Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lost Creek Lake

Well, we've pretty much gone right from summer into winter, haven't we? Even the vine maples are confused, keeping their green leaves on as they tremble in the chill. The current winter weather culprit was Typhoon Pabuk which decided to travel across the Pacific Ocean to die in Oregon after grazing Japan. Its death throes wound up being a watery dump of 7 inches of rain on my hiking weekend with the rain being delivered via the medium of high winds. Whatever is a hiking addict to do? Why, go hiking of course! 
Cloud reflection
Originally, the weekend predictions had called for sunny weather so my backpack was loaded and a weekend trip in the Diamond Peak Wilderness was penciled in. Mid-week snow took care of that so a campout at nearby Odell Lake replaced the backpack trip. But then the typhoon with its high winds was prognosticated and since I am allergic to trees and tree parts falling on my head, no more campout for me.  The coast is always a safe destination in September except the coast was going to catch the brunt of Typhoon Pabuk's final act. I might have to stay home with Mrs. O'Neill and watch Twilight movies if this keeps up. Fortunately, the last bastion of weather common sense lay in Medford as the storm would not really hit that area until Saturday evening, thereby offering a window of opportunity to sneak a hike in.

Itchy and beautiful, just like me!

Starting out at the Lewis Road Trailhead on the north side of Lost Creek Lake, it was obvious the poison oak had figured out it was autumn. The leaves of the accursed itch-spawner ran the full gamut of the autumn rainbow with colorful displays of yellow, gold, orange, russet, red, and every other shade in between. I felt compelled to take pictures while feeling itchy just by virtue of getting that close. My poor camera was given a bath upon arrival at home. After apologizing to my faithful camera, I bought it flowers to atone for the mistreatment.

Lost Creek Lake, drawn down low

The trail (the Rogue River Trail, formally) undulated up and down the man-made lake's shore through thick stands of manzanita with their distinct dark red trunks. Intermittent views of the lake and Joseph Stewart State Park on the opposite bank were enjoyed. On my last hike here several Aprils ago, the lake was full with water lapping virtually at the trail's edge. Now, in late September, the water was about half a mile away through brush, grass, and poison oak. During the long and dry summer, the lake had obviously been drawn down by all those thirsty souls in Medford, good thing not all of them bathe!

Fire Glen Camp, sans Bubbas and beer
About a mile into the hike, the trail ran through the middle of peaceful and idyllic Fire Glen Camp. The camp is primarily designed for boaters if one is to draw conclusions from the outhouse station floating just offshore. However, the car campers have cheated and have created a rough track that ends near the camp, but they still have to walk in their beer cases and ice chests. But in late September with a typhoon about to visit, there were no campers there at all.

This is why we hike
Leaving the camp, the trail rounds a peninsula and commences my favorite part of the whole hike. The trail stays above the lake, contouring around on a rocky bench that provides a magnificent view of the lake towards the dam.  Storm clouds reflected off the blue-green waters of the lake and a man-made bench on the geologic bench just demands a contemplative sit-down and I gratefully obliged.

Old man's beard
If you like manzanita then you will love this hike as it tunnels through dense patches of the unique shrub with its smooth, twisted, and dark red limbs.  Old man's beard (not a true beard, it's actually a lichen) hanging off the branches swayed in a slight breeze with the beards being just a smidge longer than my ex-wife's. Periodic winds had knocked pine needles into the manzanita, where they straddled small limbs, the needles somewhat resembling a toddler straddling a saw horse.

Engineering marvel
The lake has more arms than cojoined octopus quints and numerous gulches, gullies, and dry creek beds crossed the trail. However, marvelously constructed bridges spanned all of these crossings where I could only shake my head, remembering how the gullies had been all full of water the last time I was here.

Spiky mushrooms
At nearly 5 miles, a solitary lunch was enjoyed while a few squirrels scampered up and down the oak trees in a savannah. The squirrels and a small knot of geese were the only animals I'd see all day in yet another sign winter is near.

Rain arrives
While cloudy, the skies had not yet delivered any of the forecasted rain and winds but it was just a matter of time. Sure enough, it began to shower off and on with me three miles from the trailhead. Mildly annoying, but the rain gear stayed inside the pack as the exertion from hiking was sufficient enough to stave off hypothermia. The main thing was there was little or no wind which meant no worries about tree parts falling on my head.

Kindred spirits
The views improved on the way back with dramatic cloud fronts hovering over the lake. Fishermen are an intrepid bunch and I exchanged friendly waves with several, sharing a common kinship as we enjoyed the outdoors in threatening weather.

I felt a kinship with this wet leaf
So, all in all, the weather let me off the hook considering southern Oregon was going to get slammed this weekend. However, I did catch it on the way home with powerful gusts of wind pushing my poor little Kia around. Needless to say, there was no hiking on Sunday and I had to stay home with Mrs. O'Neill, although I did manage to evade watching Twilight movies.

Trail through the oaks
For the rest of the pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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