Saturday, October 29, 2016

North Umpqua Trail - Marsters Segment

"X marks the spot" they say, even though I don't know who "they" are or why we listen to what "they" say, or even how you get to be a member of all-knowing "they". But for the purpose of this inane blog posting, the X-spot being referred to is where the North Umpqua Highway and the North Umpqua Trail switch sides of the North Umpqua River, with the crossover taking place at Marsters Bridge. The X also marks the spot where I began two hikes in two days on one North Umpqua Trail.

Trail tread
On the North Umpqua Trail, the Marsters Segment is yin to the Jessie Wright Segment's yang. You'd sort of figure they'd be pretty much the same but no, they do have their differences as well as some similarities. It's kind of like my brothers and I, we come from the same gene set but I wound up with good looks, athletic ability, and brains while they got a totally awesome big brother, but I digress. The Jessie Wright Segment runs on the sunny side of the North Umpqua River and ambles below some impressive geologic pillar formations. The Marsters spends a lot of shady time in lush forest way above the river. And the Jessie Wright is sunny and comfortably warm while the Marsters is cold and very wet, at least on the days I hiked the two trails.

Splish-splash on the North Umpqua Trail
As I blissfully slept the night of my Jessie Wright Segment hike, happily dreaming of riverine trails, a storm system blew in and the next day it was more a question of when and not if, as to whether I would get a rain soaking on the trail or not. However, at the hike's outset the sky was gray and brooding (just like me!) but the rain was still safely stored in the clouds above. Beginning at a backpacker's campsite next to the river, the Marsters Segment of the North Umpqua Trail ran straight through a soggy aisle flanked by spindly trees. Leaves carpeted the muddy trail which squished under my boots as I waded through the mud.

The river is just a step away
Within a quarter-mile of the trailhead, the trail shot up the hillside, climbing about 150 feet above the river. And then after all that work, the trail dropped back down to the river and then climbed several hundred feet above then river, and then....etc. You get the idea, the trail went up and down all day long. Fortunately, the uphill pitches were short and sweet, ending before legs went on strike. At times the path went cliffy, with the silty water of the river  flowing a straight couple of hundred feet below.

Bridge booby-trap (it's slippery!)
So, this is still autumn and on the shady side of the river, vine maples were still glowing yellow in the forest understory. Also making a significant contribution to the color show were big-leaf maple trees and dogwoods, with the dogwoods going as pink as a hairless mouse baby or one of my brothers. Occasionally, on the forest floor, individual fronds of Oregon grape were burning bright red. However, because I have seen that in all seasons, I'm not sure that the redness had anything to do with autumn or not.

Richard Creek..I mean, Deception Creek
Emerald-green moss flanked the trail in testament to the constant river moisture in the air. Likewise in liquid testimonial, small creeks ran over the trail with some frequency. Large creeks also crossed the trail but under, due to some finely constructed bridges. Only one of the creeks had a name, and Ray once said it was named after me: Deception Creek. I took it as a compliment!

Leaves in the rain

At just under the four mile mark, the Marsters Segment ended on a forest road crossing Calf Creek. As I ate lunch on the bridge, mindlessly contemplating the rushing water of the creek, I felt my first raindrop. After exchanging brief pleasantries with the only other person I'd see all day, a mountain biker and her dog, I returned to the trail for the return leg. It never fails, it always rains at the point farthest from the car, it must be like a weather god rule.

ISO 3200, stat!
But it was a mild rain and no complaints yet. At the three mile to go mark, the heavens absolutely opened up and now there was vigorous complaining. I made an attempt to put the camera away but the autumnal forest with its river views was just too beautiful not to take a picture of. So I compromised and took less pictures and walked just a bit faster. The day was dark, a statement empirically supported by an ISO setting of 3200 on my camera in broad "daylight". Too lazy to dig into my pack for my raincoat, I just put up with getting wet, but at least I was warm from the exertion of hiking. It was one happy but wet hiker upon return to the X where the highway, river, and trail all intersected.

A pair of puffballs
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, October 28, 2016

North Umpqua Trail - Jessie Wright Segment

Way back when, when Dollie and I were newly married, we had to plan our first vacation as a married couple. I'm glad to report our marriage survived that experience! At any rate, I put a mason jar on the kitchen table and next to it were a pen and a note pad. The basic plan was when one of us had an idea for a vacation, we'd jot down our suggestion and drop it into the vacation jar. At some point in the future we'd select a vacation destination by reaching into the jar blindfolded, and grabbing the lucky sticky note. As it turned out, the two adults and the two children in the house had lots of good ideas and in no time that mason jar was full of great vacations. But then Dollie had to ask "When are we going to choose the vacation?" and I had to answer "The day we leave!"  I was serious, too.

