Friday, June 24, 2022

Cape Perpetua, Day Two

Day two of my trip to the Oregon Coast and Cape Perpetua began very early in the morning with sounds of rain pounding on the roof of my yurt.  Uh-oh!  I had another hike planned, would it be a wet one?  (If you missed day one, read about it here.)  

Beautiful coastal forest at Cook's Ridge Trailhead

Lucky for me the precip let up around sunrise.  Although everything was foggy and drippy, at least the water wasn't still falling from the sky.  I'd been battling a case of plantar fasciitis on my left foot and yesterday's hike had left it stiff and sore.  But walking to the bathroom and back a couple of times seemed to loosen it up.  Since the weather and my foot were now cooperating, I decided today's hiking plans were on.


Not sure what the sign was referring to, but it sounded impressive

Today's planned trek was a route on three trails in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.  Starting from the visitor center, I planned to follow the Cook's Ridge trail to it's junction with the Gwynn Creek Trail.  From here, I'd take the Gwynn Creek trail to the Oregon Coast Trail and then follow this back to the visitor center.  At 6.5 miles, it was the perfect distance for a nice saunter in the woods.

Cape Perpetua trail map

Since my yurt was nearby I was able to get an early start and had the distinction of being the first vehicle at the visitor center parking lot.  A sign at the trailhead informed hikers these trails were part of the "Old-Growth Forest Network" - whatever that was.  Anyway, it sounded impressive!

Fancy fungi

My day's trek started out in another lush coastal forest full of all things green.  Steadily climbing uphill, I noticed many varieties of unique fungi sprouting from trees, both dead and alive.

Bleeding hearts

And of course there were wildflowers too.  Copious amounts of pink bleeding heart flowers draped over the undergrowth.

Lone trillium by a bench

And I spotted one lone soggy trillium by a trailside bench.  Little did I know there would be plenty more of these to come!

World of green

At a half mile in, the trail forked into a loop.  Hikers had the option of choosing to veer left or right, knowing that the trails would merge again in a short distance.  On a whim, I chose the right hand path.  I climbed up through lush fern-y forest for about 3/4 of a mile before reuniting with the trail.

Tiny fungi

The forest was still very much dripping from the night's rain.  Fog lingered amongst the trees.  But as I strode away from the loop junction, a ray of light sliced through the fog and illuminated a small portion of the forest.  Such lovely light, it warranted a photo stop.

Nice light on the forest

And then I came to the trilliums.  Hundreds of these lovely white flowers carpeted the forest floor.  Many looked like they were a bit past peak, so it was lucky I'd chosen this day for my hike.  

One the many trilliums in bloom

The Cook's Ridge trail climbed, sometimes rather steeply.  I huffed and puffed in the humid forest air.  Although the temperature had been a bit chilly when I started, things had warmed up quite significantly.

Fern-y forest floor

Where was that trail junction?  It seemed like I'd been hiking quite a long time.  (Distance always seems longer when traveling uphill)  Happily the trail sign marking the junction finally came into view.  Woo-hoo, it was all downhill from here!

Weather-beaten trail sign

If I thought the Cook's Ridge Trail was nice, Gwynn Creek was even better.  It was an alley of green - ferns, moss, and needles of huge spruce and fir trees.

Gwynn Creek Trail 

Some of the trees were absolutely gigantic!  Huge Sitka spruce and Douglas fir trees were numerous in the middle portion of the Gwynn Creek trail.  This must've been the "Old Growth Forest Network" the trailhead sign was bragging about.

One of the many enormous trees

Further down the trail, I admired more weird-looking fungi sprouting from the trunks of some trees.

More fun fungi

Towards the trail's bottom portion, Gwynn Creek, at first just a distant hum, became closer to the path until I could glimpse it's watery boundary and hear a constant roar.  Also, I discovered lots of bright pink salmonberry blooms under the tall tree canopies.

Salmonberry bloom

Finally I reached the final junction with the Oregon Coast Trail.  Before heading back on this trail, I took a short detour to a bridge overlooking lovely Gwynn Creek to get a good look at this waterway I'd been hearing.

