Saturday, August 11, 2018

June Lake

When Issiah and I had hiked to Indigo Lake the weekend before, we passed straight through the junction with the June Lake Trail. A half-hearted attempt was made to persuade Issiah to hike to the lake but that was pretty much a fail. He wasn't having any of that, especially after being told he was going to get ice cream on the way home. In retrospect, I perhaps should have used the ice cream as an enticement before we continued past the trail junction and not just have told him we'd stop for ice cream with no precondtions. Well, I'd never been to June Lake and I still wanted to go, as it is becoming increasingly hard to find a relatively nearby trail that I've never been on before. 

Blue sky on a hazy day
There were a number of wildfires burning south of Roseburg and the smoke had been pretty thick down in the 'burg. I was slated to lead a hike to Sawtooth Peak but when nary a hiker showed up, that freed me up to follow my hiking muse to June Lake instead. Conditions were fairly smoky so I headed up the North Umpqua Highway with low expectations about the quality of air I'd be breathing. However, once up the gravel road climbing away from Lemolo Lake, the air cleared up noticeably and lungs were grateful. While never completely smoke free, at least the sky was blue which it had not been for most of the drive.

First sight of Little Timpanogas Lake
A revisit to Indigo Lake was in order, if only for the extra miles to satisfy those who are mileage addicted like your merry blogster. And for extra extra miles, I parked on Forest Road 2154 and came in on the Middle Fork Trail. Little Timpanogas Lake is the source of the Middle Fork Willamette River and the short hike from the trailhead took longer than it should have, thanks to some amply laden huckleberry bushes growing along the trail. Normally, the huckleberry bushes get picked clean by passing hikers, but on a little-used trail there are millions of unharvested berries to tempt berry hounds.

Twisted stalk fruits dangle in the sun
Above Little Timpanogas Lake, there was a trail junction with the tie-in to the June Lake Trail. I didn't realize there was a tie-in (short-cut) to June Lake from Little Timpanogas Lake and the trail was not on my map so onward to Indigo Lake it was. Best to go with the familiar and the extra miles that come with it.

Indigo Lake, again
Indigo Lake was not as spectacular as the week before, mostly because there was a noticeable smoky haze in the air. But at least the sky was blue, so no complaining allowed, it had been dirty brown in town earlier in the morning. At Indigo Lake, I grabbed the trail that sort of circumnavigated the small and scenic lake. I say sort of, because at the far end of the lake, where it abuts the rocky base of Sawtooth Peak, you have to rock hop across boulders deposited by the rugged mountain over time immemorial. When I arrived at the rockpile, a father and son were there, debating the wisdom of scrambling through the rocks so I had them follow me across.

Autumn's first blush

Once the Indigo Lake circumnavigation was dispensed with, a quick retreat down the path brought me to the junction with the June Lake Trail. From here on in, it would be all new trail for me. Of course, the new trail was miles and miles of viewless forest but on the plus side, there were more huckleberries to graze upon. In a sure sign that summer was coming to an end, the bushes were displaying the first colors of autumn.

Bee all you can bee
After several miles of hiking and grazing, there was another trail junction to figure out. It was my old friend, the tie-in trail from Little Timpanogas Lake, coming in from the right. We (my imaginary friend and I) were going to June Lake and a left turn commenced a long descent to the lake, which was somewhat alarming because all that elevation loss would surely have to be gained on the way back.

June Lake

My preconception of June Lake was that of a small lake bordering on pond status, similar to Little Timpanogas Lake. But no, June Lake is fairly large and would make an ideal weekend backpack destination without the crowds so prevalent at Indigo Lake. A family of five was doing that very thing and Mom and Dad are hereby nominated as Parents of the Year for getting their kids out on a backpack trip.

Uphill, in the warm sun
After a lunch and photo shoot, it was trudge, trudge, trudge uphill back to the Indigo Lake Trail junction. In keeping with the new-trail theme of today's hike, I continued straight on the tie-in trail. The route ran mostly through shaded forest which was greatly appreciated, seeing as how the day had warmed up, and besides which, there were still berries to be eaten. A quad-burning ascent was followed by a knee-straining descent down to Little Timpanogas Lake, followed by the short hike out the Middle Fork Trail. I kind of decided I really liked this hike and I'll be back again, probably with a backpack on and grandchildren in tow. I'll also try to be more strategic about mentioning ice cream.

