Washburne & China Creek Loops

June 14, 2006

The rain gods showered upon us on our drive to the coast and then paused long enough for us to get in our entire hike in dry comfort. Wet sand and fresh ocean air made the stroll along the beach an envigorating joy and a minus tide revealed previously unseen tidepools for our exploration. Determined to find the less traveled route up the Hobbit Trail (missed on two previous hikes), I ventured past a discouraging barrier of branches and led my game companions up a short, but challenging, overgrown path (consider adding a machete to the 10 essentials). Although a new sign at the top points to the beach trail, there is nothing to indicate any reason not to take the alternate route.

Across the highway, the Valley Trail welcomes hikers into a forest environment and invites quiet reflection (and snack time) at wildlife ponds. Not only did we not see any major wildlife, but much of the pond vegetation, usually verdant and tall, had turned brown and crumpled, revealing new sprouts planning their comeback. This was just the first time on this hike we could have used a naturalist to explain what was happening. At China Creek Meadow where we stopped for lunch — a site which last year was equally divided between purple foxglove and a hillside of bright yellow daisy-like flowers — we found that tall grasses (native? invasive?) had crowded out almost all the foxglove. The yellow flowers on the hillside, subdued under an overcast sky, awoke when the sun broke through and literally brightened and glowed before our eyes.

China Creek Loop (seldom included on hikes that include the light house option) climbs through beautiful forest terrain before returning to the Valley Trail, which continues above the gurgling creek through an amazing weather twisted rhododendron jungle to the campground. Instead of returning to our cars at this point, everyone agreed to continue the hike through the campground, down the beach trail and back along the surf to our starting point (anything short of this does not add up to the advertised five miles).

Although Sherwood Jefferies, Margaret Prentice and I had done this hike before, it was a first for Zella Andreski and Christine Knudsen. Zella and her camera also got their first looks at the huge leaves of skunk cabbage and, on the way home, the Darlingtonia cobra lilies. From start to finish, our surf and turf experience was a total pleasure.

Members: Zella Andreski, Sherwood Jefferies, Marshall Kandell (leader), Christine Knudsen and Margaret Prentice.


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