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|The first explorers|
Growing up in South Dakota, I never had access to an ocean. When I moved to Oregon, 24 years ago, I gravitated to familiar surroundings - rivers and mountains. Having never lived near the sea, I didn't know what I was missing. My home is an hour's drive from the coast, but I hardly ever visit.
|Ocean view from Ecola Point|
|White foamy waves|
|Ancient coastal forest|
|A Lewis & Clark viewpoint?|
But once on top, the men marveled at the amazing ocean views. Clark liked one viewpoint in particular, where he exclaimed "I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed."
|Wood steps through a muddy area|
|A steep, windy trail leads to Indian beach|
|Bear checking out Indian beach|
|The tide comin' in|
The trail was very muddy in places. A wooden boardwalk was placed across a few extremely swampy portions, but there were also plenty of boggy areas where Bear and I had no choice but to slide and squish through.
|Waves splashing on the rocks|
The first section of the trail, from Ecola parking area to Indian Beach, offered two very nice viewpoints, one at Ecola Point. This headland jutted out into the sea, offering vistas all around. From the promontory, one could see a trail of sea stacks stretching out into the ocean. One was in the shape of a small arch - super cool! Watching white foamy waves crash onto these rocks was mesmerizing. I sat and enjoyed the show for several minutes before moving on.
As I approached Indian Beach, I saw a trail descending through the forest underbrush. Thinking this was the way to the beach, I started down. Not only was this trail extremely steep, it was also super muddy. I gingerly crept downhill, hanging onto trees and vegetation to arrest my slides. Luckily, I managed to stay upright the entire trip down, but it was pretty nip and tuck.
|Nice place for a picnic|
But at the bottom of the path was my reward. Indian Beach spread out before me. I walked through a band of perfectly round rocks until I hit the sandy shoreline. The southern end of the beach was wilder, hemmed in by Ecola Point and the rows of sea stacks. The northern end was more developed, a parking lot close by. There were quite a few people on this portion of the beach, sitting in the sand or walking around. There was also a small band of surfers in wetsuits tackling the waves.
|Lovely wild irises|
|Hangin' off the cliff edge|
I could've stayed at Indian Beach the rest of the day, enjoying the magnificent sights. But remembering my goal - Clark's viewpoint - I knew I had to get moving. So Bear and I walked through the surfers and beach goers, past the crowded parking lot, to the trail's continuation on the south side of Tillamook Head.
The path climbed steeply from the parking lot. But not very far up the trail, I was stopped by the most gorgeous viewpoint. The forest opening offered a wide-angle panorama, looking back over the entire stretch of Indian Beach. And there in the foreground was a patch of lovely purple wild irises. The scene was absolutely jaw-dropping! Certainly one of the highlights for the day.
|One last gorgeous bloom|
|Hiker's camp near Tillamook Head|
|Tillamook Head's amazing view|
|Seafoam leads to the lighthouse|
And, oh were the views glorious! They were even better than the Indian Beach panorama, I'd seen previously. Perched on the side of a steep cliff, I could see for miles in all directions. The Pacific Ocean stretched before me to the horizon. Sunshine made the sea sparkle in a lovely shade of blue-green. Waves churned against the rocks below, foaming white. Dark green forests framed the rocky cliffs. Blue skies complimented everything.
|Tillamook Rock Lighthouse|
Far out in the distance, perched on a rocky island, I had a great view of the old Tillamook Head Lighthouse. This lighthouse operated from 1881 to 1957. It's nickname, "Terrible Tilly," was due to its perilous location. Sitting a mile out to sea, this island was repeatedly battered by winter storms. Waves brought water, rocks, and fish crashing into the building, at levels as high as the lantern room, which was located 150 feet above normal sea level. Abandoned since 1957, today the structure stands empty.
|Vibrant blue-green sea|
|Boardwalk through the boggy trail|
After taking a long lunch break and soaking in the incredible views at Tillamook Head, I again reminded myself there was one more goal for the day. I still wanted to reach Clark's viewpoint. Time to pack up and hit the trail for leg three of my journey!
|Late afternoon light on Indian Beach|
|Nice evening for a beach walk|
My gps battery died, so I'm not really sure how far I traveled. But I'd chosen 3:00 as my turn-around time (promising Roger I'd be home at six for dinner). The appointed hour arrived, and I still was no closer to the final goal. I conceded defeat, turned around and slid back down that muddy trail, returning to my car.
|Beautiful rugged Oregon coast|
As I retraced my steps back to the parking area, I thought about Lewis and Clark and their team of men, who made their way through these very woods over two centuries ago. There wasn't a nicely-graded, cleared trail back then. Certainly nothing as established as the trail I hiked today (mud and all). The men didn't have Vibram hiking boots or technical clothing. They didn't have a gps, ergonomically designed backpacks, or fancy Camelback hydration bladders. The explorers didn't have Cliff bars, trail mix, or peanut butter. All they had was their buckskin clothing, and dried elk to eat. And yet Lewis and Clark's party successfully traveled through these rugged, muddy woods, discovering amazing viewpoints in their quest to obtain food.
Even though I didn't reach my final goal, this was hands-down the most incredible hike I've completed so far this year. I've forgotten what a beautiful place the Oregon Coast really is. I totally understand now why Backpacker magazine included this hike in one of their current issues. No, this won't be my only trip to the coast. Next time, I plan to finish the rest of the hike described in Backpacker, starting at Ecola State Park and heading south.
And of course, I'll also come back another day and find Clark's elusive viewpoint.