Drift Creek Wilderness

April 16, 1988

Because of logs blocking the access road to our planned Middle Santiam destination (priorities of the Forest Service?), our hike was changed at the last minute to the Drift Creek Wilderness northeast of Waldport. Ten hikers left Eugene’s grayness promptly at eight, and drove via Junction City, Monroe, Alpine, and Alsea to the Harris Ranch Trailhead into the wilderness. It’s two and a half miles down-down-down to Drift Creek, through a lovely 125-year-old forest of Douglas-fir with some hemlock and red cedar, the floor of which is liberally covered in places with a carpet of Oregon oxalis. The trilliums were near or just past peak, and were huge; also blooming were the red elders. Two patches of devil’s club were just coming into leaf. As the trail approaches the meadow down by the creek, it passes through a magnificent stand of 500-year-old Douglas-firs that escaped the last forest fire in the mid-nineteenth century. At the bottom, we lunched in and near the meadow, adjacent to the creek, and within view of a crumbling chimney, all that remains of the Harris Ranch. Exploring a little bit upstream, we came across a dead female spring Chinook salon, and then in a nearby pool we found a writhing mass of rough-skinned newts engaged in quite an orgy (shyer members of the group were encouraged to avert their eyes). We proceeded back downstream about a mile, passing several incredible Douglas-fir giants before we arrived at an unfordable ford of Drift Creek. We also passed the rusting hulk of a 1920’s Studebaker truck that had been (I found out later) Waldport’s first fire engine before it was bought and later used as a fire-truck during some logging near the Harris Ranch! About two o’clock, we headed back up the trail, enjoying a slightly different view of the same forest through which we’d descended earlier in the day. Back at the trailhead, two cars of hikers decided to go back via Mo’s in Florence, and the third opted for clam-strips and fries at a Yachats restaurant. Those enjoying a mild day in the pristine Coast Range rainforest and a well-made and maintained trail were: Mari Baldwin, Peter Boag, Barb Elsen, Bob Foster, Lee Hatch, Anne Montgomery, Sharon Ritchie, Carol Stern, Suzanne Steussy and Dennis Lueck (leader).

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