Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mildred Kanipe Park

Sometimes you just have to be in the mood to hike in the rain. I haven't and since it's been raining for the last 19 months or so, I just haven't gotten out on the trail all that much lately. But the lack of hiking will become a medical emergency soon, so despite the gloomy weather forecast, I went hiking in Mildred Kanipe Park with the Friends of the Umpqua. Yup, it was cold and wet but nonetheless it felt good to tromp about on the muddy trails in the park.

Lichen forest
I've hiked in Kanipe Park on two other occasions and in both instances it had been a beautiful spring day. The stately oaks of the park were then leafed out and the grassy slopes were alive with the vibrancy of blooming wildflowers. Of course, now in the middle of winter the sky was gray and dumping water on our heads, there were no flowers, and the oak leaves were still hibernating. Nonetheless, the park still sports a different kind of beauty on a gray day and remains a worthy hiking destination, no matter the season.

Sploosh, sploosh!
Mildred Kanipe Park is a former ranch and many of the trails are on ranch roads. One such road led away from the hooting peacocks in the parking lot and it was immediately obvious that mud was going to be one of the themes of this hike. With all the rain we've been having (southern Oregon had been issued a flood warning on this day) the ground was waterlogged and the grassy pastures in the lowlands were all under an inch or two of standing water. Sploosh, sploosh, boots were in for some serious abuse as we hiked.

Muddy trail through the oaks
After a short road walk, we turned right on a real trail and the path angled steadily uphill through an oak savanna. The scrawny trees were all leafless and old man's beard hung off of everything, The trail did double duty as a creek as we splashed our way up the slope.

Oak silhouette
After coming out of the spindly oak grove onto an open grassy slope, the trail continued its mad charge uphill through larger and more stately oaks. The silhouettes against the gray sky kept my camera busy. It felt good to be out on the trail, uphill hiking notwithstanding, and I flew up the path in spite of all the picture taking.

Fern Forest
Once we topped out at the boundary fence, it was (for the time being) all downhill as we hiked through Fern Woods. This forest had been a source of some contention several years ago as there had been a vigorous debate about logging the forest to help pay for the upkeep of the park. The Friends of Kanipe Park were able to raise enough money to keep the forest intact and it was much more pleasant to descend through dense clumps of ferns underneath fir trees instead of hiking past stumps in a clear cut. 

Feet, shins, and knees got wet on this hike
Once out of the trees, the trail ambled next to Bachelor Creek and the rain started pretty much as we left Fern Woods. A creek was running across the trail and my hiking mates bushwhacked up the creek looking for a way to cross the creek dry-footed. Well, that seemed a little prissy for my tastes so I just waded across and the water nearly came up to my knees. 

Bachelor Creek
Bachelor Creek was running deep and muddy and we were grateful for the footbridge across the fast moving stream. None of us was ready to pack it in just yet, so we headed up the Underwood Hill Trail. First gravel road then muddy track, the trail headed gently up through the woods. Then the up was not so gentle as it angled straight up without even a pretense of a switchback. We were cold, wet, out of breath, and leg muscles were burning: was this a great hike or what?  At the top of the hill, a recuperative rest and a standing lunch restored dampened spirits as the rain abated somewhat.

Walking down the aisle
This 6-miler was closed out by dropping down a steep and muddy deer path that we were grateful not to be hiking up in the opposite direction. The slippery track claimed only one hiker (that I know of) who took a harmless but undignified spill on the way down. A return to the sploosh-sploosh of the low pastures brought us back to the hooting peacocks at the parking lot. This hike fit my mood perfectly and staved off for the time being any potential medical emergency due to lack of hiking.

Old man's beard
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Klamath River Overlook

Ice, ice, baby. I was so excited to go hiking in California's Redwoods National Park and it was quite the frosty letdown to encounter a closed gate at the northern entrance to Prairie Creek State Park. Behind the gate, the road headed uphill underneath the gigantic redwood trees and clearly visible on the pavement was a sheen of ice. No problem, I'd head to the south entrance to the park. Crap, that road was closed too for the same reason. California's reputation for sunny weather and palm trees was greatly exaggerated, if New Year's weekend was any indication.

Ice, ice, baby
So what's a dressed up and incredibly handsome hiker to do when Plans A and B were iced over? Why, go looking for another trail, of course! Several years ago, Dollie and I had been on the section of California Coastal Trail that ran from False Klamath Cove to the Klamath River Overlook and a hasty retreat was beat to the familiar Lagoon Creek trailhead from the frozen wasteland of Prairie Creek.

False Klamath Cove
Starting at the picnic area at Lagoon Creek, it wasn't much warmer but at least the California Coastal Trail (hereafter referred to as the CCT) was not closed. The temperature was 27 degrees and ice crunched noisily under my boots as I set foot on the shady trail. The bridged crossing of Lagoon Creek was just yards away from the parking lot and just yards away from the bridge was the first of several trail junctions. Lagoon Creek is a popular spot as it accesses scenic False Klamath Cove and its beach. 

False Klamath Rock
The CCT led out to a viewpoint that offered a grand vista of False Klamath Rock, a pyramid-shaped island at the entrance of False Klamath Cove. There is no True Klamath Rock, it's all falsity and lies here at the cove. The rock and cove got its name from misled sailors from the days of yore who were expecting this cove to be the entrance to the Klamath River. On this day, the sky was a crystalline blue but icicles still formed on my runny nose. A couple from Sweden stopped by to admire the view while I was there and with teeth chattering, they uttered "is, is, baby" which is Swedish for "ice, ice, baby".

