Sunday, November 11, 2018

Yachats

In my view, one of Oregon's biggest mysteries is why Yachats is pronounced YAH-hahts but spelled like it should sound like YAH-chats. A cursory research conducted over the Internet (because if it's on the Internet, it MUST be true) revealed that the name possibly comes from the Siletz language and means "dark water at the foot of the mountain". OK, Cape Perpetua looms to the south of the small town so I get how that name could have originated. But when the first European first encountered the Siletz people and asked "What is the name of this place?", he probably got the answer "Yah-hahts". So then, said European writes in his journal "Yachats" and then from that point on, generations of Oregonians had to explain to their non-Oregon friends that the "c" is silent and as useful as a bubble-gum machine in a tetanus ward. Makes no sense to me at all, but there you go.

Abstract art found on the beach
Yachats is a quaint small town on the Oregon coast and because of the fantastic coastline scenery, hotels and house preside over shoreline vistas because we all know magnificent natural wonders need more hotels and tall buildings to enhance the view. At any rate, to get some mental health therapy that can only come from being out in nature and wilderness, I set out onto the Oregon Coast Trail and beneath my boots, welcomed the trail tread which felt a lot like...asphalt?

A churn erupts
OK, so this is not your wilderness hike. But one can look to the west and see rugged coast line and spouting churns, or one can look east and see Yachats. I prefer the view to the west. This hike began at Yachats State Park, where one can contemplate Cape Perpetua overlooking a small bay that is the estuary of the Yachats River. Immediately below were some fine tide pools with families enjoying the marine life contained within. Tidepooling is fun but I had a hike to do, so it was off on Ocean View Road, my hiking poles clacking metallically upon the pavement. 

Some of that Yachats shoreline
If I had looked closer at a map of the town, I could have ducked up 4th Street and added a park to my route but as it was, I just followed the Oregon Coast Trail signs which had me walking on public roads.  Suddenly, a dirt track appeared to the left and I grabbed it, thinking this surely must be the Oregon Coast Trail. Wrong, it was just a path down to the rocks and a small beach. Still thinking I was on the OCT, I continued over the rough shoreline terrain where a rambunctious churn at Agency Creek prevented me from safely continuing north. Still, the scenery was enjoyable so I didn't mind the wrong turn.

Yes, this really is the Oregon Coast Trail
The OCT continued north on roads until it became a paved trail that wandered behind backyards and houses. Beyond the Sea, a large hotel, loomed straight ahead but on the plus side, the trail followed the shore at this point without any asphalt being involved. I thought the hotel was oddly named because Beyond the Sea is Japan, which is easier to spell. Beyond Beyond the Sea was an even larger resort by the name of Adobe Resort which was strange, seeing how there are no adobe bricks within several time zones of Yachats. 

A perfect place for yoga and meditation
By the way, a brief moment of thanks to the two aforementioned hotels for allowing the Oregon Coast Trail to cruise between their imposing edifices and the Oregon coast. They didn't have to do that and sharing is appreciated. The next item of interest was Smelt Sands State Recreation Area, with some wild rock formations and picturesque tide pools filling up every dimple in the rocks. I can't say that I smelt anything unusual at Smelt Sands, though. Especially since Lane was not hiking with me, just sayin'.

The beach stretched all the way to Waldport
The trail left a lot of the urban feel behind when it ducked into a forest and dropped down on a beach that stretched out all the way to Waldport, about 10'ish miles away. The only hiking obstacle between me and Waldport was a wet ford across Starr Creek. From here on in, it would be a beach walk all the way to Tillicum Beach, my turnaround point. 

An ocean of silver
The beach was flanked inland by tall cliffs with imposing homes on them and after 4 miles, I had reached my beach saturation point. On the way back, the sunlight reflecting on a silver sea entertained and enthralled the camera, I have millions of photographs to support my claim of entrancement by the glimmering sea.

Boom!
I had been hiking in a rising tide and apart from an occasional wave chasing me up the beach every now and then, there was so much beach to hike on that that I was pretty much unaware of the incoming ocean. However, once back above the coast at Smelt Sands, the churns were very active with throngs of appreciative observers enjoying the show. Waves would surge up the narrow churns only to seemingly erupt out of the black rock at the end of the churn. It was quite a show and I soon forgot I was walking on an urban trail.

