Photos courtesy of Luke Daniel Photo
In my previous post, I mentioned the Cape Trail is “popular.” This is just a polite way of saying the trail is really crowded. I realize everyone’s here for the same reason I am, but their presence really detracts from the notion of taking the trail less traveled.
Luke and I decide to return to the Cape trailhead the following day with the intention of getting down to the beach. The park map indicates the unassuming South Trail will get us there. While the description for the Cape Trail is filled with enticingly descriptive language, the South Trail copy is straightforward, literal and kind of boring. Whoever wrote it must be totally unimpressed by this hike. Later on, we will assume this was done for the opposite reason. That some clever park ranger wanted the trail to herself and knew there is no better crowd deterrent than dull description copy.
We arrive at the parking lot early, along with a few other carloads of people. The group, led by an eager blue heeler wearing tiny blue saddle bags, heads right toward the Cape Trail. We veer left and descend into the shady woods of coastal old-growth. It becomes very apparent very quickly this is the trail we’ve been searching for.
The sheer denseness of the foliage around us is astounding. A thick canopy overhead allows only the prettiest dappled light to shine through onto the trail, giving Luke good reason to stop every 50 steps for a photo opp. Fat, dark green ferns cover every available inch of soil and hang in plump clumps from huge branches high above us. If you’ve ever seen Jurassic Park, you get the picture I’m attempting to paint.
We follow a small stream as it trickles down the hillside, under trees and over the path. The air is cool in here and it smells like salt water. Hints of blue ocean peek through the trees. The wacky banana slug makes a few appearances, while the craziest-sounding bird calls echo overhead. (Imagine the sound of someone receiving a surprise wedgie.)
We keep turning around, expecting to see other hikers. For a majority of our descent, we see no one. Not one person crosses our gorgeous path in over an hour. When we eventually do see another human being, it comes as a bit of a surprise to us.
We’re treated to a sweeping aerial view of the coastline before the ground starts to level out. Suddenly, we’re dumped out onto a beautiful, secluded, white sand beach. To the right are the cliffs we hiked yesterday. To the left is wide open shoreline as far as the eye can see. Seagulls aside, there is no one – not a living soul – out here with us.
We hang our shoes on a piece of driftwood and walk barefoot next to the clear, chilly water lapping onto shore. The freshwater stream we followed through the woods runs down the beach, emptying into the ocean. This is where I find several perfect sand dollars – a rare prize.
Luke and I are giddy with finding this beautiful place and having it all to ourselves. All of its sand, rolling waves, cliffs, driftwood and forests are ours for a short while. We make plans to return that night and have a campfire on our own private beach. But those plans fade away as we trudge back up the steep hillside. A sweaty hour later, we’re back in the parking lot, silently thanking that crafty park ranger for disguising this hike from the masses.