Sunday, October 13, 2013

Along the Wilson River

Here in Oregon, September is the best month weather-wise.  The hot temps have cooled down, the rain is yet to come, and fall colors start peeping out from trees.  I made plans to go hiking with a friend on a mid-September Sunday.  But, alas, by Saturday the forecast predicted rain, and my friend ended up canceling.  Not wanting to sit around the house all day, I decided rain or no rain, I was still going hiking.

Lone fisherman on the Wilson River

Tired of driving across town to access the Gorge or Mt. Hood, I instead looked westward.  The Coast Range, between Portland and the ocean, has some terrific trails.  And it's a short drive from home.  But for some reason I've never fully explored this area.  I decided today that would change.

Pretty vine maple

Since the Coast Range catches all the precip coming in from the ocean first, during rainy days it's a fairly wet place.  I knew I was probably crazy to go hiking there on a day with rain in the forecast.  But I packed a bunch of raingear, some towels, and decided to make the best of it.  Also, against my better judgement, I loaded up the dog.

Inviting bridge crossing

After a little internet research I settled on the Wilson River Trail.  The Wilson River, flowing out of the coast range into the ocean, boasts a trail paralleling 20.6 miles of its forested banks.  Accessed by several trailheads, hiking options abound.  The stretch from Jones Creek to Bridge Creek Falls, a total of 7 round-trip miles, was my final choice.

Scattering of moss and fall color

Although I left my house during a heavy shower, by time I drove into the trailhead, things were dry.  I suited up with raincoat and gaiters, only to shed them a half mile down the trail.

Lovely river reflections

The Wilson River in this area runs through the Tillamook State Forest.  Not only for hiking, this wooded area supports a variety of outdoor recreation uses.  Not far from the trailhead parking area was a place to stage off road vehicles, and corresponding trails for this purpose.  I spotted a few people fishing from the Wilson river's banks.  And mountain biking is also allowed on the hiking trails.

Leaf color is just getting started

So, let's just say that the forest along the Wilson River is not exactly pristine wilderness.  But, as I discovered upon the first half mile, it sure is beautiful.

Bear takes a water break

A quarter mile from the Jones Creek Trailhead, a huge suspension bridge takes visitors across the Wilson to the Tillamook Forest Center.  An interpretive and educational place, this center showcases the area's logging legacy and provides information about the infamous Tillamook Burn (A huge series of forest fires that struck this area over the 1930s).  Because I  had my dog with me, I skipped a visit for today and stayed on the opposite shore.

Our trail paralleled an old road

Although the majority of leaves were still in various stages of green, there was just enough yellow and orange to provide nice accents.  And make some great photos.

This way to Wilson Falls

I trekked through areas of dense forest with thick vegetation below.  Huge clumps of moss draped from some of the tree branches.  Although the river was always in view, only a few steep trails led to its banks.  Bear and I made a couple trips to shore, to check things out (and to give Bear a chance to drink).

Bear in a maze of leaves

About halfway to our turnaround at Bridge Creek Falls, the trail began to veer away from the river, and climbed over a couple of ridges.  Then it would dive down to cross small side creeks, spanned by one-log bridges.  I'd expected a flat trail, so these climbs were a surprise. 

One of many log bridges

Finally Bear and I came to a side trail that was supposed to lead to Bridge Creek Falls.  But I got waylaid by a scenic bend in the river.  Next to the bend was a deep pool, that appeared to be used as a summer swimming hole.  A downed tree had a rope swing attached to its end that I assumed was used for this purpose.  Ready for a break, I took a seat on the adjacent rocks and snacked on some apples and a cliff bar.

An old swimming hole

My gps showed we'd already traveled more than 3.5 miles.  I decided to bag the additional trek to Bridge Creek Falls and head back.  So Bear and I began to backtrack our route, hoping to beat any rain.  We came upon one of the single-log bridges.  Bear started across, and I took out my camera to capture him on the bridge.  I called out for Bear to stop and tried to get him to turn his head around.  But instead poor Bear tried to turn his whole body around, and in the process, slipped and tumbled into the creek below.

