Coos Bay/North Bend Area:
Sunset Bay State Park
After you've passed Florence headed south, the Oregon coastline becomes a lot less populated. There are a few towns big enough to have motels and restaurants, but the Coos Bay/North Bend area is the last place you'll find a sizeable city.
As you drive through downtown North Bend, you'll see the clearly-marked turnoff for the cluster of state parks, which are just southwest of town. Follow this road to Sunset Bay, Shore Acres, and Cape Arago State Parks. You can loop back to US 101, and bypass the congestion of Coos Bay, by taking 7 Devils Road and Beaver Hill Road back to 101.
Day 2 had turned impossibly gloomy and miserable, so I spent a short while trying to decide (given the weather) which of the three parks were worth visiting. I didn't feel like taking a long hike, which is more or less required at Cape Arago, and I didn't think it would be worthwhile to pay admission to Shore Acres, so I stopped at Sunset Bay State Park, which conveniently happened to be the first of the three.
This is an absolutely beautiful place, made much less beautiful under the cloudy sky. I didn't spend much time here, stopping only to take a few pictures...
... of a cooperative seagull. Thank goodness I returned here on the next-to-last day of the trip, to watch the sunset.
You can jump ahead to Day 7 to read about my visits to Sunset Bay State Park and Shore Acres State Park.
In my seemingly unending quest to see all, or at least most, of the lighthouses along the Oregon Coast, I took another detour out to Cape Blanco. By this time, the weather had gone from depressing to downright miserable. It was raining, and the wind was howling. It was past the lighthouse's closing time, so the road leading up to the light was closed. I could have walked up the road, but I would have ended up soaked and chilled to the bone.
Cape Blanco is south of Bandon and north of Port Orford. It is several miles west of US 101, so watch for the signs.
Despite all the trouble, it was still worth it to see Cape Blanco. After all, it is the westernmost point in Oregon. In addition, its lighthouse is the state's oldest, highest above the sea, southernmost, and westernmost† ‡.
There's also a nice sea stack on the beach below. I had to take this picture through my car window, because if I had rolled it down, I would have been hit with a soaking blast of horizontal rain.
There's more to see at Cape Blanco than just the cape itself. If it's open, stop by the historic Hughes House. It was built in 1898 as a home for a pioneer, who operated a dairy farm on the flat land around the Sixes River.
Near Hughes House, a half mile trail begins, which takes you along the banks of the Sixes River, and out to the coast. I thought long and hard about taking this trail, despite the weather. I think it would have been a beautiful walk on a more sunny day.
As you travel through the town of Port Orford, US 101 takes a sudden left turn. However, there's a good chance you'll feel compelled to head straight ahead, and up this hill. Why? Because there's an "OCEAN VIEW"? Now there's something you haven't seen so far on this trip!
That "Ocean View" sign that's painted on the road is actually big enough to be seen from space, or at least, on a Google Map aerial view.
The actual view of the ocean was pretty unimpressive. You'll note that I didn't even try to get out of the car, thanks to the rain. And even so, there are plenty of drops on my lens!
A few miles south of Port Orford, Humbug Mountain comes into view. Okay, that's an understatement. The 1,756 foot mountain dominates the view. There was no room to squeeze US 101 in between the mountain and the ocean, so the highway cuts inland for the trip around the mountain.
On a clearer day, consider a hike to the top of Humbug Mountain. It's 5.4 miles round trip, and the trail loops around the top of the mountain, so you don't have to backtrack much on the return.
South of Humbug Mountain...
Once US 101 made its way back to the coast, I stopped at a small side-road to check out the view. By this point, the sky was so grey, it blended in with the horizon and the ocean.
The road didn't go very far, at least, not today.
I think this picture is best at summing up the whole day's experience: Parks and Puddles.
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