By Morris Russell Pike
“Drift Creek, ever been there?” my friend asked. “No,” I said, game for doing something new and being with friends.
Lounging with them on the deck overlooking the ocean is a pleasant thing . . . Plunging our car into the wild, dense forests of Oregon’s coastal mountain range on tentative roads is another. Didn’t know what to expect.
Out of Lincoln City east on Highway 18, a right onto NFD 18 and heading south… on the narrow windy, sometimes gravel road . . . not much traffic . . . can see why . . . rocks pelting the car’s underbelly, and hairpin curves. Immediately to the right of the passenger’s side . . . sheer drop-off . . . seemed like hundreds of feet . . . too far or too many trees, too dense to see the landing spot . . . below.
Comforting to know that Dave’s a good driver. . . I calmly enjoyed the majesty of the forest cathedral-like canopy: alder, fir, vine-maple, cedar. . . maybe hemlock. Shafts of sunlight laced the understory . . . magnificent. Salmon berries, huckleberries and other bushes growing on the forest floor fought for a share of sun’s life-giving rays.
The 10 miles getting there on that narrow road seemed like a long way.
“What’s all the fuss?” I thought to myself. My friend’s generosity kept me from saying it out loud.
I was surprised that the shady parking area at the trailhead was filled with cars
Dusty vehicles also lined the lonely road.
“Must be another way,” I thought. “We didn’t see that many cars.”
Yes, there’s a fee . . . to be stuffed into a slot in a green steel post.
“No need for a jacket,” Darlene said, peeling hers off and placing it in the trunk.
We enter the first leg of the 1.3-mile trail down to the creek, not knowing what to expect. The shady, gentle slope suggested that our hike would be easy. Years of matted leaves falling on the path made it smooth and easy on the feet . . . like nature padded it on purpose.
Almost immediately we met a youthful jogger bouncing past us up the trail toward the cars. Her generous smile told us we were in for an inviting treat. Moments later the same sassy trail trotter bounded passed us headed back down the 390-foot drop to the suspension bridge, Drift Creek, and the valley floor.
“That lass is in a different league,” I said shifting my heavy camera to give one shoulder a rest.
We met more hikers returning to the parking lot . . . persons of all ages. Those our age weren’t so frisky as the sassy gal or the second runner who scooted past us on his fitness building round trip. Before we reached the bottom those two health nuts and more had lapped us several times.
The suspension bridge came into view. It was more than one would expect in that remote canyon miles from nowhere . . . 250 feet long, it’ll sway slightly as you walk across . . . but it’s not scary . . . The size of the bridge anchors and super structure tell us that there is no danger of it letting go and spilling us onto the boulders in the creek bed 100 feet below. We learn from the sign that they used helicopters to lift the materials for the bridge to the staging area.
Drift Creek Falls? “What’s all the fuss?” I asked again. A nice gush of water falling 75 feet is a bit trite as waterfalls go. “What’s all the fuss?”
A delightful fuss for the dozens who had hiked to the bridge and then made the descent to the creek at the foot of the falls and found places in the comfortable sun near the water to lounge . . . Yes the fuss was people enjoying life.
And the sound of the waterfall and the creek were worth fussing about, and the remote setting . . . the climb back to the trail head . . . the dark woods speckled with patches of sunlight . . . the swags of moss hanging from tree branches highlighted by bright sunlight . . . the hardy and delicate ferns gracing moss covered banks . . . and other delicate, lacy green vines carpeting the forest floor . . . all suitable for pressing the shutter on my digital camera.
That . . . and the cool oxygen filled air. That’s what all the fuss is about.
Go ahead . . . go there.
More about Drift Creek Falls – http://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Drift_Creek_Falls_Hike
Photos by Morris R. Pike