Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Gold Beach Area Offers Fun Walks Short and Long
By Tom Baake
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Don Ivy (at right), chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, discusses the uses of camas flowers and bulbs during a previous hike on Euphoria Ridge in eastern Coos County. He will again lead the South Coast Striders hiking group to Euphoria Ridge this Saturday, May 5.

A fun thing about the South Coast Striders hiking group is that some of their walks are led by folks who bring special knowledge of people and places.

For example, the in-town historic walks in Bandon and North Bend are led by local historians and authors, while another hike is led by a volunteer who personally restored several trails. When the group visits the trails at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, it’s often joined by the former head groundskeeper, while on another occasion hikers were led by a resource specialist who looked after the Roosevelt elk herd outside of Reedsport.

This Saturday, May 5, hikers will have a chance to take part in one of the group’s favorite outings, when they’ll be led by Coquille Indian chief Don Ivy, who also serves as one of the tribe’s cultural experts, well-versed in everything local botany to timeless folkways.

The group will travel to Euphoria Ridge in eastern Coos County, and explore a trail that travels first over Indian lands, then onto Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings.

Named by longtime local resident Bryan Ibach, Euphoria Ridge is actually much more than a single ridge – there are many – but its most distinctive feature is a series of open, upland slopes variously described as pastures or meadows.

It’s in these meadows and surrounding forests that generations of Indians found plants, animals and other useful items. So it’s fitting that a sizeable section of Euphoria Ridge territory was returned to the Coquille Indian Tribe several years ago, with the tribe continuing a management program that includes contemporary activities such as logging, along with traditional pursuits that range from gathering camas bulbs to harvesting materials for baskets and other handcrafted items. The tribe maintains part of the Euphoria Ridge trail, which is open for hiking and mountain biking, but no motorized use. As noted, the BLM is the other big landowner, but with limited funds for maintenance, the task of keeping the remainder of the Euphoria Ridge trail open falls to a handful of dedicated volunteers.

This Saturday’s Euphoria Ridge trek will feature long and short hikes, with both involving some relatively steep but brief climbs. The short hike is a moderate 4 miles, the other about twice that far.

As in previous years, Coquille Tribe head man Don Ivy will lead hikers through the beautiful, wildflower-strewn rocky meadow, and share some insight into how native people lived and interacted with the land and its resources. The group will then visit another nearby section, with stops at a grove of old-growth timber that somehow escaped harvesting and forest fires, before enjoying some panoramic views of the forested territory to the south.

Meantime, for the longer hike, volunteer Dave Gray will lead an 8-mile trek up, down, up and down again to Axe Creek, traversing four trail sections from meadow to mature alder forest to old-growth groves. This hike is rated difficult and a shuttle set-up is required.

Those interested in the Striders hike should meet at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Bridge General Store. Hikers will arrange carpools and set up shuttle vehicles.

You can of course also explore the Euphoria Ridge trails on your own or with friends, although I strongly suggest obtaining a map as there are many confusing side roads and missing road signs. Find a map as well as more information on this Saturday’s hike at www.coostrails.com. Or get one of my guidebooks, “Oregon South Coast Bicycle Ride Guide” or “Out Our Back Door,” both of which have complete turn-by-turn directions and accurate maps and elevation charts.

Whether you go with the group (highly recommended, at least if it’s your first time), or by yourself or with family or friends, you’ll find the forests “all greened up and glowing” right now, with the first of the wildflowers bursting forth and a riot of new growth high and low. Euphoric!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.)

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