A berry worthwhile hike
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Indigo Lake 8/2018

For years, decades even, the weekend ritual and routine has been as regular as a pulsar (but not nearly as rapid): Turn off the alarm, yell at the cat, shower, drink coffee, yell at the cat, get a little bite to eat, yell at the cat some more, and then drive a couple of hours to the trailhead of choice. However, this July I did something I haven't done since before I began pursuing the nice little avocation that is hiking: I took a month off. Concerts and family gatherings were partly to blame but let's be honest here, it just felt good to sleep in. Too good, probably, but now I know how the rest of the world rolls! At any rate, the advent of August found me at a tipping point: either I go hiking or give it up altogether.

That's my boy!
Grandson Issiah was staying with us for a three-day weekend and we had already put the first day to good use by cycling 15 miles, which is a long ride for him. On Day 2 of our weekend, the short hike to picturesque Indigo Lake would mark my return to hiking normalcy. Dispensing with the bicycle helmets and cycling gloves from the day prior, we laced up our boots at the Timpanogas Lake Trailhead. We also made sure to slather on Deet too, as the mosquitoes were only too happy to see us, making me wonder if maybe I should have taken the month of August off, too.

Just a beautiful day for a hike

The first couple of miles of the hike weren't all that much to write home about, consisting as they did of an uphill pull through pleasant forest while swatting at unpleasant mosquitoes. The trail switchbacked to and fro underneath a homogeneous stand of firs all seemingly the same size, indicating this area had been logged back in the day. Issiah said that after the aforementioned logging, the hills must have been as bald as me!

Why we hike!
After a couple of miles, the trail leveled out and passed through a series of small but scenic meadows before dropping down to Indigo Lake's basin. The lake is a postcard-perfect advertisement for hiking in the Cascades mountain range. Rugged Sawtooth Peak presides over the far end of the lake while the ever present conifer forest blankets the surrounding hills and slopes. On this day, the sky was a sparkling azure color, a rarity in this summer of forest fires, while small puffy white clouds formed and dissipated in the afternoon sun. Just perfect!

Issiah's swimming companion
Where there is water, there is boy, and Issiah wasted no time jumping into the lake for an impromptu swim. He found a toad swimming with him in the lake, so at least he had some other warty company besides his grandfather. Me, I just lay against a log in the pleasantly warm sunlight, taking pictures of the lake from my nicely prone position, and generally just relaxed after my month-long layoff from hiking. Neither one of us was in a hurry to turn back so we enjoyed a lengthy lollygag at the lake. 

Issiah thought the hike was berry nice
On the way back, we noticed small ripe grouseberries clustered in juicy temptation on the low growing bushes next to the trail. Once Issiah tasted his first grouseberry, our hiking pace became slower than a slothful sloth, but at least we enjoyed fruity dessert on the way down to Timpanogas Lake.

Clouds form over Little Timpanogas Lake
Upon our return to the trailhead, we took a short walk to neighboring Little Timpanogas Lake and Issiah went for a Round 2 swim. I daresay that if we would have visited nearby Timpanogas Lake too, there would have been a Round 3. If Issiah ever takes a DNA test, we'd find salmon and river otters in his family tree. Despite a boy splashing in the lake, the small body of water seemed particularly picturesque today, maybe because of my month-long layoff. Clouds formed over Little Timpanogas Lake, each successive cloud becoming taller than its predecessor. The piling clouds had me wondering if a thunderstorm was arriving. I hoped not, because we surely didn't need any more fires.

The trail was well shaded
After another round of lolling by the lake (me) and lolling in the lake (Issiah), we hopped into the car and commenced the long drive home, augmented by a stop for ice cream and mocha coffee. The next day, Issiah and I did another 15 mile bike ride to cap off what turned out to be nearly a perfect weekend. Hopefully, it will be another 10 years or so before I take another month off of hiking!

