Friday, November 23, 2012

North Umpqua Trail (Calf Section)

...always longer on the return

Proof the hike is...

I'm not that a big fan of the North Umpqua Trail (or NUT, to us hiking nuts).  My beef with the venerable 78 mile long NUT is the busy North Umpqua Highway (we don't call the road the NUH, but  maybe we should) across the river from the trail. The highway is a nice and scenic drive but it's hard to get that wilderness feeling on a trail when cars whiz noisily by. However, when the weather turns bellicose in the winter, the NUT is a nice hiking destination, being snow-free most of the year at the lower elevations. I dare not complain too loudly about the NUT because I need it come each winter and spring

Panther Creek joins the North Umpqua
The weather's been dreadful this November and December but a break between storms allowed Maggie The Hiking Dog and I an opportunity to explore the Calf Section of the North Umpqua Trail. A recent rainstorm had left the trail soggy but thankfully, no water fell from the sky while we hiked.

Jump, Maggie, jump!
At the bridged crossing of Panther Creek, a sign warned us that the bridge had been damaged and not to jump on the bridge. Sounded like a dare but I heeded the warning as I could see the damage underneath the bridge. Obviously, logs had stacked up against the bridge during a recent flood; a nearby pile of logs removed from the creek supported my supposition.

The North Umpqua and the Apple Fire burn zone

One of the things I do like about the Calf Section is the ruggedness of the trail. In 2002 the mammoth Biscuit Fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness commanded headlines and firefighting resources. South of here, the Tiller Complex Fire was allowed to burn at will while everything was thrown at the Biscuit. Towards the end of that smoky summer, an untended campfire at nearby Horseshoe Bend started the Apple Fire which burned south and eventually merged with the Tiller Complex, effectively putting out both fires. The scars visibly remain from the Apple Fire as the trail winds through the burn area.

Water drops
The Forest Service had a tough time keeping this trail open after the fire as dead trees and landslides closed the trail a number of times over the intervening years. Nowadays, the trail contours across rocky landslide slopes through acres of dead or singed trees.

Splish splash, water on the path
Numerous creeks and creeklets trickled across the trail allowing a certain canine to slake her thirst at will. And always, the muddy green waters of the North Umpqua River churned as the trail went up and down along the river. The open rocky areas were well mossed and mushrooms were happily feeding on all the fallen timber.

Watch for falling rocks
Several boulders the size of the Biggest Loser (before they became the Biggest Loser winner) had tumbled down into the river from an avalanche long ago. Across the river were interesting sights such as Dog Creek Falls and a large cave.

Calf Creek

After 3 miles, the trail rose high above the river with a forest-impeded view of Horseshoe Bend. A short crest over a forested ridge brought us a short descent through woods untouched by fire to Calf Creek, our lunch and turnaround point.

Mushrooms on a log cut

On the return leg, we got to enjoy the same scenery all over again, but in reverse. I think I just stated the obvious, didn't I?  Another obvious point is that I'll be back on the NUT again this winter between storms.

For more pictures of this hike, see the Flickr album.

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