|Lush coastal forest
For my first post-COVID trek I picked a "new to me" route - a loop that included the Gales Creek Trail, Storey Burn Trail, and a short return on the Gravelle Brothers Trail. With the trailhead conveniently located at the coast range summit along Highway 6, not only was it a short drive, I was also following the "don't travel more than 40 miles from home" directive (barely).
I parked at the familiar summit trailhead. Coincidentally it's also the trailhead for University Falls, which I've hiked several times before. Today instead of crossing the highway, the trail began steps from my car door. A huge bunch of bleeding heart flowers blooming around the trailhead kiosk delayed my start. Photography began early today!
The Gales Creek Trail descended steeply downhill, past lush undergrowth full of blooming wildflowers. Not only were bleeding hearts thick, so were lovely, ivory-colored fairy lanterns.
It took a bit of extra time to complete my first mile. So much to photograph!
New ferns were unfurling their tiny green leaves from the main curving stalk.
|Huge mossy tree
Although the forest was mainly second growth timber, a few giant, mossy trees could still be found.
Wildflowers stole the show. Trilliums, yellow violets, more fairy lanterns and bleeding hearts, and bright yellow Oregon grape. Every where I looked something was in bloom.
I was happy to spot three tiny fairy slipper flowers hiding on the forest floor. Also known as Calypso Orchids, these lovely pink blooms are not super common, so it's always special if you see one.
|Backlit new leaves
Although the morning started out cloudy, before long sunlight began to filter through the forest canopy, backlighting some of the bright green new leaves.
|More bleeding hearts
Abundant rainfall always makes Coast Range forests super lush and green, especially in the spring.
|One of many bridges
The path wound through thick forest, crossing several tiny tributary creeks. But this well-maintained trail had sturdy wooden bridges spanning each of the crossings so I never got my feet wet.
After two lovely downhill miles, I came to the closed Gales Creek Campground. With sites scattered along the banks of Gales Creek, it looked like a great place to spend a couple of nights. As I climbed away from the creek, I clicked a few photos of pink corydalis blooms and new, bright green ferns.
|New, green fern
And Gales Creek also made for some lovely scenery.
Although the Coast Range is the closest forest to my home, I don't often hike here. These forests, heavily logged in the past, are far from pristine. They also allow off-road vehicle travel and target shooting. Although separate trails and roads are provided for these activities, it's common to hear the whine of motorcycle engines and distant echoes of gunfire. Neither make for a pleasant hiking experience. Moving uphill from Gales Creek Campground, I heard my first motorcycles, later accompanied by a few far-away gunshots.
However, mountain biking is allowed on the hiking trails. At the junction with the Storey Burn Trail I ran into my first bikers, a couple of teenage boys. Figuring they would be faster, I told them to go ahead. A short distance later I caught up to them, pushing their bikes up a steep grade. (They kind of looked like they were in over their heads) I wouldn't see them again for the rest of my hike.
|One way to remove a blow-down
A short while later, I came across a garter snake, sunning himself in the middle of the trail. Not wanting the mountain bikers to run him over, I shooed the snake into the forest. But not until after I got a few photos, of course.
|Lovely surprise waterfall
The Storey Burn trail wasn't as interesting as the Gales Creek trail. It was an uphill trudge through boring, second-growth forest. I didn't see any more flowers. There was, however one pleasant surprise when I came upon a small waterfall running right down the side of the trail. A nearby log beckoned, and I decided this was a good place to take my lunch break.
|Another wildflower collage
Resuming my travels, I came across two men, who were as happy as I to be outside hiking on this fine spring day. (I'd only see four hikers and four mountain bikers the entire time) It was a long, muggy trek to the junction with Storey Burn Road. After this, the trail continued for another two miles before another junction with Highway 6.
|Stump with a "face"
The next section of trail got better, with more wildflower sightings, a few forest clearings where I could spot adjacent foothills, and some very interesting stumps from huge trees, logged in the past. Some of the stumps had notches cut into them, where loggers had stuck springboards to enable them to stand higher on the trunk.
|This stump has "hair!"
All of the old stumps had trees or bushes growing out of their tops. Some looked like they were sprouting hair.
|Crossing under Hwy 6 bridge
My map showed the Storey Burn Trail crossing Highway 6. Thinking I'd have to dash across between traffic, I was happy to discover the trail actually crossed under the highway bridge.
|Snail - wildlife sighting No. 2
A short romp brought me to the Gravelle Brothers Trail, which I'd hiked before to University Falls. This time I followed it a half mile back to the highway, where after a short, uncomfortable walk along it's narrow shoulder, I sprinted across to the parking area and my car.
|Makin' friends with a big tree
A very pleasant 8-mile loop with 1400 feet of climbing, my feet and legs were sore, (I'm out of hiking shape!) but it had been totally worth it.
I can't tell you how wonderful it was to finally be back in the woods on a real trail! The Gales creek - Storey Burn loop was a winner - a trail I'll definitely hike again. Back at home that evening, I poured over hiking websites and trail maps, plotting my next Coast Range adventure.
More hike reports to come!