Saturday, June 20, 2015

Coleman Creek, Cape Meares, and Bayocean

Coleman Creek water diversion system and pipes no longer used
Another link between Cape Meares and Bayocean is Coleman Creek. At different times it fed water to both communities - but no longer. The chapter "Water For A Waterless Town" covers the subject in Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the SeaThose who had used water from the tar-covered, six-to-eight inch diameter wooden pipes that C.E. Lockwood ran five miles to their homes, from high up on Cape Meares, told the Webbers it worked fine. That was not the case for C.J.Hicks, who dug his own well. Cape Meares residents still stumble upon pieces of the old wooden water pipe hiking the area. The problem they had getting water from Coleman Creek was caused by landslides, a problem recorded back to 1899 (see Cape Meares Landslides), but that likely goes back millennia. The Cape Meares Community Association now has a contract with Oceanside to provide water.

I recently took a hike with my bushwhacking friend Eleanor to see Coleman Creek and the rest of the landslide area for myself, top to bottom. If you decide to follow this route, please consult guidebooks and online services for details: the numbers I give are just approximates and come from my own guidebooks rather than personal measurements. The total distance is about 4 miles and 250' elevation gain. I can attest to the wonderful scenery.

Tidal pool near north face of Cape Meares
At relatively low tide, walk south on the beach from the parking  area at the end of Bayocean Road (at high tide, do this loop in reverse). If you can force your eyes to leave the ocean to look uphill once in a while, you will see obvious evidence of landsliding between the outlets of two creeks 1/2 to 3/4 mile from the start. You'll then come to the bottom of the north face of Cape Meares. Look west and you'll see an unmarked trail with a rope lying on the ground. Its there to assist your start the one mile switchback trail up to a parking lot, where the road from the lighthouse joins the Cape Meares Loop Road, leading to Oceanside. Not long after leaving the beach, there is a marked trail leading north. This will take you to the lower end of the landslide at which point the trail is closed. Eleanor and I didn't hike it, but locals said that you have to wear high rubber boots because it's boggy. 

View of Cape Meares and Bayocean from trail
on north face of Cape Meares 
At one point you'll be have a great view north. You'll be hiking the whole way through old growth forest, with fallen trees much larger than the Oregon's largest spruce, on the display at the top. When I later called my friend Jack Ramsey, who was the first Oregon State Trails Coordinator, and author of The Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn, he said that Oregon State Parks did not build this trail; they just maintained it. So, I'm guessing this trail was first built by Tillamooks in order to hold ceremonies at the Octopus Tree.

From the parking lot, hike one mile north along the closed section of the Cape Meares Loop Road. You'll notice pipes on the uphill side of the road that divert water from creeks during strong runoff. When you get to the active landslide area you'll see an older side road on the downhill side. This road was abandoned due to earlier slides. It leads to the view of Bayocean and Cape Meares that I currently use for my cover photo. The layered chunks of earth you can see there tell the tale of the landslides without a thousand words. When you see a little fence on the uphill side of the road, take the trail through an open gate just a short way to see the abandoned water diversion system pictured in the first photo above.

Along the way you will have also seen metal caps to the underground water pipes running under the pavement to the Cape Meares water storage tank. It's been moved out along the road downhill from the closure. You can see it by driving up from Pitcher Point anytime. So, just after the road closure take a two track leading downhill. After one mile this ends at 5th Street in Cape Meares. 

As you hike down the two track you'll come upon a circular cement pad where the Cape Meares water tank used to sit. Then you'll see why it was moved: cracks all over the ground; some quite large. Just next to it there's a 10' drop cliff where the road breaks. You'll eventually see where the trail mentioned earlier that's closed due to landslides. On 5th, take the first left onto Pacific, then south on 4th. Left at Bayocean Rd. and you're back at your car. This last section in Cape Meares is about 1/4 mile. 

For details on this slide and efforts to gain funding to repair the loop road see pages 10 to 33 of a recent letter to Senator Ron Wyden from a number of Tillamook County Board of County Commissioners and other local government entities