Friday, June 9, 2017

North Umpqua Trail (Swiftwater Park)

Dale wanted to go on a "photo hike", and I'm thinking "But aren't they all photo hikes?" However, Dale had spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small country on: a camera that can shoot HDR photos while simultaneously brewing a mean cup of coffee; a light meter with up to 850,000 lux sensitivity; 7 lens of various focal lengths and magnifications; a remote control clicker with 5.7 miles of range; a set of extension tubes; spectromatric telemacroscopes; 420-stop neutral denisity polarizing filters; 3 camera equipment carry bags; a helper robot; the always handy-to-have flux capacitor, a 10-foot high tripod with a hydraulic lift; and a stool for using the 10-foot high tripod with a hydraulic lift. Too bad he forgot batteries! Anyway, given all the gear he was carrying, I figured a photo hike would be a short hike where we took lots and lots of pictures.

Iris detail
Well, I had that only part right: yes, we did walk just a short 4 miles and I, at least,  took lots of pictures (what else is new?). But Dale only took like around 10 photos (Note: all of Dale's work is available as limited edition GiclĂ©e prints!), crafting each one painstakingly and lovingly like Picasso with a Pentax. Plus, it took him 15 minutes each time to assemble, and then another 15 minutes to disassemble the architectural structures (like the tripod) required for him to ply his art. But hey, taking pictures of everything on, above, next to, or under the North Umpqua Trail is not a bad way to spend a morn. 

Pacific ninebark

The weather was sunny but cool down at the bottom of the North Umpqua River's forested canyon. We started at Swiftwater Park and enjoyed a level walk through a lush forest above the river. Lots of pictures were taken by one of us. The photo fun began in earnest at Deadline Falls, where we scrambled down to the river to photograph the noisy cascade. While Dale was erecting his 10-foot tripod to shoot his one picture of the falls, I kept myself busy photographing the spring wildflowers next to the river.

Woodland phlox bloomed on the forest floor
Thimbleberry was the main photo subject but Pacific ninebark, red clover, and birds-foot trefoil also succumbed to my viewfinder while lavender ceanothus perfumed the air. But eventually, I had photographed every flower in the immediate vicinity. "Dale" I said "can we go now?" as I put down the volume of "War and Peace" I had started and finished while Dale was shooting the falls. "Hold on, I haven't taken a picture yet!" I was shocked to hear. What? Seems he was waiting for the perfect light and moment which had not occurred yet during this lunar and solar cycle. 

You know how your young children get restless on a long trip so you toss a toy or bauble over your shoulder into the back seat as you drive, so as to distract them? Well, in similar fashion, Dale tossed me a set of extension tubes and said "Try these on your camera!" Weapons of mass distraction work every time and I screwed on a tube and looked in the viewfinder. Ooh! The extension tube turned my ordinary lens into a powerful macro lens and I then spent the next two hours trying to capture the perfect photo of a snail's nose hair.

Beetle larvae destroy a willow leaf
Actually, some kind of beetle larvae had chewed up the willows and had made webby tent colonies on the ruined leaves. The extension tubes were way cool for taking pictures of the orange and black grubs and I suddenly found myself embracing the whole "photo hike" concept and wondering where I too, could purchase a 10-foot tripod with a helper robot.

Goose grass
Goose grass is a small bedstraw plant with a flower so tiny, it is barely visible to 60 year old eyes. Ah, but with the extension tubes, it looked as large as a day lily.  Whooh, this macro stuff was fun. Eventually, Dale decided the chi at Deadline Falls was sufficiently balanced to allow for his one photograph, so we resumed hiking, albeit with yours truly taking pictures of all things tiny. I was seeing the world with a whole new set of nearsighted eyes. 

Trail through the Cable Crossing Fire zone

The forest is very lush here along the North Umpqua, but only up to a point. In 2015, the Cable Crossing Fire laid waste to the forest here and we hiked through the graveyard. Dead trees everywhere but life was exploding on the ground. Fireweed, as is its wont, had taken over the open ground beneath the black snags. Spittlebugs had "built" their spit homes on the fireweed stalks and were holding spittlebug keggers somewhere in all the bubbles.

Guardian of the stick

Our turnaround point was little Fern Falls, cluttered with fire debris. A couple of hours later, after Dale had taken his one photograph of the falls, we turned back where I used the extension tubes to photograph candy flower until a crab spider warned me away. As we hiked back, the sun disappeared and dark clouds scudded over. The air had that portentous atmosphere and sure enough, the wind suddenly started howling through the branches overhead.

Let the storm begin!
That was not a good thing either, because we were hiking in a stand of sugar pines. Sugar pines are noted for having one of the larger pine cones around, each cone weighing about as much as all of Dale's camera gear. So when the wind blows, the cones will fall and there is nothing quite like hiking in a windstorm when it is raining sugar pine cones. You literally could hear the hiss as they plummeted earthward: Hsssssss....thwock! As this was going on, the hail started. Then the rain came down in sheets, with thunder and lightning completing a thorough pivot from a Photo Hike to a Richard Hike. Dale quickly stowed all his gear into his portable waterproof storage unit and we hiked a lot more quickly than we had been.

The weather goes from nice to nasty
Funny, with all the rain coming down, Dale took no more pictures, not willing to expose millions of dollars of electronics to the wet elements. Me, my compulsive photography was held in abeyance because I just wanted to get to the trailhead as quick as possible, so as to minimize the possibility of becoming a sugar pine target; which in turn would thereby increase the probability of my living a longer life. In short order, we arrived at a very soggy trailhead and we quickly piled into our respective cars and hightailed it home. Should I tell Dale I "forgot" to give him back his extension tubes? 

Extenstion tubes make the rain look pretty cool
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Fern Falls

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