Monday, October 26, 2015

October 21, 2015 - Harper Creek and Raider Camp trails loop hike

Even though today was to be another sunny day, we wanted to get a nice hike in that included waterfalls.  This loop is just under 10 miles and includes 2 falls that I've been wanting to return to.  The Harper Creek Trail (#260) begins on SR1328 a little over a mile from the Mortimer campground.  Parking used to be along the road, but there's now a small parking area just off the road with a 'mile 7.0' sign on a pole.  We didn't make a special effort to get an early start, but still began the hike just before 9AM.

The trail begins by ascending kind of steeply for about 1/4 mile before leveling out at a camp site at the intersection of the Yellow Buck Trail (#265).  The trail then becomes an easy hike as it heads towards Harper Creek Falls which was to be our first stop.  My last trip to this waterfall was back in 2008 and you can read the trail description (which now needs updating) here.  We first stopped at the upper overlook to the waterfall, then I went down to the base for a look.  By now the sun was becoming a photographer's enemy, so I only took enough shots to post something here.  The trees above the waterfall did show a lot of color, but they were in the sun and the waterfall was in the shade.  We could also tell that plenty of 2 legged pigs had been here from the trash that had been left.  There were even clothes and towels left behind.  I wish people like that would just stay home.

top of Harper Creek Falls
Harper Creek Falls

We had to backtrack a bit to pick up the Harper Creek Trail which is now shared with a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail.  A friend of mine and I had hiked this same loop in 2008 and I apparently forgot that the trail crosses Harper Creek several times on the way up to South Harper Creek Falls.  When Cindy and I got the the 1st crossing, we took off out shoes and socks to keep them dry, but when we looked at the map and saw how many more crossings we had, we just shook our heads and hoped the rest of the crossings would be on rocks.  When we got to the next one, there were no rocks and we just accepted the fact that we would have wet boots the rest of the day.  None of the crossings were dry, but none were more than knee deep, so they weren't dangerous at all.  All but 2 of the dozen or so crossings were before we got to South Harper Creek Falls.  At least it was a warm day and the leaf color was nice.

along Harper Creek

South Harper Creek Falls is a very interesting waterfall geologically speaking.  There's another way in to this waterfall that I describe on my site here, but the way we were coming, we got to the base of the falls first.  We could see the base from the trail, but it's a scramble and rock hop to get there.  I really wanted to go up there, but we were just over the half way point in the hike and it was already 3PM, so we decided against it.  The trail continues up towards the top of the falls, but it's now very eroded and needs some work - and it's steep.  Once we reached the top of the falls, we took a break before getting our feet wet once again crossing over Harper Creek to pick up the Raider Camp Trail (#277).

top of South Harper Creek Falls

I had forgotten that there's also another waterfall above South Harper Creek Falls until I saw it as soon as we crossed.  I didn't think we had time to stop, so we pressed on.  The next stop was the cliff overlook of South Harper Creek Falls.  One slip or trip here and the vultures will be circlin', so be careful!

South Harper Creek Falls from the overlook

From here, the trail widened and became more of an interstate compared to what we were on along Harper Creek.  We were able to make up some good time along this section, and we were also now heading downhill.  The trail also picked up Raider Camp Creek on the way down and at one point I could hear and barely see a waterfall down the steep slope.  There was no good way down, so I had to pass this one up - but marked it on the GPS for a return trip.  We knew we had to make one final creek crossing and we got to it about 5:30.  The Raider Camp Trail crosses Harper Creek at some campsites we passed earlier in the day before we got to Harper Creek Falls and this crossing was a wet one also.  After the crossing, we reconnected back on to the Harper Creek Trail and had 40 minutes of squishy hiking back to the vehicle.  We were both whipped and had pruny feet,  but Cindy knocked a couple of tough trails off her list for the new book.  This may have been the hardest hike I've done with her and she was a real trooper.  I'm so fortunate that she's my Sweetie and we get to spend this time of our lives together.

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