Friday, August 14, 2009

Thomas Creek Bridge -- in the Sunshine!

Since this morning dawned bright and clear and I had itchy feet, I decided to give this trail another try. The first attempt back in May was thick with fog, and while those photos had a certain charm, I also knew there were some fabulous views just waiting to be seen on the big bluff. As you can see, I was right! This photo is of China Beach, also the subject of a previous post and only reachable by a steep trail that travels three-quarters of a mile downhill through the forest. Beautiful -- and well worth the effort. By the way, the name of this post is something of a misnomer -- I did not actually hike to the Bridge nor is there a photo here of the bridge. When I first tried this hike, the effort was to find a good viewpoint of the Bridge, which really never happened. I could see the Bridge at one point today, but turns out that it's really not all that exciting to look at -- it's just high. So, go with it!

This is the starting point, and if you blink you'll miss it. Look on the north side of the Thomas Creek Bridge for a wide pull-out. I don't believe it has any signs ahead of time and this sign is shaded. Walk into the forest a short distance and the trail will fork. You'll want to bear left at this point. The other trail is the one that leads to China Beach, and it's not very obvious. You're likely to miss that one if you blink, too!

After a short walk through the forest you will emerge onto this large meadow. Last time I was here, it was filled with blue iris. The bluff in the distance is your goal here, and the trail will lead you there. Just be careful when you reach an intersection and the trail takes a hard left. You want to continue on towards the bluff, not take this left trail which leads to the bridge right back at the highway. If you want to see the bridge, it's easier to just walk down the highway from where you park your car. The wind out here was really strong -- these bluffs tend to be that way!

Once you get to the bluff, this is what first greets your senses (unless you bear right on the loop, in which case you'll see China Beach first). There are no safety rails here, no barriers of any kind between you and -- the rocks below. I'm not normally uncomfortable with heights, but I have to admit that being this close to the edge, on rough ground in high winds, made me just a teensy bit nervous. Not a place to lose your balance -- or drop your camera! I guess it's obvious, but this view is to the south.

I wonder if that tiny little beach down there has ever seen a human footprint? Would be awfully hard to get to!

I just love the character of this bent, twisted and knarly tree that clings right to the side of the cliff.

Isn't this a beautiful place? And almost hidden.

To reach the northern view, over China Beach, you walk through this leafy, shady arbor that seems almost out of place on this worn, windy bluff.

Did I mention that it's a long way down and that there might be a few rocks?

And did I mention that the winds tend to be a bit strong out there?

All in all, this was a quick and beautiful hike that almost anyone without physical disabilities could accomplish. The bluff is actually fairly dangerous, with all the sheer cliffs with no barriers of any kind, so perhaps it's not a place to take your kids. The trail tends to be narrow and a bit rough, but again, doable for most people. The walk to the bluff probably takes no more than 15 minutes, unless you dawdle as I do.

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