Gwynn Creek

By now my left foot was telling me "enough" in no uncertain terms.  Two hikes in as many days was apparently too much for it's fragile state.  I limped through the final mile on the Oregon Coast trail.  The parking lot could not come soon enough!

Cape Perpetua glimpse from Oregon Coast Trail

Here the Oregon Coast trail was mostly just a green tunnel of vegetation through more lush coastal forest.  However, a couple of breaks in the woods did give peek-a-boo glimpses of the Cape Perpetua bridge and Highway 101.

Glittering ocean and fishing boat

The hike's early start had me returning to my car by lunchtime.  Deciding my foot needed a break I headed back to my yurt, where I chilled and read a book most of the afternoon.  But I still had unfinished business back at Cape Perpetua - the sunset awaited my camera lens!  So after an early supper, I packed my tripod and camera bag and headed back up Highway 101.

Wave action

My foot was not happy to be walking down the trail at Cape Perpetua, especially toting a tripod and backpack full of camera gear.  It was high tide, with waves crashing spectacularly on the rocks below, so instead of setting up on the lower shoreline, I decided to stay safe and perch myself on the bluff above.  From past visits, I knew of a good viewpoint where I could photograph Thor's Well.

Thor's Well

Thor's Well is a circular hole in the rocky coastline below Cape Perpetua.  At high tide, when waves crash into the shore with enough force, water shoots up dramatically through the "well" and then drains down its vertical sides.  Photographers from all over travel to the Oregon Coast to photograph this natural wonder.  Googling "Thor's Well" will produce hundreds of amazing images.

Stupid people getting way too close to Thor's Well

I had hoped to capture my own amazing image of Thor's Well at sunset.  Sadly the mostly overcast sky wasn't producing the best light.  From my vantage point, I zoomed in on Thor's Well and had fun trying to time my shutter clicks to both the high splashes and receding water.  I did manage to get a few images I liked, one of which is posted above.

Waiting for sunset

I was also entertained by a few foolish people who, despite the pounding waves, ventured out on the rocks to the very edge of Thor's Well.  Luckily, I didn't see anybody washed out to sea, but it looked like everyone who attempted that perfect selfie got a saltwater drenching.

A tiny bit of color

When photographing sunsets I like to get to my spot early to allow for setup.  But my arrival a full 3 hours before sunset was much too long of a wait.  I took a few photos of waves here and there, and when the sun illuminated a middle cloud layer orange, I added a few dozen images to my memory card.  But otherwise, time seemed to crawl at a snail's pace.

I had given up and was at my car when the sky erupted in pink

Although the sky was mostly overcast, there was a small bit of clearing between the upper and lower cloud layers that I hoped would light up as the sun dropped.  As I impatiently watched the sky, the sun's yellow ball did produce a nice glow as it passed through this gap.  But then it sunk into the lower cloud bank and there was......nothing.

Ugh!  I'd waited three hours for nothing!  My watch said sunset was 5 minutes away, but I was ready to go.  I didn't see how this overcast sky could produce anything colorful.  Besides, my foot was killing me.  It was time to pack up and get out of here.

Good thing I hadn't left yet!

Uphill I trudged through the small wooded area back to my car.  As I emerged from the forest a burst of color caught my eye.  In the time it took for me to walk from my spot, the sky had erupted into a blaze of pink.  Oh my gosh, the sky had decided to cooperate after all!

I quickly powered up my camera and stood by the parking lot overlook shooting frame after frame of what turned out to be a lovely sunset.  Moral of the story - when shooting the sunset, always stick around until the bitter end.

I got a pretty sunset after all

It had been a short, but wonderful getaway to one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast.  I'd checked two new trails off my list, captured some images of ocean waves, and even managed to witness a lovely sunset.  Cape Perpetua, you always deliver!  

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Amanda's Trail

Yes, I'm still alive!