A zen moment
Our conversation then continued in this basic form for the next several months:

Dollie: What if we go there and the campground's full?
Me: Then we stealth camp in the forest
Dollie: What if there is no motel room available?
Me: There is always a motel room available and if not, then we stealth camp in the vacant lot behind the motel.
Dollie: Grrrr....
Jessie and Aislinn: Which one of you gets us in the divorce?

Lemon yellow dogwood
I finally relented when one night, Dollie woke up in terror. "What's the matter?" I asked. Gasping for breath, she answered "I had a nightmare" as she wiped the cold sweat off her brow "I dreamed we were on vacation and we had no plans...I can't breathe." Clearly, this was becoming a psychological neurosis, so in the middle of the night, we reached into the vacation jar and pulled out a piece of paper with "Mount Rainier National Park" scrawled on it and our marriage was saved. Plus, we had a pretty cool vacation, despite its being planned in advance.

Autumn mosaic
So, now that we established that Dollie is order and I am chaos, no doubt you all are wondering what the heck does this parable have to do with hiking? Well, it's got all to do with my plans for backpacking in 2017. Normally, I decide where I'd like to hike and I say "I'm going there!" And then the week before, I get bored with my intended destination and read about another real cool destination in say, Backpacker Magazine, and then I'm off chasing squirrels, so to speak. And the day before I am to leave, I say "Sod it!", and wind up staying home dayhiking for the weekend because I couldn't settle on a backpack destination. So, this time I thought I'd take a page from Dollie's book and figure out where I'm going in 2017 and plan accordingly, repeating all the while Dollie's mantra : "Thou shalt not deviate from thy plan!"

Sunlit dogwood graced the trail
One of the trips on the list is the 78 mile North Umpqua Trail. The trail starts (or ends, depending which direction you hike) at Swiftwater Park, near the hamlet of Idlyld Park and finishes at Maidu Lake, the source of the North Umpqua River. The trail is divided into 12 sections with trailheads at either end and I've dayhiked most of the trail at one point or another. Because of its proximity to Roseburg, the North Umpqua Trail is just a short drive away and provides a nice day hike on days when one just does not feel like driving several hours to a more distant trailhead.

Tiny little parasol
So, on an autumn day where I was feeling lazy, Luna (our dog) and I hopped into the car and headed up the scenic North Umpqua Highway. After disembarking from the car at Marsters Bridge, we headed east on the Jessie Wright Section of the North Umpqua Trail. Immediately, our legs were soaked as the forest and encroaching brush were damp from the recent rains, although this day was sunny but cool. However, hiking at the bottom of the river canyon, we didn't get to experience the sunny joy much and we finished our hike with same low Vitamin D levels we had started with.

My future backpacking route if I don't change my mind
The first part of the hike was on what looked like an old road bed and the trail was gleefully level. Autumn was in full display as big-leaf maples were all glowing bright yellow above the trail. The vine maples were pretty much done but dogwood trees made up for their absence from the autumn fireworks display. The forest floor was likewise yellowed out with bracken fern, thimbleberry, and vanilla leaf all going gold in one shade or another. Dead leaves muffled the sound and the only noise heard was the rushing of the nearby river, our feet kicking the leaves, and an incredibly handsome lone hiker occasionally yelling at a dog who insists on pulling on the leash.

Creeks are to play in
The only animals seen were small twittering birds but Luna alerted a couple of times at something hidden upslope of the trail. I deliberately willed myself not to be too curious about what was lying in wait in the shrubbery and we walked by as quickly as possible which is not all that quick when the dog wants to just stand there growling. It probably just was deer stalking us.
The North Umpqua River was always nearby

So the trail was remarkably flat and I imagined myself hiking this with a backpack on. Wow, hiking this trail is going to be easy, it'll be level all the way to Maidu Lake! Heh heh, like that is going to really happen. Once off the old road bed and onto a real trail, the route went up and down for the rest of the hike, but fortunately none of the climbs were overly long. At times, the path got fairly close to the river running wide and fast due to the recent storms.

