Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cascade Gorge

Slated to lead a Friends of the Umpqua venture, I guess I was committed to a weekend hike. Because of my daughter's illness, I've been commuting between Roseburg and Portland and have not really done or thought too much about hiking. Nonetheless, this 9.6 miler did provide some welcome respite from harsh reality and in the end, I was pretty grateful to have honored the commitment.

Lane takes a photo op at Lost Creek Lake

However, the opportunity to feel glad about hiking on this particular February morning was quite literally, very much in the air. Incessant winter storms had been pummeling southern Oregon for weeks at a time and to no one's surprise. the Lost Creek Lake area was under a winter weather advisory. The weather forecast was ominously dire and more than likely, all the requisite travails and tribulations that a Richard Hike can entail were definitely in the offing.
Like frozen nose boogers

However, I am happy to report the forecast missed it entirely. While the roads were icy and snowy, at the trailhead it was just the opposite of predicted: the sun was out, blue skies floated overhead, and it looked like spring was coming. It didn't quite feel like spring was all that imminent though, as it was still cold enough to freeze nose boogers.

Walking in a winter wonderland
The route called for us to walk away from Lost Creek Lake and up the Rogue River arm of the lake. I had done this hike several years ago and the trail was level and easy, the very antithesis of a Richard Hike. But not to worry kids, this wound up being a Richard Hike after all, just keep reading. But for now, the hike began with a pleasant walk on a snow dusted trail winding its way underneath madrone and fir trees. It's somewhat incongruous to see madrone trees in snow as they tend to grow in drier, warmer, and more snow-free climes.

Simply a sublime day between storms
Anyway, the first couple of miles were a pleasant amble in the woods above the brightly colored lake. The Rogue River arm resembled a Scandinavian fjord flanked by steep and snow-dusted mountains with lake, forest, and mountains all reposing under a gloriously blue and cloudless sky. Hiking on the sunny side of the fjord as we were, we certainly enjoyed what felt like a fine spring morning. And speaking of spring, the diminutive flowers of snow queen carpeted the forest underneath the madrones in a lavender tinted farewell to winter. Life was good on the trail, what possibly could go wrong?

What possibly could go wrong?
Several things, as it turned out. About two miles into the hike, we had to clamber over our first fallen tree laying across the trail. Shortly thereafter, we carefully picked our way across the face of a rather large landslide that had taken out about 20 yards of trail. Soon there were more trees and more landslides. And at one notable juncture, there were dozens of trees and a landslide both. The clambering over trees became more tedious as we had to slither under and through them like ungainly possums, no more easy step-overs for us.

Damaged railings at Hole in the Ground Creek
There are a number of creeks crossing the trail and normally, bridges make it easy to cross over from one side to the other. However, it seemed like the creeks had been a magnet for falling trees and amazingly enough, all bridges remained intact despite the arboreal barrage. Most were severely wounded what with broken and bent railings and planks. The BLM has its work cut out for it if it wants to keep this trail open.

Rock formations at Cascade Gorge

However, this blog will brook no complaining about slides and trees because the scenery at Cascade Gorge was fantastic. The trail broke out into the open and went cliffy on the pinkish rock walls. Oregon sunshine, a bright yellow daisy-like flower, bloomed away in dense patches with the turquoise colored lake sparkling below the trail in the afternoon sun. Throw in snowy hillsides, blue skies, and some brilliant Oregon sunshine (the non-flower kind) and this was one colorful hike! 

Crossing a small creek on the return leg
Skookum Creek was the logical turnaround point, and Lane, Colby, Ezgi, and I ate lunch there, soaking in the sunshine as we sat in middle of all the winter storm debris littering the trail. We proudly represented the slower contingent of hikers as Edwin, John, and Rheo had already started back before us slowpokes had even sat down for lunch. Behind us, Skookum Creek provided a tremendous waterfall that would have been a major tourist attraction were it not for all the brush hiding the cascade from view. Not to mention all that fallen tree and landslide stuff, too.

Ezgi, you go first!
And what's more fun than scrabbling across shifting landslides and through fallen trees? Why, doing it again on the return leg, of course! There is some empirical data that I can offer as testament to the hike's difficulty. The hike only gained 700 feet over its 9.6 miles, yet it took us 6 hours and 16 minutes to complete the trek. That's 39 minute miles and rheumatic turtles walk faster than that. Not so empirically, I felt pretty tired at the end of the hike. However, the following day was again wild and stormy so it was nice to have snuck in a hike between winter tempests.

