Long Beach, WA June 5, 2012
If you are out on the coast where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, give this trail a ride. You’ll like it. What is not to like? It has views, public art at intervals, benches, restrooms, water, parking, smooth blacktop, a trail that twists and turns and rises and falls as it traverses the dunes to Beard’s Hollow – a wetland that was former ocean. (How did that happen?). If you want more, you can climb over the spine of Cape Disappointment and down to the little fishing town of Illawaco.
The Trail: One lane blacktop, un-striped. Good quality and smooth. No cracks seen. It goes over the dunes, rising and falling with them. Some of the inclines are over ten percent, but short. Lots of curves for interesting riding. Blind curves for even more interesting riding. Use your horn.
There are restrooms at Beard’s Hollow, 38th Place, 10th St. (built into the dune), and Bolstad St. (along with a large overflow parking lot.)
There are six trailheads on spur roads into the dunes along the beach section, plus a trailhead at Beard’s Hollow and parking over in Illawaco. Bolstad St. is the biggest one with lots of parking and full facilities. On a sunny summer’s day (and we have several each season in the NorthWet), there may be competition for space here.
TRAILBEAR ON THE SEA OF GRASS…
With a storm moving on shore, I had one eye on the clouds riding the brisk wind up from the south and the rain showers offshore and one on the trail. There is nothing quite like having the skies open when you are at the far end of a trail. This is more fun on a recumbent trike. On a trike you have a lap that gathers water and have to bail it out.
The central theme of this trail is dune grass: Miles of dune grass; a sea of dune grass. As you rise and fall, it’s like sailing on a sea of grass. The ocean is behind the first dune, but the roar of the surf rides with you. This is not an ocean ride. You are on the deflation plain behind the first dune. You see miles of grass. The ocean is mainly seen at the trailheads where the roads punch through the dunes.
BOLSTAD TRAILHEAD, GE: 46.350643 -124.059975
Bolstad St. was the trailhead of choice. There are direction signs out on the main drag to point the way. This is the main trailhead on the dunes section. Starting here I could ride the majority of the dunes and get up to Beard Hollow on the south end. Scamper back and – weather permitting – do the north end of the dunes. For the walkers, there are options: Trail walking, beach walking or a nice timber boardwalk south to the next trailhead at 10th St. For drivers – try the beach. We saw cars driving along out there.
The first challenge at Bolstad is getting onto the trail. There is a short and steep ramp up. Give it a try, back down, round the parking lot, shift into granny low (12 GI) and go for it at speed. Up and over. (Remember, trikers cannot stand on the pedals. Up, down or sideways, its pedal or push.).
The first trailside exhibit is at the south end of the boardwalk: a grey whale skeleton. 10th St. S has something seldom seen – a restroom dug into the dunes. Earth sheltered and all that. Just below 10th is a fine set of wooden dolphins on display.
Once south of the dirt road and stream crossing at 30th St., you begin to enter the woods on the deflation plain. The rocky bulk of Cape Disappointment looms up ahead. The woods here are a part time swamp. Ahead is …
O’DONELL ISLAND and BEARD’S HOLLOW, GE: 46.305986 -124.069362…
Twist and turn through the pines and suddenly the trail enters a cleft with a rocky cliff to the left and the bulk of the cape to the right. Herein a story: The sea used to break on the rocks you are pedaling by. That cliff is one side of O’Donell Island. Behind it is Beard Hollow, now a full time pocket of swamp but Back The it was an inlet of the ocean.
What happened? About a century ago they built the jetty and the migration of sand was stopped. Dunes formed. The inlet was cut off from the sea. A swamp formed. It was named Beard’s Hollow after the late Capt. Beard, wrecked upon this coast. His body was found in the inlet before the dunes formed.
At the top of the swamp is a trailhead with parking and a vault toilet. This is state park land so they want a Discovery Pass ($10/day) showing or plan to fine you. Here is the end of the dune ride and a logical turn around point.
If you take the bridge overlooking the swamp, you climb up almost to the Beard’s Hollow overlook. Another paved section of the Discovery is waiting across the road there to take you over the hills to Illawaco. This is a steep and twisty bit. Your choice.
I turned around here. Time to try the sea of grass with the wind behind. It’s more fun that way. Speed went up from 8 mph to 12, 14, 15 mph. Back to Bolstad and pack up the trike ahead of the rain.
Keeping his fur dry.