I don’t know if my foot caught a hidden root or I slipped in mud. All I remember is falling face first and letting out a yelp when I felt my right ankle buckle beneath me. Mack gave me some space as I dragged myself a short ways up the trail to find a place to sit and compose myself. The pain was severe for a few minutes, but I hadn’t heard a pop, and my foot wasn’t bent at an abnormal angle, so I ruled out the possibility of a fracture. When the pain lessened, I stood up and put some weight on it. Although it wasn’t pain-free, at least it was possible. I took a few shaky steps and the pain subsided a little bit more. We decided to push on (slowly of course) since we were already pretty close to Cape Falcon, but in that moment I knew we weren’t going to make it to Short Sand Beach that day.
Shortly after my clumsy accident, we dropped down to a side trail that led out to an incredible viewpoint. To the south, we could see the Cape Falcon headland, our main destination (besides Short Sand Beach for the extra mileage). So close and yet so far (with a sprained ankle at least). Mack and I both knew that if we continued, we’d be in for another uphill stretch on the way back, and with my ankle in terrible shape, I’d risk straining it more. We still had to get back to the car nearly 6 miles away! After some brief deliberation, we decided to turn around and head back.
*I found out later that the headland was only a quarter mile away…Ugh! Kind of wish we’d kept going…
Now that we were heading back earlier than expected, we took the time to further enjoy our surroundings and take more pictures of the area. I could feel my ankle starting to swell, so these occasional breaks were helpful. Despite the discomfort, the pain wasn’t too bad and I was able to run a majority of the way back. We still had a lot to smile about. The sun was out in full force now, lighting up the moody forest with golden rays streaming through the trees, and we were getting some quality time together with Cassie doing something we love in a place that we love.
Before we knew it, we were back at the Oregon Coast Trail marker across Hwy 101. Less than a mile and a half to go! We power-hiked up the logging road, excitedly awaiting the elevation loss that would follow. I love completing long runs on the downhill. I always feel like I’m flying strong into the finish. Although I couldn’t bound down any hills with my swollen ankle, I still felt surprisingly strong and full of energy as we descended that final hill and crossed the suspension bridge. It didn’t really feel like we’d just run a tough 12-miler (okay, 11.9).
We packed up our things and changed into some dry socks and shoes. This particular run was a nice reminder that both of us need to buy new shoes. The uppers on mine are ripping away, letting in tons of debris when I run. It’s amazing to see how quickly we go through shoes now that we’ve started consistently running longer miles! We wrapped up our trip with a quick stop at Angelina’s Pizzeria in Seaside, our go-to restaurant whenever we’re in the area. Stuffing our faces with personal pizzas and garlic butter dipping sauce is always a good way to finish off a day at the coast. Not everything went according to plan this day, but I’d say we still managed to make the most of our long-awaited weekend adventure. I mean, it wouldn’t be an adventure if everything went perfectly, right?