Day 8 (April 8, 2021 – Eugene, Oregon): “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”
It was 6:25am when I awoke as I slept past the alarm. I guess part of me wanted to recuperate by getting a proper night’s sleep, especially given how nice of a place our accommodation was as I could see the beach from my sprawled position in bed.
Aside from the residual instability of the weather, it did look like it would be improving on this day.
Anyways, not long thereafter, I got up to have a kefir breakfast while helping Julie to heat up the leftovers from last night.
Eventually, after the usual routine of getting packed and ready to go, we were finally heading out at 8:20am, which was a bit later than my plan of leaving by 7am, but I think we just wanted to savor the views as much as possible so we weren’t in as much of a hurry.
Of course, the price to pay for this was that we’d be checking into Eugene later in the day as we were starting the long drive south on this day.
The drive south along the US101 along the Oregon Coast was scenic as usual, but it was also a bit long as we passed through Tillamook and ultimately reaching the community of Beaver by the Nestucca River.
It was then that we left the US101 and headed east on Blaine Rd. It was a good thing that we saw a sign for the Niagara Falls Trail, which gave me the confidence that the GPS didn’t take us on a joyride.
However, the fallen trees just off to the side of the road did give me cause for concern about whether any more of them might drop onto the road after we’d pass through, do the Niagara Falls hike, and then come back to strand us here.
Nonetheless, even though there were all these fallen trees flanking the road, it did seem to get some maintenance as most of them seemed to be positioned with enough clearance to get by such obstacles.
Plus, the Niagara Falls Trail continued to be signed at each turn, so that was also reassuring that wherever we were going was going to be some sanctioned spot and not an out-of-the-way attraction that wasn’t worth the trouble.
Given how remote thsi spot was, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that we were the only people here.
Anyways, it was quite cold in the morning despite the sun’s rays coming through, so I geared up and kept my jacket on for this hike.
However, Julie and Tahia opted to stay asleep in the car so I was going to do this hike solo.
The sign indicated that the falls was a mile away, and seeing how muddy it already was on the trail, I needed to wear hiking boots to maintain traction and protection from the sloshy conditions.
With that, I proceeded to do the mostly downhill trail as I passed through an attractive and moist forest full of ferns and moss-covered trees, which was the norm in the rain-rich Pacific Northwest.
The silence of the forest was invigorating, and so I made pretty good progress at a relatively fast pace given the downhill momentum as well as hiking solo.
Thus, by about 10:50am, I finally started to see the Pheasant Creek Falls in the distance (I originally thought it was the Niagara Falls) as I was making the final descent.
And I saw that it was an attractive plunge waterfall every bit worthy of the detour to get here.
I didn’t think this waterfall was in our Greg Plumb book (actually it was upon looking it up again; wow, what a thorough book!), but I think I came across it on the Siuslaw National Forest site to confirm that this place was legit after it popped up on Google Maps.
Anyways, just as I was rounding the corner during this final descent, then I saw that there was also another tall waterfall that I thought must be the Pheasant Creek Falls (actually, this was the Niagara Falls), which tumbled towards a footbridge.
It was too bad that the two waterfalls were too far apart to photograph together in a single shot, but have this pairing of falls (each must be over 100ft tall or so) definitely made this hike worthwhile.
Over by Pheasant Creek Falls, there was a picnic table as well as a couple of use-trails where one went down to Pheasant Creek while the other went to a bump beyond the picnic table for a more elevated but unobstructed look at the waterfall’s entire plunge.
As much as I wanted to linger and really document the experience, I also knew that we had a long drive plus another waterfall hike on the way ahead of us, so I didn’t bother unslinging the pack to take out the tripod and set it up.
Thus, the videos I took trying to convey the presence of two waterfalls across the head of this canyon or gorge was of the usual shaky variety.
Regardless, when I was done documenting this experience, I then started to head back on the now mostly uphill hike up to the trailhead. Indeed, all that downhill was now a bit of a warmer hike back up in an upside down profile.
And thus, I started to get a bit hot and sweaty towards the end of the hike even though the weather momentarily started to change and apparently I was starting to get caught in a little bit of a squally rain.
My expensive Arc’teryx Gamma LT hiking pants and my trusty waterproof jacket were quite up to the task in repelling the water, but my hat and camera weren’t so I had to try to limit the weather-exposure on at least the camera during the return hike.
And so we spent the next phase of the drive uneventfully continuing down the US101 (now with a lot more vehicles on the road) before heading east on the OR-18 somewhere north of Lincoln City.
Then, we turned right as instructed onto Bear Creek Road, where there was signage for the Drift Creek Covered Bridge (though curiously not for the waterfall), and then we found ourselves on another rural road.
This time, we had to go about 4 miles to the Drift Creek Falls Trailhead, but there was one stretch of unpaved gravel road before the road went paved again, but then it was a bit narrower 1.5-lane road.
I was pretty used to driving these kinds of roads, especially since this was actually two-way traffic throughfare in Norway, but quite a few cars going in the other direction seemed to hog the middle of the road so I had to slow down and try to give cars going the other way room to pass.
Given the number of vehicles I saw heading back while we were heading in, I suspected that this place was going to be considerably busier than the Niagara Falls Trail, and this was despite the fact that access from the US101 was closed due to a fallen tree or two blocking the road.
