Thursday, August 28
Had to get some regularly scheduled maintenance done on my Tacoma, so why not get it done in Burlington (waaay less busy than Seattle Toyota dealerships) and knock out a quick afternoon hike? I heard about this hike from a friend who really recommended it for some great views of Puget Sound and it’s similar in difficulty with Lake Serene/Bridal Falls, which is another excellent hike near Seattle.
Followed the google maps directions to the trailhead, good thing the map is accurate because you can blink and you’ll miss it:
Parked on the side of the road, showed my Discover Pass, and geared up. For today’s hike I carried the bare minimum: my daypack, a water bottle, compass, first aid kit, headlamp, towel, and a rain jacket. Total setup is definitely less than 10 lbs, which is really light for me…I usually carry a 2L Camelbak, an additional 2L of frozen water, 2-4 cans of beer and a soft cooler in addition to this loadout. As a result, I was able to make some amazing time to the top – averaged over 3 miles an hour on some pretty steep terrain. The hike was a nice steady climb for the first mile until the first overlook, which offered a nice preview of things to come and a great little wooden bench for you to catch your breath. I ran right past it, knowing the end would be much more scenic. The trail flattened out after the first mile and then got really steep and rooty after another half mile.
My friend told me that there were also some lakes just off of the trail. However, I asked some backpackers about them on the way up and they said they weren’t really worth it…not very scenic and kind of marshy. I decided I’ve seen better lakes and chose to press right for the peak. The trail junction is a little tough to see:
I got to the top (3.25 miles, ~1900′ elevation gain) in about an hour and 15 minutes, passing several groups on the way and avoiding some bad intel from a group of teenage hikers who were going the wrong way. Lucky I had plenty of cell service and could check the route information from the Washington Trails Association. This is about the fastest I could go without going lighter and just trail running it.
On a summer Thursday afternoon, only two other groups were there (about 6 people) at the top. The view was pretty great:
There are two openings with views at the top: one on the right and one on the left. The one on the left offered two additional boulders for some privacy. Of these two boulders, the one on the right can be scrambled onto (or like two V0 bouldering moves)…so that’s the one I chose. Enjoyed a quiet moment there listening to my iPhone before running back down.
Note: When I hiked this there was just a ton of used tissue paper/paper towels on these side trails just off of the peak…really gross, please pack it out, people!
The run back down to the parking lot took me about 45 minutes, with a mix of walking and running. Because the trail is so clean, you can really get some speed going here!
I don’t think I will be coming back to this hike anytime soon – it’s a bit of a drive from Seattle and the payoff isn’t until the end. I prefer hikes with a little more payoff interspersed throughout the hike, but this is a fun run with a lot of tree cover.
Made it through countless tree-lined switchbacks on an intermediate road that connected the 101 to the northernmost point of Highway 1. The road was fairly harrowing, with steep cliffs and trees off to one side of the road, threatening to fall and destroy the road at any moment. After about 45 minutes through the winding road, the road suddenly opened up and you could see the sky in front of you, and the majesty of the Pacific Ocean was laid out in front of you like a gift. It left me breathless. I stopped at the first available turnout to marvel at the view. To the south, there appeared to be a series of beaches and campsites, and to the north, just impassable cliffs.
Nearby there was Westport Union-Landing State Beach where they had gorgeous and plentiful campsites for $25 a day. Amazing area and there were folks surfing, but they had the most god awful pit toilets I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, the kind of place that you can still smell for hours after you’ve gone there. There were folks there that looked like they were there for a while, and some bikers. The state park is in disrepair, and there is evidence of the old road that just disintegrated and fell into the beach. However, the views were still fine, as the campsites are perched up on this bluff overlooking the Pacific.
Just further down the road was the Caspar Westport Beaches Rv Park and campgrounds, which looked a lot nicer but perhaps not as great views. They did offer beach camping though, so I assume you could get away from the RV’s and just camp out on the sand.
Continued for some stretches and the area really opened up here and there, passing from one small town to the next and disappearing into the forest. Gualala was the nicest town seen yet, really still like a nice little beach/surf town that was perhaps starting to get some development. It had the usual amenities: a pub, some restaurants, and a pleasant looking market. Just to the south of Gualala are several beach access areas that are part of the Sea Ranch public access trail system. It’s a day use only trail system (parking $7) maintained by Sonoma county, very nice and long, and adjacent to a lot of private property. This region happened to be perfectly sunny when I drove through.
Gerstle Cove Campground in Salt Point State park looked very promising, but it was full for the night. Prices were $35 a night, and there were only 30 spaces (not including the group sites). Several of the spots were high up overlooking the ocean – and all were taken by RV campers. Gorgeous views if you can get it. Across the way was Woodside campground, and the small town of Ocean Cove had laundry and store stuff. More commercial campgrounds were down the road but didn’t look nearly as nice. Even further was a nice restaurant, Alexander’s that overlooked the ocean.