Thanks, Richard Sommers
Progress was fairly slow as this was more photo shoot than hike, there was just so much autumn finery to take pictures of. We did stop to eat lunch at Eagle Creek, admiring the rustic bridge spanning the creek. It used to be you had to wade across the creek but the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club paid for a bridge from an endowment received from Richard Sommers when he passed away. There was a sign honoring Richard and I made sure to thank him as we relaxed next to the creek flowing under the bridge. 

Bridge crossing of Boulder Creek
We continued on for another mile to Boulder Creek which was the logical turnaround point. The bridge offered up another contemplation point and we stopped for a bit to simply enjoy the creek rushing underneath. From there it was back the way we came, enjoying the idyllic scenery, our company, and autumn colors all over again. Fully sated in body and soul, we arrived back at Marsters Bridge and I'll be back on this trail, probably with a backpack on next time...unless I change my plans.    

Trail serenity
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Takelma Gorge

Here in Oregon, you have to work a little bit to get a good autumn hike in. Surrounded as we are by dark evergreen forest, it's quite easy to inadvertently bypass the fall colors. It certainly had been a while for me, I checked my calendar and the last time I had what I would call a good autumn walk was back in 2012. But the secret (in Oregon, anyway) to hiking in a colory wonderland of ochre and golden goodness is to simply hike where the vine maples are, usually near a river or stream.  And if the vine maples happen to stand next to some fantastic scenery, then the hike gets booted up to a whole other level of awesome.

Gorgeous Gorge!

Take Takelma Gorge, for example. The Rogue River gets stuffed into a narrow gorge and is not particularly happy about being so constrained. The river seethes noisily in its confines like King Kong chained inside  a wooden shipping crate. However, it would be pretty awesome to stand next to the shipping crate with a raging King Kong in it and so it is with hiking on the edge of a gorge so deep, you cannot see the river roiling at the bottom Yet the gorge is also so narrow you can hurl a bowling ball left-handed across to the other side, and we get to hike just a few feet from the edge. Hiking doesn't get much better than that! However, in mid-October, as awesome as Takelma Gorge is, it almost gets upstaged by the yellow, russet, orange, and scarlet hues of the vine maples.

This is better looking than a motorcycle accident
This Friends of the Umpqua hike in Takelma Gorge got off to an inauspicious start on the drive to the Upper Rogue River. In front of us, a pair of vacationing motorcyclists ran into each other and spilled bodies, motorcycles, and motorcycle parts all over the road. Fortunately, they were wearing flack jackets and avoided serious injury. We had our doctors (lucky we had two in our party) check them out to make sure they were OK. One of the riders had an obviously broken hand but he was in denial and was going to try continuing on with his journey. Since I cycled 78 miles AFTER breaking my wrist and jaw in a cycling mishap, I totally understood. Also, from my experience, I knew at some point he'd figure out he was hurt worse than he hoped he was and would seek treatment, even if he didn't know it at the moment. At any rate, we were late getting to the trailhead and Medford hiking buddies Glenn, Carol, and Katie the Banana-Eating Dog had to wait quite a bit for us to arrive.

On the Upper Rogue River Trail

Starting at the Woodruff Bridge Trailhead,  we set out onto the Upper Rogue River Trail whose entire 48-mile length I WILL backpack someday, even though I've been saying that for years. Immediately, all thoughts of glorious gorge-ous gorges was driven from our heads by the yellow leaves surrounding the trail. The trail was carpeted with dead leaves which muffled our footfalls as we walked, imparting a reverential hush to the hike. Lane, Sharon, and I soon lagged behind with very busy cameras.

Serene and tranquil, but not for long!
The trail ambled close to the Rogue River, it's surface as smooth as a marble countertop. I was going to say " smooth as an incredibly handsome hiking leader" but that's a different kind of smooth! The river wasn't always that smooth either, because the trail disappeared into the river and former trees along the river were now trees in the river. The soil here is all volcanic ash, left courtesy of Mount Mazama's cataclysmic eruption 7,000 years ago. The soil is as unyielding as a stick of butter at room temperature, so any shifts in the river's course will easily eat up trees and trails.

The Rogue River picks up speed
The trail had been rerouted in places to get around the eroded parts, which meant none of us had to do any river wading on this chill and cool autumn day. About a half-mile into the hike, the river began to pick up speed and rapids began to form. The trail was fairly level but the river was dropping in relation to the trail and soon we were walking on a rocky bench well above the river.

