MAY 21, 2005

The Coon Family Hiking Club
Official Hike 2005 #1

LENGTH OF HIKE 3 miles - 2 hours 26 minutes

We arrived at the Ecola State Park about 10 AM for our hike. We were not sure what the weather was going to be like. The temperature was in the low 50s and the sky was overcast. It might rain, and then again, we might get lucky.

Our goal was to hike the 1.5 mile trail from Ecola Point Picnic Area to the Indian Beach Picnic Area. We found that it covered a very interesting stretch of land, which cut through rain forest, and skirted seaside cliffs with some outstanding views. The hike would have been well worth the trip just for the complex and voracious flora, as well as the occasional fauna that we encountered. Although the trail was quite muddy in spots, all in all the hiking conditions were great, and we had a very enjoyable outing!

We nearly had the place to ourselves when we arrived. The parking lot had two other cars off to the left and right of the area shown in the picture, and there were no others. We normally like to arrive at the trailhead of our hikes around 8 AM, but we were relaxing this weekend, and started out a bit later than usual. Even so, it worked out okay, because it seems that other hikers were doing the same.

Looking south, you can almost see our hotel. It is located in Cannon Beach, a few miles behind the little ridge in the foreground. (The rounded rock protrusion that is surrounded by water, and that lies right behind the tree in the middle of the picture, is called Haystack Rock and it is very close to the hotel where we stayed.) The road that you see blocked by the swinging gate connects up with a path leading to Crescent Beach. It is a little shorter than the path we were going to walk.

Here I am all ready for the hike. Camera in hand, and raincoat in place just in case. It was windy and a bit chilly, so I had on my knit cap. (I was more interested in being warm than looking cool. J )

Looking west, we find the lovely Dotti, by the trail sign, indicating that we had 1.5 miles to go to reach our turnaround point: Indian Beach. She also was keeping her ears warm, but she was using ear muffs, rather than a full cap. The sky and the sea were gray, and even the grass and trees looked quite dark as we started out.

The large picture here shows a map of the entire Ecola State Park. I left the image larger than I did the other pictures I took so you could see the detail on the map if you chose to. The stretch that we were going to walk would go from the Ecola Point Picnic Area towards the bottom of the map, up to the Indian Beach Picnic Area. There is much more to the trail if we were to continue on past Indian Beach, and the hiking actually gets tougher on that part of the trail. But this day we were just trying to get back into hiking again, and didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew.

This image focuses on the part of the map that shows our hiking route. You can see that there is a road that runs between both ends of our route and we could have driven to Indian Beach directly. But where is the fun in that? J

We are finally on our way! Here is Dotti at the bridge leading from the meadow, where the parking lot lies, into the forest where we will be spending the next couple of hours. There were no unicorns or centaurs that we could find in this forest, but there was one very interesting creature which we encountered. More on that later…

This is the little stream that runs under the bridge you saw in the previous picture. It may be small but it is nearly to its destination: the Pacific Ocean, only a few yards away.

Looking back at the bridge, the parking lot just beyond is already invisible. We appear to be on our own.

Here I am still fighting off the wind. Although it is not raining, I pulled up my hood as a windbreak. I even have my gloves in my hand, with thoughts of donning them. However, operating the camera with gloves on is tricky. Notice the lush greenery about me. Even the tree trunks are coated with moss. The ground is muddy, from a recent rain, but it did not pose any real problems. Dotti and I both had on water proof boots and the mud was not very deep, even at the worst points along the trail.

This is an example of a recurring theme we found in this rain forest. A very large tree had fallen, leaving a great, wide stump. On top of the stump, a new tree started to grow. It drove its roots into the stump, and right down along the side of the stump, all the way into the ground, and then it reached for the sky.

Life in the rain forest is tenacious, and as soon as something dies, something else starts moving right into the space left open. You can see that even a small fern has taken up residence on the top of the stump. Dotti is looking quite comfortable in her ear muffs, and she certainly seems to be enjoying the hike!

This is the “squatter tree,” whose roots we were looking at in the previous two pictures. It is no tiny twig, but a respectably large tree itself.

Dotti on the trail. The trees are not so thick as to create darkness on this stretch of the trail, but the overcast sky makes things look pretty dim behind her. The flash helped bring her beautiful smile into the light. (Notice how the reflective strip on her coat jumps out in the brilliant flash.)

From time to time we encountered steps along the way. These steps are wood frames, filled in with dirt. When the ground is really wet, the best thing to do is to step on the four-inch wide framing and avoid the muddy center area.

