The only thing we planned for Saturday was a hike up Neahkahnie Mountain. That took most of the day, and the great weather yielded lots of views.
Neahkahnie Mountain Loop Hike
The hike we settled on was hiking part of the Oregon Coast Trail, going up Neahkahnie Mountain in Oswald West State Park, but it took us a while to figure out what route to take. To do just the mountain, there are trailheads at the north and south ends, with the peak being much closer to the south end (and therefore steeper on that side of the trail). You can also add about 2½ miles (total) by starting near Short Sand Beach. If you want to only do the mountain once, you can create a loop by starting from the north trailhead, going over the mountain, then walking along US 101 back to the beginning. Or, add the Short Sand Beach segment to make a lollipop loop. The last is what we chose.
Short Sand Beach
By the time we had breakfast, got to the trailhead, and got our gear together, it was about 9:30am when we started out. It looked like we might be at about the summit when it was lunchtime, so that seemed about right. It was worthwhile doing the Short Sand Beach segment because we crossed Necarney Creek on a suspension bridge, walked through a salal field almost five feet high, and took a short spur to look down into Devil's Cauldron.
After leaving the salal fields, we crossed US 101 to the north trailhead of the Neahkahnie Trail, and immediately started gaining altitude. We caught glimpses of Devil's Cauldron from above as we followed the switchbacks and were soon in a thick forest. We were close to the top and suddenly were at the Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint where we could see Neahkahnie Beach and Nehalem Bay.
There was a better view to be had at the peak, but we chose to not scramble up (and then down), even though there were several people up there. We settled at the base of the rocks and had lunch looking at the view.
Having eaten and rested, we started our way down the south side of the mountain. This was shorter and steeper, with probably a dozen switchbacks before we exited at the south trailhead. After that, it was a short walk to US 101, where the Oregon Coast Trail proceeds south, but we turned north.
The first bit of the highway had us walking right at the edge of the pavement, but it wasn't long before there was a protected walkway we could go along. There were some extremely steep cliffs, lots of basalt, and many view opportunities.
Back to Short Sand Beach
We got back to the north trailhead, completing the lollipop part of the loop. We didn't go back to Devil's Cauldron, but we did take a short detour to head out to Short Sand Beach. Quite a few people were enjoying the sun, and we found a log to rest up a bit for the final, short segment to the car.
Rest of the evening
After we got back to the room, we cleaned up and walked a few blocks for a quick dinner. We took it easy for the rest of our last evening.
Heading home (Sunday 5-May)
We decided to take a different route back, crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge, all four miles of it. Right after we got into Washington, we drove past Dismal Nitch, where Lewis and Clark and their party spent six days sitting out a storm. We followed the inland side of Willapa Bay (formed by the Long Island peninsula), then turned east to follow the Willapa River for a bit. Then it was north toward the Chehalis River, where we went east to Olympia, where we had lunch.
We hit an extended patch of slow traffic, but not slow enough to warrant trying to drive around on side streets. There was also a bit of traffic in Tacoma, but things were pretty clear the rest of the way. There was extremely heavy traffic going through Downtown Seattle, but we were able to bypass most of it by taking the Express Lanes. And then we were home.