Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cummins Creek loop

After a cold and drizzly night, Sunday dawned gloriously sunny at Florence. However, the summery day was pretty in appearance only as it was icy cold at the core of things. Hmm, that could describe my ex-wife too, now that I think about it. But I digress, suffice to say this was a day that  looked like spring but felt like winter on the Cummins Creek Trail at the foot of Oregon's scenic Cape Perpetua. 

Sunny and cold on the Cummins Creek Trail
The frozen trail crunched noisily underneath my boots at an early morning start. Beginning the loop on the Cummins Creek Trail, the morning sun slanted through a dense canopy of conifer and maple, the sun beams illuminating vapor rising from evaporating frost. The trail, at this point, is an old road bed and emerald green moss lined the gravelly trail tread. I soon lost sensation in my ears, nose, hands and various other exposed appendages due to the winter chill. 

Water drop, refracting sunlight
The trail climbed steadily for 3 miles or so and my camera was clicking merrily away, taking pictures of spring buds, ferns, mossy trails, sunbeams, and yellow-green slugs. Cummins Creek was heard but never seen as it tumbled through its wooded canyon well below the trail. Life was good, indeed, for the first three miles.

Time to work out the uphill muscles
At an intersection with an old logging road, a bona fide foot path angled up to the left, commencing the "Richard Hike" portion of this little trek. Climbing 800 feet in just under a mile, the trail was steep as it ascended what would normally be considered a beautiful hike through mossy white-barked alder trees. Burning quad muscles do have a tendency to take some luster off of the coastal forest scenery.

Warm view to the ocean
The climb took me out of the Cummins Creek drainage and crossed over to the headwater ridge crest overlooking Gwynn Creek. A short side-trip led to a grassy overlook of the Cummins Creek drainage culminating in the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. There were no trees at the overlook and various clothing layers were soon strewn about the overlook as the sun warmed me up. This would be the only time I would be warm the entire day, excluding the drive home with the car heater cranked up.

Reach for the sky!

As I stated, the trail was traversing the headwaters of Gwynn Creek; once that little task was completed, the trail headed west, descending to the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center via the rounded and forested Cook's Ridge. The ridge is not named for any culinary incident or kitchen dignitary but instead is named for Captain James Cook who first laid eyes on the cape on Saint Perpetua's Day. Good thing he saw the cape on March 7th, otherwise the cape would have been named after a different saint. Cape Chad just does not have the same poetic ear-pleasing ring that Cape Perpetua  does.

Salal gone splotchy, just like me
The next 4 miles were a steady descent through one of the prettier coastal forests in Oregon. The trail wound its way through a second-growth forest (much of the original forest was destroyed in 1962's famed Columbus Day windstorm). Underneath the trees a vigorous undergrowth of ferns, rhododendron, and salal swiped at passing hiker's legs before the path unceremoniously spit hikers onto the visitor center parking lot.

Cape Perpetua, or maybe Cape Chad?
At this point, the rock wall of Cape Perpetua loomed invitingly above the parking lot. The views from atop the cape are arguably the best on the Oregon coast so I asked my legs if they were willing to do the climb to the cape summit. My legs said "No!" rather emphatically. So, for a little extra mileage and scenery, I took the flat paved trail to Cook's Chasm.

A watery belch by Thor's Well

Just a little creek, but my oh my, what a chasm it has carved into the rocky shore. Providing an assist with the rock carving, the Pacific Ocean churns up the narrow defile and a noisy spouting horn spouts salty spray, keeping time with the wave rhythms. Waves broke in spectacular fashion over the rocks, heralding the approaching high tide. Blowholes spouted right and left throughout the black and rocky shoreline. Iconic Thor's Well was performing for visitors, alternately spewing a watery fountain and swallowing the water back up, just like a sick and thirsty hiker.

Gwynn Creek
A short two miles wrapped up this 10.9 mile hike, as the Oregon Coast Trail went up and over the ridge between Gwynn and Cummins Creek. It was a joyous reunion between hiker and car heater, with the heater blowing out blessed warmth at full blast. Another joyous reunion between hiker and hot chocolate followed in Florence. Did I mention it was cold?

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. I learn something every day, and twice a day when I read your blog. There is a creek named after me. I am a robot, so I may not be able to post. If I give up my profile, does my social security number, birth date, and address get published? Jim, as in jlcummins.

  2. Had to laugh when I saw Jim's post. He was the first thing I thought of when I received the email reporting this hike. For a few brief moments, my brain was trying to decide if cummins was the name of the location hiked, or if you and he had hiked it together. Since you did at least one hike together in the past -- maybe I am no too crazy ???? Darlene (aka tweey13)

    1. Hi Darlene, I had to laugh too as I expected to hear from Jim and voila! My theory is that he was named after the creek and not the other way around!