OREGON COAST - Most climbers choose the steep South Face Route to the summit of Cape Kiwanda.
They prefer the direct approach, although it often demands the hands-and-toes crawl.
Then they resemble beetles creeping up a brown wall.
Nora the Schnauzer and I chose the West Ridge Route. It's easier, so we could mosey along and enjoy the views.
On the morning we climbed Kiwanda, on our last full day at the Oregon Coast, the elements aligned for near-perfect conditions: an intense blue sky, a cool Pacific breeze, a soapy surf rolling against the sheer brown cliffs and distant beaches.
In addition, massive Haystack Rock loomed in the distance.
Nora bounded ahead as I trudged up the first few yards of the South Face and angled to the left toward the Pacific Ocean.
A sign warned of dangers near the cliffs, beyond a fence. We followed the fence line halfway to the summit on the north side of the Cape.
When Nora slipped beneath the fence and sniffed toward an abrupt cliff's edge, I called her back and leashed her up.
Then a seagull dragged its broken wing across our path. Nora jerked on the leash, and I pulled back.
The wounded bird dashed on swift legs to a high overlook and stopped.
It gazed (with longing?) at the open sea below. Its drooping left wing touched the earth. It looked our way as we hurried past.
We continued around the cliff edge and climbed another 20 yards to a path through a salal thicket. I kept Nora on the leash and in sight.
After 97 winding yards through leg-scrubbing salal, we reached the summit.
Surprise! Five adults and two children - one girl about 3-years old - basked in the sunshine.
A woman gave Nora a belly rub, and Nora wanted to lick the child in the face.
I removed her leash, and we hiked across the summit to check the northern view toward Cape Lookout and the southern view across Pacific City.
With the surf, sand, clouds, blue sky and cool breeze, both of us paused often to stare.
Eventually we descended by the South Face and I watched a tiny figure carve letters in the sand.
They said, "IheartAIEXSEY," which I didn't comprehend.
At the beach, I passed the scribe, a woman with two children.
Nosey, and unable to resist, I asked how to pronounce the name in the sand.
"It's my husband, ALEXSEY," she said and laughed.
"Oh," I said.
So, the Cape Kiwanda climb concluded.
Nora and I rendezvoused with our support team (my wife Darlene) at base camp (The Pelican Brewery and Restaurant) and headed around the Three Capes Loop.
At Cape Lookout I took photos looking toward Three-Arch Rocks, Netarts Bay and Cape Meares.
At Cape Meares we visited the Octopus Tree and the lighthouse.
At the bay on the way to Tillamook, we watched a bald eagle pose on a piling.
At Tillamook, Darlene shopped at the Blue Heron Cheese Factory (Nora and I met goats, cows and an emu) and at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (two of us ate lunch and ice cream).
On the way back to Newport, we saw several elk on the outskirts of Tillamook. Then we drove three miles up a hill to Munson Falls, at 319 feet high the tallest falls in the Coast Range.
Finally, we dined at Mo's in Lincoln City and combed the beach until dusk.
On the way home the next day, we all agreed that April is a very cool month on the Oregon Coast.
So are the other 11.
Don Davis may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.