Pretty much the Best Weekend Ever!
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Roughrider Falls

This blog should really be titled "Rough Roughrider Fails" with the accent on the "Rough". Coming as it did, right after a less than stellar hike to Sherwood Meadows, a disappearing trail should have come as no surprise, but nonetheless I didn't anticipate a National Recreation Trail to be in such poor shape.

A frog basks in the sun
Starting out from the Hammaker Meadows Trailhead, the Upper Rogue River Trail gave no hint of the travails that awaited me about 1.5 miles into the hike. Sure, there were a few fallen trees scattered here and there, but nothing outside of the norm with most lying right next to the trail and not across it.

Candystick emerges after the winter layoff
The mid-summer flowers were in bloom, and I took my time and took my photographs, too. The white spectrum of the rainbow were well represented by Queen's cup and Columbia windflower, with thick carpets of bunchberry earning the miniature dogwood-related plant the Most Profuse Flower of the Day award. Pink and white spears of candystick poked up out of the ground, joined by wintergreen and Prince's pine. Much photography ensued and my pace was relaxed and leisurely.

A large waterfall that was not Roughrider Falls
The trail hugged a forested slope above the Middle Fork Rogue River, glimpses of which could be seen through openings in the trees. The water was amazingly clear, which shouldn't be surprising given that Boundary Springs, the river's fount, was less than 10 miles away. Lush green meadows flanked the clear running stream, which snaked to and fro in the abundant riverine greenery. About a mile in, there was a sizable, yet nameless, waterfall and I bushwhacked a bit to get some pictures of the scenic cascade.

A portent of things to come
A little over a mile, a tree lay across the trail and I stepped over it. Not a big deal, but about a quarter-mile further lay another tree. And shortly further along the path, another tree. See the trend? The trees were coming in ever increasing frequency and the size of the trunks grew larger and larger. No more easy step-overs for me, nope. I was having to scramble over, crawl under, or bushwhack up or down off the trail to get past the prone behemoths. Progress slowed dramatically, my rate having nothing to do with photography fun.

Gnome plant 
I was determined to reach Roughrider Falls, damn the trees anyway, but then they started coming in twos and threes and this hike was rapidly turning into hard work. My resolve began to falter when I worked my way past a pile of six trees that required both a slither underneath and a crawl over. Rounding the next bend, there was a veritable wall of trees, maybe a dozen and the pile was probably about 15 feet high. The trail was contouring across a steep slope so I couldn't really go around them, I would have to go up and over that pile. That sound you heard was my determination exploding as it crash-dove, trailing flames and smoke, into the forest floor.

Columbia windflower
Figurative tail between my legs, I turned around and negotiated all the fallen trees all over again. But, the good ol' Upper Rogue River Trail had one more surprise to throw at me. Once I reached the section of trail that did not have trees laying on top of it, the hike found me in a rhythm with only my own thoughts for company, and I didn't have much of those, either. Suddenly, movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention, there was some small black furry animal walking in the woods, paralleling my direction. 

Ripening grouseberries

What was that creature? My first thought was a weasel or maybe a feral cat but then, upon closer inspection, the dog-like snout and rounded ears gave it away: a bear cub, about 15 yards away from me. Walking just behind the cub was another cub, so by my count that made two cubs and my one overriding thought was "WHERE IS MAMA?" From behind a fallen tree, a large black head arose and there was Mama Bear, and boy, she was giving me the stink-eye.

The Rogue River courses through a meadow
Quickly, my idle thoughts became very active, "Think, Richard, think!" I walked backward down the trail, kicking aside sticks and stones to make noise as I did so. I wanted Mama to know a) I was leaving and b) where I was at all times. We didn't want her wondering about my location at all. Meanwhile, the cubs ran like black lightning right up a tree. I didn't realize how quick bears can move, it was truly amazing the speed and agility of the two ursine tykes as they ran up the tree. Meanwhile, Mama bear beat a hasty 30-yard retreat into the forest and waited, while yours truly stopped retreating, making sure to remain visible to all concerned. Plus, I wanted to know where all the moving parts were, too. 

