Saturday, April 11, 2015

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Section

The Swiftwater Section of the North Umpqua Trail begins at the like-named Swiftwater County Park where on a rainy April morn, the North Umpqua River's swift waters were rivaled by the copious amount of swift water falling from the sky. I'm not too sure why I felt compelled to hike in the rain but hey, nobody will ever accuse me of being too swift in my decision making.

Thank you!
At Swiftwater Park, a commemorative plaque gives a tip of the hat to those responsible for the completion of the 78 mile North Umpqua Trail. The trail was finished in 1996, I never realized it was that recent a trail. At any rate, a silent nod of appreciation was given to those fine visionaries whose gift I have partaken of over the years.

Feed it some peanuts
In the park, the trail is well-manicured and quite civilized, what with gravel tread and nary a sprig of poison oak to be seen. Trillium, snow queen, and calypso orchid were prevalent along the trail and the flowers and fern fronds danced with each strike from a raindrop. I didn't dance (at least any that I'll admit to) but hiked along at a steady pace as I grabbed a side trail that took me to the river's edge below Deadline Falls.

Deadline Falls
Deadline Falls is only a 10 foot drop, but what makes the falls impressive is the sheer power on display as the rain-swollen North Umpqua careens over the drop. The river's roar was loud but did not faze the ouzels (a small bird which, just like me, 'swims" underwater in search of water bugs to eat) twittering and bathing in the shallows below the cascade.

Feed it some peanuts
Once back on the North Umpqua Trail, the going was slow but steady on the resumption of my eternal quest for the perfect calypso orchid photo. As I either knelt or laid down on the muddy ground, the North Umpqua River coursed below the trail, the turqouise color of the river nicely contrasting with the dark clouds above.

Fern Falls
At little over a mile, the trail crossed a small stream on one of many footbridges. Above the bridge was a small cascade known as Fern Falls. While there were indeed ferns flanking the stream, the falls seemed kind of cluttered due to all the tree debris falling into the creek's gully over the years. Some of the forest driftwood had been there a while and were well mossed over, but there were a number of new members of the Fern Falls Log Club.

Wild ginger bloom
Once the North Umpqua Trail left the confines of Swiftwater County Park, the trail behaved more like a real trail should as it ambled up and down on uneven tread that alternated between rocky and muddy. Encroaching the path were the deliciously pungent wild ginger plants, each festooned with brown and hairy blossoms. The flowers are so very odd-looking that my camera quickly abandoned the search for the perfect calypso orchid.

Oregon bleeding heart
I turned around as the heavens opened up right before the big climb up Bob's Butte. Across the river, the mountains disappeared into the gray clouds, there just wasn't much point in walking uphill in the rain just to see gray mist. Bob and his Butte can wait for another day, preferably a sunny one. 

Feet got wet, anyway
As I walked the 3.7 miles back to the trailhead, the rain abated and the sun made a valiant try to shine through the tree branches. Evaporating water filled the forest with steam and it was mostly a dry walk back. Despite the rain, life was good on the trail today, and maybe hiking was a swift decision after all. 

The special color of the North Umpqua River
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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