Tag Archives: Drift Creek

Harris Ranch Trail (Drift Creek Wilderness) – 8/3/19

Our annual family reunion at the Oregon Coast always provides us an opportunity to work up an appetite by starting the morning off with a shorter hike on the way there. This year we chose to revisit the Drift Creek Wilderness.

This would be our second visit to the area with the first having been in 2010 (post), the year we really started hiking. At that point we hadn’t developed the appreciation for old growth forests that we have now so we were interested to see what our opinions of this hike would be compared to that first visit.

We began our hike at the Harris Ranch Trailhead which was located .3 miles down the rather brushy FR 346.
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It was a foggy morning which we expected to keep things a bit on the cooler side but instead it was a warm, humid morning as we set off on a decommissioned road.
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The first three quarters of a mile followed an old roadbed which gradually descended before ending just before the start of the Drift Creek Wilderness.
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Once the trail entered the wilderness it began a steeper 2.3 mile descent along a ridge down to Drift Creek. The trail was in good shape with signs of some recent clearing of brush near the top and only one muddy section (which is saying soemthing for a trail near the coast).
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IMG_5413Fern clippings in the trail showing some trimming had been done.

IMG_5419Whoever had done the brushing hadn’t made it down the whole trail.

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IMG_5433There were a few monkey flowers scattered about.

IMG_5445Obligatory coastal trail muddy section.

Several clumps of Monotropa uniflora aka Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe were present along the upper portion of the trail as well. We’d only seen this plant one or two other times so it was exciting to see so much of it.
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Near Drift Creek the trail reaches the site of the pre-world war II homestead pasture of Harris Ranch. A few campsites now occupy the area.
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Drift Creek was much more inviting from this side. There wasn’t a steep embankment to descend and a shelf of exposed bedrock made exploring easy.
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We watched several crawdads moving around in the water while we rested by the creek.
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The crawdads we saw in the water were greatly outnumbered by the remains strewn about the rocks though. Something had been dinning on them, perhaps the kingfisher that flew past twice while we rested.
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By the time we headed back up the fog had burned off which added a little extra heat to the 1300′ muggy climb back to the trailhead.
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IMG_5526Chickadee

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Approximately a tenth of a mile from the trailhead there was an interesting tree above the road. It appeared that the tree had begun to fall but its root system stayed in tact so a couple of the original trees branches began to grow as their own trees. At first we thought it was a nursery log, but the two vertical “trees” don’t seem to have their own root systems.
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When we got back to the car we picked a handful of ripe thimbleberries to take to the reunion since they are one of my Dads favorites.
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With the creek exploration the hike was just over 6.5 miles and it had been much more enjoyable for us than our first visit now that we understood better what a special place the designated wilderness areas are. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Harris Ranch Trail

Throwback Thursday – Drift Creek Wilderness and Cape Perpetua

This week’s Throwback Thursday hike is another we completed fairly earl on in our hiking days. On September 15th 2010 we set off on our 18th hike into the Drift Creek Wilderness NW of Yachats, OR.

The wilderness is home to impressive stands of old growth trees but in all honesty we had not yet come to fully appreciate what that meant. Like too many hikers we were focused on big views, massive waterfalls, vast wildflower meadows, or glistening lakes.

Our hike began at the Horse Creek North Trailhead where we followed the trail for .6 miles along an old roadbed to the boundary of the Drift Creek Wilderness.
Drift Creek Trailhead

Drift Creek Wilderness sign

From the wilderness boundary the trail gradually descended for 3.2 miles to a campsite near Drift Creek.
Drift Creek Wilderness

Drift Creek Wilderness

Interestingly there was no easy path down to the creek which one could ford to the Harris Ranch Trail to the north. We have plans to hike this trail in the future.
Drift Creek

Drift Creek

We returned the way we’d come, climbing back up to the trailhead wondering what the point of that was. Looking back on the hike now we realize we weren’t really paying attention to the forest along the way. If we were to repeat this hike now I think we would come away with a whole different view.

Given that the hike was only 7.6 miles we had the time and energy to make a second stop somewhere. We were hoping for something with a little more “bang” to it so we pulled out our guidebook and began looking for another short hike nearby.

We landed on the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Located three miles south of Yachats the area offered several trails to choose from and we picked the Captain Cook Trail.
Infromation for the Captain Cook Trail

The Captain Cook Trail leads to a viewpoint of one of the Oregon’s Coasts more famous attraction – Thor’s Well. Unfortunately our visit occurred at time when the tide was out and the well quite.
Looking toward Thor's Well

There was also a view to the north of the Cape Perputua Shelter which we would visit a couple years later (post).
Cape Perpetua stone shelter

Thor’s Well may have been quiet due to the tide being out but that also meant that we could see quite a few of the tide pools.
Tide pool

Anemone

Starfish

Tide pool

After touring the tide pools we headed back toward the parking area but turned left before passing under Highway 101 to take the Cape Cove Trail. This path crossed over Cape Creek on a bridge before leading down to more tidepools along the Devil’s Churn, a 50 slot carved into lava rock by the Pacific.
Cape Creek

