Where: Little Jackass Camp to Bear Harbor, 8.8 miles. Saturday May 20, 2017.
We agreed to wake up to my watch alarm at 6:30am since we did not know how long 8.8 miles would take us, especially after yesterdays long haul. Also our guide was trying to scare us by saying that “Little Jackass to Wheeler, 4.5 miles: The most difficult portion of the whole trail is this steep climb over the mountain separating two creeks.” Yesterday’s trail was pretty challenging with the all the climbing, overgrown sections, and eroding trail tread so what the hell is in store for us today? That section was called difficult to moderately difficult so what does the MOST difficult look like? Plus the Park Ranger I had called before the trip warned me that from Wheeler to Bear Harbor, our second portion of the day, that hikers were reporting very bad poison oak, often times growing onto the trail. Well considering how much we saw yesterday this was also pretty concerning. Oh well only one thing we can do about it, hike.
I was up before my alarm around 6am feeling antsy about the day but took my time getting up so I did not wake any one else up so early. It is hard for me to sleep in when backpacking, one due to needing to pee, two my back does not like laying down too long, and three I am usually excited to get up and start hiking! Soon enough my alarm officially beeped and we all started the rustling noises that comes with being in tents. Coffee was made, pop tarts consumed, things packed away, a pretty decent pit toilet utilized, and we were on the trail through wet meadows by 8:30am. Quickly we were climbing and then soon enough dropping into the first gulch just outside of Wheeler camp. This area was super jungly with giant ferns and shrubs with leaves bigger than my head. A lot of Welcome to Jungle was sung in here with pretty decent Axel Rose impressions “You’re in the jungle baby!”
So far all the hype of the guide was not living up to it’s terror and we found today’s climbing much easier to jam up and navigate. We soon popped out of the trees and got some views of the ocean far below us. Before we knew it we hit Wheeler Beach camp and stopped for a long lunch. It took us 3 hours to go the 4.5 miles to get there through “the most difficult section” Maybe this area has changed since that guide was written? I dunno. Any way it is gorgeous here and would be an awesome site as long as it does not get crazy windy since it is very exposed.
We lazed around for over an hour and made delicious lunches of refried beans, avocado, cheese, and tortillas. We dried our shoes and socks out from the morning’s wet meadows and watched Ospreys fishing in the creek and a few deer run up the grassy hills behind us. Soon enough it was time to go, break times always fly by! We started out along another fork of the creek and through more Alder trees towering above. We had to cross over the creek a few times, using some pretty sweet balancing skills.
We climbed back up from the beach and then hit the dreaded poison oak section. This area was ROUGH, the bushes were very overgrown and the PO was threaded all up in that business. I know I touched a bunch and so did my bag but there was no getting around it. The best you could do was try to not have it touch your skin directly. I was definitely wishing for a machete in this part! Soon enough we were through this crappy patch and back to dipping in and out of gullies, through old growth Redwood forest, and along magical streams.
As we approached Bear Harbor I had ended up walking behind with Jen chatting away and keeping my knees from being super pissed from the last long downhill of the day. Sarah, Megan, and Daddy Pony were up ahead of us by a few minutes. Suddenly we were along the last stream and rounded a bend where all 3 of them were huddled together on the trail looking excited and slightly scared. They had seen some kind of animal run away from them on the trail and then up a tree. It was not very big and kinda furry but they could not tell what it was so they needed the veterinary nurses (aka me & Jen) and my binoculars to get a good view to judge if we should be worried. I pulled out my binoculars and got a poor view of the creature up in the Y of a huge old tree. There was a lot of speculation because I could not see it clearly. The little bit I could see was the head down to the neck, which was not covered in fur and the ears and snout looked really long and big. At first I joked that it was an anteater but the longer I looked the more I thought it was likely to be a weird/sick looking bear cub. Since that seemed most likely we decided to make noise and move away from the area to be safe. We all clicked our poles together and said “hey bear we are here and we do not want to hurt you” We moved down the trail a little and when I looked back the furry creature had moved to a better spot and I could get a good view. It is a bear cub! I saw the claws clearly this time and it is a cinnamon color. However it’s head was naked all the way to the neck, slightly underneath its body, and it seemed a little thin. That bummed us all out and we worried if it had been abandoned by mom since it was ill. We planned to tell the volunteer about the bear cub at Needle Rock when we hiked out the next day to see if they had other reports of it and rangers who could come check on it. (I also tried to take a picture of the bear but it was too far away)
After our moment of stress/excitement we came to the first campsites at Bear Harbor in the meadow. We had our fingers crossed for a spot on the beach since we did not get lucky at Little Jackass. We came down along the creek and low and behold a spot was still available!
We quickly threw up our tents and settled in to enjoy the evening on the beach. The creek runs right down into the water and we watched swallows dipping in and out of it right before dusk. Plus there were a few cute seal heads bobbing off shore and Ospreys flying around. It is a great spot and I set us up a little table and seats to cook dinner on. We had a fun time checking each other for ticks and laughing at our monkey grooming skills. Me and Sarah had a particularly bonding experience in the tent checking each other’s parts because Megan found a tick crawling on her stomach and we were extra freaked out. This moment resulted in the magical phrase of “this tent smells like buttholes” and lots of belligerent laughing. Soon the sun was going down and we all tucked in listening to the waves breaking on the beach.