I know, I know, it's been way too long since my last post.  This time, thankfully, my hiatus wasn't due to a medical issue.  In late May-early June I took a fantastic two-week vacation to South Dakota with a side trip to Minneapolis for a wedding.  It was a whirlwind of family, two birthdays and a wedding, critter photography, and lots of driving (I logged over 4,000 miles on my car!)  Now that I'm finally home, it's time to get this blog caught up.

Beautiful coastline at Yachats

So let's start with a past coastal trip.  In late April I journeyed south and west to Cape Perpetua, one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast.  My hope was not only to capture some good wave action and sunset photos, but also to explore a couple "new-to-me" trails in the vicinity.  

Sea pink

As with previous trips, I scored a yurt at Carl Washburne State park for two nights.  Since I couldn't check in until 1 pm, I killed time exploring the nearby cute seaside town of Yachats (pronounced "yah-hots").  There were several scenic beaches with parking areas and I chose the one closest to the main drag.  A bright pink flower called "Sea pink" (also known as "Sea thrift") was blooming here, which made for a colorful compliment to my seascape images.

Wildflowers at the trailhead

After checking into my yurt, I grabbed camera and backpack before heading out to tackle the first of two planned hikes, the Amanda Trail.  This trail can be started at either the north trailhead, near the south end of Yachats, or at the south terminus near the stone shelter on top of Cape Perpetua.  Between these two endpoints, this trail first follows Highway 101 out of Yachats before finally ducking into the woods.  The trail climbs to an amazing suspension bridge and an amphitheater with a statue honoring Amanda, the trail's namesake (more on this in the next few paragraphs.)  Then the trail continues steeply uphill until it reaches the southern trailhead on top of Cape Perpetua.

Lush coastal forest

Since I wasn't keen on walking next to a busy highway, I planned to skip this portion of the trail and start my hike on top of Cape Perpetua.  I decided to travel only as far as the Amanda statue before turning around and retracing my steps.  Seeing the statue of the trail's namesake was why I'd chosen to tackle this particular hike.

Yellow violets

After locating the trailhead parking, a pull-out on the road to Cape Perpetua's stone shelter, I followed the trail downhill.  At a fork in the path, I chose the wrong way (heading up to the shelter instead of down towards the statue) so had to backtrack about a quarter mile once I discovered my mistake.  But once headed in the correct direction I ambled through a typical coastal forest full of ferns, mossy trees, and spring wildflowers.  As all coastal forests are, this one was quite lovely.

Pink-striped wildflowers

I climbed uphill for a ways, which totally surprised me.  Reading the hike description from the Oregon Hikers website I was under the impression the trail dropped from the trailhead all the way to the statue.  But no worries - I eventually hit the trail's high point and then it was all downhill from there!

More forest scenes

At one point along the trail I began to notice a skunky odor.  I thought this unpleasant smell resembled marijuana, and grumbled to myself about some fellow hiker having a toke in the woods and leaving his stinky smoke behind.  

Stinky skunk cabbage bog

Then I came to a boggy spot where the trail crossed a small stream.  Skunk cabbage plants were all over the place.  It was then that I realized these plants were the source of the unpleasant odor I'd been smelling!  Skunk cabbage is notorious for it's rotten stench.

The smelly culprit

Skunk cabbage may reek, but it's yellow flowers are pretty.  While bent over taking photos of the blooms, two young ladies caught up to me.  When I pointed out the source of the bad odor, both women commented that they'd also thought the stench was due to marijuana!

This trillium has seen better days

Downward I continued, past the stinky bog, spotting lots of trillium flowers and humungous old stumps from bygone logging days.  Keeping a sharp eye out for the Amanda statue I assumed I was getting close.  But around every bend there were just more trees.  I didn't miss it, did I?

Amazing suspension bridge 

Finally the trail opened up into a clearing.  A drainage was below.  An impressive suspension bridge spanned it's channel.  I'd read that a winter storm in 2015 caused a debris slide that wiped out the old bridge and this was the replacement.  What a grand replacement it was!

The bridge provides access to the Amanda statue

I love crossing suspension bridges.  This one swayed with my movements, which I thought was fun.  Looking across to the opposite side, I noticed rows of crude benches.  Then I saw the statue front and center.  This was the place!  I'd finally arrived!