Devil's Churn

Devil's Churn

Again with the tide out there wasn’t much action occurring in the Devil’s Churn but it was still an interesting feature. Our hike here was just under 2 miles making it a reasonable hike for almost anyone. In addition to our plan to revisit the Drift Creek Wilderness we have one more trail to take at the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area so we will also be returning there someday to hike the Giant Spruce Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Drift Creek North and Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Harts Cove & Drift Creek Falls

It has become a tradition to finish off our hiking year either on the Oregon Coast or in the coast range. This year we targeted a pair of shorter hikes to keep the tradition alive. For the first of these two hikes we traveled to Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City in order to visit Harts Cove where a waterfall spills into the Pacific Ocean. We parked at the Cascade Head Upper Trailhead along road 1861 at a sign post for the Nature Conservancy Trail. A trail here led off for a mile to Cascade Head’s upper viewpoint which we had visited before. In order to find the Harts Cove Trailhead we walked another .9miles down road 1861 where a large parking area with plenty of signs marked the start of the trail. We could have driven here but were contemplating hiking to the upper viewpoint later if the sky cleared so we decided to park at the upper trailhead.
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One of the signs warned of difficult hiking conditions on the trail which piqued our interest.
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The trail started out by diving fairly steeply downhill through the forest for the first half mile then descended more gradually to a bridge across Cliff Creek.
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Cliff Creek

After crossing the creek the trail turned back toward the ocean along a ridge. We could hear a number of sea lions on the rocks below but could only get small glimpses of them across the water through the trees.
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As the trail wound around the ridge end there was a bench that offered an obstructed view across Harts Cove to a meadow which was where the trail would end. The trail then bent back leading us around the cove. We crossed Chitwood Creek which appeared to have once had a bridge but it was now in pieces further down the creek.
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We had been in clouds and fog for most of the hike but as we came out of the forest into the meadow we could see clearer skies out over the ocean. The trail was steep here also and muddy making it a bit slick.
Looking down the trail:
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Looking up from below:
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North toward Cape Lookout:
Cape Lookout from the meadow near Harts Cove

South toward Cascade Head:
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The sea lions could still be heard across the way below Cascade Head, and now we could see them better.
Sea Lions and Seagulls

We followed the trail down and around to the left toward Harts Cove so that we could get a view of Chitwood Creek’s waterfall. We were surprised to find a handful of flowers in bloom including a number of Salal bushes.
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The waterfall turned out to be very picturesque as it fell down into the surging ocean.
Harts Cove and Chitwood Creeks waterfall

Chitwood Creek waterfall

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There was a nice open spot below a tree where we stopped for a snack and to remove some of the unnecessary layers of clothes we had on. While we were resting there Heather spotted a hummingbird that was interested in my orange jacket. It was zipping about, landing occasionally and then darting back into the air. I was snapping pictures frantically trying to get some sort of picture before the hummingbird disappeared. I wasn’t sure if I’d managed to get anything until we got home, but I wound up getting lucky with a single shot.
Hummingird in the meadow near Harts Cove

As we headed back up the steep trail we noticed that Haystack Rock near Pacific City was shinning in full sunlight.
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We returned the way we’d come and decided to skip the upper viewpoint because it still appeared to be enveloped in the clouds. This hike had been 7.6 miles which included the unnecessary 1.8 miles due to parking at the upper trailhead.

Our next stop was Drift Creek Falls which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest between Hwy 18 & Hwy 101 along Drift Creek Camp Road (Road 17). There was a good sized parking area and restrooms at the trailhead.
Drift Creek Falls Trailhead

The trail leads down through the forest crossing two creeks on footbridges.
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At the .7 mile mark the trail forks at a sign for the North Loop, a longer loop option which we planned to take on the way back from the falls. A third of a mile later we came to the other end of the North Loop.
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Just a short distance later we arrived at the suspension bridge over Drift Creek.
Suspension Bridge over Drift Creek

The bridge passes over the creek very close to the falls allowing for some nice views.
Drift Creek Falls

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The trail continues on the far side of the bridge down to Drift Creek where we could get a different perspective.
Drift Creek Falls

After enjoying the falls for a bit we headed back, this time taking the North Loop which would add about .7 miles to the return trip. This 1 mile section of trail climbed up and wound back through the forest. Aside from the trees and a few mushrooms there wasn’t much to see, but the trail was nice and good for a little extra exercise if wanted.
North Loop - Drift Creek Falls Trail

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By taking the North Loop back we wound up with a total of 3.9 miles showing on the Garmin. These two trails were close enough (30 minute drive) and short enough to do in a day but they were also nice enough to stand on their own. As far as the cautions at the Harts Cove Trail we didn’t experience anything that we found too hard or scary but some of that is subjective and the trial was steep in places and the wet conditions caused a lot of mud which was slick at times. We will most likely be back to the coast sometime next month to kick off our 2015 hikes, but until then Happy Trails!

flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157649223220159/
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