A Spectacular 12-Mile Loop at Prairie Creek State Park
✍️ • 🕑 • Series: Califorests & Shoregon • Tags: redwoods • ferns • beaches • hiking in the dark • State/Provincial Parks • Pacific Ocean • California • California • Places: Prairie Creek State Park
After a disappointing and dull overnight hike, I had no choice but to treat myself to a ridiculously scenic, gorgeous, entertaining, and lovely hike.
Well, after I stopped in Eureka for a fine cup of drip coffee, I mean...
The 12-mile loop at Prairie Creek State Park was my favorite hike that I did on this trip. It traverses forests, canyons, rushing water, and beaches, and is full of natural, gorgeous beauty at all angles.
I started on the James Irvine Trail, connecting with the Miner's Ridge Trail via fern canyon and the beach.
|Name||James Irvine & Miner's Ridge Loop|
|Location||Prairie Creek State Park|
|Check out the trails index for information on more trails!|
I absolutely loved this hike.
What I didn't love was that I had already done five miles or so of walking before I got to the trailhead, and that I got there fairly late in the day. I really would have loved having more time to take in the views and take my time, and to have felt a bit more fresh while doing it.
But, I figured I was well-equipped to head off anyway. The trails were popular and well-marked, and the bottom end of the trail, i.e. where I expected to be around sunset was a beach with a nearby road.
If things were too late and too treacherous, I could try thumbing a lift, or proceeding back via roadways. I mean there were lots of people around.
Take for example this "fern canyon" area, popular with the Instagram set, and quite popular when I was walking through near the end of the day.
This was a good place to wash my muddy feet, and an area that would have been nice to explore more, just so I could suss whether I was right in calling it "overrated." 😉
Alas, I moved towards the parking lot, and onto the beach, which I hoped would be passable.
I had hoped for some nice beach sunset time, but alas, I couldn't even see the sun through the fog. Just footprints of those who came before me...
I navigated around most of the large pools of water, left behind from high tides, and stuck relatively closely to the shoulder so that I could hopefully tell when the time would come to exit the beach and connect with the Miner's Ridge Trail.
Fortunately, the campground was easy to spot, and I meandered through, took a bathroom break, and considered my options.
Night was falling, but the moon was bright and I felt energetic and ready to continue.
Not long before this hike, I had done a hike long past dusk somewhere around Issaquah with a friend, and found it to be... actually not unpleasant.
On that date, the moonlight was enough to do most of the work of illuminating the trail. However, once I entered the forest, it was clear to me that I was under the cover of pitch black darkness.
But, it was also clear to me that I had done well to upgrade my headlamp to a brighter one. (Poor illumination in lava caves will convince ya to do that!)
My headlamp was roughly equivalent to a 180 watt incandescent lightbulb, and it lit the way forward beautifully and reliably for the rest of my hike back.
I reduced it to the lowest setting that still gave me a good view of rocks, roots, and mud.
And I figured, why not try and snap a couple of lousy pictures while I was at it. Headlamp illumination FTW?!
As I got towards the end of the trail, I could hear some hikers in the distance behind me. Somehow, I wasn't the last one to finish.
But, I was finished.
At the nearby Elk Prairie Campground, I pitched my tent, crawled inside, and promptly fell asleep.
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