Slime mold, looking a lot like bear urp
I'm not going to lie, I really wanted to get closer and photograph the bear family but the logical portion of my brain said that was a really stupid idea. The smart brain won out but still... Anyway, Mama grunted out some commands that her kids understood, as they ran down the tree trunk and the entire bear clan just melted back into the woods and the ordeal was over, sort of. I say sort of, because the whole encounter left me spooked to the point that every fallen tree or log was a bear and every twig snapping or bird flitting was a bear on the trail behind me. However, I'm glad to report that every fallen tree or log was just that, and every noise in the forest was just a noise in the forest.

Freshly cleared trail near Hammaker Meadows
When I reached the trailhead, I hadn't hiked very far due to my turning back. So, for extra mileage (obviously, I had calmed down by now) I continued south on the Upper Rogue River Trail, expecting to run into fallen trees at some point. However, this section of trail had been recently cleared out and you could still smell the sawdust from the freshly cut logs flanking the trail. Unfair! 

Hammaker Meadows
A short walk brought me to expansive Hammaker Meadows, and I bushwacked down into the meadows. I tell you, there is nothing like green grass under blue sky. Throw in some forested mountains flanking the meadows and river valley, and all the day's travails suddenly almost became worth it. Normally, I hike to relax but this had been a beary tough and stressful hike.

The conks need to eat a lot more trees
For more pictures (no pictures of the bears, sorry) of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sherwood Meadows

Not every hike gets to be an epic. And, just because it's on the map doesn't necessarily mean it's still there on the ground either. Too bad, because both Lane and I had hiked to Sherwood Meadows before and we had both found the hike to be enjoyable and worthy. So enjoyable and so worthy, that Lane was entertaining a notion about leading a hike here for the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club but naturally, after this day's struggle of a hike on an exceedingly sketchy trail, he decided the club could very well hike elsewhere and thereby continue to maintain the "friends" aspect of Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club.

If only all trails were so easy to follow!
The thing is, this poorly maintained trail has a very well maintained trailhead replete with a large parking lot, plenty of signs, and what appears to be a fully operable horse corral. Strange. But off we we went and initially, the trail was eminently followable through a dry and sparse forest. Because of the small spindly trees, we were also eminently exposed to sunlight and it didn't take long for us to feel the heat. Also eminently followable was us, and the mosquitoes found us eminently eatable, no matter how much Deet got slathered on.

Searching for a trail in Beaver Meadows
After a short distance, the trail entered grassy Beaver Meadows. On the map, there should have been a trail junction here, offering us two ways to get to Sherwood Meadows. We spent a great deal of time and sweaty energy in the open meadows searching for the trail but alas, we could not find it. We did find traces of trails past in the pastures though, for there were plenty of paths braiding through the expansive green leas flanking  surrounding the clear waters of East Fork Muir Creek. Most paths would peter out after a bit even though we found sign that some of these paths had been actual trail, vis-a-vis sawed logs scattered here and there. 

After wandering hither and yon through the grass while swatting at mosquitoes, we gave up on finding the trail and simply began enjoying the meadow. If one could temporarily ignore the mosquitoes, there were butterflies, wildflowers, and a small creek reposing underneath a cloudless blue sky. Much photography ensued, and hiking progress slowed to crawl velocity.

One of several fords of East Fork Muir Creek
Eventually, we backtracked to the original trail and continued on an increasingly brushy path to East Fork Muir Creek. The trail sort of disappeared in the lush growth but we did manage to find the resumption of the trail on the other side of the creek, after walking across logs spanning the clear running stream. And then the fun started.

See the trail?
Me, neither

The trail on the opposite side quickly petered out, disappearing into the lush creekside jungle. We turned left and followed the creek downstream, searching for some trail tread. Life would have been so much easier had we gone upstream, but how were we to know? Anyway, once Lane and I figured out that there was no trail where we were at, we decided to cross-country it to where we thought the trail might be.