Here is my lovely Dotti smiling back down the stairs at me.

I am still holding my gloves, as I begin to ascend the stairs. It may be cool, but it’s not raining!

Looking back at the stairs, it seems like they really belong here. It appears that, if they were abandoned, they would fade back into the forest without a trace.

Another case of a stump providing the foundation for younger tree. Actually in the background you can see another example. It may be that sometime time ago this area was logged, and the new trees came along after that. The stumps seem to be too flat on the top to have just broken off, and there are not horizontal remains here of the fallen giants.

This is one more case of a tree growing into another tree. This new tree is actually fairly large itself, and it is growing partly into the ground, and partly into the side of the dead stump. The leafy vegetation on top of the stump seems to be unconcerned with the fact that it is not growing on the forest floor.

This branch is quite odd. It started out like a normal tree limb, I must assume, aimed in the horizontal direction, but it encountered some force that drove it downward. Perhaps a tree fell against it. In any case it did not snap off, but instead continued to grow in a deformed fashion, still striving to correct its path. Alas, it seems to have been all in vain.

We came across a particularly muddy bit of path, with a convenient, though small, bypass trail. Dotti is walking that path here.

There was a bit of uphill for the most of the first half of the hike. We ascended for a total of 400 feet during the walk. You can see the path leading upwards behind Dotti, who turned around so I could take this shot.

It looks like I finally was able to get my gloves on for a bit. You can see that the trees are thinning towards the left of the picture because we getting closer to the open area near the cliffs. Soon the ocean will be visible once more.

Right around the corner that is behind me in this picture, a great view of the ocean awaits us. There is a muddy patch of ground at my feet, but we were not too concerned about that at this point.

Wow! Looking straight down from the top of the cliff we see the breaking surf. It doesn’t look like a fun place to fall from.

One full mile out from our position is Tillamook Rock, which has a lighthouse on it that was nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” because its lantern room was many times washed with seawater, fish and even rocks, by the heavy winter storms, even though the light was located 150 feet above normal sea level. (Using binoculars from our hotel room, I saw waves break above the height of the rock foundation and up part of the way on the building. The seas were a bit heavy but, I could imagine that a good storm would have been quite a challenge for the light keeper, when the lighthouse was still in operation.)

Zooming in a bit, the Tillamook Rock lighthouse is a little easier to see. It was in operation from 1881 to 1957. Actually it still is, but now it is used as a repository for the ashes of the dead rather than a lighthouse. Urns are flown out by helicopter by a funeral home for those who desire to be laid to rest on the rock.

This strip of rocks, along with the lighthouse, continued to be a major landmark throughout the portions of our walk along the cliffs. Out at the end of the strip of rocks there is one that forms an arch where the waves break through from time to time. It was quite impressive.

Looking out and down, you can see a fairly tall pine tree, dwarfed by the distances that fall into our view. The curved rock wall in the distance surrounds Indian Beach, and you can just see a small strip of the beach in the upper right-hand corner of this picture.

Raising our aim a bit, the gray sky comes more into view as well as a bit more of Indian Beach. We were treading the path of a great explorer this day, as it turned out. On January 7, 1806, William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery walked along this ground, along with a dozen others, including Sacagawea, the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau. Clark called what he saw that day, “the most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed.” Coming from a man who had just traveled across the North American continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, with a great deal of the trip being on foot, that is saying a lot!

For some reason our cameras kept returning to Tillamook Rock. You can see that a boat is running fast, creating a white wake behind it off to the right.

A similar view, with less telephoto zoom applied.

Our arched rock once again, as we start to angle a bit more towards where we can see the opening better.

I think this is my favorite shot of the day. My lovely Dotti with the arched rock in the background.

The flash brought the tree branches into dominance in this photo, with the lighthouse still taking center stage.

Looking south, the basalt wall shows a cave opening down at the waterline. Green moss holds tightly to the rock wall, that has pieces of its might cast down at its feet in the form of boulders. The water is soft, but it wears the stone down over time.

Looking north once again, with the telephoto set to maximum.

Back in the woods once more. The signs of the hard struggle for life in the face of the stormy sea are everywhere. The broken tree on the ground before us shows that the struggle is over for it. At the same time, there is a plant growing over a broken limb on the ground to the right, and life goes on. As long as the struggle continues, life goes on.

Dotti standing behind, and against, the dead treetop.