Finally - the Amanda statue!

The entire area was well done.  A graded gravel path with steps led visitors to the site.  An amphitheater of wooden benches had been constructed facing the statue.  Two interpretive signs explained the reason for the memorial.  Amanda DeCuys was was an old, blind native woman who lived with a white settler near Coos Bay in 1864.  She produced a daughter with the settler, but they never married.

A peaceful place

An 1855 treaty with the Coastal tribes of Oregon established a Coast Indian Reservation.  Twenty-seven different native tribes were crowded together and expected not only to coexist, but to also take up agriculture and adopt the white man's ways.  Not surprisingly, many Indians didn't stick around.  They drifted back to their ancestral hunting grounds or sought paid employment outside of the reservation.

Amanda is adorned with beads of all varieties

Government Indian agents were not happy with the mass exodus of natives leaving the reservation, and in the spring of 1864 devised a plan to round up the escapees.  In Coos Bay the army captured 46 Indians, mostly women who had been acting as wives to local loggers.  One corporal tasked with capturing the runaway Indians recounted in his diary seizing an "old and blind" native woman named Amanda DeCuys who had been living with a white farmer and had a young daughter by him.  Despite being a mother, Amanda was ripped away from her family and forced to march with a group of other natives back to the reservation.

Colored rocks have been left at her base

It was an awful journey.  Many of the woman and children in the party fell in exhaustion.  On the final day the group had to negotiate the sharp basalt of Cape Perpetua, where Amanda, being blind and unable to see where she was walking, tore her feet horribly on the rocks.  Once the party arrived at the reservation, no further mention was made of Amanda's fate.

Beads and dreamcatchers dangle from nearby trees

Amanda's Trail was the brainchild of a Minnesota couple who purchased land near Yachats along Highway 101.  It was their desire to establish a portion of the Oregon Coast trail through this property.  But government wheels move slowly, and it took over 10 years for the project to be completed.  Learning the sad history of past forced relocations from local native tribes it was decided to name the trail after Amanda.  In 2009 a small statue was placed in a fern-filled grotto near Amanda Creek, and several representatives of local native tribes attended the formal dedication.  The original statue was buried by the same 2015 debris slide that wiped out the first bridge.  The trail was reconstructed and a new statue placed where it stands today. 

Old growth stump with notch

I found the Amanda statue adorned with various beaded necklaces and other offerings.  A pile of colorful rocks sat at her base.  Dreamcatchers hung from a nearby tree.  It was a quiet, serene place - a fitting tribute to this brave native woman who was cruelly wronged.  Some people want to ignore the dark sides of history, but I think it is good to bring these terrible events to light.  As a society we need to learn from past injustices so that they may never be repeated.

Cape Perpetua stone shelter

After having the statue area to myself for an entire half hour, the arrival of another party broke the spell and I decided it was time to head back.  I now had a mostly uphill trek to look forward to!

Fantastic views from the shelter

For some reason the return trip on most hikes always seems quicker.  This trail was no exception and before I knew it the trailhead and my waiting car came into view.

The Pacific Ocean view

I drove the final quarter mile to the parking area on top of Cape Perpetua.  A short trail led me to the stone shelter sited on the cape's very apex, boasting awesome views up and down the Oregon Coast.  Construction of this stone shelter was a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) project from the 1930's.

Spouting horn below Cape Perpetua

Later that evening I returned to the tidepools below Cape Perpetua in hopes of catching a sunset over this unique, rocky coastline.  It happened to be high tide, and the huge waves crashing into the shoreline provided much entertainment.  One of the formations, called "Spouting Horn" was especially fun to watch.  When large waves moved up a narrow, rocky chasm, they forced water through a hole in the basalt, causing a vertical column of water to shoot high into the sky.

Wave action at high tide

That evening's sunset was a dud.  However, while waiting for nightfall I amused myself by taking images of the huge waves crashing below.  I had another full day of hiking and photography planned for tomorrow, which I'll cover in my next post.  Stay tuned!