Hiking the Clatsop Loop Trail at Tillamook Head and Hitting the Road Home in the RainApril 27, 2013
We had four days of sunshine on the Oregon Coast as April, the cruelest month according to T.S. Eliot, trickled away.
Then, on the fifth day, it rained all the way home.
Of course clear April days on the coast hardly preclude early morning mists and chilling breezes.
On one such morning, while Darlene lollygagged and watched for passing whales from the balcony of our Best Western digs (with a “supreme ocean view” ) in Seaside, Nora and I dashed to Ecola State Park north of Cannon Beach.
I soaked up the views at Ecola Point, including shadowy sea stacks to the south and a fog muted Tillamook Rock Lighthouse a mile off the coast to the northwest.
Then we continued on a narrow, twisting forest-lined road to Indian Beach. From there we launched a 1-1/4-mile, 800-foot ascent along a service two-track to Hikers' Camp on the Clatsop Loop Trail.
The trail, protected somewhat from the breeze, elevated along a thickly wooded canyon-side above Ecola Creek.
“It’s Awesome!” I said to Nora who sniffed among the redwood sorrel, trillium, salmonberry and the rippling fronds of feathery ferns.
I felt a connection with history, of course, because Lewis and Clark brought a hungry band of Corps of Discovery explorers from Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, over Tillamook Head to Cannon Beach.
They traced rumors that a whale had beached there.
After dining for weeks on dogs, they needed a dietary change. So, they aimed to trade with the local people for whale meat, which they managed successfully.
Clark wrote about crossing the head, however, calling it the “Steepest worst and highest mountain (he) ever ascended."
It was easier for us, trekking on a well kept two-track, but it was steep. Really steep. Even Nora paused often to rest.
I paused often to take photos of massive trees and blooming plants.
At the saddle, we explored the Adirondack shelters at Hikers' Camp and walked the one-eighth of a mile to an ocean overlook view of the Tillamook Rock Light House.
I researched it later via Google ( Tillamook Rock Lighthouse) and discovered a mind-boggling, even heroic, story about the people who built and operated facility from 1881 to 1957.
The facility has been called one of the most exposed lighthouse structures in the world.
Many heavy storms crashed rocks and debris through the lantern room and iron roof and often flooded it with seawater, repeatedly causing necessary repairs.
After being decommissioned, the lighthouse passed though several private owners. Eventually real estate developers bought it in 1980 and converted it into the Eternity at Sea Columbarium where people could store their ashes in urns for $1,000, or for $5,000 for a prime spot in the lantern room.
That project failed, however, and in 2005 an application for a new license was rejected, in part because of poor record keeping and the improper storage of urns (about 30 in all, and some were reported stolen by vandals).
Presently the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Anyway, we trekked down the mountain and when leaving the park met a dozen cow elk and several calves.
Excited by the close contact with the elk, we hurried back to Seaside for Darlene.
She had spotted no whales.
In half-an-hour, and with our $5 visitors’ pass still good, we retraced our trip all the way to Indian Beach. We passed 20 yards above the elk that had bedded down on a wooded flat below the road. We stopped several times to ogle the scenery.
On Friday it rained. Finally.
Actually rain plummeted in sheets as we loaded the truck at Best Western. It rained as we splashed through Portland to Internet 84. It rained as we left the freeway for Historic Highway 30 near Troutdale.
It poured as Nora and I strolled to the mist-spewing base of Multnomah Falls. It rained so hard at Horsetail Falls that Nora stayed in the truck with Darlene.
The rain finally stopped as we leaned into the horseshoe curves up to Rowena Overlook and strolled among the bright yellow balsamroot.
Finally, after dining at Spooky’s in The Dalles, we crossed the Columbia River and quickly cruised to Walla Walla for a late afternoon nap.