It happened again. After five-plus years in Del Norte, Laura and I discovered another great hike practically in Crescent City’s backyard.
Driftwood is strewn across the sand at the mouth of Sweetwater Creek at the south end of the beach portion of the hike. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
None of the paths through Tolowa Dunes State Park have disappointed. Once you get over the fact there are no old-growth redwoods to be seen — except the occasional ancient stump in the sand — a whole different world unfolds with myriad attractions: Meadows, forests, lakes, beaches and, of course, the dunes.
The 4-mile Long Trail Loop delivers all of those except for a lake, but it makes up for that by touching up against Sweetwater Creek as it meanders to the sea from its birthplace at Dead Lake.
After parking at the end of Sand Hill Road (refer to the map at www.tolowacoasttrails.org), we walked through the gate, hung a right, and found ourselves in a wind-swept meadow that had us immediately wishing we’d brought one more layer of clothing.
Fortunately, it was only six minutes to the shelter of the woods full of pines, firs and spruces, as well as an abundance of huckleberry bushes sporting their new red leaves (too soon for the berries).
Another 13 minutes and we arrived at a junction offering a right turn to the east, but we stayed straight and in eight more minutes came to a giant spruce on our right. Upon closer inspection, we discovered unmapped wetlands behind it, along with the requisite bugs of spring.
A sandy pinnacle heralds the trail’s arrival at the ocean’s edge. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
Soon the trail began opening up again, eventually turning sandy as the trees gave way. About 10 more minutes and we beheld a dune panorama. In the distance we noted a sandy pinnacle. Its attraction convinced us to trek all the way to the beach rather than turn left (south) along the foredunes. Both choices appear on the map.