Saturday, January 2, 2016

Klamath River Overlook

Ice, ice, baby. I was so excited to go hiking in California's Redwoods National Park and it was quite the frosty letdown to encounter a closed gate at the northern entrance to Prairie Creek State Park. Behind the gate, the road headed uphill underneath the gigantic redwood trees and clearly visible on the pavement was a sheen of ice. No problem, I'd head to the south entrance to the park. Crap, that road was closed too for the same reason. California's reputation for sunny weather and palm trees was greatly exaggerated, if New Year's weekend was any indication.

Ice, ice, baby
So what's a dressed up and incredibly handsome hiker to do when Plans A and B were iced over? Why, go looking for another trail, of course! Several years ago, Dollie and I had been on the section of California Coastal Trail that ran from False Klamath Cove to the Klamath River Overlook and a hasty retreat was beat to the familiar Lagoon Creek trailhead from the frozen wasteland of Prairie Creek.

False Klamath Cove
Starting at the picnic area at Lagoon Creek, it wasn't much warmer but at least the California Coastal Trail (hereafter referred to as the CCT) was not closed. The temperature was 27 degrees and ice crunched noisily under my boots as I set foot on the shady trail. The bridged crossing of Lagoon Creek was just yards away from the parking lot and just yards away from the bridge was the first of several trail junctions. Lagoon Creek is a popular spot as it accesses scenic False Klamath Cove and its beach. 

False Klamath Rock
The CCT led out to a viewpoint that offered a grand vista of False Klamath Rock, a pyramid-shaped island at the entrance of False Klamath Cove. There is no True Klamath Rock, it's all falsity and lies here at the cove. The rock and cove got its name from misled sailors from the days of yore who were expecting this cove to be the entrance to the Klamath River. On this day, the sky was a crystalline blue but icicles still formed on my runny nose. A couple from Sweden stopped by to admire the view while I was there and with teeth chattering, they uttered "is, is, baby" which is Swedish for "ice, ice, baby".

Hidden Beach, on the return leg

From the cove overlook, the trail ducked back into the frozen woods and stayed there for several miles, climbing gently up the mountainous coastline. At about the 1.5 mile mark, I took a side trip down to Hidden Beach, a beach which is just that. The secluded cove was littered with driftwood, all coated with ice as the beach was still in shade. Not wanting to risk injury by scrambling over piles of leg-breaking icy logs, I backtracked up to the CCT and continued hiking upwards.

Trees and sky
This is a beautiful trail, there is simply no other way to state it. Ferns flanked the trail and skeletal alder trees raised their white bony fingers to the blue sky. Sunlight slanted through the trees and moss grew everywhere. I know it's not yet spring but candyflower was blooming along the trail, impervious to the cold snap of weather. A few layers of clothing were shed due to the exertion of hiking and life was good.

Ocean view, as the storm blew in
Eventually, the trail crested and at about that point, left the forest and contoured across a steep and grassy slope with "wow" views. The ocean stretched out to the other side of the world and glistened brightly, reflecting the sun in the sky. My pace slowed considerably as I became a slave to my photography muse.

Sun art
Slow as it was, progress was steadily made and the trail terminus at a tourist overlook of the Klamath River was eventually arrived at. The California Coastal Trail runs from Oregon to Mexico but alas, much of the route is on highways and roads. At the overlook, this particular CCT trail section ended with some road hiking to follow for those trekkers continuing south. Lunch and a lollygag at a picnic table was in order and I obliged, while enjoying the view of the mighty Klamath,

The mouth of the Klamath River
The Klamath River met the sea below the trail and a large sand bar blocked most of the river's egress. I've seen pictures of the river taken at different times and the mouth of the river tends to shift in relation to the bar. Today, the river's mouth was on the south side of the bar. As I ate lunch, clouds began to scud in, no doubt it was the predicted storm arriving. It was still pretty cool as the sun poked holes in the thin cloud cover with rays of light dancing and reflecting upon the sea. More photography ensued.


The blue sky disappeared completely during the 4 mile return to the trailhead but it didn't matter, the scenery was unrelentingly fantastic, reminding me once again why I hike. On the walk out to the Klamath River, I had exchanged pleasantries with hikers traveling in the opposite direction. On the way back, we re-exchanged pleasantries, just a bunch of yo-yos yo-yoing back and forth. All in all, a good day except for the relentless beat of "Ice, ice, baby" syncopating in my head in an endless tape loop.

If I don't go in, the deer can't eat me
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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