Walk Your World: Take the beach to a new level

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate August 19, 2013 03:53 pm

The Ossagon Rocks look like sea stacks from a distance, but turn out to be landlocked on a sandy terrace one level above the coastline.
The Ossagon Rocks look like sea stacks from a distance, but turn out to be landlocked on a sandy terrace one level above the coastline. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
Often, the region we live in makes the extraordinary ordinary. We can hike nearby, world-class redwood trails and often encounter absolutely no one. The same goes for descents to beautiful beaches remote enough to offer solitude amid the splendor.

Laura and I keep finding new examples of the latter. We were still Del Norte newcomers when we did Enderts Beach, which was named one of the world’s top 10 remote beaches by a travel website even though it’s actually one of this region’s more populated stretches of isolated coastline.

We’ve invested sweat equity to reach Hidden Beach and we’ve scrambled over driftwood to the sandy expanse at the end of Damnation Creek Trail. More recently we discovered Southern Oregon’s China Beach beneath a spruce wonderland.

It took us 5½ years to get to Carruthers Cove, about 30 miles south of Crescent City at the north end of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but it was worth the wait.

Its “remote” credentials were established at the trailhead, where a sign warned of recent mountain lion activity and offered all the usual tips to avoid becoming cougar prey.

We put the advice about making noise to the most use, first shouting “Hello, hello, hello” before every bend, then for some reason transitioning into the “Na naa naaa” portion of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” Just because this place is pretty doesn’t mean it has to sound nice.

At one point it didn’t smell so good, either. Something big was dead nearby. That and a few sizable piles of scat kept us on our toes as we continued to evoke Paul Simon. 

It was eight-tenths of a mile downhill, transitioning from second-growth redwoods to spruces to leafy thickets near the bottom. Parts of the trail were single-track, but the middle portion was a bit wider, the remnants of a logging road. We saw no trace of a reputed side path to the right leading to the former summer home of Eureka newspaper publisher J.H. Crothers, for whom the trail is misspelled.

Pelicans atop sea stacks.
Pelicans atop sea stacks. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
A decent half-hour descent, but the beach it opened out to was the star of the show. We turned south beneath a bluff sporting a massive rock face. Off-shore, pelicans topped a cluster of rocks like candles on a cake.

This is another majestic and deserted coastline designed for low-tide passage, although the tracks of a long-gone vehicle stretched out before us. We shared the experience with only birds, walking nearly a mile before weaving our way past what were mislabeled the “Ossagon Rocks” on our park map.

The real deal jutted skyward almost another mile south, beckoning. From a distance they looked like sea stacks, but when we climbed a few feet onto a sandy terrace, we beheld their landlocked beauty.

The Ossagon Rocks are on a different level. Of the sea but above it. Planted on a sandy floor firmed up with green, purple and yellow ground cover. To the Yuroks, a sacred place.

It rose like the Emerald City of Oz beyond a sea of poppies.

Snow-white egrets graced the lower rocks, but the most prominent feature was a stone tower that seemed to point still higher, to where no rock could reach.

Forget any top 10 list of remote beaches. The Ossagon Rocks were proclaiming this place No. 1.

Ensconced driftwood, with the big rock in distance.
Ensconced driftwood, with the big rock in distance. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
By now we were close to the Ossagon Trail access, but that would have taken us up far south of where our car was parked. Instead, we had the privilege of retracing our steps across the magical terrace, down to the actual beach and back to Carruthers Cove.

The return climb was steep, but our spirits were soaring.

TRAIL NOTES

The hike: A descent of just under a mile on the Carruthers Cove Trail, followed by nearly a two-mile walk south on the beach. Basically a six-mile round-trip.

Highlights: The scenic journey pales in comparison to the destination, the awe-inspiring Ossagon Rocks on a sandy terrace at the turn-around point.

Sweat level: On the uphill return, you’d swear that eight-tenths of a mile was more like two. Frequent water breaks recommended, and if you want a less strenuous route to the rocks, consult a map and use the Ossagon Trail instead.

Getting there: Take the northern entrance to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, go about a mile and then turn right on Coastal Drive for another mile to the trailhead.