Nevertheless, by about 1:05pm, we finally made it to the well-signed Drift Creek Falls Trailhead, where there were maybe a couple of parking spots left in the surprisingly very busy parking lot.
Surprisingly, a fair bit of people weren’t wearing masks on this trail, which was kind of a surprise considering how it seemed like the state of Oregon (at least around Portland and Cannon Beach) seemed to be taking COVID-19 pretty seriously.
We weren’t sure if most of the unmasked people were Oregonians that probably leaned politically more to the right or if they were out-of-towners from places that didn’t care (much like how it was when we were in Idaho).
Anyways, by the time we got to a trail junction, I knew to keep right and not go for the upper loop, but just as we were doing so, there was a couple coming down from that loop trying to tell us that we were going the wrong way.
Regardless, that didn’t sit too well with me, but I had a feeling Julie’s Anti-Asian anxiety on this trip was probably coming back with this incident.
Anyways, we continued with the downhill hike as it ultimately reached another trail junction (likely the other branching off point for the North Loop), and then we took the final spur down to the Drift Creek Falls as we passed over a muddy bridge.
Eventually, at around 1:55pm, we made it to the swinging bridge where there was one couple waiting in front of the bridge while there were quite a few people on the narrow and bouncy suspension bridge taking pictures.
When we got towards the latter two-thirds of the long suspension bridge, there was one pair of African American ladies taking pictures of themselves seemingly oblivious to the traffic jam they were causing on the bridge.
It was a scene that kind of reminded me of the experience at Stuibenfall in Austria, but that one had a lot more steps and swinging bridges across an even deeper gorge than this one.
When I looked up towards the swinging bridge, I saw Julie and Tahia walking across and waving at me, and when they made their way across the bridge, I then resumed my documenting of this experience.
There was one couple that managed to scramble up to some rocks fronting the falls, and after having my fill of this spot, I then started to head back up just as there was a trio of people showing up while I saw a larger group of people going across the bridge.
Indeed, this was quite the popular spot, but now that the last waterfall of the day was over, it was time to go back to the trailhead.
Given how late it was getting in the afternoon (it was 2:30pm), I couldn’t believe that I had entertained trying to squeeze in Silver Falls State Park on this day, but now it was quite apparent that that wouldn’t happen on this trip.
Anyways, after going back across the suspension bridge and squeezing by more mostly unmasked people taking pictures and/or slowly making their way across (and one even bringing a dog), I then made it back to the signed junction.
This time, I saw how the signs actually seemed to suggest going right onto the North Loop to return to the trailhead, which I thought was kind of odd.
Regardless, just to complete the experience, I went ahead and too the North Loop just to see what it was like, and I suspected that I wouldn’t need to breathe through my mask for most of this stretch as I’d likely be the only person on it (or so I thought).
And so this stretch of the hike probably added another half-mile or more to the overall hike, and it was a little more up and down so it definitely caused a bit more effort.
Also the scenery wasn’t a whole lot different from the direct trail through there were stretches of a slightly less dense forest as the trail followed narrower ledges and slopes before descending back down to the main trail.
By about 3:25pm, I made it back to the trailhead where apparently Julie and Tahia moved the car from our previous parking spot (maybe to stay out of the sun?).
It was certainly a bit warmer now than it was earlier this morning, but now I could finally take off the hiking boots and get back into the more comfortable Chacos for the remainder of the long drive towards Eugene via Salem.
As I was doing this and making one last toilet run, I overheard one woman complaining that she needed water because she had caught a bug.
She was coughing from the lungs and she was unmasked, which was quite concerning, and it seemed like she was oblivious to the fact that she was now a spreader of whatever bug she had caught (coronavirus or not).
That made me a little more vigilant about staying away from her and keeping my mask on, and hopefully her germs wouldn’t spread to me as I took the adjacent bathroom that she had occupied (trying to touch as little as possible when opening the doors).
And with that, at 3:30pm, we finally left.
And so that slowed us down, and also on the I-5 going south towards Eugene, there was quite a bit more traffic though it was at least a bit faster moving, but there were more drivers clogging the passing lane (a foreshadowing of what’s to come when we return to California tomorrow?).
As we were returning to the freeway, we passed underneath a bridge and saw a huge tent city in an apparent city park, and perhaps that was an indicator of how even the city of Eugene was falling on pandemic-related hard times.
Actually, this tent city looked quite a bit bigger than anything we had seen in downtown Portland, and that further made us think about the impact COVID-19 was having on the state of Oregon.
Indeed, there was this strange irony where Idaho proceeded as if there was no coronavirus (public safety notwithstanding) and they seemed to weather the economic depression so far, but Oregon actually took things seriously and now we can see how their cities are looking more like Skid Row.
Now we started to wonder if we were going to experience this in Sacramento, where we’re going tomorrow.
And so after having this ugly side of Oregon, we finally got back in the room at 7:30pm, where we had our meal (though apparently the $2.50 avocado wasn’t in Tahia’s bowl so we got ripped off I guess).
But in the grand scheme of things, putting things in perspective, that $2.50 was nothing compared to the seemingly bigger economic disaster that had we had witnessed on this trip…