Thursday, November 28, 2013

North Bank East Loop

You're supposed to burn off the calories after the Thanksgiving Day feast. Of course, the smarter thing to do in the first place would be not to overeat to the point where the ungodly mix of gravy, bread rolls, cheesecake, ice cream, and habanero hot sauce send all the male relatives to sleep it off on living room sofas, recliners, and rocking chairs with our distended abdomens making us look like poster children for male pregnancy. This year I did it backwards though, hiking before the gala of gluttony that is Thanksgiving Day dinner. I'm not sure if walking before the food fest was smarter or not, but I did get a good hike out of the holiday and that is never a bad thing.

Sun...need more s-s-sun
Getting up early Thanksgiving morning, I hopped in the car and quickly drove over to the nearby North Bank Deer Habitat before the coffee molecules stimulated my brain cells and made them reconsider the decision to go hiking. A couple of things were noted getting out of the car parked next to the closed gate: dang, it was cold and dang, it was foggy.  Kind of dark too, since the sun allegedly was just rising, I really couldn't tell from the light or warmth, or lack thereof.

Drink coffee before picking your hike

The thick fog was probably a blessing as the hike started, because the East Boundary Road charges up a formidable ridge without preamble, about as subtle as a flaming meteor striking the earth. The trails in the habitat are all steep but the East Boundary Road is probably the steepest, climbing nearly 1,000 feet in the first mile. Since visibility was limited, there were no demoralizing views of the trail ascending the so-called gentle and rolling hills of the habitat.

OK, the hike just got totally awesome
It was a quiet morning with the only sounds in the fog were those of boots crunching into icy soil and the gasping breaths of your intrepid blogster. The trail climbed up and out of the fog and oh my, what an utterly fantastic view. Below me was a blanket of low clouds filling the North Umpqua River valleys with the tips of mountains rising out of the soft white cottony sea like small forested islands. Quickly forgetting about burning quad muscles, I stopped frequently in solitary appreciation of the view. Who am I kidding?  I stopped frequently because of burning quad muscles but I was also appreciative of the vista.

The fine line between light and dark
After the first couple of miles, the trailed leveled out, relatively speaking. There was still plenty of uphill walking yet to be done but the grade was nowhere nearly as taxing as it had been. Below the trail, the shadows cast by the ridge crest played upon fogbound Blacktail Basin and I tried to get a picture of my own shadow doing a funny pose but could never quite pull off the trick.

Oh, deer
At a bench strategically sited at the top of the steepest stretch of trail, it was time to shed some clothing layers before heading up the trail in the morning sun. Birds twittered in the bushes and hawks keened their distinctive piercing whistle. A solitary Columbia white-tailed deer scampered across a hillside about a half-mile away from me. I pulled out the camera and switched to the telephoto lens, locking it onto the camera body. Click! That deer heard me! It does makes one appreciate the stealthiness of deer-hunting cougars because that deer demonstrated a very keen sense of hearing.

I make bad choices
About three miles up the ridge, a fork in the road offered another rest spot and it was decision time. The left fork angled gently (relatively!) across the north boundary ridge while the right fork charged madly straight up the slope, reminiscent of the first mile of this hike. Sometimes, you just can't get any more tired than you already are and armed with that dubious logic, I headed up the steeper right fork.

Sutherlin, somewhere in there

There was much rejoicing at the north boundary ridge, even though the uphill walking was not yet finished. From the ridge, there were stunning views of fogbound Sutherlin and the equally fogbound North Umpqua River basin. The slope dropped away steeply from my feet with Blacktail Basin directly below. Even though much of the morning fog had burned off, there was still plenty of white cloud blanketing the valley like a snow white virgin Huggy. Still a vista for the ages.

Do you like my highlights?
After a short climb, the trail dropped down to the purple martin sanctuary with purple martin apartments dangling from a man-made tree of sorts.  Purple or otherwise, no martins were nesting here today, though. Leaving behind the purple martin condo complex, the trail angled gently downhill and the transition was permanent:  it was all downhill from here as the road dropped down to the hilariously named Soggy Bottoms.

Soggy Bottoms does not look its name
My GPS data showed me walking 40 minute miles on the climb up and clicking off 23 minute miles on the way down. Empiric proof I walk faster downhill.  Whee, it was fun to go downhill and in no time I found myself in the car heading towards a destiny with a plateful of food. This was a great hike and call me thankful!

Beautiful trail flanked by ugly poison oak
For more pictures of the hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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  1. Fabulous photos Richard, the ones of the low cloud and fog are unreal. Hope you got your Turkey lunch afterwards :) Cheers Robyn :)

    1. Thanks Robyn, yes I did get to partake of the turkey. I behaved myself though, I think I was too tired to raise my fork!