Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/22/16

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Sean Thomas
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Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/22/16

Post by Sean Thomas » January 24th, 2016, 10:26 pm

I had another wild adventure in the woods going about 40 miles from Cochran to Nehalem along the old Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad on Friday. This is an adventure I've wanted to do for a long time and I'm so happy I was able to get to do it in the middle of winter :)


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This shortline RR now owned by the Port of Tillamook Bay was completed over a hundred years ago by the PR&N(Pacific Railway and Navigation Company) to link Tillamook with the valley but has been abandoned for lengthy stretches due to major storm damage in the last few decades, mainly in 1996 and 2007. The worst damage was sustained in the heart of the Salmonberry River Canyon, where a 4-5 mile stretch of the track is almost completely torn apart. Nowadays, portions of the line offer interested hikers a most unique and scenic destination in the northern coastal range. To start my trip through the range Joie dropped me off at a pullout a mile or two before the Cochran TH so I could warm up along the road and let the woods brighten up a bit:


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I arrived at the "TH" at Cochran around 7:30 a.m. and shuffled past the pond to Tunnel 26 in about 2 miles, where there were warnings of the dangers ahead :o


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A little less than a mile later and I was standing on one of the big highlights of the entire line, the 150ft+ high Big Baldwin Trestle. Big Baldwin is the biggest bridge along the route and makes for a great spot to stop and enjoy some lunch. Looking down is optional :D


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There are various thoughts and messages displayed throughout the line on the different tunnels and bridges etc. I liked this one:


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After about 4 miles under a light rain I came to the Wolf Creek Trestle, one of my favorite spots along the entire line:


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It didn't take long to realize that my feet had little chance of staying dry :lol:


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I was really excited for the long stretch from Wolf Creek to Salmonberry for the rugged, wild nature of it all. Sometimes man made structures like trestle bridges and tunnels seem indestructible when still in working condition due to their sheer size and often impressive appearance. But the Salmonberry River has done a fine job of reminding us all just how vulnerable and impermanent such structures really are when compared to the power of mother nature. Nonetheless, it was sure beautiful to hike along last Friday:


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About 5 and 1/2 miles from Cochran and I came to the old freight container near Tunnel 28 and Kinney Creek:


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Maple leaves underwater:


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Tunnel 28 is starting to collapse through the roof with a good sized pile of debris already deposited in the middle of the tunnel:


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I had never been past the Kinney Creek washout but from what I had heard things were pretty rough from there to Enright. The creeks were also higher than I anticipated, here is where I crossed Kinney Creek:


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Even getting out some of the tunnels was like a creek crossing :o :D


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There was a ladder to aid in climbing in and out of one of the many washouts:


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In a ten mile stretch from just past Kinney Creek to Salmonberry there are nine bridges over the Salmonberry River alone! This is the fourth bridge with tunnel 30 just beyond:


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The going was just getting rougher and rougher as I continued down river until I hit a really nasty(and somewhat recent) landslide that has completely covered the tracks. I basically just had to go through it:


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A beautiful mess:


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The Salmonberry River, with its 42,000 acre watershed offers some of the best winter steelhead runs in Oregon. There are no hatchery fish stocked in the river and with the rail line in disrepair and an absence of roads for long stretches of river(often unheard of in this part of the coast range) it seems some form of long term protection for this area should be of the highest order. It really is a special place:


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Nature is continuing its process of taking back the canyon:


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As beautiful as the stretch from Kinney to Enright was I have to say it was pretty difficult. The brush, creek crossings, slides and washouts made for slow going as I continued west. Belding Creek was the most difficult obstacle of the day with its swift flow and deep water. I actually fell in waist deep(just a few meters up from where it dumped into a raging Salmonberry!) but managed to grab a branch and pull myself out quickly. The blood was sure pumping after that but I kept on and was a very happy camper when I reached Enright :)


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Another fun highlight of the line is the old steam era water tank at Enright:


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The stretch from Enright to Salmonberry was in much better shape but I soon realized that even though the track was clear for the most part it was still awkward walking on the railroad ties(have I complained enough yet ;) One thing I really enjoyed was the time on the various bridges looking down into the water below:


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And more old equipment along the tracks:


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What no ride to Salmonberry?!