Shadow Man enjoyed the hike, too
All good things come to an end though, and I was tired and happy when I reached the parking lot at the end of the hike. Spending the day on the coast is always a good thing. For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rogue River Trail

I was sort of playing hooky from work (although it's not really playing hooky if you have permission from your employer) and joined friends John, Jennifer, Lindsay, and Penny on a mid-week hike. This was the day after the 2018 mid-term elections and already the sonic space that had previously been filled up with toxic political ads was blissfully quiet. Given our politics these days, the reflexive cacophony will soon resume, the relative silence being fleeting and ephemeral. Just a thought: Let's suppose I am going to vote for Candidate A. At the halftime break of a Portland Timber's game, while I'm assembling a taco in the kitchen, a commercial runs and the narrator says with snark and condescension dripping off of every hanging syllable, "Candidate A: Bad for you, bad for America". Am I supposed to think to myself "Wow, I had no idea Candidate A was bad for me, thanks for letting me know!. And bad for America too? Why, I'd be unpatriotic if I voted for him or her so I'm switching to Candidate B!" Does that ever really happen? And what happens to my vote when next I see an anti-Candidate B ad? Yeesh, my mind yearns for more intelligent discussion and a world with no election ads of any sort.

A photographic metaphor for elections
Speaking of more intelligence, we were out hiking on the Rogue River Trail. The trail showed signs of recent use but not by people avoiding election commercials. Nope, the frequent piles of dark black/purple poop evidenced fitness-oriented bears also enjoy hiking on the cliffs above the Rogue River. Or maybe they were expressing in their own bear way, their opinion of all the "Vote for Smokey" ads. Not that I am a poop connoisseur or poopologist, but many of the piles were seemingly just a few minutes old and answered the age old question "Do bears poop in the woods?", the answer being "No, but they do poop on the trail!" At any rate, I'm glad to report that no live bears were encountered by live hikers on this hike. I daresay there'd be a few more piles of poop on the path if that were that to happen.

The mountains were mist-covered
before the morning burn-off
It was a chill morning but the day was mostly sunny. The tall peaks surrounding the river all had their noses up in the clouds but after a mile or so of hiking, the clouds had burned off. The river was running a dark green but still had a little silt due to the rains from the week prior. The air had that pre-winter snap to it and we all hiked in jackets, despite the sun.

A weak sun filters through the trees
I tend to hike this trail in the early spring so it was a little surprising to see the small tributary creeks either dried up or just barely trickling, Sunlight trickled through the maze of tree leaves and branches arching over the trail, illuminating some of the autumnal-colored leaves and warming the hearts of hikers, if not their actual bodies.


The iPads of yore


We hiked as far as the historic Whiskey Creek Cabin where we took in the artifacts and rusting mining equipment surrounding the rustic abode. After the cursory visit to the backwoods museum, we plopped down in cool sand by the river at Whiskey Creek Camp. Jennifer, John, Lindsay, and I had all previously hiked full 40 mile length of the Rogue River Trail, and we regaled Penny with tales of our respective ventures, some of which were surely embellished.

Madrones, with some winter fur
Penny and I were both taking photographs and we soon lagged behind the front three of our small group. But hey. the river was ensconced deep in it's canyon with tranquil pools that reflected nicely in the shade, and each pool just had to be photographed. The big-leaf maples still had yellow leaves hanging off their limbs, further adding to our lagging behind.

Candidates A and B
After taking photos of everything we could think of, which included bear poop, we eventually arrived at the trailhead and our patiently waiting comrades, It had been a pleasant day and we all averred we had enjoyed the chilly weather, if only for the rare sunlight between rainy days. As we left the parking area, we spotted some goat creatures that for some reason, reminded me of Candidate B.  At least the they didn't bleat "Vote for me-e-e-e-...!"

I'm likin' the lichen
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.



Saturday, November 3, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Panther and Mott Segments

On a hike several years ago, our group was debating whether to return or continue on for a more lengthy and arduous hiking endeavor. One of our hikers said "Is it farther? Is it steeper? Good, then I will hike it!" Those are good words to live by but not everybody agrees with me on that. That's why, on a recent hike I led for the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club, it was most gratifying when all but two hikers opted to take the longer option on the North Umpqua Trail, which consisted of stringing together both the Panther and Mott segments of the 78 mile trail, affectionately referred to as the NUT. Yay all ye hikers, and a tip of the hat to the hiking newbies who dared to challenge themselves by hiking the full route.

