Imagine a sandy beach in a cove. Tree-covered islands just offshore break most of the waves on a calm, sunny day. The edge of the beach is lined by a bluff, protecting the sand from the harsh elements. A creek flows to the edge of the bluff and cascades to the sand before the water makes its way to the ocean.
This is the description of a small piece of paradise. Its location may be hidden to many, but for those who enjoy a short, steep hike, or following a couple of longer trails, the above-described beach is no secret.
I have driven past the unmarked trailhead to Secret Beach many times. On more than one occasion, I have even parked in the unknown pullout and stood at the trailhead. It wasn't until recently that I made the trail my destination.
The day I went wasn't the best of days to hike. It was foggy in Brookings. My hopes soared when I came upon blue skies at the top of the Cape Ferrelo hill. It turned out that the 400-foot summit was above the fog and I was about to descend back into the gray muck. The 345-foot-high Thomas Creek Bridge was shrouded in fog and I continued to see the grayness as I passed the Wridge Creek Refuse Disposal Site. Those are fancy words for "the dump."
Opposite the entrance to the dump is a guardrail. Immediately after Highway 101 crosses Miner Creek, the guardrail ends. There is a narrow place to drive off the road and a place to park behind the guardrail. The trailhead to the beach is marked by the usual beach rules sign.
I followed the trail, which is an abandoned bulldozer road (more commonly known as a cat trail). About halfway down the hill, I could hear the sound of rushing water. I find a spot to peek through the bushes to see an beautiful waterfall. From the highway to the falls, Miner Creek follows a concrete flume. When Highway 101 between Brookings and Pistol River was built in 1961, a lot of concrete was used to keep streams from eroding the roadbed. The highway is build to last!
I continued down the hill and came to the mainline Oregon Coast Trail. I continued a short way to find paradise. The last section of the trail involves walking down a rock. I stop on top of the rock and imagined the scenery, unshrouded by fog. Even though visibility was only 300 yards, it was still gorgeous. Miner Creek made its final tumble to the ocean just below the rock I was standing on.
After enjoying the solitude, I hiked a bit south on the Oregon Coast Trail, which crosses Miner Creek at another waterfall. Turns out there are three. I hiked until I got to the top of the Wridge Creek canyon. I turned back. From the trail, which follows the top of the bluff above Secret Beach, I enjoyed more vistas.
When I returned to the cat trail, a couple were standing on top of the rock at the end of the trail, above the beach. I left them their solitude and hiked back to the top.
Perhaps next time, I'll chose a sunny day and, just for the fun of it, take off from either the trailhead to the north or the south.
Bill Schlichting is features editor of the Curry Coastal Pilot. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.