Monday, January 25, 2016

A Winter Walk in Yachats: Ya'Xaik Trail and the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve

Yachats, the "Gem of the Oregon Coast," is truly a gem for hikers. Situated at the base of Cape Perpetua between Waldport and Florence, this little town boasts miles of trails, both on the Cape and right in town. Some of the Cape trails take a beating during the coastal winter, but many of the area's paths are great for hiking year-round.

Trails abound inside the town, winding through and around and meeting up in a weblike pattern. This excellent map gives an overview of the town's trail system, including the Ya'Xaik trail, which is so new that it doesn't show up on many maps.

Coming into Yachats from the north, watch for Diversity Drive on your left. This can be easy to miss, as it looks like a parking lot for some new homes. Go ahead and pull in, drive to the end, and park at the trailhead. There are no facilities here, just some parking spots and a sign.

Stump with springboard notch gives
new life to the next generation.
The trail immediately leaves the asphalt and starts climbing, but for the most part it's an easy path, smooth and slightly rolling. This is dense, lush woodland, and it's hard to imagine that it was once a clearcut. Watch for large, telltale stumps with springboard notches, a sure sign of early loggers. Many of these stumps are now nurseries for younger trees or huckleberries. You will find a wide variety of birds here year-round due to the mild coastal climate. Watch for chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, vireos, kinglets, wrens, Stellar's jays, and even an occasional hardy hummingbird. Mushrooms and other fungi thrive in the damp forest, and an amazing variety of mosses grow here, as well.

After less than a mile, the path reaches a wooden gate with a sign announcing the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve. This is a private garden, beautifully laid out and open to the public. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the garden, so hikers who plan to visit the garden will need to leave their furry companions behind.

Pass through the rustic gate to find 3.5 acres of clever plantings; the exotic species have been seamlessly inlaid into a parcel of classic coastal forest. There are rhododendrons, to be sure, but many of them are from the Himalayas instead of Oregon. Oregon Grape and native piggyback plants share the stage with magnolias and a massive gunnera. Watch for palms tucked in here and there. Boardwalks give access to the more boggy areas, and through it all trickles a lovely little creek. Enjoy this peaceful place, and make plans to return in warmer weather to see it in bloom.

Once you have finished in the garden, you will have to decide where to go next. You may certainly turn around and return through the peaceful forest, but there are other options due to Yachats' many paths. The lower gate of the Preserve opens behind an art gallery; one could peruse the gallery's offerings, then follow Highway 101 south back to Diversity Drive. Another good option, especially if the weather is cooperative, would be to walk south briefly on 101, then take the path to meet up with the 804 Trail for a walk alongside the ocean.
Wave Action on the 804 Trail

This hike is not accessible, but the 804 Trail offers some accessible areas, as well as restroom facilities at Smelt Sands Park. For sturdy winter campers, Tillicum Beach Campground is open all year, offering both tent and RV sites right beside the ocean.

Tillicum Beach

A final word for coastal visitors who want to be mistaken for locals: say "YAH hots" and "YAH kike." Also, since you're in the area, "YaQUINNa" and "Heh SEE tah." You're welcome.

A friendly challenge from the photographer: as you walk through the botanical reserve, try to find the location of this miniature fairy garden. It is easy to walk past.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Winter in the Connie Hansen Garden

In 1973, a widowed lady purchased a somewhat swampy and blackberry-tangled lot in Lincoln City. She moved into a small house located on the property and embarked upon a 20-year gardening project. As most gardeners would, she began near the house, where the saplings she planted remain as perfectly pruned specimen trees. She then expanded further into the property, grubbing out berry vines and creating flowing perennial beds. Her beloved iris plants were joined by a wide variety of primulas, euphorbias, hellebores, and ornamental grasses. Rhododendrons, magnolias, and other shrubs took root. As time went on, the garden filled her lot and pushed into an adjoining property. After her death in 1993, the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy was formed to continue Connie's gardening vision.

Of course, gardens are living things, and as such they grow and change over time. A vacant lot at the northeast corner of the garden has been cleared, drained, and planted with heathers, bergenias, and other low-growing beauties. A spring snowstorm several years ago seriously damaged many of the venerable trees and shrubs, leading to creative pruning and increased sunlight in parts of the garden. Connie was well-acquainted with the ways of plants and landscapes, so she would doubtless approve of the changes that have taken place on her little spot of land by the sea.

Dwarf Rhododendron
Cranesbill, a Wild Geranium
Thanks to the mild coastal climate, this garden is never completely dormant and is well worth a visit any time of year. We were peppered with sleet on our last visit, but we found a sprinkling of brave flowers among the garden's framework of lush evergreen foliage. We explored the entire one-acre property with only an occasional sprint to huddle under the porch. During the winter, look for cyclamen, primulas, hellebores, snowflakes, camellias, and a few hardy rhododendrons. Of course, the rhodies take center stage as spring approaches, reaching their peak in April and May, followed closely by the iris. As the spring flowers fade, however, the summer                                                                   perennials come into their own,                                                                                                         taking the show right into fall.

The garden is about one block west of Highway 101 in Lincoln City. 33rd Street is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it roads; the Conservancy's directions may or may not be helpful. 33rd is just north of the feed store, across from an antique mall. Look for a parking lot on the north side of the street, partially screened by plants. If you are driving a large vehicle, we recommend that you park on the street instead of attempting to negotiate the small lot.

This wonderful garden is free and open to the public every day, thanks to the efforts of the Garden Conservancy. They maintain an excellent website which details the garden's history, gift shop hours, and contact information. Their garden map shows an overview of the property, including an accessible loop. Everyone is welcome here, including the family dog (please be a dutiful owner and keep the garden pleasant for everyone). The Conservancy sometimes has plants for sale next to the porch, so you may even be able to take a small piece of Connie Hansen's dream home with you.