Sunday, March 25, 2012

Diamond Creek to Bishop's Beach Hike

Denver has been needing to get in a 5-mile hike using a compass and map to orient to fulfill a rank requirement for Boy Scouts, and we've planned to do the Diamond Creek to Bishop's Beach hike numerous times this winter and had to cancel due to horrible weather conditions. This weekend, with relatively little planned and the weather forecast for 'partly sunny and 30's', we decided it was worth a try.

I was nervous about the conditions of the road and trail down to the beach so on Saturday while Denver was in basketball I drove out to Diamond Ridge Road to take a quick scouting hike. The mile-long road from the Sterling Highway down to the trailhead was not plowed (in fact, it was under about 5 feet of snow), but snowshoers had packed it down, so while there was 5 inches of fresh snow on top of the packed trail, it was still relatively easy walking. Twenty minutes got me to the trailhead, so I figured we'd just have to add that much time to the hike. The trail down along the edge of the Diamond Creek canyon was in good shape too--just snow, no ice, so I was comfortable with taking the kids down it.

Scouting done, we started our plans. Low tide was at 10:54 a.m., so we figured if we got started by 9:45 we were in good shape. Douglas was just getting back from 4 days of chaperoning so we didn't think he'd want to join us for the 8 mile hike, so he would drop us off at the Sterling Highway. Sunday dawned completely clear without a cloud in sight and calm, but we still each brought an extra layer for feet, legs, head and face just in case the wind came up. A few snacks and water rounded out our packing.

A half hour hike brought us to the beach. The trail down, despite steep dropoffs, was comfortable hiking. Mudslides had already begun, covering the snow with the muddy fingers, some of them extending clear down the gully towards the creek. Every time I hike this trail I wonder how much longer it will be there before the entire hillside slides into the canyon, as there are fresh slides often, and the trail continues to be rerouted as the trail slides away.

The hike is simple. At the bottom of the trail, turn left and start walking till you get to Bishop's Beach in Homer. We walked close to the cliff at first, but when the tide was further out and hard-packed sand exposed, we opted for that since it is easier walking. We are not leisurely hikers. We tend to be pretty focused, so I wasn't surprised when Aurora took off, setting a tough pace. Denver had to keep re-orienting with the map and compass (kind of a strange thing to do when you can see exactly where you are and where you're going, but he was using the skills he needed).

Exactly two and a half hours after we'd started, we walked up to our car in the Bishop's Beach parking lot. We'd seen over a dozen eagles, a bunch of ravens, a few gulls, a couple rocks covered with cormorants (I think) and that was about it. It was a glorious, sunny day and a few times before a breeze sprang up I wished I had shorts on. The kids were down to t-shirts. It all looked so different than the other times we'd hiked it--probably because it was winter and the leaves cover things. And I was wondering why it was such a big deal...just an eight mile hike on the beach. It made me realize how the kids getting older makes activities like this easier. I don't wonder now whether they can make it or not. Now the question is how fast they will make it. And I appreciate once again living in a place as beautiful as Homer and that has opportunities for mild adventures like this.
When we do this hike from Diamond Creek to Bishop's Beach I get the sense that we are on a desert with the large expanses of sand.

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