Sand Hill: A test of endurance
Written by Gabriel Chatman Curry Coastal Pilot   
March 29, 2013 09:31 pm

Gabriel Chatman/The Pilot
Gabriel Chatman/The Pilot
If you’re like me you grew up right here in Brookings, surrounded by the abundant natural beauty. And if you’re like me, you take it for granted.

I grew up on Cape Ferrelo Road, north of Brookings, so spent lots of time playing outdoors as a kid. As a teenager I made gas money by picking and selling Chanterelle and Hedgehog mushrooms locally. Summers were spent “up river” swimming in the Chetco. I ran the coastal trails north of Lone Ranch Beach for conditioning every year for soccer. What I’m saying is I’m a local, born and bred in the boonies of Brookings.

I moved away for college at 18. After more than a decade away, I recently moved back. I’ve been talking with community members and friends. It occurs to me that whether you’re a local or a transplant, odds are you haven’t hiked all of the local trails. I haven’t. If you haven’t, we’re missing out.

My mission is to hike and report on local trails to raise awareness (and my personal fitness level). I can’t say enough about endorphins and what those little guys can do for your mental and physical well-being. Exercise = endorphins = happy people exchanging positive outlooks and smiles in our community.

Our adventure begins on the Coastal Trail in Samuel H. Boardman State Park. Though the park is only 12 miles long, extending from Lone Ranch Beach to Pistol River Viewpoint, the trail twists and winds along our rugged coastline, resulting in 27 miles of breathtaking views and hiking. Luckily, every viewpoint along the way marks a trail segment, so you don’t have to hike it all at once.

Cape Ferrelo to House Rock

The official trailhead is at the north end of Lone Ranch Beach and extends up to Cape Ferrelo. It’s a short 10 minute walk from the beach to the cape, which is wide-open and grassy, like something you’d imagine seeing in Ireland. With all the treeless space it’s great for whale-watching and sunsets, and flying kites because of all the wind.

I opted to drive to Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint and head north from there. Though you set off downhill, don’t be fooled — most of the hike is uphill to House Rock Viewpoint. As you leave the cape you’ll have an excellent view of it over your left shoulder. 

Around the first bend you come to a small footbridge; the first of three on this trail segment. Notice the massive root system of the two nearby trees — a nice spot to sit and listen to the creek for a while and watch the small waterfalls. You can also hear the waves crashing up and down the coastline.

A brief glimpse of the sea will be your last ocean view for most of the hike as you pass into heavily wooded areas. All green. All beautiful. You will see fir, spruce and alder trees, several varieties of prehistoric looking ferns, huckleberry and salmonberry bushes and dense salal brush, to name a few. Take the time to enjoy the quiet solitude within.

Moss grows all over the ground alongside the trails. It’s like something out of a fairy tale. On certain days when the weather can’t make up its mind, the wet moss is warmed by the sun and the water evaporates into mist, making the sun’s rays visible as they pass through the tree branches. Walk the trails often enough and you will be graced with many such splendors.

I mentioned footbridges earlier. They’re one of my favorite trail features. The cool air from the streams makes them an ideal spot to stop for a breather, especially when jogging. The second footbridge on the trail spans some creek erosion, the walls of which are covered in moss for several feet to the water below. Very picturesque.

The third footbridge is tucked at the base of a series of downhill switchbacks and signifies the final ascent to House Rock Viewpoint. The footbridge is also a clue that you are nearing my high school proving grounds, affectionately dubbed, “Sand Hill.”

Sand Hill is unmarked, on your left, approximately half way between the third footbridge and House Rock Viewpoint. The path is usually overgrown with dense salal brush, but it’s worth the search. Just be careful diving through the brush. Poison oak and ivy are no fun.

If you find it, you will have the distinct pleasure of running down a very steep hill made entirely of sand. Also great for rolling down, taking giant moon leaps, or long jumping so far you get butterflies, all the way down to a secluded beach full of tide pools.

Now for the grueling trudge back to the trail. I recommend bear crawling. I used to run down, bear crawl up, down and up, down and up. That’s how I knew I was good and conditioned up for soccer.

Once past Sand Hill there is a section of clear-cutting just before reaching House Rock Viewpoint. On your way up you will see lots and lots of new growth as the forest re-establishes itself. 

When you get to the top, you made it! Stop to catch your breath as you read the Samuel Boardman Memorial Plaque. House Rock is straight out to sea. If you have more steam, keep heading north. Just remember, you have to walk back to your car.

Not accounting for stoppage time and detours, allow yourself about 30 to 45 minutes for the walk to House Rock Viewpoint, 30 to 45 minutes back to your car at Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint. Round trip, between one and one-and-a-half hours.

Don’t forget your water, snack and a jacket.