Saturday, October 7, 2017

Merchants Beach

Seems like the Friends of the Umpqua hiking schedule was about as solid and permanent as a sand castle at high tide. The wildfires this summer had us all scrambling and rearranging destinations due to closures, smoke, and outright fire on or around our favorite trails. The upcoming hike was scheduled for Rattlesnake Mountain but the Rattlesnake Fire kind of got in the way of that. What an amazing coincidence to have Rattlesnake Fire burning on Rattlesnake Mountain, what were the odds of that happening? Naturally, there wasn't going to be any Rattlesnake hiking but the Forest Service made it official when they closed not only the Rattlesnake Trail, but the entire Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.

One misty moisty morning...
Hike leader Diana was incommunicado while enjoying a fire-free vacation in Spain, so yours truly made an executive decision and changed the destination to Sacchi Beach. I'd been there a few weeks earlier but the club hadn't hiked there that I knew of, Sacchi Beach would be a new destination for most hikers. Plus, the odds of a Sacchi Fire taking hold on the beach were pretty slim. In hindsight, I should have checked the tide tables first, but what's a Richard Hike without a little chaos involved?

Morning constitutionals
Fifteen hikers, one dog, and one drone showed up on a misty morning for a nice beach walk. Turned out, high tide was due to crest in about 90 minutes but there was plenty of sandy beach as we started. There are three beaches involved when hiking from the Seven Devils State Recreation Area: Merchants Beach lies north of Fivemile Point with Twomile Creek roughly marking where Agate Beach begins. Agate Beach ends at an unnamed point, with Sacchi Beach laying on other side of the point. Got it? There's going to be a pop quiz in the morning, kids, so be ready.

The hike north ends here
At any rate, we traversed Agate Beach, reaching the unnamed point in short order. The waves were already lapping at the base and a quick climb up some rocks revealed the bad news: there would be no hiking on Sacchi Beach today. At best the water was near knee deep and of course, it was much deeper when the waves rolled in. 

C'mon sun, you can do it!
So back south we went, as the mist lifted and returned, seemingly ebbing and waning with the waves. However, the trend was generally heading towards a sunny day. The hike back to Seven Devils was pretty short so most hikers continued on south towards Fivemile Point. A flock of vultures watched us from a stand of dead trees, licking their beaky lips as they watched their lunch walk by. It always makes me nervous when the vultures do that, what do they know about my life expectancy that I don't?

The hike south ends here
When Issiah and I hiked to Fivemile Point earlier this year, we scrambled over Fivemile Point by clamboring over the rocky point. While hands were required, the scramble up and over wasn't too difficult, although Issiah seemed to have less difficulty climbing over than I did.  But with the incoming tide clasping the point in a watery embrace, we couldn't even reach the point where the climb over began. What we were left with were damp and sheer cliffs, and the realization we weren't going to get past Fivemile Point either.

Who says an old dog can't teach new tricks?
A long and leisurely lunch break was enjoyed at the point, the seaside scenery entertaining us as the sky morphed from gray to blue. Oddly enough, a rusting engine block lay in the sand at the base of the point, leading to much speculation as to how that block got here in the first place. My theory is that it was dropped there by the world's strongest osprey.

Beach treasure, in the form of petrified wood
All good things come to an end and reluctantly, we strolled back to the car, having to be satisfied with an easy 6 mile hike. Maybe next time I'll check the tide table before deciding on a beach hike. But it could have been worse, we could have been hiking in the middle of a wildfire on Rattlesnake Mountain.

Sure beats walking in a forest fire
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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