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'. That dune actually topped out at just 100' according to an advertisement by the Potter-Chapin Realty Company in the October 4, 1909 Oregonian and a 1939 US Army Corps of Engineers map. The Webbers evidently saw other ads and promotional brochures bragging that Hotel Bayocean would stand on Bayocean's highest point and assumed USACE was referring to the hotel when it said the highest point of Bayocean was 140' in a 1940 report. Other researchers and USACE itself used 140' long after USACE published another map in 1959 showing the highest point being 154'. It was nice to find that map at the National Archives in Seattle to confirm what I'd learned on my own. It’s too bad it wasn’t more widely distributed. 

Before finding the 1959 USACE map, I went looking for the high point on my own using Google Earth. I was surprised to find locations higher than 140' in the hills north of the townsite, 153' being the highest. Sea rise from global warming explains the 1' decrease - along with those doing the measuring choosing to round up or down. 

Once I found the coordinates (45.538290 -123.945063) I had to go find the spot myself. My friend Eleanor and I did so on January 19, 2015. There isn't a trail there and I am 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 the 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 of relatively small circumference centered in a knoll 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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