Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nehalem and the Unsuperbowl Camp - February 2012

The Oregon Coast in the winter is not for the timid.  With insane amounts of horizontal precipitation for many months, and temperatures that would chill a penguin, there are better places to spend a wet winter day.

Camping on the Oregon Coast is hardly a wilderness affair.  With less than 10% of the coastal forests in an unlogged state, most of the oceanfront camping must be done in one of Oregon's ubiquitous state parks.  A land of ocean breezes and 1,000 RVs await, sitting on their paved pads elbow to elbow.  In the winter however, it's a much quieter place.

What a day!

We have been attending the Wet Westies sponsored Unsuperbowl Camp for the past few years.  It is a great time to connect with distant friends while dodging fierce winds and rain, huddling under tossed tarps while playing acoustic music into the early night.  However, this year would be different - blue skies and temperatures hovering around 60 made this often dreary camp a rare delight.

Sunrise in Portland

 Gypsie and trusty steed, ready to hit the highway

 But wait, there's Paige behind us! 

 With brand new engine no less

We drive, drive and drive (and drive) over hill and dale down the most circuitous backroad I've ever taken, and shooting through the crowded suburbs on the way to the Coast Range.

 A beautiful alder grove along the way on US26

 After a long and uneventful drive through the Oregon Coast Range, the anticipated Pacific Ocean finally pops into view.  What a day!

 A sun streaked Gypsie plays a little tune to celebrate

 Peaceful camps, but where are the people?

 Aha!  Kicking back.  Lazy butts.

 Vanwilder and stealth Lily Pug take in the sun

 Mike and the world's most perfect bus

 A happy John

 Don't ask Kirk to show you his kilt

 Spandex Spiffy, part coyote part iguana

Wayne incognito and a rare trip without the kids
Cascadia represent!

Matt and his nice '72

But as delightful as the reunion turns out to be, I am compelled to search for wilderness, even in the most unlikely places.  Although our State Parks are quite developed, there is usually some semblance of an earlier Oregon.  Sometimes it's only a couple acres, other times it goes on for miles.
According to the books, Nehalem Bay offers a very nice 6 mile loop hike around Nehalem Spit, offering views of both the bay and the oceanfront.  Little other information is given besides some vague maps.  

The red loop

Well, let's investigate and see what we find.

Bill, Matt, Troy, Stephan, and Jasan set out to find Lost Oregon

 Nehalem Bay looking much like coastal Alaska

 The tide is out and the bay has been created anew for our temporary footsteps

 Pure land of oysters and seabirds

 No one is enjoying this gorgeous beach on this fine day

 And onward we trek down the soon to be tangled beach

 The beach becomes too tangled to traverse.  We head inland into this tidal dunescape becoming forest and tangled with huge driftwood.

 But the going is not easy.  This is real wilderness!  Jasan consults his GPS for directions.

 Back on track at the estuary jetty.  This was the ancient site of a Native fishing village.

Bill and Matt

 And like a canon the ocean pops into view

 I discover we aren't the first ones here today, and follow these cute feet 3 miles back to camp.

 Only 2.8 miles to go!  And my feet hurt in new boots.

 A piece of the forest, soon to be sea

 Nehalem boasts a horse camp

Thankfully back at camp, we are just in time for the beer tasting.  We each contribute our favorite brew.
 I snuck that Rolling Rock in there!  Oh man.

And late into the night we go, singing, eating, and laughing.

Gypsie plays a little Copperhead Road

Once again I am exhausted beyond measure, but grateful to have these experiences with such wonderful people.  It is good to be home.

Working on an Old Clackamas Trail - January 2012

Even after all these years, it still amazes me that just an hour from the city lies an incredibly varied and ancient ecosystem, fed by plentiful rain and countless cascading rivers.  It feels like home, and brand new all at once.

Despite the press, Portland Oregon is a small, mildly liberal, and incredibly friendly city.  It does rain a lot here, the stereotype is no joke.  But other than occasional mid summer zaniness, Portland is "early to bed, early to rise".  Maybe it's the rain that does it - perhaps that explains the profusion of coffee shops.
What really makes Portland unique are these temperate rainforests, making the gradual transition from coastal jungle to sagebrush desert.  Without this stunning diversity at our backdoor, Portland would seem rather ordinary.  We also have an intense history of volcanic activity here, with most of the Cascade high peaks active volcanoes.  Most of the landmass of the state of Oregon was created by cataclysmic eruptions from the dawn of time to just a couple of decades ago, as witnessed by Mt. St. Helens blowing her top, again.  But nothing is lost, all is seed for the future.  Even the soil is enriched by this frequent activity.  Annual forest fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, and logging on a massive scale make these wild lands incredibly active and tumultuous.  Even the plants themselves conspire to change and eradicate new marks on the land within decades. 

But from Portland, you'd never quite realize all this takes place, with our neatly manicured lawns and tidy neighborhoods.  A trip to the woods is like travelling to another dimension; these 2 dissimilar worlds have little in common with each other.  Portland is an old industrial center, where foundries and logging and shipbuilding made Portland a keystone in a great empire.  The only clue of these Cascade places is the sometimes visit of Mt. Hood and St. Helens on a clear blue summer day, tucked away behind light poles and used car lots.

Not far from the 49th Parallel, Portland boasts short winter days and long summer nights.  Come join us as we explore and clear an old trail that was once an artery into an incredible backcountry.  Due to progress and the march of time, much has changed.  But often, today's most obscure place was once a hub brimming with history.  Often the past has been saved in spite of our society's best intentions.

 All roads lead from Estacada
(once, it was "all trails")

This old trail was once main street.  Abandoned for 70 years, it has been quite difficult to locate, and even more difficult to maintain.  The terrain is steep, the soil is rocky and crumbly, and old growth trees often tip over in this unstable place.  For the past six years we have been hacking a path along this old route.  Due to the dense jungle and profusion of poison oak and ticks, the trail is best visited in the winter.  Wild winter storms and high winds toss the trees about, making yearly maintenance a necessity.  

 Don hard at work

 Clear, until next year



 making the chips fly from this old stump

 Tools of the trade - that is, hard physical work

 Attacking a recently downed cedar


 Piece of the past - an old phone line insulator from the 1930's

 100 years ago, a bridge crossed this gully

 Can you find the piece of the past on this ancient tree?

 Another old phone line insulator, a rare glass relic

Into the setting sun on a very nice winter day.  May all the trails be as clear!
Now into town for a fresh beer and warm conversation to ease tired muscles.
MMMmm beeerrrr.....