Friday, September 12, 2014

Tillamook Head

I didn't think I liked this hike all that much, it just didn't seem all that scenic. But several weeks later I looked at my pictures and decided that this hike was pretty cool after all. Probably my perception of his hike was colored by the formidable climb up Tillamook Head in warm weather with a backpack on. Perception and memory can be fickle like that.

Awesome view to Arch Cape
Dollie, Dollie-Mom, and yours truly were headed to the tourist town of Seaside for a family get-together, but spending days with family wasn't the reason (this time!) for heading to the hills with a backpack on. No, the underlying reason was simply twofold: I had never hiked on Tillamook Head and we were in the area.

Tillamook Head, bane of my weekend
The hike began in popular Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach. Before the actual work began, a visit to the viewpoint at Indian Point was in order. The point has a parking lot on it so there were plenty of visitors enjoying the fantastic view south towards Cannon Beach and Arch Cape as the sea shimmered in the midday sun. Lots of pictures were taken by your merry blogster but the camera had to be hurriedly stowed away as there was plenty of hiking toil and labor yet to be done.

Watch the welcome mat!
The hike got off to a local flavor at a footbridge within ten yards of the trailhead. A woman was on the footbridge sporting a new cast on her forearm and she cheerily said she was Katrina from Roseburg and her arm was broken when the welcome mat at the Chevron station tripped her up. Not very welcoming, if you ask me.

Shade is not overrated
The trail from Indian Point to Indian Beach was mostly shaded but there were intermittent windows in the trees to provide fantastic views of the islands below, one of which was noticeably arched. I was accompanied off and on by Curt, a hiker from Portland. He said he was inspired enough by me to return with a backpack at some future date. I preach the gospel and it's always nice to enlist another acolyte into the Church of the Blessed Hiking Trail. However, if he'd seen me stagger up Tillamook Head, he probably would have been less inspired.

View to Indian Beach

The trail provided nice overlooks of Indian Beach on the walk north. Tucked into a relatively small nook in the Oregon shore kitchen, the beach is accessible by car and as a result, is well populated. Surfers dotted the blue-green waters like fish food flakes floating in a giant shark tank. Beach walkers looked like ants as they explored the beach far below my trail. Eventually the route dropped down to beach level, crossing Canyon Creek and Indian Creek just below the parking lot.

Forest above the trail
The trail sign said Hiker Camp was "only" 1 1/4 miles away but what the cheerfully painted sign did not tell me was that the camp was about 1,000 feet above. It was on this short piece of trail that I vowed never to go hiking again. It was a bloody and brutal struggle upwards and I rested at viewpoints and switchbacks alike, and sometimes I rested at points in between.

Be it ever so humble...
It was a joyous moment when at a trail junction, another sign told me Hiker Camp was only 1/8 of a mile further. Yay, all the bad uphill had stopped! The camp is a collection of three cabins with bunks, and  I quickly staked my claim to a bunk, not that there was any competition. Already at the camp were Hotfeet and Skunk, from New York. They had just finished hiking a big chunk of the PCT (they were like, "Climb, what climb?") and were visiting the Oregon coast before their return to New York. Hotfeet got her trail name because she liked to warm her feet by the fire; Skunk got his trail name from his feet, too, but for a different reason.

Sunset comes to the forest

There is a short trail from the camp leading to a viewpoint overlooking Tillamook Rock, or "Old Tilly" as the locals refer to the small island with an equally small lighthouse on it. The lighthouse was routinely assaulted by the sea and pity the unlucky sod who drew keeper duty on "Old Tilly". At some point it was abandoned and now it's privately owned and does duty as a columbarium, or storage place of cinerary urns for the cremated. As I watched from the overlook, not much was happening at Tillamook Rock, it was pretty much a dead place.

Old Tilly, tucking in for the night
The sunset show was spectacular from the overlook and my camera was kept busy as day slipped into night, leaving Old Tilly floating in the sea under an orange sky. As we returned back to Hiker Camp, we were joined by another couple who had hightailed it to Seaside after their workday was done in Portland. They figured on doing the short trip in from the Seaside trailhead but "didn't think about climbing 900 feet in one mile" per the male half. Boy, could I relate!

Staircases didn't help
I had a notion that we were camping on top of the head but I was quickly disavowed of that notion on the hike out the following morning. There was nearly 300 feet of climbing left, mostly all at once. And lest I become complacent about topping out, the trail then proceeded to go up and down for a couple of miles as it traced the uneven edge of Tillamook Head.

Bird stair stepper
But at least the new day was cool and the trail was well shaded. Mushrooms sprouted on trees and morning sunlight slanted through the trees as I grumbled and mumbled on the trail. Eventually the trail did top out for the final time, beginning a precipitous drop down to the town of Seaside.

The Oregon Coast Trail
The descent was equally demanding as the climb up, dropping 900 feet in little over a mile. Lush vegetation seriously encroached the trail and there were several large patches of fallen trees across the trail. I got plenty of practice doing the trail limbo to get through. There were several encounters with gasping and sweaty hikers coming up who asked me ever so hopefully "Are we at the top, yet?" Heh-heh, it's so much fun being the bearer of bad news.

On the Seaside promenade

Eventually, all the bad downhill stopped as I walked through a wooden archway and onto a city street. The remainder of this hike was on the empty streets of Seaside. No doubt the residents thought I was a homeless person, albeit one with a really nice camera. Several miles later on the Seaside promenade I met up with Dollie, a shower, and hot food. There'd be no rest for the tired, though, as I was quickly attacked by grandchildren happy to wrestle with their grandfather who was totally pooped from a hike he belatedly decided he liked.

A blackberry leaf catches some sun
For more pictures of this trip, please visit the Flickr album.

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  1. Yes, mood can certainly determine the tenor of a hike. Even a magnificent landscape can't force a magnificent experience. But at least I hope your pack was light?

    1. Not light enough, apparently. I think it was about 32 lbs going on 67