Smack on the edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness lies Boulder Creek. A tributary of the Chetco River with a year round flow, Boulder Creek is one of those places in the world that makes you say wow.
The hike into Boulder Creek is also something to make you say wow. Wow, and maybe some other words as you fjord streams, cross canyon-wide washouts and climb over, around and through fallen trees. All the while avoiding the proliferous poison oak that has grown with rampant abandon since the Biscuit Fire destroyed 500,000 acres in 2002, including areas that are traversed to get to Boulder Creek.
The head of the trail is relatively easy to get to: Follow North Bank Chetco River Road until you cross South Fork Chetco River and turn left onto High Prairie Road (National Forest Service Road 1376). Approximately 18 miles after the fork, veer right to stay on NFSR 1376. At the next fork in the road, take the right fork and follow the road until it terminates at the head of Mislatnah Trail 1119.
Mislatnah Trail 1119 is relatively easy to traverse all the way to Mislatnah Creek where camping along the creek bed is available.
Hikers wishing to make it all the way to Boulder Creek will need to cross a log, or wade the creek to pick up the trail again.
At this point in the venture it is recommended that hikers wear long sleeves and pants and gloves as the poison oak is abundant.
The remainder of the hike is not for the weak in heart, might or mind but the reward awaiting the stalwart makes the pain and danger worth it.
"I come because of the solace," BHHS graduate Jill Marks said. "It's the most beautiful place in the world; it's unadulterated and untouched."
Marks currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia and makes a yearly pilgrimage to Boulder Creek either before or after her yearly family reunion.
"It heals your soul to go there, especially after the Washington D.C. garbage," she said. "There are a lot of pretty places back east, but it's all fully zoned and you can't get away from the people."
The trail wanders through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, crossing multiple creeks and downed trees before opening into Bronson's Prairie which marks the half-way point of the hike.
Shortly after the prairie the trail is washed out but traversable if care is exercised. The trail resumes about 30 feet further up the hill from where the washout is entered.
Another two miles on the trail will drop hikers into the Boulder Creek valley and there sandy river bars await weary hikers.
"It's really a fitness litmus test," Marks said. "I try to be at peak performance when I hike in and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I complete the hike."
Another member of the Marks family who makes the annual pilgrimage is Jill's older brother Loren Marks.
"I think there is a serenity and a beauty about the Oregon wilderness," he explained when asked why he comes so regularly. "After you've paid the price to get off the beaten path."
The hike takes approximately three hours from start to finish depending on how many rest stops are required along the way.
Editor's note: A trip to Boulder Creek is a serious venture and should be undertaken with a guide the first time and with care every time.