Hidden Beach, on the return leg

From the cove overlook, the trail ducked back into the frozen woods and stayed there for several miles, climbing gently up the mountainous coastline. At about the 1.5 mile mark, I took a side trip down to Hidden Beach, a beach which is just that. The secluded cove was littered with driftwood, all coated with ice as the beach was still in shade. Not wanting to risk injury by scrambling over piles of leg-breaking icy logs, I backtracked up to the CCT and continued hiking upwards.

Trees and sky
This is a beautiful trail, there is simply no other way to state it. Ferns flanked the trail and skeletal alder trees raised their white bony fingers to the blue sky. Sunlight slanted through the trees and moss grew everywhere. I know it's not yet spring but candyflower was blooming along the trail, impervious to the cold snap of weather. A few layers of clothing were shed due to the exertion of hiking and life was good.

Ocean view, as the storm blew in
Eventually, the trail crested and at about that point, left the forest and contoured across a steep and grassy slope with "wow" views. The ocean stretched out to the other side of the world and glistened brightly, reflecting the sun in the sky. My pace slowed considerably as I became a slave to my photography muse.

Sun art
Slow as it was, progress was steadily made and the trail terminus at a tourist overlook of the Klamath River was eventually arrived at. The California Coastal Trail runs from Oregon to Mexico but alas, much of the route is on highways and roads. At the overlook, this particular CCT trail section ended with some road hiking to follow for those trekkers continuing south. Lunch and a lollygag at a picnic table was in order and I obliged, while enjoying the view of the mighty Klamath,

The mouth of the Klamath River
The Klamath River met the sea below the trail and a large sand bar blocked most of the river's egress. I've seen pictures of the river taken at different times and the mouth of the river tends to shift in relation to the bar. Today, the river's mouth was on the south side of the bar. As I ate lunch, clouds began to scud in, no doubt it was the predicted storm arriving. It was still pretty cool as the sun poked holes in the thin cloud cover with rays of light dancing and reflecting upon the sea. More photography ensued.


The blue sky disappeared completely during the 4 mile return to the trailhead but it didn't matter, the scenery was unrelentingly fantastic, reminding me once again why I hike. On the walk out to the Klamath River, I had exchanged pleasantries with hikers traveling in the opposite direction. On the way back, we re-exchanged pleasantries, just a bunch of yo-yos yo-yoing back and forth. All in all, a good day except for the relentless beat of "Ice, ice, baby" syncopating in my head in an endless tape loop.

If I don't go in, the deer can't eat me
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Point Saint George

It's been getting hard to hike lately. Some of the impediments to happy hiking were self-inflicted like when most October weekends had really cool concerts going on in Eugene. I may have missed a hike or two but on the other hand, I did get to see the Quick and Easy Boys on Halloween night. And all I can say about that is "Halloween in Eugene", no further explanation is needed. The rest of the non-concert weekend travails simply could not be helped, though: illness, holidays, weather, and one very large landslide on Highway 42 all conspired to keep me grounded. Although I was not going to hike 500 miles like I did in 2014, the limp final quarter of 2015 left me at 374 miles for the year. But 2016 is a brand new year and I'd best go hiking or just give it up entirely.

Welcome to sunny California!
New Year's weekend in Roseburg was forecasted to be very cold while on the sunny side. I thought I'd head out to the coast for somewhat warmer temps but that darn landslide meant I'd have to go way north or way south. Since I've hiked everywhere (or so that's what it feels like) on the Oregon coast south of Yachats, I opted to head much farther south and visit Redwoods National Park. 

Bright but cold, just like me!
It was a long and slow drive because all the high points on the drive were all pretty icy. Come to think of it, the low points were equally iced over and the temperature was consistently below 30 degrees until I reached California's Crescent City. There is plenty of snow in the Siskiyous and while the white stuff does not present optimal conditions for hiking, it was nice to look at as I crept along the treacherous roadway. So there I am in Crescent City, half a day spent getting there with half a day left to kill. And that is how I wound up at Point Saint George, a Crescent City landmark.

View to mountainous Oregon
The point sits at the southern end of very large and sweeping Pelican Bay. The view from the top of the windswept and sunny point was stunning, especially since some very large mountains loomed over the northern end of the bay. The mountains in question were Vulcan Peak, Red Mountain, and Chetco Peak, all located in Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains. Hooray for Oregon!

Just watching....
A quick scramble off the point led to the sand below and from there it was a northerly beach walk into Tolowa Dunes State Park. Although the sun was out and the sky was blue, my down jacket stayed on. By all appearances it looked like California but felt like Oregon, or maybe even Iceland. About a mile away from the point, I pretty much had the beach to myself, unless you count the millions of gulls watching me...just watching.

Dead Lake outlet creek
There were several creeks crossing the beach but the outlet creek from Dead Lake was a bit too wide to hop across. Since I was wearing tennis shoes and jeans, it was as good as any other point to turnaround at. So back me and my dry feet go as the sun sank low in the afternoon sky. The gulls moved aside for me as I approached and just watched me...always watching. On the way back, I encountered a couple of beachgoing treasure seekers carrying a fair haul of amber colored agates in a bucket.

The cliffs of Point St. George
Upon my return to Point Saint George, I grabbed a trail that led out to the point and wandered around on top for a bit, taking pictures of the scenic rock islands and stacks just off shore. I called it cold at that point and headed into Crescent City for dinner and lodging. Hopefully, the next day's hike would be just as scenic (it was) but warmer (it wasn't).

Afternoon, in black and white
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.