Saturday, December 17, 2016

North Umpqua Trail - Mott Segment

It sure seems like I've been hiking on the North Umpqua a lot, lately. It's time to go somewhere else, isn't it? Lane thought so too, and he was leading a Friends of the Umpqua hike up the North Fork Willamette River so sign me up! However, winter decided we needed yet another hike on the North Umpqua Trail. You see, the weekend prior to the scheduled North Fork hike, Lane was unable to reach the trailhead due to snow covering the forest road. Ok, so a Plan B was quickly cobbled together and the McKenzie River Trail was penciled in as a substitute. But nooo...the relentless winter storms dumped snow on that too. Eventually, surrender-monkey Lane waved a snowy white flag of acquiescence and picked the low-elevation (and more importantly, snow-free!) Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail.

Fisher Creek crosses the North Umpqua Trail
A small but enthusiastic group of 8 hikers showed up to brave the winter elements on the North Umpqua River. It was cold at the meeting place in Roseburg but it was colder yet at the trailhead: 24 degrees, to be exact. Down jackets, mittens, gloves, and knit caps were the gear du jour at the start and all hiking participants were most eager to commence the hike and stave off frostbite.

Leaf art on a stump

Despite the cold, there was not a lot of ice on the trail, somewhat surprising when you consider the North Umpqua River is perennially shady and cold on the south side of the river. Also surprising, there were campers still asleep at the primitive campground near the trailhead. It was surprising they were camping, not that they were still asleep, just to clarify. Anyway, seeing the campers reminded me that Dollie and I winter camped once. Just once.

The mighty North Umpqua
Much of the North Umpqua Trail tends to be on cliffs 100 feet above the river but the Mott Segment stays at river level for most of its miles. Periodically, Lane and I would bushwhack down to the river's shore to take pictures of the opaque waters rushing by the trail, The river was running wider than normal and like me, was quite impressive to stand close to!

White on top, just like me!

On our periodic forays to the river's edge, we noticed the mountains on the north side were bathed in sunlight. On top of the mountains, the trees were all frosted with snow causing Lane to posit the riddle "What do those mountains and Richard have in common?" buddy. Anyway, we were peevishly jealous of any northsiders hiking over there in the sun. Not warm sun to be sure, but we still would have welcomed the psychological warmth a winter sun provides.

Proof it was cold
There is a section of trail that hugs the base of a cliff right next to a tranquil stretch of river. This particular piece of the Mott Segment is paved over with concrete designed to preserve the trail for the mountain bikers, as I imagine the river can cover it up after a good storm. I also say it was for mountain bikers because nobody cares about hikers struggling through on muddy trails (he said, with a just a trace of bitterness).  Here it was icy on the trail, and we carefully walked on the treacherous and slippery concrete. Below a cliff festooned with small icicles, were leafless bushes totally encased in ice. Much photography ensued and once again, Lane and I were bringing up the rear while our cameraless friends continued on.

Mushrooms were everywhere, in spite of the cold
An interesting moment on this hike was when a mysterious supernatural drumming sound reverberated throughout the forest: Boom...boom...boom. The beat was quite rhythmic and my first thought was that we were about to have a profound encounter with spirits of native drummers past. Alas, the drumming had a more mundane, but still interesting origin. A tree had fallen and the base had wedged itself between two trees while the upper portion of the tree dangled in the water. The treetop was bouncing in the river's current and water gurgled where the tree met river. When conditions were just right, about every fifth gurgle, the gurgling made a loud "glunk" sound which then carried through the tree trunk like a giant tuning fork. Nature's amplified subwoofer at work, and how cool was that?

Fisher Creek, at Zane Grey's Camp
A number of named creeks crossed the trail and it goes without saying, a larger number of unnamed creeks crossed the trail. John unsuccessfully tried to convince us that John Creek was named after him but we weren't buying it. The most notable creek was Fisher Creek because it was at Fisher Creek that the famed author Zane Grey camped and fished out of the North Umpqua. A small campsite and commemorative sign mark the spot. As a test, we asked the younger thirty-something members of our party if they had ever heard of Zane Grey and the response was "Doesn't he play for the Seahawks?" and "I think he starred in Titanic" Lane set them straight with "No, he was the Village People dude wearing the cowboy hat". Sigh.

Large cascade on the North Umpqua
When the historic Mott Bridge came into view, that was our cue that this frozen hike was about to end. This hike had been set up as a shuttle which meant that one car had to return to the starting trailhead and then all cars would come back to pick up all hikers. In theory, this meant that there should be a small contingent of hikers waiting at the trailhead for the cars to return. So, it was a little disconcerting when Lane and I finally arrived and there was nobody there. A momentary panic set in as we wondered if everybody else had continued onto the Panther Segment, not realizing they were to stop hiking here. Or maybe they had enough of our incessant stream of bad jokes and atrocious puns. "See, Lane? I told you nobody likes that joke about the one-legged kangaroo!" Fortunately, they were all exploring the nearby Mott Bridge and that should teach us to take less pictures, hike faster, and shut up more. But then again, probably not.

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

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful place, even in the winter. And I loved the ice-encased branches! Happy New year to you and here's to more great hikes in 2017.