Monday, December 21, 2020

Day 87: Exploring the Grand Pacific!

August 4: I woke up especially early this morning to hit the trail by 7:00am, a couple of hours before low tide. I needed a tide lower than 1 foot to pass by Diamond Rock, which meant I needed to pass through during those couple of hours closest to low tide.

So I woke up at 6:00, just as fog started rolling in. It had been clear throughout the night, and I was even able to watch the moon rise near the time I was waking up, but I could only see it for about 10 minutes before the fog blotted it out completely. At least condensation hadn't been a problem.


View from camp just before I started hiking in the morning.

I walked the short way to the beach where immediately I had to struggle over and around driftwood, rocks and boulders. The going wasn't fast. In fact, it was positively slow. The obstacles were uneven and slippery and visibility was terrible. The wind was cold.

I followed the shoreline, eventually reaching access to an inland trail at what appeared to be a near-vertical cliff. There was an impassible headland just ahead along the shore--impossible to get around at even the lowest of tides. Nope, I had to head up onto the inland trail, and by the time I reached it, I was looking forward to getting off the difficult and challenging shore.

Access to trails is marked with an orange-redish and black circular marker, but it was the rope I noticed first, dangling down the impossibly steep trail up the hillside. "Oh, come on!" I shouted at the trail.


These markers helped mark access points that connected the beach to inland trails.

The ranger I had spoken with said that the park service doesn't actually install the ropes or maintain them and suggested that it's probably best not to commit my entire weight to them--just in case. They're put up by well-meaning hikers but unmaintained. But I still grabbed the rope and yanked it to get a sense of how strong it might be. It felt pretty solid, but at the same time, I decided to use it mostly for balance rather than to hold up my weight.

I scrambled up the steep slope--and it was a scramble requiring the use of my hands as much as my feet! It took several minutes to make it to the top of the slope, and the trail didn't improve much at the top. There were pits of mud that looked like they could swallow a person whole, rotten boardwalks and ladders, blowdowns and severely overgrown sections. 

It reminded me a lot of the West Coast Trail--which incidentally was located maybe 20 miles north across the border on Vancouver Island in Canada. It wasn't surprising that the terrain would be similar, but I didn't expect the same difficult trail conditions. The West Coast Trail was infamous for it's difficulty, but I hadn't heard the same about this region.

Although I had made it across the necessary beach at low tide, I didn't stop to rest. There was another obstacle ahead that concerned me a bit: Goodman Creek. I had camped next to Goodman Creek two nights earlier, but there was a nice bridge to walk across then. Out here, there was no bridge. The mouth of the river was considered too deep to cross safely--even at low tide--so the trail crossed a bit inland from the cost. Even then, however, my guidebook warned that the creek would be knee to waist-deep high. I figured it might depend on tidal fluctuation so I wanted to get through when the tide was low and hopefully only have a knee-deep ford to cross.

But it turned out not to be a big deal since I was able to cross with only ankle-deep water. And, in fact, the point where the trail crosses actually seemed to be above tidal influences. I could have crossed easily at any time of day. Maybe the water was deeper earlier in the year in the spring or after a big rainstorm because it certainly wasn't deep when I went by. 

Goodman Creek turned out not to be as much of an obstacle as I feared and I was able to cross in ankle-deep water.

I pushed onward, eventually descending back down to the beach with the help of a couple of strategically placed ropes.

This beach was nice and sandy--positively easy to walk on compared to most of what I had covered. Sandy beaches might be a little slow to traverse, but at least they were easy. I would try to walk near the surf where the beach was wet and the sand a little more firm, but I had to be careful of waves that could hit me.

Once I got past Goodman Creek, I stopped trying to rush. There was still another beach ahead that was considered impassible at tides below +4 feet, but it seemed unlikely I'd reach it before high tide which was supposed to reach +7 feet. My campsite, Scott Creek, was located on the far side of the beach, but I figured I could probably just wait out the high tide then continue a couple of hours later and set up camp at Scott Creek. That was my plan, at least.

So at this point, I had no particular rush and took my time walking along the beach and enjoying the views. As the morning progressed, the sun did pop out a little--especially around noon--but the fog had largely lifted and now it was just overcast with moderately strong winds blowing in cold air. Perfect vampire weather, I thought.

The beaches after Goodman Creek were crowded with lots of people. I was a little surprised at the number of people. Where did they all come from?! I had seen almost nobody on the trail before Goodman Creek, then bam! Tons of people! A couple who were walking along the beach told me that the trailhead from Third Beach was easily accessible and that's where most everyone came from.

I would be leaving the beaches at Third Beach tomorrow--so it sounded like I'd be seeing a lot of people for the rest of the afternoon.

The sandy beaches, by far, were the easiest sections of trail.

