Drift Creek Wilderness

July 30, 1989

We left the sunny Willamette Valley behind, and penetrated the cloud-covered Coast Range just west of Alpine, meeting Route 34 at Alsea. After a heavy rain shower, we reached the Harris Ranch Trailhead into Drift Creek Wilderness. Unlike most Obsidian hikes, this one starts atop a ridge and descends to the valley bottom. The lovely, post-fire, 130-year-old forest was fragrant and fresh as we began our descent to the creek. Trailside brush (which can close in over the trail here in a matter of months!) had just been removed, and the tread was in excellent condition. Hearing the valley bottom, one passes a number of enormous 300-year-old Douglas firs which survived the 1850 fire. The little Harris Ranch was abandoned in the late 1940’s, but the cabin’s fireplace remains (nearly overtaken by alders) as do remnants of the cookstove and a 1920’s Studebaker truck! And the old pasture is now a favorite spot for wapiti (elk) to graze and browse. We lunched along the south bank of Drift Creek, then proceeded across the low-water ford (careful not to be nipped or nibbled by the many crayfish) which leads to the Horse Creek Trail farther upstream. The sun had come out brilliantly, and the many hues of green in that lush, pristine forest along the creek were exquisite. Some bigleaf maple limbs were draped with moss that hung down more than a meter. This area is the quintessential temperate rainforest! On the hike back out, the forest had a very different flavor, as the mist and fog had disappeared, and shafts of sunlight pierced the forest canopy to the delight of us hikers on the forest floor. We left the trailhead late afternoon, and returned via the sunny coast, where we stopped briefly at Stonefield Beach Wayside (near Tenmile Creek) to see and sniff the sand verbene which was in full bloom. After a light supper at Mo’s in Florence, we drove back through the Coast Range, and were delighted to find a herd of more than forty wapiti grazing and gamboling in the broad grassy valley west of Veneta. The herd included four stags and about a dozen calves. Hikers who completed this Coast Range Circuit were Glenn Aplin, Terry Caron, Barb Elsen, John Gorman, Carolyn Kompanik, Robin Prentice, Barbara Schulz, Carolyn Villa-Lobos, Angela Wilkes, and leader Dennis (Whitey) Lueck.

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