Pilot story, photos and graphic

by Bill Schlichting

PISTOL RIVER - What may have been the largest group of participants in the monthly Sole Pursuits hike gathered Saturday to hike to Crook Point and dedicate a lake to Pistol River pioneer Lola Gardner.

According to Frann Grossman, Sole Pursuits hike coordinator for Curry General Hospital, there were about 75 people who hiked the forested dunes between Highway 101 and the beach between Crook Point and the Pistol River.

Before venturing into the pine and spruce forests, Physical Therapist Amy Keusink demonstrated stretching exercises. Walt Schroeder, a trail volunteer and historian, then led the group across the highway to the obscure trailhead.

The general location of the trailhead is a quarter mile south of the end of the southbound passing lane coming up the hill from the Pistol River. The trailhead is immediately north of a driveway on the ocean side of the highway. A small turnout with a short Oregon Coast Trail marker gives the exact location.

The trail follows the southern boundary of Pistol River State Park.

Hikers walked along a clearly-marked path of dense groundcover, making the trail easy on the feet. Once the trail left the forest, people hiked on packed sand stablized by beach grass. There are two stream crossings. Most people were able to step over the creeks.

At one point, the group became separated when a few people took the wrong path when they came to a fork in the trail. Schroeder was able to coral the wayward hikers.

The trail to the ocean is on the left.

The extent of the hike was at a soft-sand dune where the trail joins a horse trail used by Hawk's Rest Ranch Stables and Trail Rides. The Hawk's Rest trail is between the Carpenterville Road junction and the ocean.

Schroeder pointed to the trail markers and suggested that on nice days, it's possible to hike to the ocean then continue north to the mouth of the river. On windy days, hikers may find themselves leaning into the wind at a 60-degree angle. On these days, it is best to return on the state park trail, or continue along the horse trail.

After people took pictures of the rocky shore, which was another half mile away across the open dunes, a few hikers followed Schroeder off the beaten path to the top of a dune to provide a glimpse of the barren Crook Point.

The headland was once private property until it was sold to The Nature Conservancy. In 1998, ownership was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Crook Point is now closed to the public.

Hikers continued to backtrack to the point where the wayward hikers were corralled. This time, everyone followed the trail (the right fork) that leads to a hidden lake.

This trail was primitive, but plans are for volunteers to improve it. Hikers climbed to the top of a dune, following the ridge until they came in view of the lake.

Walkers gathered on a dune overlooking the lake where a naming ceremony took place.

Schroeder explained that the area surrounding the lake was once a sheep ranch. He first saw the lake in 1961. Most recently he needed help finding the lake, which is classified as a dying lake. Vegetation is growing on the lake bottom. During the summer months, it is difficult to see the water, which is below the vegetation line.

After searching records, it was determined the lake had no name. It was decided to call it Lola Lake after the late Lola Gardner, who frequented the lake.

During the dedication speech, Schroeder proclaimed that he hoped andquot;people would enjoy this lake as much as you did,andquot; referring to Gardner. Gardner died in 1998.

A sign declaring the body of water Lola Lake was temporarily hung on a post. Schroeder said he will return and use long bolts to permanently fasten the sign to the post.

Following the ceremony, hikers continued a short distance to Highway 101. The trail paralleled the highway within the trees for about a quarter of a mile before returning to the main trail at its beginning.

Sole Pursuits is Curry General Hospital's incentive walking and fitness program.

It features scenic hikes and prize drawings for walkers who turn in their walking cards. Walking cards are available at the hospital, 94220 Fourth St., in Gold Beach, or at The Brookings Clinic, 412 Alder St. Walkers fill in one footprint for each half-hour of walking. Once the card is filled, it may be turned in for the drawing.

Leaders will draw the next walking card, March 13, following the Sole Pursuits beachcombing walk along the north Del Norte shore with leader Dianne Cavaness.

The winner will receive $50, sponsored by the Chetco Federal Credit Union.

People who are more ambitious hikers may wish to participate in the andquot;Heart and Soleandquot; Walk to Paradise with Sole Pursuits, May 8-9. Walkers will follow leader Jim Coffee and botanist Fred Bowen for 12 miles along the Upper Rogue River trail during the peak of wildflower season.

Paradise Lodge will provide meals and overnight lodging; Jerry's Rogue Jets will provide a jetboat ride back to the trailhead. A portion of the trip fee supports cardiac rehabilitation in Curry County.

For space availability on the Hike to Paradise, information on on the program, or for a schedule of guided hikes, call Grossman at Curry General Hospital at (541) 247-3187 or (800) 445-8085, ext. 187.