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Love is in the (fresh) air on the Oregon Coast

Statesman Journal Article

Hike: Sutton Creek, north of Florence

Sutton Trail, Siuslaw National Forest, Florence, Oregon A young man who had been blind since birth approached me at the Oregon Authors Table at the Oregon State Fair in Salem a few years ago.

He said he wanted to buy a copy of my hiking guide for the Oregon Coast.

I responded that the book would be hard for him read because the text is not in Braille. The photos and maps would be useless.

He might even have difficulty on some of the trails, especially near cliffs or in disorienting expanses of loose sand.

None of that mattered, he said. He would buy a book if I would point out a romantic location on or near the coast.

After flipping through the book a minute, I stopped at a photograph of an arched footbridge above Sutton Creek, in a wildflower meadow just before the creek meanders out into the dunes to the sea.

I knew the path was firm there and the bridge safe.

"You might like this bridge at Sutton Creek," I suggested.

He ran his fingers over the page as he stared up at the wall behind me.

"Is it really beautiful there? Really beautiful?"

"Yes," I said. "It is."


He dog-eared the page, paid for the book and tapped his way out of the hall with his white cane.

I didn't think much more about his purchase until I received an e-mail a month later.

"Thank you, Mr. Sullivan," he wrote.

He reminded me that he was the young man from the fair. He said he had bought the book because he was in love with a sighted woman.

For a long time, he had been working up his nerve to ask her to marry him. What he had wanted, he said, was to pose this all-important question in a place with such overwhelming visual beauty that she might be swayed to accept a blind man as a life partner.

He took her to the bridge at Sutton Creek, dropped to his knee and popped the question.

She said yes.

— Bill Sullivan, author of more than a dozen hiking guides

Getting there

rive Highway 101 south of the Sea Lion Caves five miles (or north of Florence five miles) and turn west at a Sutton Creek sign for 2.2 miles to road's end at Holman Vista.

Cost: There's a $5 parking fee.

Trails: An easy, 1.3-mile loop is essentially level. First, take a paved, 100-yard trail out to an observation deck overlooking the coastal dunes. Then, return to the parking area and take a trail cut through the vegetation at the end of a small picnic area lawn, marked by a post.

A left-hand fork here leads to a creek ford, where adventurers can run across the dunes 0.3 miles to a remote beach with sand dollars.

If you keep right, however, you'll follow the creek upstream 0.8 miles to an arched footbridge. At a bench just before the footbridge, turn right on a half-mile trail that returns to your car. (This hike is in Sullivan's "100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range, Third Edition, 2009.")

Kayak/canoe: Willamette River Little Rock Island...

Snowshoe: Mountain View Shelter at Maxwell Butte Sno-Park...

Many have written about the romance of the outdoors. In keeping with that theme — and with an eye toward Valentine's Day next Sunday — the Statesman Journal contacted several outdoor recreation clubs and experts to offer their picks for the "best of" romantic outings in and around the Willamette Valley. Here are [the rest of] their picks. Read Statesman Journal Article

Additionl Information:

Trail Description: Holmen Vista trail is wheel chair accessible to the viewing deck. The Darlingtonia trail is wheel chair accessible also. The remainder of the trail system is surrounded by a coastal forest with numerous berries, and beautiful rhododendron plants and also open sand dunes.

Sutton Creek Map

Sutton Creek Trail

Trails: Holman Vista #1326, Darlingtonia #1320

Length: 5 miles

Elevation: Sea level

Permitted Uses: Hikers

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Season: Year around

Seasonal Closures: None

Trailhead Facilities: Toilets, picnic tables

Accessibility: Ramp and platform with a view of Sutton Creek