About an hour later I reached Ft Ross State Historic Park. It didn’t look like much from the side of the road initially, but after about a minute of driving past the park entrance, I could see the tops of what looked like a full-size wooden fort! That would have been a cool stop, but instead I figured I could do some research later and press on to my destination. The views opened up again after the park and the scenery got a little more…scenic.
Ft Ross did have a campground nearby, but it didn’t take advantage of the amazing vistas. The campground was instead tucked away into a little side valley, but I think it had beach access (no dogs). The campground was almost entirely empty except for the campground host and one family taking up a group site. Much, much nicer than what I saw at Westport Union-Landing. Good job, Sonoma County!
The final stretch towards Bodega Bay was the icing on the cake. The towns became more and more developed, and there were signs of more and more people. The views didn’t let up, either.
This section seemed to be in dire need of repair as well. A lot of the turnouts had sections that were eroding and were cordoned off. I looked back at my 3000-lb Tacoma and hoped that the ground didn’t suddenly decide to move. I pondered staying on this turnout until sunset, but the clouds kept rolling in. Weather wasn’t cooperating today – I bet the views would be even more spectacular in the winter.
The last area of note was the town of Bodega Bay. There were tons of cars parked near the beaches and plenty of surfers in the water. I’m guessing some lucky Bay Area types were able to get out of work early and feed the stoke. The town itself was definitely undergoing a transformation – weathered surf shacks stood defiantly next to brand new condos and developments, just off of the main road. The restaurants ranged from older dive bars to trendy new cafe’s and fancy restaurants. It will be interesting to come through this town in another 10 years and see what happens – the town has to decide if it wants to keep the Endless Summer vibe or become a summer colony for Bay Area residents.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, as I turned away from Pt Reyes and headed inland to cross the bay and reach my parent’s house in San Jose. I did make sure to destroy the first In-n-Out that I found, though!
As soon as I crossed the border into California, the sun broke through the clouds and the fog lifted. So long, Oregon Coast!
The road turned away from the coast and further inland, and the scenery turned from dramatic coastline to redwood forest. After stopping for gas in the small town of Crescent City, I drove along slow, winding roads through the Del Norte Redwood Forest until I reached the coastline again. I stopped at the first beach I saw.
A lone surfer with a full suit was tearing it up in waist-high swells, while his wife and dogs relaxed on the black sand. Nice to see a California beach that wasn’t crowded! The sand was warmed from the sun, and fine like the beaches of SoCal…but strangely dark. The wind was gentle and fairly calm, a nice change of pace from the blustery, wind tunnel-like beaches in Oregon. This was a nice break. There was also plenty of bench-sized driftwood lying about, and the water was a pretty nice temperature for the west coast (above 50 deg F!). It was a wonderful place to sit and think.
Feeling extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the people who’ve helped me along the way, and I’m even more grateful and appreciative of getting to marry Kimi in a month!
Note to self: Gas up here is really expensive! It was $4.29 a gallon in Eureka…sometimes I miss my old Subie and its 35+ MPG.
Driving down to California from Seattle for my Bachelor Party, so why not take the scenic route? My original plan was to drive straight to Crater Lake for camping, but last night’s lightning brought a couple dozen forest fires to the area around the park. The gas station attendant had printouts of the latest fire news and was super helpful. Thanks for the beta!
Instead, I decided to head west to the Oregon Coast. I reached Highway 101 at Bandon around sunset and then drove south in the dark for a couple of hours. When the fog began to really set in, I decided to stop in Gold Beach so I could really enjoy the coast the next morning. I had ambitious plans to camp overnight in a Walmart parking lot in California (since Crater Lake was out), but instead I buckled for the really, really nice upgraded Motel 6 in Gold Beach. Ahh, roughing it.
Saw some deer foraging in the parking lot while I fetched my complimentary morning coffee from the office. The deer and I enjoyed a brief moment before we got bored of each other and went about looking for more food/coffee.
I’m glad I stopped overnight so that I was able to see the stunning Southern Oregon Coast in the daylight. The coastline is really dramatic and powerful, even in the morning fog.
The rest of the drive on the Southern Oregon Coast was still amazing. One note for the future: just north of Brookings, OR is the amazing Harris Campground. This area is just a short walk from town and has easy beach access, and it has a couple of campsites that are on a bluff with commanding views of the ocean. All of those sites seemed to be dominated by RVs that looked like they weren’t planning on leaving anytime soon, so I drove onward and passed the border into California.