Central Coast Range 06-15-21 and 06-16-21

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Central Coast Range 06-15-21 and 06-16-21

Post by bobcat » June 19th, 2021, 3:31 pm

On a brief excursion to the area, I did these three hikes, two of them very short, in the central part of Oregon’s Coast Range.

1. Cummins Ridge Trail (Cummins Creek Wilderness)

This six-mile trail bisects the Cummins Creek Wilderness from west to east, and it’s an easy lope on a gentle rolling ridge. The first half of the route is along an overgrown forest road, while the upper half follows a trail that ends at a trailhead at 2,175 feet above sea level. The ridge forest here was probably more diverse before Euro-American settlers arrived, but is now almost all Douglas-fir up to 150 years in age. Much larger rotting snags in the forest attest to the results of the devastating Great Yaquina Fire of 1849, one of a series of settler-caused fires fanned by September east winds that absolutely incinerated most coastal forest from Tillamook Bay to the Siuslaw River between 1845 and 1853. It is instructive to ponder the effects of such conflagrations as you hike along the ridge. Now that it’s protected, in another 100 years or so, it will be real old growth.

Wilderness sign, Lower trailhead, Cummins Ridge.jpg
Douglas-fir forest, Cummins Ridge.jpg
Common monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus), Cummins Ridge.jpg
Descending the road section, Cummins Ridge.jpg
False lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum), Cummins Ridge.jpg
Fire snag, Cummins Ridge.jpg
Douglas-fir slope, Cummins Ridge.jpg
Oregon flag (Iris tenax), Cummins Ridge.jpg
View north, Cummins Ridge.jpg

By the way, many online references to this trail talk about “towering Sitka spruce” on the trail. There are few spruce, all close to the lower trailhead. If you want to see old growth Sitka Spruce, they’re down by Cummins Creek. There’s a user path that splits off the Cummins Creek Trail (not in the wilderness); it enters the wilderness and heads to the creek, where you’ll find a number of huge spruce trees.

Sitka spruce, Cummins Creek Wilderness.jpg

2. Wasson Lake (Devils Staircase Wilderness)

The Devils Staircase Wilderness, created in 2019, is our most recent wilderness. I had intended to do the semi-bushwhack down to the famed Devils Staircase, but the Wasson Ridge Road which carries you the final five or six miles to the trailhead was a clutter of salmonberry. Bulldozing my 2019 Subaru through that was, I knew, a divorceable offense, so I sought out little Wasson Lake, also in the wilderness. I found a pullout and began flailing around under big trees in a dense understory until I spotted the lake, soon after which I came across a bona fide trail that led to a campsite right on the lake, which is within the wilderness. It’s a still, dark, quiet body of water near the headwaters of Wasson Creek, which a few miles downstream splashes over the Devils Staircase. Like most Coast Range lakes, it was formed either by a slide or a beaver dam, and probably within the last 200 years given the dead snags jutting eerily from its waters. The short trail led back out only 0.2 miles to Wasson Lake Road and a second pullout only 150 yards from the one I chose to bushwhack from.

Thick forest, Wasson Lake, Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg
Salmonberry, Wasson Lake, Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg
Reflections and snags in Wasson Lake, Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg
Leaning alders, Wasson Lake, Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg
Campsite, Wasson Lake, Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg

A couple of new signs in the area announce the new wilderness although they’re both a little distance from the actual boundary. One is at Hell Pond, just off Wasson Lake Road, and the other was at the junction of Ferntop and Wells Creek Roads.

Wilderness welcome at Hell Pond, near Devils Staircase Wilderness.jpg

3. Clay Creek Loop (BLM)

The BLM prides itself on a couple of small stands of old-growth Douglas-fir that it has preserved among its extensive holdings in the central Coast Range. This short loop trail was refurbished in the last few years and takes you 500 feet up a ridge above the Siuslaw River. It’s a rather out of the way destination, part of the Clay Creek Recreation Site, but worthy of a visit if you happen to be in the area.

Map and footbridge, Clay Creek Loop.jpg
Big cut, Clay Creek Loop.jpg
Western yellow wood-sorrel (Oxalis suksdorfii), Clay Creek Loop.jpg
Bee on Indian thistle, Clay Creek.jpg
Bench at summit, Clay Creek.jpg
Big Douglas-fir at summit, Clay Creek.jpg

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