Candystick diverts my attention away from my misery
Of course, our route charged straight up a nasty steep hill, the grade as unforgiving and unrelenting as an ex-wife (or an ex-husband too, I leave it to the reader to insert the gender of choice, here). The slope was heavily forested but despite the ample shade, the day had gotten quite warm and an eye-burning mixture of salty sweat, Deet, sunscreen, and trail dust were soon running into our stinging orbs,  making us cry over something other than cross-countrying it up an incredibly steep slope. Although, if truth be told, there were plenty of tears shed in that regard, too.

At times, the trail was quite pleasant
Anyway, the bad uphill eventually stopped and leveled out atop a forested plateau, where we found a faint trail tread. The next portion of the hike was an uphill trudge through the heat and insectile vampires swarming in the forest. At times the trail was quite easy to follow and at other times, we'd be peering into the forest, looking for the resumption of the tread. 

California blue-eyed grass
We ate lunch at another expansive meadow that lay within a mile of Sherwood Meadows, if only because there were slightly less mosquitoes per cubic foot of air than in the forest. When not eating, we were both crawling through the grass, taking pictures of the profuse wildflowers blooming within. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end though, and we headed back out onto the trail.

Stepping stones across the creek
Because of the energy-sapping heat and the heartless uphill grade, we were both exhausted despite the relatively short distance we had covered so far. Fortunately, Sherwood Meadows lay downhill from our lunch spot, ostensibly making the hiking easier. Unfortunately though, the path was covered with piles and piles of fallen trees and that was it. Communicating wordlessly like a long-time married couple, we turned around and headed back the way we came, abandoning Sherwood Meadows like an unfaithful suitor.

We stayed on the trail on the way back, and it was obvious where we had made the incorrect turn that set us on our tedious cross-country venture. But, even if we had made the correct turn, we still would have had to clamber over piles of trees in the heat while mosquitoes tormented us. Like I said, not every hike gets to be epic. Lane agreed, avowing "before today, I thought I Sherwood like to do this hike and now that I've been, I Sherwouldn't!" Not every joke gets to be funny, either.

Paintbrush in a meadow
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Boundary Springs

Last year, wildfires by the dozens swept through the southern Cascades, covering Roseburg with a smothering acrid blanket of sour smoke. It was kind of like sticking your head up the exhaust pipe of a car with a blown head casket, not that I really know what that is like. Anyway, one of those many fires had burned north of Crater Lake and wouldn't you know it, Boundary Springs was right in the middle of that mess. But that was last year, and curious, I headed out to the trailhead with grandsons Daweson and  Issiah in tow, wondering what was left of the trail.

After the fire
Well, as it turned out, the trail was still there but pretty much everything around it was gone. But really, it's not all that much of a loss and I'd better explain. Previously, the trail had ambled through a viewless lodgepole pine forest before reaching the fabled springs. Lodgepole forests can be singularly tedious and dull to hike through as the spindly trees all kind of look the same after just a step or two on the trail. Lodgepoles grow in poor soils so they are the only show in town in dry dusty pumice-based soils. Because of the poor soil, there isn't much in the way of lush undergrowth or heaven help us, maybe even another tree species. The trees are scrawny and spindly and do not provide much shade, yet despite their spindliness, they manage to block all views of the Rogue River coursing below the trail. So, a fire burning up a monotonous lodgepole forest and all the mosquitoes contained wherein, is not necessarily all that bad of a thing.

Miniature lupine was a common sight
Another demerit for Boundary Springs gets awarded for being a short hike with a long drive to get there. Throw in the dull lodgepole forest and this hike naturally does not hang in my Hall of Favorite Hikes of All Time; but with two kids grumbling after the aforementioned long drive, a short hike seemed the way to go. We set out on the trail which wound its way through an austere forest of silver snags starkly etched against a cobalt sky. No trees had survived this fire yet amazingly, lodgepole seedlings were sprouting in hopeful profusion on the ground. Lodgepole needs fire to germinate as the heat from the conflagration opens up the pine cones and scatters the seeds and obviously, the fire had done its job. Just a year after the fire, and already life was returning to the forest.