Tiny mushroom sprouted on a fallen tree
It had been raining off and on all week, but fortunately this day was all off. It still was fairly brisk, though, the air had that cold snap that hinted at the coming winter. The forest was damp but the encroaching vegetation was not all that encroaching so there was no repeat of the leg-soaking that was an issue on my last hike. At least not the leg-soaking related to rain on shrubbery and I shall say no more on this subject. 

A hikin' we will go
Beginning at the eastern terminus of the Panther Segment, we wasted no time gaining elevation as the trail charged up a densely forested slope. The group quickly separated into two canps: athletic uber-hikers in the front and huffers and puffers bringing up the rear. Not totally uncoincidental, the two groups also were without and with cameras, respectively.

Just gotta hike uphill, always
The trail, once it gained peak elevation, then spent a lot of time going up and down; the net effect was that it felt like we were constantly walking uphill. You tend to pay more attention to the slope when your legs are burning with exertion. The North Umpqua River flowed several hundred feet or so below the trail but was only occasionally visible through the dense forest comprised mostly of Douglas fir with a thin interspersing of big-leaf maple and madrone.

I can still hear the swish of the
eaves as we walked through
There wasn't much in the way of leaf color but the trail still had that autumn vibe due to a thick blanket of maple leaves covering pretty much all of the ground on the forest floor. I can still hear the swish of dead leaves as we waded through the autumnal detritus.





Small creeks crossed the trail
Periodically, small streams would cross the trail and moss-covered rocky outcrops would flank the path on the uphill side. And always, ferns fought through the dead leaves to grace the trail with their ferny greenery. you might say this was a "frondly" hike for the Fronds of the Umpqua. I've got a million of them, folks.



The North Umpqua River, seen from its namesake trail
After several miles well above the river, the trail lost elevation, eventually winding up on the banks of the North Umpqua River. And that's where it would stay for the duration of the hike as we closed out the Panther Segment when the trail spit us out on the roadway over the historic Mott Bridge. As mentioned, everybody was feeling walky and willing to tack on another five miles by hiking the Mott Segment of the NUT.

Steamboat Falls
The Mott Segment is one of my favorite sections of the NUT, for virtually all of its five-ish miles are spent within close proximity of the river. With the recent run of rain, the river was swollen, alternating between tranquil and languid pools to seething and roiling rapids. Steamboat Falls, more wide than high, was putting on a show as it made a short drop into a series of noisy whitewatered chutes. 

Red-head in the forest



About halfway through the Mott, several hikers began walking slower and slower, feeling the unaccustomed miles on their legs. No problem, since I was leading from the rear anyway. Much of this segment was spent photographing lichen, moss, and mushrooms; all of which were found in ample quantities on trees both standing and fallen. Waxing professorial, I was able to show my newbies what a wild ginger, British Soldier, and a drum tree was.

Decaying leaves made bridges treacherous
There were several creeks crossing the trail, each big enough to warrant a footbridge across. The bridges were coated with decaying maple leaves which can be treacherously slippery. After admonishing my people to "walk like a penguin", I'm glad to report all hikers remained in an upright position as we carefully waddled across the bridges and boardwalks on the slippery boards.

Leaves upon leaves
The hike ended at the small campground at Wright Creek and we all gratefully hopped into automobiles full of that wonderfully warm air emanating from heater vents. All our newbies were suitably impressed with themselves at tossing off a ten-mile hike on their first attempt.

A zen garden of leaves and logs
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.



Saturday, October 27, 2018

Castle Creek Trail

So, when I get behind in posting my hikes, I set up a skeleton post and type in a few words to help jog my memory for when I do get around to writing about the hike. Accordingly, on my last hike on the Oregon coast I typed in the notes:


Angry ocean, high surf warning
Got caught by a sneaker wave
Incoming storm

Fungi, reclaiming some of that
decaying biomass in the forest

Sounds like a moody poem or almost a haiku, except the number of syllables don't quite meet the definition of haiku. But after I wrote those memory-jogging notes to myself, I inadvertently pressed the "Publish" button and that dire and gloomy missive posted directly to my blog. I had no idea until several weeks later, Glenn and/or Carol asked me if I was OK and if I managed to outrun the wave and make it back safely home.


