Photo excursion up Beaver Creek

beaver-creek-122116mI have been scouting with my cameras for covers for my upcoming novel currently titled “Up Beaver Creek.” I’m not sure I’ve got the right shot yet–next time I should avoid shooting in early afternoon on a rare sunny day–but in this week between the holidays, I thought I’d share a few pictures with you.

beaver-creek-122116fThere are numerous Beaver creeks in Oregon and in other states. This one is just north of Seal Rock about the middle of the Oregon Coast. From Ona Beach, it travels east through marshes, farms, and hills. Sometimes it’s a wide river, and sometimes it divides up into trickling fingers that meet again later.

beaver-creek-122116bbMore on the book to come.



All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016



Not quite the walk we’d planned

What started as a brief after-work dog walk and research trip turned into an ordeal someone my age should know better than to get herself into.
It was a warm sunny day, one of those glorious autumn gifts we experience here on the Oregon coast. Annie and I drove to the Beaver Creek Natural Area, a relatively new state park threaded with trails, most of which we had never tried or even found. I figured we’d park near the visitor’s center, walk enough to exercise the dog then drive around taking pictures for a writing project I’m working on. That’s not quite how it turned out.
We started on the marsh trail, one we’ve done before, never getting too far because the dirt turned to mud, then muck, then water. Because the last couple months have been so dry, we were able to keep going, even after Annie pulled me into a patch of gooey mud that coated my “dress tennies.” We walked and walked across this vast land of yellow rushes and wide open spaces, birds our only companions.
Suddenly the path ended at a bridge high above the creek. We crossed it. Then I saw the sign that would prove our undoing: Beaver Creek Loop Trail. Arrows pointed both right and left. I thought, hey, let’s take this. It will be a drier and possibly shorter path back to the visitor’s center.
It was a lovely trail through the trees, along the creek, past skunk cabbage and ferns. But there wasn’t a soul around. We stepped over bear, cougar and deer droppings. Annie, who can’t resist a pond or a puddle, decided to cool herself in the muddy stream beside the road and emerged black from the belly down, as if she had stepped in paint. “Come on!” I urged. The sun, barely visible over the trees, dropped toward the horizon and shifted from in front of us to the side as we gradually left the creek behind. As we walked uphill and down, I started to worry. It was already 6:00. The sun would set in an hour. Where was the end of this trail? What if a bear came out of the trees? I started praying.
Finally, the trail curved and I saw buildings. Safe, I thought. But it wasn’t the visitor’s center. It appeared to be equipment storage sheds. No people, just a Port-a-Potty. The trail continued on. Now I could hear cars in the distance. There was road up there somewhere, but which road?

More bear droppings. I tugged on Annie’s leash. No time to explore. We were losing daylight and I didn’t want to meet Yogi. Or even Boo Boo. We were definitely lost. I considered calling 911, but I couldn’t tell them where I was. We weren’t hurt or trapped like that “elderly” 65-year-old I had just read about who spent the night caught in blackberry bushes near Rose Lodge. Blackberries lined this trail, too. Delicious. But we weren’t leaving the trail for anything.

At last I saw a metal gate up ahead. A road! It should be Beaver Creek Road, I assumed as we eased around the gate and stopped, looking right and left. Nothing seemed familiar. Were we above or below the visitor’s center? The sun had dropped to a yellow glow above the trees. I saw a milepost marker, Mile 1, to the right. The center wasn’t that far, was it? We went left.  
This didn’t look right either. We came to a house plastered with no-trespassing signs. It looked deserted, but I was about to climb the steep driveway when I noticed the metal grating across the road, like an oversized cattle guard. Annie couldn’t walk over that. Next house, nobody home. Then way up ahead, I saw two horses, palominos, and a guy grooming one of them. “Come on, Annie.”
Afraid of the horses, Annie pulled back, her face scrunched against her collar, her eyes full of terror. “Come on. It’s okay,” I said, dragging her along until I got close enough to holler to the guy. “Is this Beaver Creek Road?”
He looked at me like I was the stupidest person he’d ever seen. I regretted leaving the house in my ugliest pants and no makeup. If you’re going to get lost, look good. “Yeah, it’s South Beaver Creek Road. There’s a north and a south. Which one do you want?”
I had no idea. “I’m trying to get back to the visitor center for the natural area.”
He pointed back the way we had come. “Walk a mile that way. You’ll come to a fork in the road. Go to the right another quarter mile or so.”
I wanted to cry. By now we had already walked for almost two hours. My shoes were pinching my toes. Annie was limping. I wished somebody would offer us a ride, although nobody would want my mud-painted dog in their vehicle. I felt old and foolish. “Thank you!” I called, and we got back on the road.
They don’t allow much space between the white line and the bushes. Cars occasionally passed, us, pickups, SUVs, two PT Cruisers, all moving fast. Annie poked her nose into berry bushes and weeds as I kept urging her along. If it weren’t getting dark, there’d be no hurry, but it was. We passed the milepost marker and kept going. Annie plodded along in front of me, her legs black to the hips. “Hey girl,” I said. “If something tries to eat me, you’ll protect me, right? I’ll do the same for you.” She just kept walking.
We crossed Beaver Creek, saw a couple fishermen in a boat. Waved as if we weren’t lost or exhausted.
At last we came to the fork in the road. A stop sign. Green road signs. South Beaver Creek and North Beaver Creek. On NORTH Beaver Creek, a sign pointed us to the visitor’s center a quarter mile ahead. Somehow we had missed where the “loop trail” looped back to civilization and wound up on the road to Waldport. We turned, passed the center, now closed with a metal gate blocking the parking lot. Luckily I had parked a little farther up the road. My Honda waited for us. We collapsed into the seats and drove to the highway, turning onto 101 just as the sun was sliding into the horizon. It was the reddest sun I have ever seen.
We were alive. We were safe. We were sore.
The moral of this story is this: If you are not prepared for a long walk—alone with no map, compass, water, food, flashlight, or sleeping bag—go back on the trail you came in on, lest you wind up in the newspaper in your ugly pants and no makeup, being described as an “elderly” hiker who got lost in the woods.
For a map of the Beaver Creek State Natural Area and its beautiful trails, visit the website at Don’t count on signs on the actual trails.