I arrived at Strawberry Point early in the afternoon--earlier than I had expected after I slowed and started taking my time--and it wasn't even high tide yet. Which was unfortunate, because it was the 1.1 miles between Strawberry Point and Scott Creek that I couldn't cross at high tide. I stood at the point, checking out the water level around the cove to the far side. I could practically see where my campsite was located, and it looked like maybe I could cross it at the moment, but I knew the tide was still rising. The shore along this stretch looked rocky and difficult, and I didn't want a rising tide to trap me somewhere along the way, so I decided to wait it out.

I looked for protection against the strong, cold winds blowing down the beach and saw a couple of people camped just within tree line, and I walked up asking if it was okay to join them for a couple of hours to wait for the tides to go back down. They said not a problem, and that was how I met Taylor and Jeremy.

Turns out, Taylor and Jeremy had recently finished thru-hiking the Colorado Trail--a trail I was quite familiar with having done it myself a few years back. It was their first thru-hike and they were anxious to do more. Originally they had planned to thru-hike the CDT but the pandemic put an end to that one before it even started. So they did the Colorado Trail instead, and apparently, so did a lot of other people. They thought that record numbers of people thru-hiked the Colorado Trail this year. Which made sense. I knew of at least a few people from online who had planned to thru-hike the PCT but later changed to the PNT because it was shorter and allowed a later start time. This year was the year of the "little" trail.

The campsite also included a whale memorial. A few bones from a washed up whale--it looked like a vertebra and a couple of ribs--were set up and adorned with shells, rocks, crab legs, and a variety of mostly-natural materials. It was really quite impressive.

Taylor and Jeremy said that someone else told them about a whale that had washed up on shore nearby the year before and that maybe the bones came from that. Certainly plausible. I grabbed a nearby leaf and turned it into a "leaf person" which I then added to the whale memorial. =)

The whale memorial in camp.

We chatted for hours, sharing our various war stories and I had a wonderful afternoon kicking back just socializing. And with other thru-hikers, no less! Not PNT hikers, but still... actual thru-hikers! These were my people!

A few hours later, the high tide had come and gone. The tide was still high, but it was going down now. I got up to check out the shoreline and it seemed to be passable again--but if there was some section that wasn't, at least the tide was going down. It wouldn't be long before it would become passable. It was time to go.

Except.... I didn't want to. I really enjoyed hanging out with Taylor and Jeremy all afternoon, and chatting with them all evening seemed like a lot more fun than camping by myself another mile up the coast. My permit was for Scott Creek, not Strawberry Point, but what difference did that extra mile make? I could just make it up tomorrow. =)

Turned out, Strawberry Point wasn't even where Taylor and Jeremy were supposed to be camped. Their permit was for the next campsite to the south, a couple of miles to the south, and we joked that if "averaged" our campsites, then we were all supposed to camp there at Strawberry Point. Sounded good to me! =) And while there were certainly other people around, it's not like the the area was so crowded with people that we were kicking other people out of the area.

So I set up camp nearby. Once I decided to stop there for the night, I put up my tarp. It wasn't supposed to rain, but the wind was strong and cold so I set up my tarp to act as a wind break. And we continued our conversation until well after dark.

The trail had been brutal today, the weather cold and overcast, but I had really enjoyed the day despite all that. Life was good! =)

Beaches with so much driftwood were a challenge to navigate!

Giant, slippery boulders weren't much better and slowed me down considerably.

Even with fog, the views were still impressive!

Lots of tiny little crabs! See this one in the middle of the photo?

See the bald eagle in the tree? I could have gotten a much better photo if it wasn't for the thick fog!

My footsteps on the beach. =)

A near-vertical slope with a rope helps people onto the inland trail.

The mud was terrible!

Blowdowns also slowed my progress! I had to take off my pack and push it under this blowdown to get by.

This section of trail looks like it collapsed in a landslide and an informal trail now leads around it.

Climbing down this... staircase? Was a little nerve-wracking without a rail to hold onto. Yes, that IS the trail! *shaking head* What I like about this photo is that you can clearly see how steep some of these slopes are. I'd never have looked at this slope and though, you know, I think we can get a trail through  that.

I followed this deer family down the trail for about 10 minutes until they finally got off the trail near Mosquito Creek Camp.

That's Mosquito Creek, flowing into the Pacific. This was supposed to be where I was going to camp last night if the tide hadn't gotten in my way.

The Pacific coast here IS gorgeous, even if the trail is rough going much of the time!

Another inland trail access point

The trail crossed along this log. The lack of hand rails kind of bothered me, though!

Goodman Creek

Should I be worried that my GPS shows me as being 32 feet under sea level?

I have no idea who that is on the rock. Just one of many people I would pass after reaching the busy beaches past Goodman Creek.


Shutterbug2012 said...

I was wondering if you saw any ROUS in the mud pit of despair. The ocean views were worth the risk of the mud challenge and the stairway to heaven.

Anonymous said...

Did you see a Pirate Ship....?

Anonymous said...

I take it your feet haven't been bothering you in a few weeks...

Ryan said...

No ROUSes, no pirate ships, and no foot problems. =)