A day damp and dreary
My first inclination was to wax sarcastic and say "No, I was swept to sea as I was typing what you read. I couldn't finish because the ocean water ruined the laptop I always take with me when I hike, and besides which, I'm dead!" But because I generally try to mimic socially acceptable behavior, I instead thanked Glenn and/or Carol for their concern, and promptly deleted the very strange blog post.

Water drops, just waiting to soak my legs
Now, there are several ways to look at this situation. First, only one person follows my blog and cares about me. Or, many people follow my blog but only one person cares about me. Or, that person follows my blog and since he and/or she waited a couple of weeks to perform a welfare check, he and/or she doesn't care about me at all but does have a delayed morbid curiosity. Things to ponder, to be sure, but the one truth in all this is that there is not much point in having a blog if you are not going to blog in it so here we go about my hike on the Castle Creek Trail, located in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Right now, as I type this, it is early February and this hike was done in late October. I do have some catching up to do now, don't I?

Trail through a slightly singed forest
I had hiked the Castle Creek Trail several years ago and the trail was faint and sketchy back then. After several years of neglect and after a large forest fire swept through the area in the smoky summer of 2017, I harbored no expectations of following a wide and well-maintained trail. Not surprisingly, my low expectations coincided exactly with the sketchy and overgrown reality on the ground.

The forest was quiet...too quiet
One surprise though, was that while the fire (part of the North Umpqua Complex Fires) singed the trees and cleared out the underbrush, the forest was pretty much left as it had been before the fire. In fact it was pretty hard to see in places whether a fire had actually been here or not. But it had, and already vegetation had robustly grown back over the trail, adding to one of the recurring themes of this hike.

Plenty of opportunities to hone the
fine art of water-drop photography
It had rained on the drive up but it never would rain on me during the hike. However, the vegetation was soaked, and since the vegetation encroached the trail, water was then transferred from bush to hiker via the mechanism of wet hiking pants. On the positive side though, I got to practice and further hone my skills at photographing water drops on leaves.

Tried to see sunlight but I mist it



Besides my wet legs, one other overriding impression was how quiet it was in the forest. Normally, there is an aural backdrop of animals pitter-pattering and chitter-chattering, but not on this cold and damp day. The forest was quieter than a classroom during a vector calculus final, but with much less mental anguish. The reason probably had to do with the local fauna either starting to hibernate or perhaps migrating to lower elevations in advance of the impending winter.

I wet my pants!
And winter it was, for any hopes I had of continuing my run of spectacular autumn hikes were quickly dashed by a splash of cold water from a near leafless but twiggy bush brushing up against my pant legs. Apart from a few dogwood trees with a handful of orange leaves fluttering with the slightest air current, autumn had already come and gone. I really couldn't dwell on the changing of the seasons though, as much of my attention was intently focused on discerning where the footpath was ahead of me.

See the trail?
Me, neither!
In some places, the trail tread was eminently visible and in others it was as faint as the runes carved on a prehistoric monolith. At least it was all downhill as the trail gradually dropped down into the Castle Creek canyon, the creek becoming more and more audible along the way. But it was getting cold. And wet. My pants were so soaked that when I brushed against encroaching shrubbery,  I could feel rivulets of water running down my legs. I hadn't felt that sensation since that time in kindergarten and the liquid was a lot warmer back then, and enough said about that. At any rate, I was beginning to feel the chill so I turned around at the 3-mile mark, about a mile short of actually reaching Castle Creek.


Peace like a forest
Of course, no sooner than I started walking back to the car, the sun did break out for a bit, simultaneously taking care of both excess moisture and cold temperature. Still the same old uphill trail to the car, though. Despite all the my sniveling about wet vegetation and cold temperatures, I really did enjoy this hike. The forest was beautiful and peaceful, two of my favorite reasons for hiking.

The morning rain made sure
this hike would be a wet one
As far as whether I escaped the sneaker wave or not, my readership (apparently consisting of just Glenn and /or Carol) will have to read my blog at some future unspecified date to find out. For more pictures of the Castle Creek Trail, though, please visit the Flickr album.