Nobody kayaks Takelma Gorge, I wonder why?
Takelma Gorge begins at what I call "The Fishook", a spectacular river U-turn surrounded by tall rocky cliffs. In testimony to the power of the river, large logs are strewn pell-mell, as if they had been tossed there in a Pick-up-Sticks game of the gods.  At The Fishhook, the Rogue River leaped down into the gorge and it was all noisy whitewater current here, no more placid and tranquil river for us! Downstream of the Fishhook, Takelma Gorge then ran straight as a laser beam for approximately a mile and we could look down a significant portion of the gorge.

Gorge geology lesson
The narrow defile was formed when Mount Mazama first covered the area with a huge deposit of volcanic ash, rocks, and sludge. Subsequent lava flows then covered the soft ash and subsequently hardened, so you had a layer of hard dense material covering a soft sludgy interior, a description that could aptly describe my head. At some point the river found a soft spot in the lava covering and like an earworm, burroughed into the soft material underneath the hard shell. Once the river found the ashy soil underneath, erosion took place and lo, Takelma Gorge was born. In the picture to the left, you can clearly see the layers described in this paragraph.

Decaying biomass, big and small
After a bit, the canyon deepened enough that the river disappeared from view, although its belligerent roar could always be heard. And shortly thereafter, the gorge flattened out, the river reappeared, went totally tranquil, and our attention returned back to the autumn foliage. It was like the gorge never was and once past, it was a pleasantly (relatively) level few miles to our lunch spot at the closed-for-the-season River Bridge Campground. It was a nice lunch and laze as we swapped hiking tales while Katie mooched bananas from yours truly.

British soldiers, a lichen
On the way back, Lane and I didn't take too many pictures (at first!) and kept up with everybody. But then Takelma Gorge looked so spectacular that we whipped the cameras out again, even though we had photographed the same things on the hike in. It's a disease, I tell you, and our symptoms increased when we returned to the vine maples upstream of the gorge.

Leaf-littered trail

I'm not sure how this happened but the woods had become even more spectacular than when we passed through in the morning. I'm not sure what it was but the colors were brighter and more colory, the vine maples had seemingly unfurled tons more of painted leaves and the autumn show was simply breathtaking. All hiking came to a screeching halt as we began the process of photographing every leaf in the forest.  Good thing I had the car keys!

Forest fire, vine maple style
We had long lost contact with our group, and several hiker groups passed by as we plied our avocation. Heck, we were even passed up by small children and arthritic 90-year old grandparents, but we didn't care. I made several attempts to seriously hike back to the trailhead but every new bend in the trail served up a new spectacular scene and our lack of progress got pretty ridiculous. Fortunately, my fellow hikers and club members have been well trained by experience and eventually, Lane and I made it back to the trailhead where our party was waiting patiently for us. Well, actually they were sleeping on the picnic tables, but why quibble?

Mother and child
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cape Perpetua

Between Dollie and I, we have 6 children and despite our best efforts as parents, we have 0 children that hike. Like parents everywhere the world over, we wonder how we failed and what could have been done different. Ah, but grandchildren are a different story! Unlike the children, grandkids think we are pretty cool and they absolutely love to hike. Take for example, a recent hike to Cape Perpetua I did with Daweson and Issiah. We covered 8.2 miles and they were disappointed they did not get up to 9 miles. In addition to the 8.2 miles, the boys gained 700 feet of elevation in 1 one of those miles, and the last mile was hiked in a torrential downpour. They did their grandfather proud when they exclaimed "That was fun!" as we peeled off wet clothing at the trailhead, it's so nice to see they have the proper attitude about hiking.

The Oregon Coast Trail
The start at the Cummins Creek Trailhead was decidedly much drier than the watery finish. From this particular trailhead, we could have really tested the boys' mettle by hiking up the Cummins Creek Trail and then back down Cook's Ridge. However, I took it a little bit easier on them by heading out on the Oregon Coast Trail instead, hiking to the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, which was only about 1.5 miles away.

Gwynn Creek

So up and over a small ridge we go, dropping down to a footbridge over Gwynn Creek. The bridge gave Daweson and Issiah the opportunity to mug for the camera, clowning around like the little trail monkeys they are. Once I explained the Oregon Coast Trail runs the entire length of the Oregon coast, they could talk of little else than doing the entire trail on a summer backpack trip. They do like to challenge themselves and that's a good thing.

The amenities included nice bridges over Cape Creek
After another rolling up and down around a ridgeline, we arrived at the visitor center where it was time for a snack and a visit to the civilized restroom in the parking lot. Gotta use the amenities where we can find them. A particular amenity that I could have cared less about was the paved trail near the visitor center, but the restroom, running water, and benches were certainly appreciated.

