Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pig Iron

This hike on the Pig Iron Trail was kind of exciting! Lane had discovered it and it was on a trail that I had never been on before. Well, technically speaking he didn't really discover it as the Pig Iron Trail has been in existence for years, but it was a discovery for me and all our friends in our Douglas County hiking circles. At any rate, Pig Iron Trail had that new trail smell about it that had me squealing like a piggy, and not in a "Deliverance" sort of way, either.

Pig Iron is further up there somewhere
Pig Iron Mountain is a highpoint on the terminus of Watson Ridge, which overlooks the confluence of the North Umpqua and Clearwater Rivers. The trail to Pig Iron Lookout is not used very much and as a consequence, the tread flat out disappears at times, particularly in the grassy areas. Fortunately, there are rock cairns erected by the spirits of hikers past to guide us along the faint parts. And just in case, Lane had pre-hiked this trail in preparation for his hike-leader debut (yes, it was his first time!) and had left pink ribbons tied to trees to mark the way. By the way, this is not the first time I've had to use "Lane" and "pink ribbons" in a blogpost sentence. Just sayin'.

Lupine, eager to distribute morning dew onto pant legs
Anyway, after crossing Clearwater Canal on a footbridge, the trail charged up a hill through damp vegetation that wet pant legs in short order. And speaking of pants, there were plenty of those as we were soon breathing heavily due to the exertion expended on the climb up to Pig Iron. But no complaints, the forest we were hiking through was just beautiful with the morning sun filtering through the forest. Evaporating dew caught the light nicely as did water droplets sparkling on pine needles.

Lane scrambles out onto a rocky point

As the path gained elevation, small meadows showed up here and there. As stated, we had to use our routefinding skills when the trail tread disappeared in the brown grass. Between cairns and Lane's pretty pink ribbons, we were always able to stay on track. Not that I count or anything like that, but there were exactly 21 switchbacks on the way up. Occasionally, we'd scramble out to a rocky viewpoint on a switchback to take in some stunning scenery.

Pig Iron Lookout and one incredible view
The grade eased up just before the trail met up with the gravel road leading to Pig Iron Lookout. And best of all, the road angled gently downhill to the lookout, making quads and hamstrings happy. Beneath the wooden lookout tower, we plopped down on a rocky perch and ate lunch while soaking in the view.

John and Edwin enjoy life on Pig Iron
The sun was out, the sky was blue and cloudless, and mountains and valleys gently rolled along, carpeted with a blue green fuzz of forest. Right below our ridge crest aerie, reposed the man-made lake with the rather non-poetic name of Clearwater Forebay #2. The forebay was sited on the confluence of the Clearwater and North Umpqua Rivers and although we could not really see either river, their canyons were eminently notable.

Diamond Peak lets us know winter is coming
In the distance, the rock pillars of Rattlesnake, Old Man, and Eagle Rocks pointed skywards like accusing fingers of stone. The Boulder Creek Wilderness looked somewhat tattered and worn, thanks to a large burn scar received courtesy of several recent and frequent forest fires. Diamond Peak was sporting a fresh dusting of snow and ditto for the tip of Mount Bailey. Lunch just tastes better when wrapped around a view.

The entire color wheel of autumn
All good things come to an end and we reluctantly gathered up our gear and walked up the road and then down the trail. Downhill is easier than uphill but a different set of leg muscles were nonetheless aching by the time we arrived at the trailhead. Sometimes it feels like I have hiked every trail in the Umpqua National Forest so it was quite a pleasant sensation to hike on a totally new trail for me. Especially without hearing banjo music, if you get my drift (another "Deliverance" reference!).

Bridge over Clearwater Canal
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.  

1 comment :

  1. Love the lookout tower! And the trail's name too. Hope you're getting out and enjoying the lovely fall foliage.