After our brief hike at Eastern Knubble, we aimed for a more ambitious adventure at the Cutler Coast Public Lands. Our plan was to take the trail from the parking lot and then create a loop by turning on the Inland Trail until it met with the Black Point Brook cutoff, then taking that to the Coastal Trail which we would take back to the car. For me, it seemed an overly ambitious 5.5 miles, but you never know your limits until you try, so I agreed to go along with the plan.
It was roughly a half a mile to the Inland Trail which we navigated without any problems. The mosquitoes were not as numerous as Eastern Knubble, but, our tolerance was low so it wasn’t long before we reached for the nets. At least here we were able to pause now and then to admire the beauty of the forest.
The trail system did have quite a number of roots and stones which made the hike a little difficult but the beginning portion was not too bad. The same was true of the early section of the Inland Trail. We stopped along this path a few times to admire the Bunchberries growing out of a stump, to study the occasional mushroom, or to listen to the brook as it followed its course along the mossy ground.
According to our map it was about 1.5 miles to the cutoff and so far it wasn’t too arduous, although we did have to work our way around some muddy sections. Unfortunately, things went downhill fast. Soon, the muddy areas were long and frequent. Here we discovered that the moss covered ground actually hid a fair amount of water. Several times I topped out my boots in the muck, leaving my feet wet for the remainder of our adventure. Many times the brush encroached so much over the trail that it became little more than an animal track. This made traversing the few bog boards in the area difficult since we could not see the edges of the board through the brush. To make matters worse, the trail had been re-routed adding an additional 1.5 miles to our journey! It almost felt like someone was playing a joke! They must have thought, “This trail is much too dry, let’s re-route it through even wetter sections.” At one point, we had to cross a pool of water where a rope handle had been placed to steady our progress across the water, except the rope was broken. Really!!!
By the time we reached the Black Point Brook cutoff I was pretty much done. We were now eight tenths of a mile from the Coastal Trail. Much of this trail was mucky as well, but we did find a bench at a slightly higher elevation where I could rest a bit before we continued our slough.
When we reached the Coastal Trail, we had to make our way up over some stone steps but we did finally reach a lovely spot for lunch. Perched on a suitable rock, we watched people walking along a pebbled beach below us, before they either continued on to the end of the trail or returned past our location.
We sat for quite some time, but at this point I was done and we still had 2.8 miles to go. At least our path followed the coast and we did have some spectacular views. After a time, we found ourselves looking down at another stone filled beach. The problem was that we were standing at the edge of the trail with no additional blazes indicating where we were supposed to go. Eventually, we found a blue stripe painted on the rocks heading down to the beach, so we now had to scramble down to the water. It was difficult finding the next blaze and after passing a small waterfall we did not even find a hint of another marker. We knew that at some point we had to head back up to the cliff so we picked what looked like a trail through some bushes. Finding footprints at the top was encouraging.
In a grassy field at the top of the cliff, we discovered that our troubles were not yet over. We saw trails going in all different directions and there was not a trail marker in sight, not even a stick planted in the field to point the way. And what was hidden under all the grass? MUD. Here I was on a death march, my knees and ankles hurt, my feet were wet, I was exhausted and now we were lost. I had visions of being found face down in the mud. Since we had not done the Coastal Trail as an out and back hike, we had no prior knowledge of which trail to select. My husband studied the different trails, trying to determine where other hikers before us had gone, but he found footprints on all of them, meaning other people had gotten lost as well. We were just about ready to head back to the beach when two hikers appeared from that direction. We told them we were lost and they kindly showed us the hidden trail, yet another trail with brush growing over it. Once we got past this section, the trail was obvious and thus abundantly marked all the way back to the parking lot.
I had survived my 7 mile ordeal (plus the almost 2 miles at Eastern Knubble). I still would have been tired and sore, since I had gone well past my capabilities but it might have been a little more enjoyable if there were more trail markers in the more obscure sections and if a little more maintenance had been done to keep the paths visible and passable.