I take my turn with the grounded treetop. It is still cool, because I have my gloves on.

The tree roots act very much like stair steps along this stretch of path.

The trail heads downward for a change. We have crossed over and have begun our descent.

Dotti taking in the view. Here, where the trees are exposed directly to the ocean winds, the life is not as lush and green. The trees look weak and sickly, with numerous dead branches, but they are a hardy lot, or else they would have died long ago.

Dotti caught this shot of me looking back from behind a broken stump.

And here is that stump. The wood is still bright in color, showing that it has not been lying out in the weather in this broken condition for very long.

Even on the downhill side, there are some upward directed inclines to deal with.

Just off the trail there was this natural circle of trees, with an open space in the middle; seeming to imply a house or temple.

The greenery has returned to the area around the path, as it moves away from the sea cliff.

Our rock arch is starting to come into full view. These plants are thriving behind a natural wind break, even though they are right at the cliff’s edge.

With less telephoto zoom, the rock arch appears to be farther away.

The waves were running in, and I was looking south as Dotti snapped this picture.

A sample of what the mud looked like on the trail.

A tree living on the edge. The mud once again is visible at the bottom of the picture.

It is like counting the rings on a tree stump, but it looks like there are 20 or more waves between us and the lighthouse in this picture.

We are now coming around where we are nearly facing the arch opening in the rock.

I snuck out ahead a bit on the trail and Dotti caught me on camera. The tree at the far left looks like it could tell a story about perseverance in the face of adversity.

Doesn’t Dotti look happy here? We had great time hiking this trail!

Dead Man’s Curve is what this stretch of trail looks like. And the light house continues to draw our attention towards it.

This trail abounded in dead old remains of once living things, now surrounded by many currently alive and thriving things. This stump looks like it once supported a very formidable giant.

Once more the arch pulled our camera’s lens toward it.

Dotti negotiating the potentially nasty curve. It really wasn’t bad as long as you were not moving fast.

The stone is black basalt that once flowed liquid and hot to this very point, only to freeze into this position. Now the stone falls to pieces leaving dark boulders in the water, and is wearing green plant life, as if it were a garment. The middle ridge almost looks like the back of an elephant, with the little tree growing out of the top of his head like a feather.

The volcanic rock is doomed to be washed away in time. Meanwhile, it stands in odd shapes while the water plays at its feet. Will more lava flow into the sea at this point before these rocks are completely dismantled by the water? We will probably not be around to find out.

To the south our view of the coastline is blocked by this stone wall, but along the top of the ridge at certain places, the viewpoints along the path that we just walked is in view.

Dead trees, living trees, the Pacific Ocean, and a lighthouse sum up the backdrop for this picture, and the entire walk. My gloves and hat are gone, because I had finally warmed up a bit.

When you have two cameras clicking away along the same trail, you sometimes each catch the same shot. One difference; this one did not include me. J

I played around with these two objects trying to get the picture just right. Here is what I came up with. I thought that the dead stump with its old dead arm would make a nice semi-frame for the lighthouse.

Dotti having a better idea. (Wait, that is supposed to be a lightbulb…sorry. J )

This tree was lying across the trail and so they cut a section out of it so we could walk through.

The water was flowing through the arch while the dead stump and living tree seemed to watch.

My lovely Dotti posed before an interesting background.

I was doing a lot of smiling that day, because I was having a lot of fun!

You can tell from this picture that the ground falls away slowly from Indian Beach. The waves break slowly, and over a long distance, usually not growing very tall.

The mouth of the little cove that holds Indian Beach.

On our descent towards the beach level there were a few switchbacks like this one.

Dotti coming around the bend as we were heading back down into the forest.

Nearly the same spot but with Dotti a lot closer.

The tree behind Dotti has its rooted base going into the hillside at an odd angle, while the upper part of the tree looks totally normal, as it reaches for the sky. The ground under the tree looks like it might have settled or collapsed in the past causing the tree to have to make that adjustment.

This doesn’t look very much like the heavy forest that we were walking through before, but this area is not as protected from the ocean’s breezes.

Dotti caught me standing nearly behind a leaning tree.

Thought you couldn’t tell it from the amount of moisture on the ground here, it is very likely that a lot of water does move along this stretch of pathway. The wooden side rails protect the center section of the path from being warn away by water flow, and the trench running along the right side of the path would route a stream of water that might form here away from the walking surface.

I think this about as close as we got to the lighthouse during our hike. The zoom makes it seem closer, but it is a full mile away from where we were standing at the time.

