Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bayocean's Highest Point

In several places in  Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea, Bert and Margie Webber speak of the Bayocean Hotel Annex, and nearby luxury homes, being built at 140'. In their promotional brochure (p.8) the Potters bragged about the six acre site of the hotel being the highest spot on Bayocean. All of that part of Bayocean has been washed away by the sea, so it's not the highest point now, but reading about it made me want to find out what was.

Scanning the hills of Bayocean with Google Earth, I found a spot 152' high. It was there when Bayocean was built, and it certainly hasn't grown higher in the last century. Perhaps someone climbed the highest tree on the hotel dune, saw nothing obstructing their view of the Cascade Range, then came down and sliced off more than 12' to create six acres of flat ground. Another explanation for the apparent misstatements is modern technology: satellites and aerial Lidar surveys give us much more precision today.

Bayocean's 152' high point at 45.5383 -123.945053; from Google Earth
In any case, once I found coordinates for the highest point (45.5383, -123.945053) I had to go find it. My friend Eleanor and I did so January 19, 2015. There isn't a trail to the high point, and I'm not encouraging others to go there. After reading the rest of this post you probably won't want to.  

On a map, the shortest route to the high spot is a direct line west off Dike Road. We found out that would require hip boots (which we didn't have) to get across a marsh, followed by a tough push up a steep incline through nearly impenetrable brush. So we went back to the south, hiked the trail across the sand gap, and started bushwhacking uphill from a spot directly south of the high spot. We needed all of our tools (map, compass, GPS app) because the trees and other foliage was so thick in places we couldn't see any distance. 

At one point I entered info on my GPS app incorrectly, which forced us to backtrack. We tried using deer trails but most just led to dead ends where they bed down at night. Often we had to crawl under the brush to make any headway. Luckily, when we got close the exact spot it was made obvious by a tall tree centered in a knoll of relatively small circumference that stood above the surrounding turf.

Eleanor at Bayocean's high spot
We decided to try a shorter route back, heading southeast on a ridgeline back to Dike Road. We figured going down a steep slope with no marsh at the bottom would make things easier. It didn't. The brush was thicker there than anywhere else. I was impressed by Eleanor's sense of humor, fortitude, and willingness to put up with a trip leader like me. Later (see Rewitness Card 56) I wondered how a survey team with the General Land Office could have covered Bayocean, north to south, in just one day back in 1857. The brush must not have been as thick.

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