Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lost Creek Lake

I've always been fascinated by the Dog Whisperer: he flips a hand signal, makes a shushy sound, and the miscreant canine magically obeys. But then there are my dogs, totally impervious to any of my hand signals and shushing sounds which invariably evolve to out and out red-faced shouting. Per the Whisperer, all dog problems can be solved by walking. And that is how lucky Maggie got to go hiking with her incredibly handsome master at Lost Creek Lake, near Medford.

Red bell
Grass widow
It was a beautiful spring day at the lake, the temperature was not too warm and a slight overcast kept things cool, it was perfect hiking weather. Spring was in full song in the low Cascades and the wildflowers kept my camera clicking.  The usual early season culprits were to blame: shooting stars, buttercups, oak toothworts, and acres of nodding fawn lilies. Less common but more noteworthy were the bright red bells and the elegant grass widow.

The trail (called the Rogue River Trail) basically follows the lake's shoreline and is mostly level. The usual Siskiyou mix of cedar, ponderosa pine, manzanita, oak, and madrone grew on the dry slopes on the north side of the lake. And always, views of the lake were there to be enjoyed.

A female horned grebe
Her mate goes for a dive

I had hiked this trail many years ago in the middle of summer. I wasn't impressed at the time because the lake was busy with noisy motorboats towing waterskiers and screaming tubers; the lake's surface was crisscrossed with the wakes of all the wasn't a wilderness hike at all. However, on this day, apart from the occasional fishermen, the lake was devoid of boats and the surface of the lake was glassy as a defeated boxer's eyes. Much picture taking ensued, as a result.

Hate in its evil goose heart
The innocents
Evil triumphs over good
A brief moment of hilarity ensued when we observed a pair of Canada geese peacefully and innocently floating on the lake. Several hundred yards away, a lone and embittered goose was eyeing them and the body posture screamed pure and unabashed hatred. The bad goose took flight and chased the two good geese away with much hissing, honking, and spitting. "Does not share lakes well with others" will be noted on his personnel file.

Rounding a point, the trail climbed out on a rocky bench with a manmade bench on it, near Blue Gulch. The panorama of the lake just begged for a contemplative sitdown on the bench and Maggie and I obliged. Blue Gulch was aptly named, for the waters were a stunning turquoise color; a warning posted on the sturdy bridge spanning the gulch hinted the blue tint might be attributable to the toxic blue-green alga, taking the romance out of the Blue Gulch experience.

The Grotto
This lake has more arms than a mutant octopus and the next arm was where we left the lake briefly, heading up a steep trail to The Grotto. The rocks here were a strange blue-gray color, reminding me of mold which in turn reminded me I need to clean out the refrigerator when I got home. There were turrets and towers on the canyon rim and a small creek cascaded over the edge. All of this was very scenic and pretty and we sat down for an extended view soak.

There's a tick on my nose
So there I am, taking pictures of Maggie and I noticed a little black dot on her nose: a TICK! I plucked it off and then I saw another, and another, and another. Of course, she just sat there wagging her tail because her master was looking at her and by doing so, was validating her existence here on this planet. She was a little unclear on the concept, as they say. On the plus side of things, I did not have any ticks on me all day as the little buggers flocked to her.

Fawn lily
We continued on our hike while executing frequent tick stops, following the lake through some grassy meadows with primitive backpacking sites replete with picnic tables. I think the boating crowd does a lot of camping on this side of the lake. A pair of mountain bikers emerged from the woods setting off a round of hysterical dog barking. 

After this 10.3 mile hike, I had one tired dog. Normally hyperkinetic and constantly in motion, Maggie had an "old woman" walk for a couple of days. Of course, we had to spend the following week plucking ticks out of her but she was OK with that because it meant that the masters were, once again, validating her existence on this planet.

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