The squabblers
Not only were there baby trees returning to the forest, the forest floor (or what would be the forest floor, if there were a forest) was thinly carpeted with lupines and fireweed with twittering birds flitting about the dead trees. Didn't see or hear any woodpeckers though, but just give it time. And speaking of babes in the forest, my two young charges didn't waste any time insulting and irritating each other, their whiny voices carrying through the dead forest and still air. Oh, this was going to be a long hike, despite the short distance!

Doing "The Daweson"
Ah, but the forest served up weapons of mass distraction, and the boy's seemingly incessant scathing put-downs and slashing ripostes were soon terminated by millions of voracious mosquitoes arriving to feed upon two grumpy boys. Fortunately, Grandpa was well prepared with a bottle of Deet and peace was restored to the forest after a healthy application thereof. 

Issiah the Fearless
As mentioned, the trail was without shade and it was fairly warm and we were soon sweating from a combination of endeavor and hot sun, our feet kicking up small clouds of dust that hung motionless in the still air. It was too hot for the boys to resume unfinished arguments and one outnumbered grandfather was grateful. 

The Rogue River flowed below the trail

One positive note to a wildfire wreaking death and destruction upon a forest is that views get opened up, with that annoying clutter previously referred to as "the forest" no longer getting in the way of observing the surrounding landscapes. For most of this hike, the Rogue River was eminently visible at the bottom of its canyon. Based on previous hikes in this area, I was like "There's a river down there! Who knew?"

Boundary Springs, the new version 
Because the scenery was so different from past pre-fire hikes to Boundary Springs, and because the side trail to the springs had been rerouted, I nearly didn't recognize Boundary Springs when we arrived. Following an increasingly faint path, I stepped across a creek and headed uphill where the path finally petered out. Wait a minute, that small creek I stepped over was actually Boundary Springs, without all the trees surrounding the famed fount of the Rogue River. I'm going to have get used to the new treeless look for this trail and destination!

Issiah appreciated the
refreshing qualities of the spring...
...while Daweson enjoyed the hair
curling properties of the icy waters
Anyway, as advertised, there was the Rogue River gushing out of the ground and the boys were impressed with the crystalline purity of  the water. They also were impressed with the cooling properties of the nascent river, seeing as how it was a hot day and all. In short order bandannas, shirts, pants, and boys were soon soaked in the restorative waters of Boundary Springs.

A dusty road led to West Lake
Daweson and Issiah wanted to swim but alas, the shallow river did not provide any quality swimming holes. I wanted to go on a longer hike so in a confluence of our two respective goals, we decided to strike toward West Lake. At the point where the trail crossed both the river and a forest road, we grabbed the sere road for the extra two-mile round-trip hike to the lake.

West Lake, an oasis in the middle of a burned forest
Trudge, trudge, trudge, the road was incredibly dusty, the day had become unabashedly hot, mosquitoes pestered us in spite of the Deet, and the boys began annoying each other all over again. But there in the middle of all the burned trees, was the surprisingly intact shelter at West Lake and let's give a tip of the hat to the fire crews for expending the successful effort to save the rustic cabin. Clothes were shed and moods quickly improved when the boys waded into the blue lake ringed by dead trees. If Daweson and Issiah ever form a band, they'll have to call themselves either the Skinny Dippers or the Underwear Boys. But if they ever did start a band, they'd surely start arguing about which one of them would be the lead singer. Anyway, they enjoyed swimming and verbally sniping at each other while I enjoyed taking incriminating photographs for the sole purpose of embarrassing them at a future high school graduation slide show.

Friendly spirits
Spirits restored by a backcountry swim, we resumed trudging through the dead forest under the warm sun as the mosquitoes buzzed in our faces. Yet, despite all of these travails I've been grumbling about, in my opinion the hike had been nonetheless improved by the ravages of the last year's fire. Now if only the firefighters could put out those red-hot embers of smoldering sibling rivalries!

Hoverfly, hovering as only a hoverfly can
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.