The boys actually enjoyed the hike to the top
The paved trail ended on the way to a footbridge over Cape Creek, and the subsequent dirt path then crossed in short order the campground road and the cape road, from there it would be an uphill walk all the way to the top of the cape. The St. Perpetua Trail switchbacked to and fro across the forested face of the cape, climbing 700 feet in just a little over a mile and I am quite proud to say my two young charges were more than up to the task. Issiah led the way, his brisk hiking pace surpassing what is normal for most whiny 10 year olds. My pace was more in keeping with having a camera and my nearly newly minted age of 60 (still had two days left as a whiny 59 year old).

This picture says it all
Towards the top of the cape, the trail broke out into open areas, providing great views of the rugged Oregon coast under a cloudy sky to the south. When the trail became paved again, we knew we were near the top and shortly thereafter, we plopped down at the stone West Shelter, built by the C.C.C in 1934. The shelter is considerably older than me, just saying. An older couple were quite impressed with Issiah and Daweson hiking to the cape summit. When I pointed out where we had started from (on the other side of prominent Cook's Ridge) their jaws dropped and the boy's chests accordingly puffed out with pride.

Ho hum, another cape, another view
We didn't see any whales but if there were any, we would have seen them. Ostensibly, this was the tail end of the winter whale migration but we did not see any tell-tale blowhole plumes in the expansive ocean. Perched atop the old volcano that is now Cape Perpetua, we could almost see forever, or so it seemed. To the south were a series of steep ridges plunging precipitously into the ocean and to the west was the ocean itself. Sunlight leaked through the cloud cover and the sunbeams spotlit the water below. The shoreline at the cape is quite jagged, the result of an endless war between sea and hardened lava, and waves seethed and erupted in the various churns below. 

Right before a sneaker wave chased us
After snacks and a view soak, we headed back down the trail and down definitely was easier than up. When we returned to the visitor center, I explained that we could go back to the car and wind up with a 6 mile hike or explore further the coves, tidepools, and churns for a 9'ish mile hike. Of course, the boys made the correct choice! So, for extra mileage, we took the tunnel path under busy Highway 101, and followed a paved trail and stairs down to a small cove where Cape Creek runs into the ocean. I warned the boys about sneaker waves, admonishing them to NEVER turn their back on the ocean, and with that, we started exploring tidepools.

Why we hike!
I must make sure to personally thank the Pacific Ocean because right on cue, a large wave broke over the rocks we were standing on leaving us perched and temporarily stranded atop any high point we could find. After that encounter, the boys were a lot more malleable in terms of staying away from the edges and that was a good thing, seeing as how our next stop was Devil's Churn.

Devil's churn makes "sea butter"
Devil's Churn is a narrow crack in the lava reefs and the ocean relentlessly surges up the defile, only to explode in wave-bombs further inland. If one were to be swept off the rocks and into the churn, that'd be the end, so I was grateful the boys did not go further away from the stairs like the curious little meerkats they can be.

Blowhole that reminds me of my brother for some reason
The last item before turning back was the wild coastline at Cook's Chasm. Similar to Devil's Churn, Cook's Chasm sports a spouting horn and blowhole. Or as I put it to the boys, "...the ocean farts!" It was high tide and the horn was putting on a noisy show of flatulent blowhole glory. Nearby, Thor's Well  (an iconic landmark hole in the reef) pulsated like some kind of breathing sea creature as it filled up and emptied with each successive wave. However, we didn't stay too long as it was getting quite dark due to the lateness of the day and the incoming storm blotting out the ocean horizon.

Storm's a comin'!
To keep Daweson and Issiah invested on hoofing it back to the car before the storm hit, we did the military call and response chant where I yelled out "I don't know but I've been told" and they impertinently responded with "I hear that Grandpa's really old!" Turnabout's fair play so I countered with "You two better hike real fast...or Grandpa's gonna kick your ass!" With just under two miles to go, the rain started and at about a mile to go, the heavens opened up and we were all pretty wet when we arrived at the trailhead. And what was the verdict? "That was awesome!"  So nice to see they have the proper attitude!

We had one last adventure left and that was eating tongue taco dinner at Los Amigos Burritos in Florence. When we got home, Daweson was telling his mother about this and she had a dubious look on her face as she listened. "Mom, it's a great food" explained Daweson "You taste it and it tastes you!" Boys after my own heart!

