Friday, November 24, 2017

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Segment

I'm going to give one of my favorite hiking and backpacking equipment stores a plug here. REI has it right as far as I'm concerned. You can always rely on knowledgeable staff and a liberal return policy that really gives you the opportunity to thoroughly field test gear before deciding to keep it. But where they really have it right is on Black Friday, that insane shopping frenzy that takes place the day after Thanksgiving. On that day, REI closes its doors and admonishes its would-be customers "Get outdoors, instead". 

Mushrooms, on a decaying log
Our little Black Friday expedition ran the gamut of all possible Black Friday outlooks on life. Luna and I needed no particular color or day of the week as an excuse to get out on the trail, we are always all in. Son Carl was 50/50 on the matter but was up for a short hike. Liam, however, was 90/10 in favor of hitting the stores on Black Friday. His inner 10% made him happy to be out on the trail, but the remaining 90% reminded him that every step carried him further and further away from a good deal on a pair of socks. The poor boy was sorely conflicted about hiking on this hallowed holiday of sorts.

Mossy forest
Since the requirements handed to me were that the hike had to be reasonably short and close to home, we headed up the North Umpqua Highway. This summer, the North Umpqua area had been ravaged by forest fires and last I heard, much of the North Umpqua Trail was closed to hiking because of fire damage in the form of fallen trees and burned bridges. So, our plan was to hike from the first trailhead that was open for hiking. As it turned out, the first trailhead open for hiking was the first trailhead of the North Umpqua Trail, located at Swiftwater Park.

Deadline Falls was not very "fally"
The weather had been pretty crappy all week, but we picked a glorious day to go hiking. It was crisp and chilly, but sunlight and blue sky sort of greeted us as we set out on the North Umpqua Trail. It is a North Umpqua truism that no matter which side of the river you hike on, the other side will be bathed in sunlight while you shiver in the shady cold, and this day was no exception. Below the shady trail, the North Umpqua was running full of rain water and Deadline Falls was not a waterfall on this day, as it was overwhelmed by the swollen river.

Dead fireweed leaves rattled as we hiked by

However, due to the Cable Crossing Fire from several years ago, we eventually enjoyed the sunlight we were so rightfully entitled to. Because of the fire. the trees are all dead here and a healthy waist-high cover of fireweed, dried and desiccated from the winter die-off, rattled like the last gasp of an asthmatic skeleton as we hiked past. The ample fireweed patch indicated the dead trees had met their demise years ago instead of perishing in the raging fires of last summer.

A small piece of Fern Falls
Fern Falls showed up a couple of miles into the hike, and both Carl and Liam were impressed. The falls have lost their luster over the years a little bit, as fire debris in the form of black logs, branches, and other detritus have visually cluttered up the delicate little waterfall. But it was still an enjoyable stop as the fresh waterfall breeze cooled us off a bit, not that we particularly needed cooling off on this winter morn.

Gotcha, finally!
We continued on the up-and-down trail, listening to twittering birds, babbling brooks, and Liam loudly complaining about not being at the mall on Black Friday. At Deception Creek, a stout footbridge spanned the creek and we stopped for a moment to enjoy the scenery and the sunnery. A pileated woodpecker was working over a tree, high up the trunk. I've seen these birds a time or two but they are hard to get a picture of as they have a knack for circling around to the back side of the tree just as you set the f-stop, ISO, and aperture settings on the camera. However, this time I was able to get a decent photo of the red-crested woodworking bird and that alone, made this hike memorable.

Jumping for joy

We didn't really have a destination in mind, excepting Liam, who had fixated on the mall as a perfectly good destination in mind. So, at a little over 2.5 miles, we showed him some mercy and turned around. He was practically giddy with joy, and beat us back to the trailhead. Despite the relative puniness of the hike, a good time was had by all and we all agreed to make a more serious effort on any other day besides Black Friday.

A leafhopper, currently not hopping
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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