The Cape Lookout State Park Trail lures you along with splendid scenery, moments of wonder and surprise and sights that are simply breathtaking.
But Clyde Reid, a Whale Watch volunteer with Oregon State Parks, cautioned that the Cape Lookout hike is not for the faint of heart.
“It’s not an easy walk! It’s a bit of a scramble, so you should wear layers of warm, water and wind resistant clothing plus sensible shoes – I’ve seen people out there in flip-flops and cut offs and that’s not a good idea.”
The trail courses the full length of the cape (2.5 miles) and while it is fairly flat there is a slight gradient drop to the end which means it’s slightly uphill all the way back to the parking area.
It’s a total five mile round trip and you should allow up to four hours of hiking to complete the entire trip.
It is also muddy in spots and marked by steep drop-offs.
PHOTOS:CAPE LOOKOUT TRAIL
Each spring, the trail is flanked by one of the most prolific stretches of blooming trillium you’ll ever see. Many other colorful wildflower species are also at hand in a forest of old growth fir, spruce, and hemlock trees.
Along the way, be sure to keep the binoculars within easy reach and ready for anything.
On our adventure, we spied eagles, lounging harbor seals and thousands of murres, (a common sea bird) floating on the ocean surface 300-feet below.
At end of the line, you will discover why many call Cape Lookout the “best seat of the house” to watch gray whales that parade past Oregon’s shores each spring.
There is not other whale watching experience along the entire Oregon coastline quite like this one; not only to see the giants of the deep passing by, but many of the 60-foot long mammals detour around the cape’s southern flank where they lounge about, resting and feeding before continuing their ten thousand mile journey.
Gray whales left warm Baja lagoons weeks ago and now they are bound for the cold, productive waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea.
Reid said that your best chance to spy them is when they rise to the surface to take a breath and mark the moment with their “blow” or exhale.
“It’s not a water spout as many think,” said Reid. “It’s a big cloud of compressed CO2. These animals are the size of school busses and they have lungs the size of refrigerators. There’s no mistaking it.”
Here’s a hint that may help you to find the whales faster too: scan the ocean with your naked eye, looking for the tell tale blow. Once you see that, focus in with binoculars to get a good close up look.
Reid added, “You might see their backs, might even see their flukes or tail when they dive to go deep. That’s always exciting.”
Even more exciting (and a bit rare) is a breech when the giants seem to fly out of the water.
Local coastal landscape and wildlife photographer, Don Best, was ready for that dramatic moment with his camera, tripod and a 500mm telephoto lens.
In his photos he likes to show the true size of the animal – how does he do it?
“How do I get that perfect shot?” Best quickly fired back with a smile - “Oh, that’s easy – patience, patience and more patience. You have to be looking at just the right spot at just the right moment – so it takes real concentration not to look away. I don’t always get that good shot right away and I take many, many pictures for just the right one, but that’s the beauty of digital cameras.”
Gray whales swim up to one hundred miles a day and most rarely stop for an extended time, so hurry to the coast and do it soon before their show is gone.
“Even if you didn’t have a camera, this is a great place to come,” added Best.
Reid nodded in agreement as another whale surfaced just offshore. He added: “It’s just really fun! When you can get so close to a wild animal the size of a school bus it’s really great. That’s probably why there are more than a thousand Oregon State Park’s Whale Watch volunteers up and down the coast. It’s a fun way to spend your time.”
It’s spring in Oregon and we’re out enjoying the outdoors! For details on creating an Oregon Adventurecation and for special travel deals, check out “Adventurecation.”