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Just as I finally reached Salmonberry about 5 hours after leaving Cochran I stopped to take a look back up the river, what an amazing place!


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I passed by the house that can apparently only be reached by zipline across the river :? and came out to Salmonberry and the Trestle bridge over the Nehalem:


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Looking upriver and the Nehalem was looking fierce:


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Although it was still raining it looked like the clouds might part if I just pushed on a little further down the valley. I attempted trying different stride lengths jogging and running but never felt good with the RR ties underfoot. A little ways past Salmonberry soaking wet and covered in mud the sun popped out from the behind the clouds and shined down upon the murky waters of the Nehalem:


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I took a nice long break with the sun on my face as I ate some cheese and crackers while sitting on the rail:


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It felt so good to just sit back and stare out at the river for a while from the comfort of the tracks. I reluctantly packed up a few things and continued downriver as the afternoon wore on. At this point I had only seen one hiker all day near Salmonberry but I ran into a few more of the non-human variety as I hiked toward Nehalem Falls and the junction with Foss Road:


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Lots of moss and branches down from the recent storms :P


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The last big highlight along the tracks was a bridge that has blocked the release of several hundred(maybe thousands) of logs into the Nehalem. Just twenty feet behind my shoulder is where this stream dumps into the Nehalem River, with the log jam stretching several hundred feet upstream:


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Once I reached the junction with Foss Road I was done with the tracks and just jogged/fastwalked the last 6 miles or so to the junction with Miami Foley and shortly after highway 53. It reminded of the Timber to Tillamook trip, traversing across the range and ending in the river valley as the water meanders through green pastures and farmland. One day I would like to link this trip with the Timber-Tillamook route making for one gigantically stupid coast range mega loop :shock: Back to reality tho :lol: As I continued out I stopped for some water and gels at this massive rock quarry:


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And a few cows at Mohler Milk:


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I hiked along 53 until I reached highway 101 when it finally became too dark to see. It took about ten hours to go from Cochran to 101 where I strapped on a headlamp, called my beloved gf to come rescue me and hiked the last bit up to the town of Nehalem. I stopped in a place called Pizza Garden in Nehalem sporting my usual post hike derp look and muddy legs and asked for a table. The waitress was really nice and let me hang out for an hour or two while I waited for Joie and munched on some fresh pizza. Man it was good :D I read about the Salmonberry and some more history about the rail line they used to call the punk, rotten and nasty while I ate some dinner. Soon after Jojo walked in and gave me a big hug before driving my sorry excuse of a carcass back home after another epic adventure in the range ;) But this report isnt done just quite yet. The next morning we slept in a little bit and chose to head out to the gorge to see the swans at Mirror Lake(below Crown Point) and to take the dogs to Rooster Rock State Park. It is just incredible to watch these birds in flight!


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I didn't notice until I came home and got a closer look at the picture, but a Cattle Egret and Heron were standing side by side amongst a sea of swans, ducks and geese:


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But the swans(which are wintering in the lake right now) were the stars of the show:


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Over at the park the dogs had a ball running around in the grass. We went over to the little off-leash area with the park mostly empty around mid-morning. Bert was more interested in the leftover cheese sticks in my bag than any of that running around stuff though :lol:


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Jack was as usual just waiting for someone to throw the ball:


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We leashed them up after they had a good run and hiked over towards the rock, where a few cormorants were hanging out above the docks:


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The next morning :D we took the pack out again on a trip to the beach. I love climbing and scrambling on the headlands out there by Chapman Point:


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Some Luke Skywalker wannabe was even there attempting to mind-trip the dogs:


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After an hour or two on the beach we took a short hike on one of our favorite stretches of the Oregon Coast Trail to close out another unforgettable weekend in the PNW:


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It's difficult for me to express in words just how much time spent in the outdoors has benefited me as I've grown into an adult. I feel very fortunate to enjoy so much of it and thank all of you for even caring to listen. I think what I like most about this community is that whether one likes to stare out into the sky for hours or hike a lonely trail in the dark, ride a bike, horse or one's own two feet across a mountain range, there is a comradery here that makes one feel welcome. Also I'd like to give a special shoutout to Bobcat and a few others who have put so much into the field guide lately(especially all the history and info on the POTB rail line). It just makes the resource that much more remarkable and I think you should know it doesnt go unnoticed! :) Take care and have a good week ahead everyone.

greenjello85
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by greenjello85 » January 24th, 2016, 11:49 pm

Wow Sean what a killer day hike :) I'm always fascinated by any old structures I find in the woods so this looks right up my alley. That logjam is quite the sight. It would be cool to see it release one day during a flood :shock: Do you actually find new salamanders for every trip or do you just keep posting the same one? ;) Thanks for sharing another incredible coast range trip!

Thanks X2 for the incredible work bobcat has been doing in the field guides. He wrote almost every one that I used last year.
Dan

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VanMarmot
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by VanMarmot » January 25th, 2016, 7:12 am

Looks like a great hike - but a bit of a struggle in places.

I think if your wore that moss "hair piece" around downtown Portland, you'd trigger a whole hipster fashion trend. ;)

Bert may also have been picking up on the lingering scent of the pizza that you didn't share with him...

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Born2BBrad
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by Born2BBrad » January 25th, 2016, 8:36 am

Great recap Sean!

The river and creeks were much higher than when I had the pleasure of doing it with Tom/Roy last March:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] ... 1536728382

It's no surprise why the RR was abandoned with the constant washouts.

Hike on,

Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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bobcat
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by bobcat » January 25th, 2016, 4:46 pm

I was just waiting for a trip report on the railroad this winter - am especially grateful that you are reporting the entire route to Nehalem, ho hum. Did you see any Keep Out signs (posted by the railroad) at the Salmonberry end of the hikable part? I wonder how your legs are feeling after the adjustment to hopping railroad ties for miles and miles and miles . . .

So . . . Cochran to Nehalem to Mirror Lake and on to Crescent Beach: just another ordinary weekend with the Thomas clan.

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artic
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by artic » January 26th, 2016, 1:26 pm

Great trip report.

Glad to see you let your hair grow out :lol:

Wow that was an amazing log jam.

-bruce

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gratefultrails
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by gratefultrails » January 26th, 2016, 3:42 pm

That was real interesting to read! Running on those slanty, banked railroad ties looks hard & did not know the Salmonberry was so wild and nice. Is it hard to stay warm after falling in waist deep? I'm glad those old tracks get to see some humans steaming along rather than the old cumbersomes.

mandrake
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by mandrake » January 26th, 2016, 4:16 pm

Thumbs up -- great pics! The Salmonberry rocks. Apocalypse railroad. :-)

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Sean Thomas
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by Sean Thomas » January 26th, 2016, 7:20 pm

Hey thanks guys. My long hair days are over(it wasn't pretty) but a moss hat could be big here.


I didn't see any keep out signs other than the video surveillance and no trespassing signs that are posted for the properties at Enright. My legs actually felt pretty good immediately afterwards but by the time I got to Nehalem they felt like Jello. Probably from the transition to the pavement from the tracks and odd stride etc.


In terms of getting soaked I didn't get cold until I stopped near Enright after getting through the worst of it so I changed a shirt. I wore the same shorts all day though so I didn't have to wear pants :lol: :roll:

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Paul2
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Re: Punk, Rotten and Nasty-POTB from Cochran to Nehalem: 1/2

Post by Paul2 » January 26th, 2016, 7:51 pm

Awesome trip! I'm definitely going to put that on my list of hikes to check out.
I've been wandering early and late, from New York City to the Golden Gate, and it don't look like I'll ever stop my wandering.
-James Taylor

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