In the Southern Oregon Coast Range lies the Devil's Den. We didn't find the devil, but we found an adventure.
I have been doing this type of adventure hiking since around 2005 and have traveled all over the place looking for waterfalls, rock formations, and anything else that is interesting in the wilderness. Turns out, there was an amazing place fairly close to town all along. This trip report encompasses 4 different trips to the location. The first three, I went with my dad, Duane Cannon, and my 8-year old daughter, Emily. The last time was with Dan Amos (see video at the end).
We headed up with vague directions and immediately realized we had no idea where this was. Thankfully, we had internet access, so I pulled up the map on my phone. Topographic maps were no help:
Yeah, good luck with that.
I then pulled up the lidar map and had better luck.
That looks like it could be something worth checking out. It's called the Devil's Den. If I were naming it, I'd probably go with Devil's Crack, but that's probably why they don't let me name things. (Look at the lidar and tell me if that's a "den" or a "crack". I rest my case.)
Also, let's stop with the Devil's _____ for naming places in nature. It's old, it's trite, it's not clever. Be creative.
From north to south, the center of the crevice lines out to about 500' long. Not all that big, but like brains, surface area matters more than size and what doesn't show up on the lidar map is an incredible amount of surface area this place contains.
Looking into one part of the crevice and the amount of things to look at, think about, and focus on is incredible.
Upon entering the Devil's Den, there is a sketchy drop down into a cave if you're not careful.
Down inside the cave. It's not all that interesting once you're inside, but it's about the journey, not the destination. All of the caves I found are vertical caves caused by the sandstone rocks splitting and drifting apart.
Some interesting climbing bolts drilled into the cave walls. Doesn't seem to be much use to where they are drilled.
Given how it forms, sandstone tells a story. As cool as this is, it's also what I was standing on up top. Even when the rocks look secure here, they are not.
The inside of the crevice varies from fairly easy to sort of challenging. There are huge boulders to climb over, under, or around. It's a fun challenge. Because of the rock type, there are nooks and crannies everywhere to explore. One of the more fascinating ones is a narrow alley between two walls.
After climbing over a large boulder then squeezing through a narrow gap, daylight appears.
That is a monstrous rock hanging between the walls. This photo almost looks like it could be upside down, but it is not.
There is a way to get from inside the Devil's Den to outside. This old, wax boat anchor rope tied to a dead, wiggly root is not the way I'm going to be going. Not to mention it's not hard at all to get to that spot by going around the outside (coming on the next post...). This is about a 10' drop.
This one is particularly daunting. I've lived in houses smaller than the rock hanging in the center, and it's being wedged up by rocks the size of a pillow.
Same rocks but with the wall in view. The crack puts things into perspective. I've done a lot of stupid, dangerous stuff over the years. In noticeable, tangible threats, standing in this spot is probably way up on that list. Yes, that house-sized rock could hang for another 1,000 years. It could also hang for another 1,000 seconds. Neither would be a surprise.
And yes, on one of the trips, one of us got hit by a gravel-sized rock.
Opposite wall, another huge crack.
Inside here, there is a wide gap with what looks like a path on the other side.
That gap at the bottom is ~40' deep. It is almost jumpable but that would be pretty risky. That path sure looks like it leads somewhere.
It doesn't. This is from the other side and that small flat spot about halfway in the photo is where that path comes out at. Directly over a huge crack and another 50' drop down into a hole (below what's in the photo).
Unfortunately, in the Oregon Coast Range, there is always garbage and graffiti. Here we see a couple elk carcasses, some beer cans/bottles, an old rusty freezer, and a plastic Safeway shopping cart. Directly above this is easy access from a road. The guess is that this stuff was dumped over the side and someone chucked all of it into this hole because that was easier than dragging it out. This is why we can't have nice things.
The towering walls through the halfway area provide a sense of awe and power. The rest of this is approximately the northern half of the crevice.
The northern half is arguably the more attractive portion. It's greener and more lush, while the sandstone provides some points that take you back in time.
At many points throughout the Devil's Den, it is unclear which way is the right way. Some of the potential routes are hidden, some that are obvious are dangerous. It was around this point that I found myself in a big box of rock with an obvious-looking route to the next section. I did a quick check of the lidar images and realized it was not the way to go. Instead, I pushed into the wall and found the way. I find myself using lidar images as much as topographic maps for navigation. I can see me using it more than topos in the future.
This looks pretty sketchy. But it wasn't bad, as the rock was sticky in spite of being really steep.
The sketchiness was only going to increase.
The small hole through.
A photo of the walk down.
In the video, there was a glimpse of a massive, dangling rock.
This rock is so big I almost should have used the panorama mode to get it all in one frame. It is resting on a rock that is remarkably smaller and doing so by mere inches. That rock is fracturing away from the wall.
The flat rock is the problem. There's really nothing to grab onto, not only with your hands but even for your feet. It slopes down slightly. And it's covered with a thin layer of sand. Not enough to catch your feet, just enough to act like tiny marbles. To make it more exciting, there is a 20' drop to either side of the rock. It is a low-key nightmare. At the end of the rock, there is one small section of flattish ground, and it is about where that crack is in the middle of the video preview image. The flat spot isn't overly large. The drop down is ~7 feet, so I could jump down and maybe catch myself, but the slightest misstep, loss of balance, or imperfection means I'd go flailing into that cave on the left.
So how do you get down?
That little obelisk is the way. It is about 4-5 inches wide, 3 feet tall, and wobbles slightly. Directly on the other side of it is one of those 20' drops. Keeping in mind the lack of anything at all to grip and the sand as it slopes away and this was a really difficult little spot to put much faith in. I took extra time to evaluate almost every step. The plan ended up with me scooching down, sitting on the ledge next to the obelisk, then bridging with my feet walking down the wall until I could reach the obelisk. This was the safest and most reliable thing I could come up with.
The obelisk to drop down onto (or climb up on, if you came the other way).
The height of that flat rock is apparent here.
This view reminds me of something from an Indiana Jones movie. It's large room that gives off a tremendous air of mystery.
The drop down the right side, facing that cracked wall. I have been tempted to go down in using a rope but I don't know if it's really worth it. Maybe next time.
The view straight up.
Heading down the last little stretch is something else.
This is such a remarkable place and it's really difficult to capture without actually making concerted effort. There is so much going on and take in. It's one of the more complicated locations I've been to. I felt like I was taking photos the entire time and still didn't get what I wanted on camera. And that's just the inside (of which I've only shown a fraction). I'll post another detailing the interesting stuff outside the Devil's Den next. That will be followed by another one showing the plants, insects, and wildlife.
And before we end this one, here's an episode of Agent of the Wild involving me and Dan Amos, who puts on the show.