Story and photo copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick

Ah, Nature

Nature can be seen as the wilderness, but it can also be seen as the life we all experience.

I live in the coastal forest. It’s not far from town, but I grew up in suburbia, so when I see a bear, I get excited. (see previous post). I also get excited when I’m working in my yard and a snake suddenly slithers across my path. I yelp and jump back every time, even though I know the snakes here are not dangerous. It’s some kind of instinctual reaction. At least I can say the word “snake.” I’ve got a friend who calls them “fluffies.”

Today, I saw one snake, a short one, did my scream and dance, then went back to work, figuring that was my snake sighting for the day. Not so. A few minutes later, a much longer snake appeared out of nowhere. As I shrieked and backpedaled, Annie stood stunned as the snake wiggled through her legs and away under the fence. I had to sit down and take a breath after that. Then I saw a snake skin that one of my reptilian tenants had shed.

Deciding we’d had enough yard work, I leashed up the pup and we went to the nearby Beaver Creek wilderness area, a new Oregon State park that is just beautiful. It’s real wilderness, winding along the creek and through the marshes. What was the first thing we saw as we set paw on the path? Another snake, this one a long garter snake with a vermillion stripe. I don’t remember a more beautiful summer here, and I guess the snakes feel the same way.

Signs noted that bears and cougars had been seen around, but all we saw were bumblebees and, oddly, a rooster. Annie, who had no idea what it was, stared until I pulled her away. Still panting, she’s glad to be back on the sofa now.

Annie has had a busy few days. Saturday at the dog park, she fell in love for the first time. A dog-show-worthy doberman came trotting to the gate with his owner. Both dogs started whining to get together. Once the dobie was inside, Annie made a perfect fool of herself, dancing and posing as they sniffed each other’s parts. They ran together, then sniffed some more. The dobie, Frisco, was as smitten as Annie was. Cue the theme from Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, Frisco is an intact, purebred show dog, while Annie is a slightly overweight spayed mutt. But love is part of nature, and we can’t help who we fall in love with, can we?

Where There’s Water . . .

I should have known. Wetlands means wet feet. Annie and I visited the new Beaver Creek State Natural Area just south of Newport, OR, today. It’s a beautiful state park, all new and shiny, smelling of fresh-cut wood and grass. Trails padded with grass and wood chips lead upward to great vistas and downward though the rushes toward the creek.

We headed south on a pleasant trail. When we passed an opening to the creek, I pulled Annie back, saying, “Oh no. We’re not getting wet today.” As the grass rose around us, I gazed at miles of waving grasses and distant hills in varying shades of purple, gray and tan. Just as I was wishing for the 10th time that I had brought my camera, the ground gave way beneath my feet. Sploosh! Annie and I were in mud up to her belly and my calves. We walked on a little ways, hoping the ground would firm up, but it didn’t. Sploosh, sploosh, sploosh. We turned back.

Off the side of the trail where the ground is solid, there’s a plastic dock, accessed by a plywood bridge. If Annie waded in there, she could get clean, I thought. She was thirsty, already drinking the murky water. I stepped onto the dock, felt it rocking dangerously and decided I was better off sitting down. Meanwhile, Annie leaned over the edge, drinking. I relaxed in the warm breeze. Ahh.

Suddenly, splash! My pup, who just discovered two weeks ago that she could swim and who has thrown herself into every puddle since then, jumped in. It was deep. She tried desperately to climb back onto the dock but couldn’t get a grip on the plastic surface. She panicked, desperately splashing, her nails slipping off the dock. Still holding her leash, I struggled to guide her over to the shallow side, willing to jump in if I had to. Just when it looked as if she might drown, she finally paddled around the dock to the shore. She shook a few times and pulled me toward the car. She’s traumatized, I thought. But then she saw another trail. She headed right for the water. “We’re wet enough,” I said.

And so, with NPR’s “Fresh Air” providing commentary in the background, we drove home, utterly soaked. Every now and then, we turned to grin at each other. Another adventure survived.

Moral: This is a great park. You can hike, kayak, canoe, or simply enjoy wide open spaces from the many benches scattered around. Take Highway 101 to Oregon’s Milepost 149 and turn east. The turnoff and the parking lot by the visitors’ center are well-marked. If you don’t want wet feet, watch your step. If you want to see it all, wear tall boots and carry towels. Lots of towels. Don’t forget the camera.

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