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Coe Creek "shortcut" to Elk Cove

Posted: November 23rd, 2019, 8:14 pm
by Chip Down
The last time I was in Elk Cove, it was getting late, and I didn't have time to explore and dawdle as much as I wanted. Today, with nothing better to do, I decided a follow-up trip would be good. But I remembered at least one section where the trail lost elevation. Such inefficiency! Surely if I followed Coe Creek up from Lawrance Lake, it would be uphill all the way, and thus a smarter use of my effort.

The drive up Lawrance Lake Road was nice, all sparkly, as if a glitter truck had preceded me with an untarped load. I was a little worried though. Ascending a creek can be a PITA if it's icy. NOAA said it would be warmer. Can't say I was shocked though; it was chilly when I left Portland. I stepped out of my car to discover it wasn't savagely cold. I bundled up, but knew I'd be shedding soon. The forest was pretty clear right from the start, easy to walk through. I figured that wouldn't last, but it actually did for a considerable distance. I was surprised at how wide Coe Creek was. It's a bigger drainage than the neighboring Eliot, which is a hop-across at this elevation. But as I started up, I soon crossed several small tributaries, and I liked knowing that Coe was slightly smaller every time I passed one. There were few challenges, and I was having fun, until I reached...

aka CCCCC, or 5C. Above the confluence, on the west side of Coe, I got pinched up onto a steep slope. Looking at the map now, I think I should have persisted. But I bailed, crossed Coe, over to the inter-creek zone. I knew it would be tough travel, but at least it was fairly flat. I was in the burn zone now, in terrain that was probably rugged before the fire, so now I had downed trees, brush, gullies, general misery. Very slow going. I finally ran into a small dry creekbed and followed it up, making good time again.

At 4200' the canyon narrowed, and I was brush free. But now I was forced to travel the rocky canyon bottom, which was tricky due to frost. I started singing the holiday classic "Frosty the boulder, was a rock coated in ice". You know the rest. I spotted falls to my right/west, spilling down the cliffy canyon. Ahead I saw a streak of white, possibly Coe Falls. I wasn't sure. It looked like the creek might bend left as I ascended, but no, as I drew closer I realized what I had been monitoring definitely had to be Coe Falls. The last 100-200 yards to Coe Falls was tricky: the creek was right up against a cliff, and it was damn near impossible to get across, due to ice. The cliff had great handholds though, so I managed to get past the pinch point with dry boots. And of course as I entered the spray zone, everything was iced over. It was worth the effort though.

I started down Coe Creek, looking for a way to climb out of the canyon, to the west. This descent didn't compromise the purity of my Elk Cove shortcut, as the visit to Coe Falls could be considered an optional side trip. Climbing out of the canyon was pretty easy. Took 30 mins. I was in the sun, and working hard. It was the only time all day that I wished I wasn't wearing black fleece pants. When I reached the lip, I was pleased to find myself on a ridge parallel to Coe. I followed it up without too much trouble. Nice views. I hit snow, which concerned me a bit. I was hoping it wouldn't be too deep on Timberline/PCT. I was starting to worry a little about time, as I had used up half of my allotted daylight. But before I had time to worry about it too much, I stumbled into the trail, much sooner/lower than expected. There was a big flat rock in the sun, with a view into Coe, so I sat and soaked it in before setting off towards Elk Cove in squeeky crunchy virgin snow.