Cummins Creek Trail

Location: Cummins Creek WIlderness; Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, central Oregon Coast
Maps: USGS 1:24K quad: Yachats;  Free Cape Perpetua Trails map at VC is also useful
Access: From Yachats, drive 4 miles south and turn East on FR 1050 for about ¼ mile to dirt parking lot. 
           Road grade is OK for cars. 
Trail: 4.5 miles, or about 8 miles round trip using the Cummins Creek Loop. 
         More info at the Forest Service website.
Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Cummins Creek Wilderness, OregonSeptember, 2002
We drove back down to Newport early after our stay at the Galaxy Motel in Philomath, around 7:30, and the sun was shining brilliantly on the ocean when we arrived. We couldn't wait to get out on the beach. There is an almost frantic urge to get on the sand at first sight of a warm, sunny beach to landlubbers like me. We pulled into a parking area just north of the bay and went down to the beach via an unofficial path that fell steeply down a sandy chute that I doubted we could get back up again. We spent about 3 hours walking in the bone-numbingly cold September surf up to our ankles and through the warm sand and finally along the jetty where millions of aquatic creatures had taken residence in the tide pools. We saw starfish, crabs, little fish and a host of unknown crustaceans attached to rocks.  In the tide zone, we came upon numerous beached jelly fish, looking exactly like globs of jelly. I wondered if they were alive still, but couldnít find anything to use as a tool to push them back into water, although I'm not sure they actually move on their own even in the water. My invertebrate biology is a bit rusty. I had a hard time getting Andra to leave the beach where all she wanted to do was lay down in the sun and nap. We would find the lee side of a particularly large dune where the breeze was muffled and enjoy the sun for short spells, but I was anxious to move on. Can't help it. I've got that 7-minute itch syndrome. 

Cummins Creek Wilderness, OregonWe stopped at Seal Rock Wayside for lunch and were amused by a family that had about 8 kids who all tried their darndest to be little adults. By that I mean they all scolded eachother as if they were parents, and all attempted to be as politically correct as senators. We waited around until everyone had left, then monopolized the lookout platform that stood out towards a giant rock fin running parallel to the shore and bearing the brunt of the white, foaming waves. The sea was much calmer on this day than it had been in April when I had first stood on that lookout platform. The remainder of the day was spent driving slowly south and stopping often, whenver a pullout presented itself. 

This continued until early evening, when we finally donned our packs at the Cummins Creek trailhead near Cape Perpetua. The bright sunlight from the beach faded to a shaded and quiet twilight as we started out up the trail, that was in essence an extension of Forest Road 1050. Enormous trees lined the route, which was steep in places, and contoured around steep washes lined with ferns. In the really thick timber, the forest floor was barren of vegetation, covered by a foot of needles and bark. Areas like these were dark Cummins Creek Wilderness, Oregonand unpleasant, and I was glad when we were past them and once again in the fern-covered areas. After 3 miles, the trail forked away uphill from the old logging road, and we continued on the old logging road for another 1/4 mile. We made camp right in the middle of the logging road, since this was the only place flat enough and relatively free of vegetation. All around was a jungle of swordleaf fern, foxglove, Sitka spruce, red alder and western hemlock. We saw no other hikers on the trail, nor in the area where we pitched the tent. We were completely out of contact with other humans all evening and the silence was truly something to be thankful for. As the sun sunk low, orange light pierced the forest from the west, circumventing the thick canopy and sneaking in sideways. Shafts of blazing light slanted in, illuminating the lichens and mosses covering old logs, and gleaming off the shiny fern leaflets. We took a short walk in the golden light, and we saw a northern spotted owl, the loggerís bane. I collected foxglove seeds to take home and sprout, which grew with a vengeance when planted, much to my amusement. After all the stress of motel-hopping, crowded parking lots, traffic lights, speed zones and so forth, it was incredibly relaxing to duck out of it and retreat into the wilderness where the only sounds were the wind and an occassional bird call. Anyone who denies the value of designated wilderness for any reason need spend only an hour there to change his mind. Senator, did you catch that?

Look at those biceps...
Andra tries to push over a tree..

...but it falls the wrong way

Cummins Creek Wilderness, OregonIn the morning, though there was not a cloud in the sky, the sun did not shed light on our camp until well after 9, owing to the dramatic slopes held in place by the roots of dramatic trees. I took a hike by myself through the woods down the long-abandoned logging road while Andra slept in. I walked about 1/4 mile from camp, then took off uphill away from the road, following a wide moist creekbed that wound sharply up through a twisted maze of giant firs and hemlocks. When I had pulled my way up the hill about 200 yards, I scrambled up the right side of the gulley and bent low to creep back into the dark and thick woods. I finally felt I had gone far enough and sat down in the soft carpet of a hundred years of needles and leaves and rested. Not a speck of sunlight penetreated the canopy to touch me, or fall anywhere near me, for that matter. Deeper woods I have never seen. As my breathing slowed to barely audible, I noticed again how dead calm and quiet it was. The air was thick and still, almost like it was waiting. I enjoyed the feeling of utter isolation, being so far back and out of sight of anyone and anything, hidden in the utter shadow and coolness, peering out as if from a cave into the strip of sunlit forest floor far away. I could barely make out the swath of shorter vegetation that marked Cummins Creek Wilderness, Oregonthe old road I had walked in on far below me. I imagined how easy it would be to hide out in a forest like this...and then pondered the possibility of something else hiding out in a forest like this...isnít this the general area of Bigfoot stories? No, further south. Still...When I returned to camp, Andra was up and we cooked oatmeal. We returned to the trail and continued east, uphill and into the sunlight of a bright late summer day. To return to the car, Instead of retracing our steps from the day before, we took the Cummins Creek loop route that led up a very steep ridge to the north and then rejoined the Cummins Creek trail near the parking lot. This trail boasted the largest trees we had yet seen. We took our time and stopped for long periods in the forest to rest in the dappled sunshine and enjoy the pristine surroundings. Consequently, it was mid afternoon when we emerged from the dark woods and thought about a real lunch to satisfy the hunger in a way granola bars and beef jerky did not. 

Cummins Creek Wilderness, OregonWe drove south along the coast, and soon arrived at Florence. Here we decided to eat at "In and Out Burgers", a tiny shack on the main strip with pretty good, but very greasy, burgers and fries. Greasy food is always welcome after long hikes, for some reason. We also both ordered and put away a wonderful shake. The most entertaining part of this stop were the humerous bumper stickers plastered on the walls and ceiling. It was fun stop. Slightly north of that Andra spotted sand dunes towering behind a supermarket building and we parked in their lot to check things out. Andra would have it no other way. She is a beach fiend, a beachophile, a surfoholic, and I had denied her beach privelages for over 24 hours while we camped so I couldn't argue. The sand had piled into dunes over 50 feet tall, but when we finally managed to get high on top of one, we were disappointed to see that there was no water in sight, only a distant row of wind-battered pines to the west a mile or so, with the ocean presumably beyond that. All in all about as festive as the Sahara. Behind the supermarket was a tall wooden fence, and the sand was piled against it and leaking through cracks. It looked like they were trying to hold back a mountain and I pictured a strong storm burying the store in millions of tons of sand.  Nature smites cooporate America!

Cummins Creek Wilderness, Oregon

Cummins Creek Wilderness, OregonCummins Creek Wilderness, Oregon
Cummins Creek Wilderness, Oregon

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Page created 11-19-02
Updated 1-16-06