My man and I needed some reconnection time and we decided to do what we were calling a “real hike.” As you know, we hit the trails often, in all the wonderful parks around the Portland area. It helps that his townhouse is right on the edge of some excellent city bike/walk trails through wildlife corridors in the Bethany neighborhood.
But. Those are not hikes, and we were missing them. All day long Saturday it snowed (thankfully nothing stuck), so on Sunday we dressed in winter clothes and hoped the rain on the coast would stop by the time we got there.
Trail reports from AllTrails.com regarding Ecola State Park sounded like heading north would result in less mud than trails to the south. We stopped for lattes at Safeway in Astoria and it was still raining, but our spirits were high. We parked at the Ecola Point Day Use Area and hiked north on the Indian Beach Trail. There was only a little light rain by that time, and we could see the sky was slowly clearing up, which was good because the air was foggy/misty which made visibility across the Pacific Ocean less clear than we would have wished.
As you can see in the above images (which I lightened dramatically in my photo editing software) that the shore was misty and very dark but the sky did taunt us with promises of better weather. The trail was in pretty good shape for this time of year, and for having rained all day the previous day. Muddy conditions, but still passable, and lots of trees down over the trail, but they were all pretty easy to climb over.
It is a 2.1 mile (3.4 km) hike to Indian Beach. I could not find how it got its name, but there is a good chance the Indians it was named after were the ones who lived here at the time of European settlement, which were the Tillamook people, that included several bands of distinct Native groups. The name Tillamook shows up around this area in a lot of place names and brand names, like my favourite cheese, and the lighthouse.
There were lots of people on the trail, even at 10:30 am in the rain, when we started. Mostly adults, but at the last stage of the trail we walked an old military road, and there were families with small kids on that one. For whatever reason there were a lot of Russian-speaking hikers. There is a large Russian population in Portland. I assume it was coincidence that so many turned up at the same place on the same day. Lots of dogs. Even older people were braving the trail conditions, like one old man with a cane making his way slowly up a hill to an overlook spot. “You’re about to get to a great viewpoint,” I said to him as I passed. “So climbing over the tree was worth it?” he said back to me. We looked ahead, down the trail, and saw that he had just clambered over one of those big old trees, laid across the trail. “Absolutely!” I assured him. “You will love it!”
When we were too far from the Pacific Ocean to see it, we looked instead at the forest around us, and it was magnificent. Ecola State Park holds some gigantic old growth Sitka Spruce that literally stopped us in our tracks a couple of times. We tried to get photos with us in them, to give a sense of the size. Some of the best ones were too far away for us to be able to get close and give you some perspective. Like these:
But some were close to the trail and that made perspective easier.
In addition to the fascinatingly large trees, the forest around us was especially beautiful.
We stopped for snacks and to discard our own trash as well as trash we had found along the way. We used the public bathrooms so conveniently placed. The sky continued to brighten and we felt good, so off we went again.
At the Indian Beach parking lot, the Clatsop Loop Trailhead leads north to the next attraction, which was another 2.5 miles (4 km) to a lighthouse overlook. At the trailhead is a sign that points to all the spots where movies were filmed on this beach. Point Break, Kindergarten Cop, Twilight, and Goonies.
A cool thing about this trail is that parts of it were walked by the original European explorers in the Corps of Discovery team. Famous explorers Lewis & Clark were at Ft. Clatsop and heard about a beached whale and wanted to get some of its blubber. A team of 12 hiked some of the same route we did to get to the beach. This was also the first time their Indian guide, 15-year-old Sacagawea, was allowed to see the sea that she had led them to. When the team led by Captain William Clark arrived, the whale had already been harvested by the Tillamooks, and they ended up buying whale blubber from the Natives.
At the north end of the loop is a spur trail that heads to the sea, and we took it. First we walked through a Hiker’s Camp, which consists of three open wooden cabins, Adirondack-style, available for use by Oregon Coast Trail through hikers. Beyond that we saw concrete structures abandoned and covered in moss, and went directly off the trail to investigate!
It turns out this land was originally used as a radar site in WWII and then used by the Air Force through at least the 1950s. Finding abandoned military bunkers along the coast is very common in Oregon, so it does not surprise me to stumble unknowingly upon this one.
Beyond the abandoned bunkers we came to the edge of the land, and looked out over the sea.
The Tillamook Lighthouse operated from 1881 to 1957 and earned herself the nickname of Terrible Tilly due to the extreme difficulties in getting to the post, maintaining the lighthouse in good functioning order, and the difficulties experienced by lighthouse keepers assigned here, but it was especially due to the ferocious storms that batter the island to this day. It is 62 feet tall and sits atop a rock nearly 100 feet in elevation, 1.2 miles west of the shore, and on more than one occasion storms and sea water bashed structures into the water. Despite all this, some keepers worked there many years. At the time operations ceased, it had been the most expensive lighthouse in the country to maintain and had been made obsolete by modern radar.
We turned to head back to the Jeep, now four and a half miles away from us. The return side of the loop we took was a smooth, flat road originally used by the military for servicing the radar site. There was no mud, no trees down that we had to climb over, and frankly, it was less interesting. We made the trek back to the Indian Beach Day Use Area quickly and stopped for more snacks. We had brought avocados with us because they needed to be eaten (yes, Manja wants to name me Travels With Avocado because I always seem to have one on me), some trail mix, and some biscotti. We had been sipping water all day from the bladder in my pack.
It was 9.2 miles (14.8 km) of trail, but with all our wandering off trail on the beaches and picnic tables and WWII bunkers and such, I’d say we completed 10 miles of hiking total. It felt amazing and we were very ready to sit down in the Jeep once we got back to her. Our next stop was FOOD and BEER at a place Pedro likes in Seaside.
That night we rented Point Break and enjoyed it till we got to the final scene with Agent Utah and Bodie on the beach where they fight it out and Utah gets the cuffs on Bodie. For that scene, we sat upright and paid attention. Sure enough, we spotted Sea Lion Arch twice while they were fighting, and recognized the shape of the cliffs around them. The scene was supposedly in Australia, but now we know better.