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

Muir Creek

This was a short and relatively easy hike. The reason for the lowering of Richard Hike standards was directly attributable to the short-legged youngster walking with me. And no, it wasn't a grandchild, my companion instead was Luna, our new dog. Luna is still a puppy and accordingly has a short attention span, no concept of right or wrong, and will chase a squirrel at a moment's notice. This all makes training her to walk on a leash quite a tedious project with much leash-pulling on her part, and much dog-yelling on my part. 

Huckleberry's autumn blush
Setting out from the Muir Creek Trailhead, the route inscribed a fairly level contour on a forested bench above hidden Muir Creek. Real quick, it was obvious a fair amount of forest had been knocked down across the trail by wind and/or snow. So our first dog-training lesson was learning to wait for the incredibly handsome master to go over the tree BEFORE the dog did. Also important, DO NOT go under the tree when the incredibly handsome master goes over the tree. We had mixed results as far as all that goes but at least we got through it without killing the dog.

Don't look so overjoyed, Luna
At the 0.7 mile mark, the trail dropped down to creek level and crossed over a marshy creek on a large log. This gave Luna the opportunity to wade in the creek below me and both of us were happy in our respective elements. Here, Muir Creek Meadows first came into view and I felt obligated to gawk-stop, much to the consternation of an antsy dog who could care less about the stunning panorama.

At times the trail was extremely faint

Muir Creek Meadows are not traditional meadows in the sense of terrain covered by short grass and wildflowers with Heidi yodeling to her herd of goats. Nope, Muir Creek's huge and expansive meadows are comprised of dense eye-gouging willow thickets that effectively prevent meadow exploration, although the deer and elk seem to get through it just fine. Muir Creek was somewhere in there, hidden from view by the thick vegetation.

Willows going wild
One main theme of this hike was autumn colors and accordingly, the huckleberries and dogwoods glowed red as demon eyes while the willows and alder shone yellow as cowardly lemons. Much photography ensued while an eager dog impatiently waited for her incredibly handsome master to take yet another photo. It's hard to focus on f-stop settings when a warm and slobbery dog tongue intrudes into your ear, just sayin'.

A small piece of Muir Creek Meadows
Because this was autumn, the meadows had a slight yellow tinge to them, just like I did the time I ate an undercooked hot dog. Muir Creek had carved a wide river valley and the forested hills on other side of the canyon were dark and brooding, just like I was the time my brother put itching powder in my bed. All the meadowy scenery lay under clouds that colored the sky gray just like I am, a few days short of my 60th birthday. And the temperature was perfect for hiking, being pleasantly cool like I am, as always!

Muir Creek
The trail basically contoured the wooded edge of the meadows where we experienced a couple of wildlife encounters; that is, if you consider cattle to be wildlife. I was trying to take a photograph of a tawny bovine and the dog was pulling on the leash and making it hard for me to work my camera magic. Finally irritated, I turned to explain to her the error of her ways and was quite dismayed to see that all the leash tugging was occurring because my stupid dog was rolling around in a fresh cow patty. What the...? Some wildlife is wilder than others and it was going to be a long ride home with that coweriferously stinking creature riding in the back seat.

As close as we would get to Muir Creek Falls
The next mile or two were nothing but sumptuous meadow views with occasional overlooks of the pristine alpine stream of Muir Creek snaking its way through the meadows. At mile 2.5, Muir Creek split into the East and West Forks with the East Fork containing the bulk of the water flow. At the confluence of the two forks, the East Fork tumbled down the face of a rocky shelf and Luna and I bushwhacked down to the creek for a better view. Muir Creek Falls requires a wade across for a better look but I eschewed that option on this gray and cool day, much to Luna's disappointment.

Almost looks like an old road bed
The Muir Creek Trail continued on along the West Fork, which was barely a trickle. To continue the hike to Buck Canyon would have required walking on a motorcycle trail so we turned around just short of the intersection of the two trails. Luna by this time was having her puppy exuberance tempered by exhaustion and she was a much more malleable walking companion, excepting the time she spotted a squirrel taunting her from a tall tree trunk.

I was not as lithe and graceful
We got to practice log hopping on the way back again and as I stepped over a log, a vine grabbed my boots, yanking both feet out from under me. On the way down, I tossed my hiking poles and dog leash skyward, freeing  my hands to brace my fall. Oof, I hit the ground with a heavy thud and a dog started licking my face, her expression one of pity. "And I'm the one that needs a leash?" her eyes asked, as she no doubt wondered how we got to be the master race. But at least I wasn't the one smelling like cow butt.

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