By Tom Groenewal
March 21, 1992,
I am looking unusually ragged for a backpacking trip. My pants are muddy from crawling under fallen trees and from falling onto the ground after catching on roots and rocks while starring at the treetops and the forest canopy. Even though the temperature is only in the upper 50’s, enough energy is being expended to cause me to sweat and wipe my face with muddy hands. It’s time for my boots to take their dunking in the dash through the waves to the headland trail to Goodman Creek.
There are no possible camping spots along this beach all the way to the Goodman Creek. The shoreline ends abruptly in steep eroding banks and the next high tide would carry me out to sea. So, I find the trail marker and the ladders scaling the headland. Carefully, I make my way up the ladder holding on for my dear life of which I have been enjoying so much today. No false moves and I make it to the top, muscles strained and legs burning.
I have been looking forward to seeing this isolated Goodman Creek since first finding it on the map last November. It is a large creek and word has it that there are good populations of steelhead and cutthroat. Tough to fish since there doesn’t appear to be any access.
I take a few switchbacks down to the creek and partway down I hear what sounds like a school of steelhead swimming upstream through a shallow section, their fins and tail thrashing the water. All I can see from my vantage is a calm stream. I move down to the creek but see no fish.
The creek is stained from tannic acid leaching from cedar and other vegetation. Since there has been no rain in the last two weeks the seepage from the forest ground water is less concentrated and gives the creek an amber-reddish color. Again, I hear what I think is a school of fish heading my way up the creek, around the bend comes an obvious tidal surge of a few inches pushing its way against the streamflow. It passes me and continues upstream around the next bend. I wait and soon the wave reverses and comes back down. That’s a surprise. According to the map, the mouth is ½ mile away yet the gradient of the creek stays close to sea level so a slight tidal surge carries the wave this far upstream
Upstream a short distance should be the official fording area marked on the map. Since there has been so little rain lately I find the creek at the crossing area to be only 25’ wide and calf-deep over gravel and small rocks. A falls is noted on the map, it appears to be further upstream so I drop my pack and bushwhack to go find it; but, after a few bends, it’s not there.
Ready to ford the creek and move on, I take off my boots and socks and throw them to the other side and they land about two feet from the creek edge. I roll my pant legs and ease myself down over roots and logs into the water. Ohh-hhh, my feet are tender, whoa this is cold, my brain stirs me to make a decision either to get to the other side quickly or turn back to muster the energy. No, got to keep going now, if I turned back I don’t think I could convince myself to try again. Ohh-hhh, my feet are painfully cold and now halfway across, the rocks are beginning to hurt my feet and I’m losing balance. No way, damn it, I am not falling in and pick out my way to the gravel bar ahead. I make it and drop my pack and fall on the rocks grabbing my searing feet and groaning in pain.
As I’m still trying to bring my feet back to life, I hear those steelhead, no, another tide surge rounding the bend heading up the creek. Lying on the gravel, I crawl over to my boots to save them from being washed into the creek and throw them to high ground. The wave is only three inches high, however, horizontally on this gravel bar, it will come up three feet. I am still below the potential wave height and can hardly move with my numb feet and only able to crawl across the rock. There will be enough time to make it to high ground if I scramble as fast as I can up the other side. Other than my pant legs I make it with a foot to spare. My legs get wet over the knees but my boots and pack are dry. It is a struggle to get my socks and boots over my still cold and stiff feet. I have never seen a tidal effect on such a small stream, beautiful. Maybe there will be another ahead.