True friendships surmount time and distance. After almost five years abroad and having seen my stalwart group of female friends only fleetingly, I found it delightful to slip back into the cherished relationships like I was putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. This past weekend, six of us gathered for “Voyageurs Femmes at the Beach.” The group energy carried us up the not-so-easy trail to Cascade Head just north of our home in Lincoln City.
A bit of background. For you French speakers, Voyageurs Femmes must be making the backs of your necks crawl. I believe, with the little exposure to French that I have, that the real term is voyageuses, and that in itself indicates female explorers. Est-ce vrai? Maybe we could get by with Femmes Voyageurs? Nonetheless, our dear founder, Jonnie Martin, drew on her high-school French and named the group to signify interesting and intelligent women with careers, complicated lives, and many commitments who grab life with both hands and hang on tight for the journey. We started in 2003 with a small dinner now-and-then, and while members have come and gone, over the years a core group of eight to ten has managed to stay in touch and get together for dinners, brunches, and the occasional weekend fling. This was the first weekend I have been able to attend in six years.
Of course, the wine flowed and there was excellent food. As we live near the ocean and within spitting distance of great hiking trails, there was ample opportunity to wear off some calories and further bond on the trail. It is amazing what the group dynamic can do as we — with ages ranging from 60 to 79, and daily physical activity ranging from moderate to frenetic — tackled the Cascade Head Trail from sea level.
This is not an easy hike in the eyes of Project Easy Hiker. In our book, Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena, we rank hikes on a scale of 1 to 3. This, my friends, is a 4. Aerobically a bit challenging as one gains 270 feet in the first 2/10 of a mile but for my short legs the biggest challenge was the shallow root systems and the gigantic steps carved into the trail. It is a well-maintained trail, but still difficult footing as you need to watch every step and I had to haul my short self up over some pretty tough verticals. Thank goodness I had my trekking poles!
Once you get past the steps, the most treacherous tripper roots, and the steepest portion, it is a lovely trail with several bridges and a very rewarding viewpoint at just over 500 feet looking south along the Oregon Coast. (For the young and fit, an additional 700 feet of gain in about a mile is yours for the taking. That is definitely outside the guidelines of PEH.) We did 4.6 miles round trip. Basta!
We lingered to enjoy the herd of elk far below us, chatting with a Nature Conservancy volunteer about the area. (It is private land, owned by the Nature Conservancy.) Other hikers reported being able to spot whales this bright, clear, calm day, but we were not so lucky.
Descending, we were able to bail out at an intermediate path and walk down an access road (paved!) for a half-mile or so (an easy-hiker solution), avoiding the knee-poundingly steep descent involving tree roots and the steps built by Andre the Giant.
Soon Ric and I will scout out the reported easy hike from the top trailhead. This portion is closed until mid-July each year to protect the Silver Spot butterfly. It reopened Sunday — too late for the Femmes.
To my dear Voyageurs Femmes, thanks. It was a terrific weekend and I would never have done that lower trail without you! Alla prossima volta!