Despite the rain, I was really lichen this hike



Sunday, October 21, 2018

Upper Rogue River Trail

The latest installment of my Southern Oregon Autumn Tour continued with a rather colorful hike along the upper Rogue River, one of my favorite places for hiking in what might be my favorite season for doing so. This time though, I was leading a Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club outing so no quiet introspective hike for me today, I had responsibilities and people to look after.

The Rogue River seethes in a narrow gorge
Nine hikers began the hiking day at the Rogue Gorge overlook and it was immediately obvious that today was just going to be glorious. The sky was deep blue, cloudless, and best of all, the air was smoke-free (wildfires had smoked out a lot of hikes this year). Despite the ample sun, the temperatures were mild enough to prevent overheating yet warm enough to encourage hiking in shorts. The gorge was a good way to start the hike off, with the Rogue River seething at being so constrained in the narrow defile. 

The story of this hike
After oohing and aahing at the gorge, we grabbed the Upper Rogue River Trail and followed the river for the next 4 miles or so. The river alternated between boisterous rapids and peaceful pools but was always photogenic. I was leading and counting heads, so not much photography ensued, unlike my customary hiking norm. Unlike the previous day's hike on the North Umpqua Trail, where vine maples were the star of the show, it was the dogwood trees serving the color buffet this time. The bright pinks and reds were striking, especially when contrasted against the cobalt blue sky. I must confess that some photography did ensue every now and then.

The Rogue River was always nearby
About two miles into the hike, we crossed the Rogue on a footbridge spanning the river where it roiled in the narrow confines of a collapsed lava tube, as unhappy at the confinement as King Kong in a shipping crate. Some more photography ensued of the river zigzagging in the narrow crack. From there, we'd hit the only uphill part of this hike.

Forest, as we huffed and puffed our way uphill
The Upper Rogue River Trail left the river briefly, heading up and over a forested ridge. Here, it was all about the vine maples, not that we noticed all that much as we huffed and puffed up the brisk climb. We did run into a family huffing and puffing in the opposite direction and they asked me if I knew where Natural Bridge was. "Yeah," I replied, "it's where you started from, it has a fence around it and a sign that says 'Natural Bridge' ". Call me sarcastic but to their credit, they continued on, planning to do the loop back to the tourist attraction, and good for them is what I say.

Cascade on the Rogue, near Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is where the Rogue River disappears into a lava tube only to emerge about 75 yards downstream. It was busy with tourists enjoying the geological oddity on a fine autumn day, but nonetheless it is amazing to see a river vanish from sight before your very eyes. Also, Natural Bridge has restrooms and picnic tables and we availed ourselves of the amenities, stopping for lunch and a rest before continuing our journey.

Just a beautiful day for a beautiful hike
I just couldn't stand it anymore, I just had to give in to my photography muse, so I announced to the club that I would be leading from the rear. The route back was uncomplicated, all hikers had to do was keep the river on the left side, so I wasn't particularly worried about losing any on the return leg.


Impressionist watercolors
So, the next four miles (for me, at least) were spent on the sunny side of the river, admiring and photographing all the dogwood and vine maple trees one could ever want to focus a camera lens on. The river ran mostly placid, the autumnal reflections blurring like some impressionist painting. You just can't beat art by Mother Nature. 

It was nigh Halloween
A disconcerting or humorous moment took place when I was walking on a sandy patch of trail. A movement on the ground caught my eye, it was a spider and the thing was as big as Portland. It too, was out for a hike, and was walking at speed. I got ahead of it, lay down on the trail, and began taking photographs of the creepy-crawly beast. Click, click, click...I was getting some nice shots when I realized it was about to walk onto my face. Gah! I back-crawled spastically and staggered to my feet, totally creeped out but laughing aloud at my sudden discomfiture.

Autumn on the Upper Rogue River Trail
Well, I wound up with plenty of photographs but hiked slow enough that I halfway expected to find skeletons and cobwebs waiting for me at the parking lot. But no, all my peeps were happily taking in the Rogue Gorge again, so I heard not one complaint. Life had indeed been good on this hike.




As red as an irate tomato
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.