This past Fourth of July weekend, I spent my Sunday out at Road’s End with a few teammates (thanks to Ale for inviting us all, and for Celena, Michaela, and Yoli for coming along!). We journeyed to the coast in search of God’s Thumb (also known simply as The Thumb), a seaside hilltop that promised gorgeous views and a hike suited to all skill levels. After a brief trek up the road from the beach, past a litany of signs advertising beachfront rentals, we found ourselves at the trailhead. From then on we hiked upwards for a half-mile or so, enclosed by old-growth trees and ambitious shrubs. Thimbleberry, especially, seemed determined to crowd the trail at either side; anyone looking to experience the view from atop God’s Thumb will have to contend with thickets of it in order to get anywhere near the hilltop— as if the hill itself wasn’t enough of a challenge!
In the end, the view was everything we were promised and more: in the north, the curve of another outcropping; to the east, the ocean; and to the south, a clean shot of the beach where we began.
In some ways, the footpath that led us to God’s Thumb resembled the slopes of Mount Hebo, a site our team visited earlier in the week, and the hills of the National Wildlife Refuge at Baskett Slough, which we visited in June. While Mount Hebo is home to some of the same vegetation we encountered on the trail—namely thimbleberry, salmonberry, and Sitka spruce—Baskett Slough was formerly a prairie where land management practices, particularly controlled burning, were key to maintaining the site’s ecology. Though God’s Thumb and the trail that led us to it hardly resemble the oak prairie landscape that once defined Baskett Slough, I wonder if the trail we hiked wasn’t previously (or perhaps currently) subject to Indigenous land management practices.
From what I’ve gathered, this portion of the coast was subsumed into the Coast Reservation established in 1856 (“Heritage and Culture”). By the late 1800’s, the coastal reservation had been greatly reduced after the U.S. government executed the Dawes Act, and the Road’s End region appears to have been excluded from what became the Siletz reservation (“Reservation Reduction”). Prior to any and all treaty negotiations, what is today Lincoln City was then part of the Siuslaw and Alsea tribes’ lands (“Aboriginal Lands”). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate any information on Siuslaw or Alsea land management practices, or even much evidence that the Road’s End trail was extensively managed despite its seemingly abundant resources– not to say that that alone is proof that is wasn’t. In any case, I’m still interested in learning more about the landscape as it exists today and in the past. I’ll just have to keep searching!
“Heritage and Culture”. Oregon Coast. Web page, http://www.oregoncoast.org/heritage-culture/. July 6, 2016.
Smith, Brady. “Aboriginal Lands”. Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Electronic Document, www.ctsi.nsn.us/uploads/downloads/maps/ancestral_area.pdf. July 7, 2016.
“Reservation Reduction”. Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Electronic document, www.ctsi.nsn.us/uploads/downloads/maps/siletz_res_red _area.pdf. July 7, 2016.