Sunday, July 16, 2017

McKenzie River Trail

Ah, what a relaxing trail (unless you lose your dog!) this little section of the McKenzie River Trail is. Miles and miles of vine maples providing ample shade, tall Douglas fir trees reaching to the sky, a rushing river just off trail, and rustic bridges crossing merrily burbling creeks. If that doesn't ease your stress, nothing will. Of course, some of that stress release was negated by the worry caused by a missing dog, but more on that little episode later.

Twinkling green stars overhead
Luna (the aforementioned bad doggy) and I set out from Belknap Hot Springs Resort and were immediately rewarded with a lush and cool forest. The day was hot everywhere else in southern Oregon but the river moisture in the air; the shade from the trees; and a mild breeze, kept hikers and bikers cool. If word ever gets out about this, there'll be hundreds of thousands of people sitting under the trees, sighing contentedly in blessed relief from the heat wave currently cooking the Pacific Northwest. 

Indian pipe
The McKenzie River Trail (hereafter referred to as the MRT because it's too long to type out over and over again) is a National Recreation Trail, because it contributes to ", conservation, and recreation goals in the United States." To which I ponder "But don't they all?" but that's just me talking. At any rate, the MRT is close to Eugene, easily accessible from the McKenzie Highway, and proffers up  some pretty cool scenery and a classic river flowing just off trail. Mountain bikers love the trail and hikers have to get used to stepping aside for the bikes but in my experience, both hikers and bikers are polite and get along just fine. The main drawback to the MRT, in my humble opinion, is that the trail lacks that wilderness feel.

The McKenzie River Trail soothes on a warm day
For the first section from Belknap Hot Springs, the trail parallels the nearby McKenzie Highway. The sound of whooshing cars is clearly audible but if you plug your ears and/or ignore the sounds, the forest is simply beautiful. Small little side creeks rush into the McKenzie River and rustic one-railed log bridges span the creeks. I crossed the creeks on the bridges while Luna joyfully splashed across, as is her wont. And speaking of rushing into the the McKenzie River, Luna did plenty of that too.

Hey you! I'm taking a picture of you!
We stopped for a brief view-soak on a rocky bar next to the river. The McKenzie River gets its inception at the remarkable Great Spring at Clear Lake; the spring being noteworthy for the striking blue color and crystalline clarity of the water. As the Great Spring's love child, the McKenzie River sports both these traits. Rafters came through the rapids above the bar, intensely focused on navigating the roiling river and on keeping their crafts right side up. That's probably why they didn't wave at us or smile for the camera.

Bridge crossing at Scott Creek
After a couple of miles, the trail crossed both Scott and Boulder Creeks and then spit us out of the forest and onto the shoulder of the McKenzie Highway. Like I said, not really your basic wilderness hike. But not to worry, after about 20 yards, the route crossed over to the other side of the river on paved Forest Road 2560. Now that there was a noisy river between us and the equally noisy highway, we enjoyed that "real hike" ambience that can only be found on a forest path. We still had to step aside for a steady stream of mountain bikers, though.

The McKenzie River was always next to the trail
Mostly this hike was all about the forest as the river was only occasionally and partially visible through the dense stands of vine maple. There was no particular destination to hike to, although Deer Creek would have made a logical turnaround at 6 miles out. However, we turned around where the McKenzie divided around a rocky island at the 4 mile mark.

Bad doggy!
Luna had been such a good dog, too. She had stayed within eyesight and dutifully obeyed my commands to stay close. But she has no filters for right and wrong, and is as impulsive as a late-night tweeter. Just like that, she was no longer visible ahead of me and I really wasn't sure when or where she had disappeared from sight. I assumed, because she walks a lot faster than I do, she had gotten far out in front of me so I picked up my pace trying to catch up to her.  After a mile or so, it was obvious she was clearly lost from me.

Vine maples doing the vine maple thing
Worried at this point, I even turned back and walked the mile back but still no Luna. Sick at heart at the thought of her having to be all alone in the forest, my next plan was to walk to the car and wait to see if she'd show up or not. If that proved fruitless, I had no plan for what to do afterwards. 

Cold and clear, just like me!
The MRT is a busy place with all the hikers and bikers but of course, I walked for miles and miles without seeing a soul. Finally, after I crossed over to highway side of the river, a family came walking up the trail. Unfortunately, they hadn't seen a stupid black dog walking by herself. They were really quite sympathetic to my plight and as they commiserated, their son interrupted "Mister, is that your dog?" and here comes Luna trotting down the trail, relief palpable in her body posture.

Huckleberry, not quite ready for eating
Mind you, we had been separated for at least two miles. She had to navigate past two trailheads, cross one forest road, follow a paved road across the river, and safely walk next to the highway before she caught up with me. Quite a testament to her innate navigational ability. Or, if she followed me by sense of smell, quite a testament to my man-funk! Either way, our reunion was joyous and she remained leashed for the remainder of the hike. She'll probably remain leashed for all future hikes, too.

Sun dappling
No longer toting that cold orb of dread in the pit of my stomach, the remainder of the hike was much more relaxed as we returned to Belknap Hot Springs. I did notice though, that when Luna found me, she was soaking wet. She couldn't have been all that worried if she still could indulge in another dip in the river. The stress was all mine, apparently.

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

1 comment :

  1. Whew! Glad you and Luna were reunited! I lost my dog in the woods once too and I did a lot of hiking before I found him again.