I'll start with the end of the story and run it backward, Tarantino style.
I met a fellow hiker at the end of the trail (which is also the start of the trail) who will remain nameless. He asked how I was doing. I said "Awesome," and that I had just hiked a great section of trail, totally new to me, for a story for the Pilot. We exchanged names. He commented he had read one of my previous stories. We chatted for a bit about the nearby trails. He submitted a plea, "Please don't write about the trail that leads down to China Beach. Keep it secret."
"I'm probably going to write it," I said, "I'm working on writing about the entire Samuel Boardman Corridor."
He asked again that I not.
I told him I understood where he was coming from, wished him a wonderful hike, and continued to the car where my girlfriend Jessica and friend James were waiting. I told them what the man had asked of me.
James said, "Only when we all get together and collectively appreciate it, as one, will we be able to stop destroying nature."
The other side of the coin. Controversy.
It is with this sentiment in mind that I write about the trails: I wish to encourage others to appreciate and respect nature with me.
To the unnamed hiker: Sir, I respect your opinion and I will say, you are not alone. Other long-standing locals have expressed the same opinion to me in person.
I remain undeterred.
I write on.
I understand the desire for solitude on the trails. I also understand the need to keep the trails free from litter while enjoying nature in a way that keeps it whole and intact. I see no reason to fear sharing the trails with all who would enjoy and respect them. There is plenty of room for all.
Now, on with the hike
In the last article, I left off at the parking lot south of Thomas Creek Bridge. The trail picks up at the north end of the bridge. A guardrail now blocks the parking lot on the north side. Instead, use the parking lot further north still, on the left hand side. A break in the guardrail marks the trailhead.
That's where we started our hike.
The trail forks early on. If you go right, China Beach. Head left for Thomas Creek Bridge.
The trail south leaves little room for walking abreast as it weaves through a heavily wooded patch of forest. Watch out for roots all along the way.
Not long down the trail it forks again. Head right for a very scenic alternative route. Continue left for Thomas Creek Bridge.
We headed left, further south. The trail weaves in and out of dense forest - emerging into light, submerging into darkness. Each section is like a tunnel with its own light at the end.
Off to the right you can see the divergent trail, where it disappears into the treeline atop a hill skirted by steep cliffs all around.
The hike to the bridge is only about 15 minutes.
On the way back, be sure to take the path to the hill and see cliffside views. It's well worth it.
The well-trodden trail heads down into a large open space with bushy blade grass. Follow it through some trees on the left side of the hill. It opens to a southward view of the cliffs, rocks and the beach where Thomas Creek meets the sea.
Along the way there's a huge deadwood tree with long, wavy limbs that wobble like a nightmare. At the end of the point, there are two trees standing alone. James scrambled into the larger of the two. The big, thick branches were perfect for sitting and staring out across the horizon.
The trail banks right and loops back on itself. Follow it around the crown of the hill for several peeks through the trees at the coastline to the north. One spot terminates right on the cliffside. Straight down to the rocks beneath. You have to see it for yourself to understand.
We spent about an hour hanging out and taking pictures on the hill. It's really peaceful and picturesque.
Once back on the main trail, after a slight uphill section you're almost back to the starting point - and the other trail that leads down to China Beach.
James, Jessica and I skipped China Beach and headed home. That was on Saturday.
To the beach
The following day, Jessica and I returned to follow the path to the beach. The forest there is even more dense. A thick wall forms in the foliage from all the dead branches, completely blocking any view of the beach. The hike was chilly with so little light penetrating.
We came to a patch littered with dead trees along the side of the trail. Whole trees lying all around. Some hold one another up, almost as if they don't want each other to fall. Suspended gravity.
Walk under a downed fir tree marking the beach descent (which means it's all uphill on the way back). It's a calf burner.
The trail grants access to the south end of China Beach and reminds me of the south end of Whaleshead Beach in many ways.
We welcomed the sunsplashed beach after the dark of the forest. We sat in it for a while before heading back up. The whole scene is beautiful. I see why people want it preserved.
It's about 15 minutes down, 30 back up. Plus time to walk the beach.
I'm saving the beach exploration for the next section. I'm guessing there's a trail that picks up somewhere up the way. We'll see.
Don't forget your water, snack and a jacket. I prefer a hoodie - just saying.