No one is absolutely sure how the Alsea People pronounced the name of their village on what is now the Central Oregon Coast, but everyone who has seen the newest trail in Yachats (Ya-hots, the modern pronunciation) agrees that the Ya’Xaik Trail is a stunning addition to the web that connects the village, the forest, the ocean, and the magnificent Pacific Coast Trail.
The spelling of Ya’Xaik is an approximation of the original and was chosen to honor the native people who lived in this area for thousands of years. Shell middens mark their use of the coast as a rich source of food and many of the trails now used by hikers were traveled seasonally between the coast and inland hunting grounds or for travel among families and tribes.
Climbing gently above a tiny creek whose soft sound mingles with bird calls and the ever-present boom of the ocean, the trail was designed by Jerry Sand, a landscape architect and, with his wife Kathleen, the owner of the Gerdemann Botanical Preserve (which awaits the hiker at the other end of the trail). Using natural materials wherever possible, the trail was built with many helping hands—Job Corps forestry students, members of the Yachats Trails Committee, and many citizen volunteers. The trail also represents yet another successful collaboration by the City of Yachats and the Siuslaw National Forest, with funding provided by the city, State Parks, and a grant from the Oregon Parks Foundation to View the Future, a local organization dedicated to preserving the natural beauty surrounding Yachats.
Like most Yachats trails, this one is pretty much at your doorstep. You can walk there from almost anywhere in town. For example, after you get your coffee fix at the Green Salmon, the Village Bean, or Bread & Roses, follow the historic 804 Trail to the Fireside Motel. Head east through the parking lot and cross the highway to Diversity Drive. The trailhead is at the east end (with several parking spaces if you decide to drive). You will climb gently into the forest, then back down again to the east entrance of the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve, where you can wander under old shore pines and Himalayan rhododendrons. After that immersion in natural beauty, you can then plunge into human creativity at Earthworks, Touchstone, or The Wave, galleries which feature everything from pottery to photography, jewelry to whimsy of every sort.
Ron Brean, the mayor of Yachats, notes that “trails, and the environments they traverse, have both economic and symbolic importance. Trails connect communities, they bridge cultures, and they can connect the past and the future.” So try the original sounds: “yäh’ khīk.” Shout it out next time you’re in Yachats. Think about those connections, let the beauty of nature surround you, and experience the layers of meaning to be found just by following a trail through the woods.
Trail maps are available at the Yachats Visitor Center and at most motels. Dogs on leash are welcome on the Ya’Xaik trail, but not allowed in the garden.