Cascade at Middle Creek
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Riverview Trail Loop

Sometimes, real life just gets in the way. At the end of January, a catastrophic illness suffered by my daughter Aislinn gave our family all the intrusion and reality one could ever not want. Naturally, hiking was not a priority during this ordeal but after several weeks, I took a temporary break from the whirring, beeping, and clicking of hospital machinery to hit the trail with my friends for some badly needed trail therapy.

Singing "Walk This Way" (Thanks Jesi, for that line)
One of Douglas County's many attractions is the North Umpqua Highway, an incredibly scenic and curvy road linking Diamond Lake and Roseburg. However, prior to 1964, travel to Diamond Lake took place on gravel North Umpqua Road. Whew, 70-plus miles of gravel road, that certainly was not a casual trip! Naturally, with the construction of the paved North Umpqua Highway in 1964, the old road sort of disappeared, either paved over by the new highway, consigned to the USFS forest road system, or simply swallowed up by the forest.

My people
An otherwise abandoned section of the old road now does duty as the Riverview Trail, currently delighting hikers and mountain bikers alike. The Riverview Trail generally stays high above the river and in places, provides even better views than the North Umpqua Trail on the other side of the river. The planned route on this Friends of the Umpqua hike was to follow the Riverview Trail to Fall Creek Falls for a moderate 8'ish mile hike. However, I had a lot of stress to work off so my plan was to depart the Riverview Trail at Bogus Creek Campground and return by way of the Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail for a more reasonable 12 mile hike. Mileage-addicted friends Lane and Kevin agreed to accompany me on the longer loop with dog Wish likewise agreeing to come along. 

Basaltic cliffs above the trail

The weather has been awful this winter but it was a rare sunny day that presented itself for this venture. The Riverview Trail is on the north side of the river so we actually walked in sunlight, a rare and wondrous occasion. Of course, the sunlight was for show only, as noses still ran in the wintry chill. The trail wasted no time in climbing a hundred feet or so above the river but once the altitude was gained, the path remained happily level for the most part.

Boots got wet at Alder Creek
Cliffs and basaltic pillars rose above the trail and moss filled in all the cracks in the imposing rock walls.  There was a large blue thing overhead and somebody thought it might actually be sky. I didn't think so because everybody knows the sky is gray. Occasionally, we enjoyed views down to the river and to the snow-dusted hills above. With all the recent rains, a fair number of creeks ran across the trail and boots got wet as we waded across. The route was open and exposed for the most part and we really enjoyed the delightful sensation of sunlight on skin.

So dark and cold at the bottom of the canyon
At approximately the four mile mark, Lane, Kevin, and I bid adieu to our friends and peeled off the Riverview, taking a path down to Bogus Creek Campground, currently closed for the winter. With a chorus of "Me, too!" we were joined by eager and naive newcomers Ezgi, Levi, and Ana. Welcome to a Richard Hike, kids! 

Where there is water, there is dog
A short road walk along the North Umpqua Highway delivered us to Wright Creek Bridge and just like that, we were on the other side of the river, ready to begin hiking on the Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail. We'd now be hiking on a real trail with dirt and everything, unlike the wide gravelly doubletrack of the Riverview Trail. It wasn't all happy miles however, as we were now on the shady south side of the river and the air was icy cold. Not much sun gets down to the bottom of the river canyon and mittens and extra layers of clothing were soon donned.

Fisher C
It was a pleasant six miles on the Mott, which spends most of its miles close to river level. I played professor to our three novices and had them all chewing on fragrant wild ginger leaves before long. At Fisher Creek, I pointed out Zane Grey's Camp and asked "Do you know who Zane Grey is?" With blank looks, the guesses I received in response were "Our new Vice-President? A Marvel Comic Book hero? Plays for the Chicago Cubs?" Sigh. The correct answer by the way is "...the world famous author who wrote novels of the American West". I'm glad nobody asked me what a novel was.

Small creek, large waterfall
About nine miles in, the bridge at Steamboat Creek hove into view on the other side of the river. Our car was parked there and it was so cruel to see the end of the hike so near but yet so far. We still had three miles of hiking to go because the trail crossed the river on the historic Mott Bridge, several miles upstream. It was here or thereabouts that I realized I had lost a little bit of my hiking trim with the month-long layoff. I perhaps should have eased back into the 12 mile thing instead of jumping all in at once.  

Sun on the North Umpqua
It was a pretty tired bunch that staggered to the finish, excepting Wish maybe. But on the plus side, I slept very well that night and it was nice to divest some stress and worry on a restorative hike.

The sun was so near, yet so far away
For more pictures, please visit the Flicker album.