Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dry Creek

The hike up Dry Creek is absolutely and indisputably one of the best hikes I've ever done. The route is trailless and involves miles of creek wading on a warm sunny day. Deep pools of amazingly clear water reflect the stately maple trees arching over the shaded creek. While the wet feet thing makes the trek interesting in a soggy-footed way, what really makes this hike special is the pure wilderness scenery. I will do this hike again, again, and again.

Morning on the Sixes River
The South Coast Striders, a Coos Bay hiking club, was putting this one on and I sent all my Friends of the Umpqua friends an invite to come along. Apparently, I have only one Friend. Al took me up on the offer and fully armed with coffee, we made the early morning trek to the coast.

Splashing across the Sixes
It was windy and chilly at the meeting spot in Sixes but a short drive up the Sixes River was warm and sunny and that is the difference folks, between being on the coast and being inland. The hike started off with a rope descent to the Sixes River and how cool is that? The Sixes was warm and shallow and feet barely got wet when we crossed over to the Dry Creek drainage.

Bushwhack through the jungle
At the confluence with the Sixes River, Dry Creek was living up to its name as it was indeed, quite dry. The forests on either side of the creek had been logged and the banks are clogged with bramble and willow thickets. So much fun to bushwhack through but we did that very thing to attain an old road that paralleled the creek. 

A wet Dry Creek
Why hike up an old road instead of the very obvious creek bed? Well, Reg, our hike leader, had a method to his madness. We were taking the road for speed, the idea being that the road would get us to the Grassy Knob Wilderness boundary quicker, allowing us to then hike further up the creek than last year. And sure enough a brisk walk brought us to the wilderness boundary in one hour and then it was time to play.

Maple canopy
Dry Creek was not dry at all inside the Grassy Knob Wildereness. The way Reg explained it (he used to be a hydrologist with the BLM, I believe) is that the big leaf maples flanking the river return moisture back to the air by evaporation through the leaves. Because the wilderness had never been logged, the increased moisture from the maples feeds the creek, while the brambles and willows on the lower creek keep the moisture for themselves. Ergo, the creek is dry near the mouth and full of water underneath the maple trees.

Lots of deep pools to trap hikers
The creek is fairly narrow and is flanked by steep walls festooned with ferns close to the river while conifers grow higher up. Majestic old-growth maples flank the creek and reach across to their maple brethren on the other side. The air was fresher and cooler as we followed the creek upstream, alternately wading in the placid creek and walking on rocky bars.

You go you go first..after you...
As we continued upstream, we began to encounter deep pools of blue water, the clearness of the water was simply amazing. Many of the pools would have been over our heads if we chose to walk through them. We didn't. As we worked our way upstream, the pools increased in frequency and deepness. Not uncoincidentally, our hiking group decreased in number in indirect proportion to the increasing depth of the creek.

Tranquility, picturefied
It is hard to convey in mere words the peacefulness and serenity on Dry Creek. Apart from the noises of our splashing footsteps, the only other sounds were the trees sighing in a slight breeze, the trickling of the creek, and the occasional bird song or two. The crustiest of hikers could not help but feel mellowness enter his or her soul. This is indeed a special place.

Look! A bearded otter!

Dry Creek may have gotten a little too special though as the creek eventually became too deep several miles upstream. When I saw Dave swimming upstream like a bearded otter, I pondered what Dollie would say if I came home with another ruined camera, not to mention a ruined GPS and Spot unit. Fear of wife and waterlogged electronics won out and I began the wade back. Al had stopped a little bit before so I joined him lazing on a rocky bar. And let's just say a laze just feels better when a lush creek is wrapped around it.

It's all newts to me
On the hike out, we were entertained by hordes of newts swarming the creek bed. Skittish frogs leaped into the water in panic at our arrival, the creek was so clear we could see the frogs eyeing us balefully from the rocky creek bottom. Despite the deep pools, we saw no hikers eyeing us balefully from the rocky creek bottom.

Al leads us home

Once we left the wilderness boundary, the big leaf maples disappeared, the willows and brambles returned and Dry Creek ran dry. Al and I walked down the creek bed on rocks painted white by dried algae as we baked under the hot sun like a pair of my abuelita's tamales. Upon arrival at the Sixes River, we rappelled up to the car and headed home, smugly thanking the hiking gods for bestowing such a superb hike upon us. Our Friends, unreasonably allergic to either early starts or wet feet, don't know what they are missing.

Autumn detritus
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Clear as invisible air

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyHike


  1. Sounds like a fun and different hike.....clear water and newts. Almost reminds me a little of fern canyon at the Redwoods with the walls and walking along a stream. You didn't take a plunge????

    1. Yeah it is sort of like Fern Canyon, just not as narrow. Didn't take a plunge but 8 miles of wading should count for something!