Still feeling a little bummed about how different Christmas was this year, I knew getting outside for a hike would work its magic like always. It was going to rain all week and a friend and I decided a coast hike would be just the thing. We headed out to Nehalem to find Cape Falcon, a trail he recommended but that I had never been on.
Parking was easy and we layered up because it was 37 degrees (3 degrees C) and a little drizzly. There are multiple trails from Highway 101 to the beach, coming from multiple parking lots. Most users were surfers. We got lost on the web of trails, and instead of the beach we came to another parking lot. We tried again and found a curving wooden bridge to the wrong side of the beach. We asked some soaking wet surfers how to get to the hiking trail. They were lost and looking for the parking lot, so we exchanged directions and all was well.
Once we found the proper trail, we stopped at the beach for a few minutes to watch people playing out there. It was surprisingly busy for a cold December Tuesday afternoon. But it is the holidays and I can imagine there were college kids and families enjoying their free time, just as we were.
The trails were heavily trafficked and it’s been raining for a couple months, so you can use your imagination and guess the state of the trail. It was really muddy. The one saving grace is that the trail is through an old growth forest with gigantic trees and well-established root systems. These trees all had their roots up near the surface and exposed on the trails, so most of the time we could use the roots to keep some traction. We passed several dogs with mud about 5 inches (18 cm) up their legs, and I was pretty sure all of those doggos were getting baths at the end of the day, or maybe their humans would take them to run around in the ocean before getting into the car.
As we climbed in elevation, the amount of mud declined noticeably, as well as the amount of people on the trail. I’m guessing that fewer feet means less chewing up of the trail. One thing I was a little surprised to see was almost 100% compliance with mask-wearing. We may have seen 50 people that day, and about 4 of them were not wearing masks. There were so many people on the trail on the way up that we never took our masks off. By evening, when we were headed down and it was getting dark, we passed hardly anyone, and thus took off our masks. When we saw people coming, we put them back on till the people passed, then took them off again.
And then the payoff! We got to the top of the hill and were treated to views of the sea and the waves crashing around rocks, with hemlock and cedar trees clinging to the edge of red cliffs.
The trail was still somewhat challenging. The spots with mud were still appearing every so often, and then there were sections with trees blown down. The farther we got away from people, the sketchier the trail was, but still pretty easy to negotiate for a regular hiker like me.
It was only when I was finally done getting my shots from Cape Falcon (above) that I turned around and noticed a nervous hiking companion, chewing his lips to keep from asking me to get away from the edge. Oh yeah, I guess it is sorta high and steep here, haha! For those of you who carry cameras, you can understand my temptation: sometimes I forget about personal safety when it comes to a good shot.
We left the ledge and returned to the main trail and discovered it was already 4pm! We had been hiking a couple hours and had about 30 minutes of daylight left. ooops. We returned the way we had come and got 2/3 of the way back with some light above us (made darker though because we were under forest canopy most of the time). In the dim light, we could no longer see as well to skirt the mud bogs, and I discovered that the appearance was worse than it seemed, and I could step right into the mud in places, and often only sink an inch. Eventually we pulled out our phones to use the flashlights, but those tended to blind us, and we had better luck just using shadows and sounds. There was still somehow some light – maybe starlight or moonlight being refracted through the clouds? But it was barely detectable, and finally we got close enough to the highway to use distant headlights blinking through the trees to show us which direction to walk. Neither of us walked into a tree or sat in the mud, so I call it success!
After climbing into the Jeep we were STARVING and tried a couple of restaurants on our way back toward Portland, but they were closed. To the best of our recollection, the rural counties are in a pandemic phase that allows for distanced indoor seating, and we were cold and wet and muddy, so indoor sounded best. But…we eventually had to go all the way back to Portland before we found a place to eat. And that was outdoor seating. But we were in luck! The place we found had tiny outdoor greenhouses and inside the little greenhouses were tiny heaters on the tables. It warmed us from a chilly 36 degrees outside to a toasty 43 degrees inside! When our server would come with hands full of things, she would ask us to open the door for her. Part of our desire to eat at restaurants is to support the businesses and their employees. Part of it is that humans just love eating at restaurants. Even if that means being in public during a pandemic, and even if it means keeping my scarf and gloves on because it is so cold inside my tiny greenhouse. It was a familiar ritual (sort of) to end a day at the coast, and after I put some hot food in my belly, I was so happy.
How often do you catch yourself marveling at the world around you and thinking “This is all so bizarre?” Today is New Years Eve and I will never, ever write to you during 2020 again. I’m ok with that. Happy New Year to all of you in the blogosphere. I love you all. I really do. I wish for a 2021 that brings some goodness your way, and I wish for hugs for us all. We need a lot of hugs to make up for all of the hugs we missed this year.