The alternation between lush green rainforest, and sparse sea cliff vegetation kept the scenery continually interesting.

What a joy it was sharing this walk through the beautiful and changing landscape with my beautiful wife Dotti. I am a truly lucky man!

There was a small stretch of forest where we found trees that were different from any we saw on our hike. In this small patch of ground there were a number of trees that were acting like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where they were growing straight from their base at an angle, without bending their trunks upward towards the vertical. I can only guess that the event that pushed them over into their tilted position occurred when they were too mature to change their direction. As you can see in this photo, the event must have happened some years ago, for there is a new tree growing upwards right on top of the base of one of the leaning trees.

Another example of a leaning tree. Notice how the trees behind are running true to the vertical.

A leaning pair of trees, appearing like drunks leaning precariously, while the onlookers in the background are standing straight up.

Dorothy had her magic ruby slippers, but Dotti has her magic muddy Z-coil hiking boots. J I am so glad that she found these shoes! Dotti can now walk and hike without pain, and that is like a miracle after watching her for over a year never being able to take any sort of walk without her feet, knees and hips hurting. Now she walks with a smile and I love it!

A muddy approach to another set of stairs on our trail.

Dotti checking a picture that she just took, to make sure it came out right. The types of trees that lined the path seemed to change every few yards.

A small side trail, heading off to the right and up the face of the rocky wall, beckoned to us, but we were strong and kept right on track.

With pockets overloaded, and boots a bit muddy, I was having a great time on the trail. Not a drop of rain had fallen, and our raincoats were perfectly dry.

We were getting close to Indian Beach by this time. The wire fence was put in place for safety, to keep the hikers from taking an unplanned dive into the waters below.

We were well beyond the rock arch, and the arch hole is looking small once more. The black stuff on the beach sand below is a collection of small rocks that were being worked by the water into ever smaller versions, heading towards becoming grains of sand one day.

The lighthouse just wouldn’t leave my camera alone. I told it, “No more lighthouse pictures!” However, as soon as I turned around, there it was taking another one. J

The south end of Indian Beach with the rock arch in the background.

Rock, sand and water, with a bit of driftwood thrown in.

The loveliest sight that I saw on the entire hike! Dotti was looking at her latest photo on her camera as I took this shot.

Water plus dirt equals mud, and we witnessed that quite a bit.

The changing scenery continued to hold our interest throughout the hike. We eagerly looked forward to going around the next corner to spy whatever new thing might be waiting there for our enjoyment.

An ancient giant toppled many moons ago. Up the hill we saw its base section, and here we saw an upper length of its trunk spanning a small depression in the turf, and on top of it, another giant was growing, with one of its roots running right along the top of the old fallen warrior. On our hike, we saw that life sprang everywhere from death in this rain soaked microscopic experiment in the eternal game of life.

An old dead stump tips dangerously to the right, while a small squatter tree has taken up carefree, though precarious, residence on its top.

This was a striking example of two trees being married together to truly become as one.

Coming up on a muddy stretch of pathway, Dotti has warmed up enough to take off her coat.

Looking down on Indian Beach, there are some surfers in wet suits, and a guy in a little kayak-like boat.

Two guys with their surfboards heading out to challenge the waves, such as they are.

There was also a lady in a wet suit who was photographing the guys on the boards.

Kayak-man! We did see him out in the water paddling like mad in the waves. He looked like he was having a great time.

The Indian Beach parking area.

My lovely wife on the trail. It was a great day for a hike!

Looking at the Indian Beach parking area through the undergrowth.

Our turn around destination reached, we had 1.5 miles to go to return to our car.

On the way back I spotted this little salamander on the trail. Fortunately I spotted him before stepping on him. He blended in with the muddy ground pretty well.

Even in this close-up shot he visually becomes part of the ground around him, and seems nearly invisible.

When I pointed out the cute little creature to Dotti, she quickly reached down and gently picked him up. It was her favorite part of the hike.

The salamander didn’t appear to be frightened by the attention and walked across her hands like nothing important was going on.

The fun movie file shows Dotti with the salamander walking across her hands, and she plays treadmill for his little walk. Warning! It is a 6 MB file so if you are using dial-up it will take a while to load. (If you right-click you can save it to your computer so you won’t have to download it again later if you wish to view it again.)

We are back at our starting point, and you can see that a few more cars have arrived during our walk.

Even more cars to the right.

Dotti’s Flower page where her pictures of the plant life along the trail can be found.