Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sutton Creek (club hike)

A week before, I had hiked in the Sutton Creek area and the weather had been sunny but cold. A week later, it was warmer but wetter. And where I had traipsed through the dunes and marshes by myself with only the voices in my head for company, this time I was leading a Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club venture. My group consisted of Edwin, John, and Lindsay, apparently my only 3 friends left in the world. But that's OK, because in spite of the poor weather and wet trail conditions this wound up being a superlative hike, one of the best I've taken this year.

Splish-splash, I'm taking a bath
I'm not going to rehash the blow-by-blow trail narrative because that's all in my previous blog post. Suffice to say, the boys were impressed by the two feet of water covering the trail as we left the dunes. Lindsay opted for sandals, John and I abused our boots, and Edwin opted for plastic bags over the shoes. Three out of four is a passing grade with Edwin's plastic bag rig working as well as suntan lotion in a snowstorm. It was a spectacular failure that provided great jocularity among us onlookers.

John wants to kill the hike leader

My own personal observation from one week to the next was that the water was deeper and colder.  There was plenty of opportunity to ponder the quality and quantity of water as it was about a half-mile of splashing through the water standing on the badly overgrown trail.  At some point, all you can do is laugh and it was all giggles as we made our way to the sandy banks of Sutton Creek under gray sky.

There's the beach...sort of

Up to the top of the beach foredunes we went where last week a spectacular overlook of the ocean was enjoyed. On this day, however, clouds partially occluded the views and the promised view was underwhelming. Oh well, it was on to a resigned beach walk in a light drizzle where the beach was littered with sand dollars and slimy bits of jellyfish.

Sutton Creek
The mouth of Sutton Creek was wide as the creek apparently goes on periodic rampages there. On this day, it approached the ocean in a series of S-curves and there were all manner of tidal flats, lagoons, and brackish ponds near the mouth. In the middle of the mouth was a dune island, cut off from the rest of the dunes when Sutton Creek's mouth had migrated south about a mile. The island was  a logical lunch spot with an overlook of  the creek's spectacular egress to the ocean.

...and then the rains came
Of course, the very second we sat down the rain started and we ate soggy sandwiches that had not been soggy a minute before. Black clouds floated in and it looked like a prolonged soak was in the offing so lunch was eaten quickly and hiking resumed in equally quick fashion. For variety's sake, our return route to return was a bushwhack along Sutton Creek instead of backtracking by way of the beach.

Marshy grassland next to Sutton Creek
Actually, it wasn't too bad hiking along the creek, most of the walk back took place through knee-high grass on the marshy banks.  At one point, we had to beat our way through a willow thicket before the flat bank disappeared into a massive sand dune.

Slippin' and slidin'
On the contour around the sand dune, our feet paddled frantically to prevent sliding down into the creek below.  John cheated and hiked up and over the dune; sensible, to be sure, but not nearly as much fun.  Around that point, the cloud cover broke, the sun shone it's wonderful sunny shiny goodness upon us as a marvelous rainbow arced majestically overhead.  That's why we hike and we were absolutely grateful for the fantastic scenery.

Why we hike
When I got home, some of my Friends in the hiking club expressed their good fortune in missing this hike because the only thing they heard was "wet feet". This hike was so much more than cold water in the boots and we know we were the lucky ones.

For more pictures, see the Flickr album.

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