Monday, February 9, 2015

Bayocean by Foot, Bicycle, and Horseback

Motor vehicles are not allowed on Bayocean Spit, except for maintenance and official business for those who have keys to get through the gates. If you want to enjoy the wonders of Bayocean it has to be without the aid of a motor.


View of Tillamook Bay midway along Dike Rd, by Jerry Sutherland
Follow the Dike Road north from the parking lot all the way out the south jetty and you will have travelled about 4.5 miles. If, instead, you take the trail west from the parking lot across the peninsula to the ocean side, and follow the beach out to the jetty it's about 3.5 miles. 


View of Pacific Ocean from South Jetty, by Jerry Sutherland


So, a round trip from the parking lot to the jetty can range from 7 to 9 miles. A steady but leisurely hike, with a break for lunch on the jetty, would take you four to five hours. Along the way you'll meet others packing fishing gear on their bikes, walking their dogs, riding horses, and taking photos. 

from Bobcat at Oregon Hikers
Many other routes of various durations are enabled by trails crossing the peninsula along its length. Wandering off trail through the low dunes on the south end is not difficult, but once you pass the locked gate about a mile north of the parking lots it's another matter: wetlands cover the lowlands and dense brush covers the hills. But if you really like bushwhacking read Bayocean's Highest Point.

Online Bayocean field guides and maps are available in several places including Oregon Hikers and Every Trail. If you have dogs (on leash, not chasing wildlife, of course) Ellen Morris Bishop features Bayocean in her Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon. Bill Sullivan describes a route across the sand gap, between the forested hills, and adds a nice historical perspective in Hiking Oregon's History. 

The Tillamook County web site and posted signs say that overnight camping is not allowed on Bayocean. Seeing evidence of these on hikes, and reading web sites claiming the overnight camping prohibition only applies to vehicles, prompted to get some clarification. So, I called Del Schleichert, Tillamook County Parks Director. He said that all of these activities are indeed prohibited and enforced. Overnight camping is illegal anywhere on the spit, whether you drive or backpack to the spot. You might not see the county sheriff or a deputy patrolling along Dike Road, but they can, and will if they suspect a violation is in progress. One of the main reasons for the prohibition is campfires. They could get out of control and wipe out Bayocean's old growth forest before any fire trucks could get there.


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