Tunnel of green

I panicked.  Rushing to the side of the depression, I arrived just as Bear scrambled up the bank.  He'd fallen down a drop of at least six feet onto rocks below.  Anxiously, I felt his legs and feet for any sign of broken bones.  Bear didn't wince at all.  In fact, the only injury appeared to be a couple of small gashes on his face.  Bear had weathered this slip just fine.

My dog's always been a very sure-footed pup, so having him fall like that greatly surprised me.  But at nearly 12 years old, Bear has been slowing down.  And this stumble confirmed to me just how much he's declined.

One last flower

So Bear and I continued back to the trailhead, him moving much slower than before, and I watching him like a hawk for any sign of limping.  We passed a large family with tons of kids scattered up and down the path, and a dad trudging along behind smoking a cigarette (!!!!! in a forest!!!)

Beautiful river view

We made it back to the car with no further incidents.  Although very tired, Bear seemed to have weathered  his fall just fine.  As I loaded my backpack into the car, I realized throughout the entire hike not a drop of rain had fallen.  When I arrived back in town, my hubby complained it had rained off and on most of the afternoon.  Guess I picked the right place to hike today!

The Wilson River, although very much touched by man, was still a lovely place to hike, and only a 40 minute drive from my front door.  I have a feeling I'll be back soon, to explore more of its trails.

Sharing with:  Tuesday Muse.


  1. Looks like a beautiful area for hiking, Linda. Glad it didn't rain on you.. though you were well equipped if it did.
    And I'm really glad Bear is okay. A scary ordeal for you both.

  2. We've got some nice areas like this around here that are often neglected in favor of the Smokies although they are getting some use right now!! I know you are sad for the day coming when Bear is no longer able to hike with you.

  3. Hi Linda-thanks for sharing another adventure. I wanted to get a hike in this weekend, but since it was a holiday I decided to stick around the house-very crowded with visitors up here. My son went to his favorite spot and said he turned back there were soooo many people! Guess everyone likes to experience nature when they can.
    Glad to see Bear was ok after that frightening fall. I'm always afraid to bring my dog along-he may not listen well enough and get into trouble! Have a good week.

  4. Beautiful shots of a great hike. Fantastic colours. I'm so glad that Bear was ok, it's always a worry as they get older xx

  5. Oh man, I'm glad Bear was ok. That would have really given me a scare. I'm glad you were able to still get out and hike even with the threat of rain. You got some pretty shots!

  6. Gorgeous area and your pictures are quite lovely! Glad Bear was okay.

  7. Linda, I also love to walk in the rain! Your photos are gorgeous, what a great walk! I am glad Bear is O.K.

  8. Looks like a beautiful hike - your scenery is so much different from ours. I'm glad Bear is okay. Socks is terrible with stream crossings (he's too small) and falls in, then looks at me to fish him out.

  9. First time visit to you blog. As I was readying I was thinking how lucky you are that you have your dog to keep you company on the trail. Then Bear fell down the creek.. how scary it that, but I am glad that he is okay. Oh you had mentioned that you used GPS on the trail, would you mind sharing with me what kind? I often go for a walk in the woods and I think its something that I need to carry.

  10. As you know, I LOVE the Wilson River area! Such a gorgeous area!
    So, so glad that Bear is OK--he is such a beautiful dog and I am a confirmed dog lover:)

  11. Linda,
    Thanks for taking us along on your hike! What a beautiful and peacefull way to spend the day. I love all the autumn colors you captured.

  12. My favorite thing about visiting the Coast Range was the thick moss on the tree trunks, like a magical place.
    Every hike of yours' is a little mental excursion for me. :)

    Your hiking partner is sure handsome, too.

  13. What a great adventure you took. I loved seeing all the beauty that you found on your hike. I liked the picture of Bear on that one log bridge. I'm so glad he wasn't hurt in the fall. Can't wait for you to go back and take in the Falls the next time around.

  14. Forgot to mention that I'm your newest follower too! Great blog.

  15. Linda what beautiful paths you always follow. Love your shares and photos ~ always !

  16. Simply gorgeous Linda. Love Oregon! It has been beautiful here in UT too. Loved seeing your photos. You are an adventurer my friend!

  17. Poor Bear - I would have been shaking. My Petey is too old for trail hikes now, but my next dog is definitely going to be trained to go along with me on my hikes.

  18. Hello Linda, great views and beautifully captured photos! I really enjoy checking your blog :)


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