Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cape Mountain 12/2017

Normally, it's a simple idea: Hop in the car and drive to the trailhead. However, the drive to Cape Mountain was more like a bus route than a simple put-it-in-gear-and-go. Not too many of my hiking buddies had ever been to Cape Mountain and I had only been once, so this hike was penciled nto the Friends of the Umpqua hike schedule with your merry blogster designated to lead the way. Well, my friends from South Coast Striders wanted to join us so we arranged a pick-up stop in Reedsport; and Lane was coming over from Springfield, so another stop in Florence was arranged. Who knew leading a hike could be so complicated? However, we managed to get all 13 hikers from all their disparate towns and walks of life to the trailhead, in spite of all the logistics. Surely, things would be simpler on the trail.

Moss and trees
Well, maybe not. First we had to hike uphill on the Princess Tasha Trail, then continue on the Scurvy Ridge Trail ("Aargh" he said, in his best scurvy buccaneer pirate voice), take a left on the Berry Creek Trail, followed by a right onto the Nelson Ridge Trail. And all that involved ignoring trail junctions with trails named Lookout, Wapati, Berry Lane, and Cape Mountain. No small wonder we started out with 13 hikers but only wound up with 10 when the hike was over. Spoiler alert: everybody eventually showed up, so all was well.

Eight miles of coastal forest
The scenery is pretty basic at Cape Mountain. Elegantly simple (like the hike leader), the "views" consist of dense growths of, ferns, salal, and moss. If you want to experience 8 miles of deep coastal forest, then this is your hike. Of course, all this simplicity came with a price, as  all of us were soon breathing heavily in short order due to a rather brisk climb to the crest of Scurvy Ridge.

Edwin squashes a hitsi-bitsy spider
A couple of miles in, we arrived at the replica hitsi (a primitive Native American shelter) that had been built as part of an Eagle Scout project. I'm not sure how long ago it had been built but the hitsi is falling into a state of disrepair as it should. since they were never intended to be permanent. Since I was the hike leader, I felt compelled to teach my charges what I know about hitsis, mainly that there is a small spider that inhabits these types of structures: it's known as the hitsi-bitsy spider. Sorry, I just can't help myself and for some reason, I hike alone a lot. 

Spooky branches

The vegetation changed somewhat on the Berry Creek Trail as we exchanged tall conifers for leafless alder trees. We also exchanged the uphill hiking for a trail that lost elevation at a dizzying rate. This was a loop trail and everybody was glad we didn't have to hike back up this path but I kept quiet, knowing we'd have to gain all that elevation again, albeit on a different trail. For stats lovers, the trail lost nearly 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles.

We now head up to Nelson Ridge
Berry Creek was waiting for us at the bottom of the canyon and we all crossed the creek on a log with no pratfalls or mishaps. And then the climbing began. In fact, most of the day was spent walking uphill even though we were hiking a loop route with no net gain or loss in elevation, . Accordingly, after a mild wade across a Berry Creek Fork, the trail charged to the top of Nelson Ridge, angling through a stand of homogeneous trees on the way,

Our lunch time view
There were a series of grassy meadows on top of the broad ridge crest, the grass currently brown and dry in preparation for winter. Fresh elk poop dotted the meadow, so we know a) elk come here to visit and b) the grass is well fertilized. There was also a bench in a meadow with a partial view down to the coast, so we plopped down after checking for elk poop, and ate lunch under a gray sky. 

Seemed like we walked uphill all day long
There used to be a forest road atop Nelson Ridge, and the former roadbed inter-braided with the actual trail and it wasn't always clear which way to go. A few more signs here would be helpful, Forest Service, if you are reading this. The road was actually the Berry Lane Trail and basically continues in the same direction as the Nelson Ridge Trail; so if anybody did take the wrong trail, they'd wind up at the trailhead anyway.

Former road, now doing duty as a trail
When we arrived at the trailhead we were short 3 hikers. Dave showed up about 15 minutes later but Lane and Ceresse were missing in action. Turned out they had come up the Wapati Trail but had to turn back to retrieve some clothing left behind at Berry Creek. It's not what you think either, the clothing item left behind was a sweater or similar accouterment that had been removed to adjust body temperature. It was duly noted that the leaver of clothing was not the same person who was appointed to do the retrieving. I'm not saying which was which, but will also note that Lane's GPS had more miles on it than Ceresse's.

Dense growth made sure we stayed on trail
Anyway, Lane and Ceresse did eventually show up, none the worse for the wear. We went to Florence and stopped at Burritos Los Amigos for some post-hike tongue tacos. That was the simplest thing that happened all day.

A nice view to Sutton Lake
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Wow, you sure have excitement on your hikes! Can hardly wait to hike with the club gang again. Hopefully we won't lose our clothes if we do.