Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dry Creek 8/2015

Take a dog to a creek and it's a splash fest replete with canine yips of joy and exuberance. Take children to a creek and peals of laughter ring through the trees as they frolic carefree in the stream. But take a hiking club to a creek and disgruntled mumbling and grumbling curdle the waters, or at least that's been my experience over the years.

"Mystery River"

Late July, I was on vacation in warm and sunny Ojai, California and I checked my email and found out I was leading the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club on a hike up "Mystery River". Turned out, all my bragging about hiking up Dry Creek was heeded and as a result, this hike wound up on the schedule. And here I thought no one ever listened to me. And much to my surprise, 11 daring hikers put on the water shoes and participated in this wet-footed venture.

Of course, at the start everybody looked at me funny when I opened the trunk of my car and pulled out a 50 foot hank of rope. I guess I forgot to mention we had to rope down to the Sixes River to commence this hike: oops, my bad! Once we were all safely down and grouped at the river's edge, everybody had that "well, what next?" look,  so with a cheery "follow me" I waded into the river and started splashing downstream. 

"Poetry" in motion
I have hiked this hike with the South Coast Striders several times before and I must say, they have never exhibited the singular grace and athletic skills of the Friends of the Umpqua. Of course, I'm being sarcastic because grace is not really the word that would best describe our shaky progress down the river. To be fair, the rocks were covered in slippery algae and footing was tenuous and treacherous, I'd like to say I walked agilely like a water dog but I probably was flopping like a flounder, too.

I wonder why it's called Dry Creek?
Dry Creek flowed into the Sixes River on the opposite bank and the creek bed would be our route into the Grassy Knob Wilderness. Well, "flowed" is perhaps not the right word because Dry Creek was living up to its name, running drier than a Brit's wit. However, the dry creek bed made for a convenient, albeit rocky, roadway and we followed the creek upstream like a school of land salmon. The rocks were all caked in dried algae, indicating water had once flowed in this creek.

Now the fun starts

As we neared the bridge marking the wilderness boundary, big leaf maple trees began to make an appearance and small pools of water showed up in the shady parts. The two events are not coincidental as the maples replenish the creek by process of evaporation through their leaves. We ate lunch underneath the bridge, right next to a deep pool where we observed newts swimming languidly in the blue-green water.

Dry Creek slitherer
After lunch, we headed upstream into the wilderness proper. Magnificent old-growth maples hung over the tranquil creek. Newts were everywhere and we had to step carefully so as not to diminish the local population by a newt or two. Ahead of us, frogs leaped into the stream and hid on the bottom. The water was so pure and clear, the hiding was somewhat ineffective but since we were not frog predators, no frogs met an untimely demise as we hiked by. Garter snakes slithered along the shore and the peacefulness of the creek was broken up by high-pitched squeals of horror from some of the snake-phobic members of our group. 

Evidence of creek pixies
There was no particular destination to denote a turnaround point so everybody turned back when they had enough which meant the three passengers in my car were the group that hiked the farthest. At around the 4 mile mark, we turned around and headed back the way we came, enjoying the serenity of the creek until it dried up and returned us to the world of hot sun and rocks. This hike is one of my favorites and hopefully, there'll be a few more Dry Creek acolytes after this hike. I'm also glad to report there were no complaints about wet feet, either; my dog and grandchildren would be proud of the hiking club.

Slowly, the newts stalk their prey
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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