Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rogue River Trail 1/2018

Last December I hiked at Cape Blanco and then the Rogue River. In January, I hiked at Cape Blanco and then the Rogue River. See a trend? Yup, me too, but rest assured that in February, I will not hike at Cape Blanco or the Rogue River. I did have good reason to double up on Cape Blanco though, as I was helping Lane get acquainted with the route and then helping him lead a very large group on the subsequent outing, But the twin Rogue River hikes were more happenstance than actual intent.

Tumbling creek falling into the river
Daweson and I had hiked on the Rogue River Trail in December and shortly afterwards, the Friends of the Umpqua added the Rogue River Trail to their schedule. So my choice on this January Saturday was to hike elsewhere alone or reenact the hike with the club. Apparently, I needed company on this day, for I joined up with the club and hiked the oh-so-familiar Rogue River Trail with my friends. Well, maybe it's a stretch to say that I have actual friends, but at any rate I had company and companionship on this hike, if for no other reason than I had the car keys in my possession.

Rain was a constant threat
Actually, the decision to hike along the Rogue had more to do with weather than having comrades somehow validate my meager inconsequential existence as a human being. It had been pretty rainy which meant snow in the Cascades and less than optimal conditions at the coast. Chances were pretty high that we would get rained on at the Rogue but at least it would be a short drive for that dubious privilege.

A waterfall tumbles across the trail
The theme of the December Rogue River hike was cold air and it was definitely warmer now than it had been back then. The current hike was much wetter, though. About a half-mile from the trailhead, a small creek waterfalls onto the trail at the infamous "wet spot". The trail is narrow and due to the year round waterfall, the rocks can get quite slippery when the algae grows. Normally, you cross the wet spot very carefully, placing your hands on the cliff side for support. However, the waterfall was carrying so much volume that there was no hope of staying dry, and my right leg was promptly soaked from the hip down, thanks to immersing said leg in said waterfall as I crossed. Good thing it wasn't as cold as that December hike!

Typical view from the trail
Because of the increased water volume, the Rogue River was not its usual blue-green, aquamarine water machine. Today, the water was greenish-brown like dooky water backing up behind a pipe blockage, with the increased bulk of the river appearing somewhat menacing when seen from up close. Fortunately, we hiked mostly high above the river, enjoying views of the river safely ensconced in its canyon.

Whiskey Creek
On any spring day, numerous creeks and seasonal runoffs cross the trail and today was no different. What was different was the volume of water, as almost all of the intermittent streams were larger than normal due to the recent run of rain. The good news was that while we were occasionally spattered with raindrops, the day remained relatively dry. In fact, about two miles into the hike, the sun  even broke out and we basked in its warm bright glory...for all of two minutes. The day then went dark and cloudy and so it would remain.

Oregon sunshine says spring cometh
We ate lunch at rustic Whiskey Creek Cabin before turning around. I soon lagged far behind everybody else but there were so many things to take pictures of. I actually spotted my first wildflowers of the year, in the form of Oregon sunshine, oak toothwort, and cliff-hugging moisture-loving saxifrage. That's OK, though, as I was driving and my car-mates had to wait for me out of necessity. That's it for this month's version of the Rogue River hike and we'll see you at Cape Blanco next month...not!

An unnamed creek splashes across the trail
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cape Blanco 1/2018

Several weeks prior to this hike, Lane and I had hiked at Cape Blanco on the Best Day Ever. Nothing could top the magic of that December day, but Round 2 sure came close. The only reason this January day came up shorter than that December hike, was a slight misty haze at beach level. But that's just me nitpicking, for this day was bright, sunny, and cool enough to qualify as a perfect hike when not compared to the Best Day Ever.

The queen and her human
I had gone hiking at Cape Blanco with Lane on that December day because he was going to lead a Friends of the Umpqua hike there, but had never been. So our venture to the cape was to familiarize him with the route and thereby impart some degree of competency to his leadership. But on this January day, I went again because there was like about 40 hikers that showed up and Lane needed moral support if not some out and out assistant co-leading. I'd like to think the multitudes showed up because they were inspired by my brilliantly written blog, but that little theory is quickly disproved by the average head count of 3 attendees per Richard Hike.

Nature's track lighting
Anyway, the thundering hordes set out on the Oregon Coast Trail which cut across the grassy pastures flanking the Sixes River. Lane hung back and I walked somewhere in the middle, to direct hikers at the numerous trail junctions between the Sixes and Cape Blanco itself. Because of a high tide, we saved the beach walk for the end of the hike, heading instead through the dark woods overlooking the beach below. Very little sunlight penetrates the thick forest on top of the coastal bluffs, making this stretch of trail one of the darkest places found on this planet. However, on a sunny morn, sunbeam spotlights illuminate the trail here and there.

View to Cape Blanco, as we left the forest
The walk through the dark forest was broken up by several side trips to intermittent overlooks of the Oregon Coast. After a mile or so of this, the path broke out onto the grassy cape itself and our eyes watered in the sudden exposure to bright sunlight. The day was glorious and we basked in the sun as we enjoyed lunch next to the historic lighthouse atop the cape. Lunch and basking is always more enjoyable with a view and to the north, an epic vista to the Sixes River and Blacklock Point, with all manner of islands dotting a bay of blue water, entertained lunching baskers (or is it basking lunchers?). To the south, a long beach arced towards Port Orford with Needle Rock being a prominent feature below the cape. A thin layer of mist clouded up the beach while it was nothing but blue skies atop the cape. Life was definitely good!

From Cape Blanco all the way to Humbug Mountain

After a lazy lunch, our rather large group straggled out back onto the trail which entered another thick coastal forest after an easy ramble along and atop the windblown bluffs. Once we went past the campground, a short road walk dropped us down to beach level about a mile south of Cape Blanco. To the south rose the forested mound of Humbug Mountain with the rest of the coast disappearing into the misty haze.

Driftwood swirly
From here on in, it would be pretty much a beach walk back to the car, although the beach walk was bisected by the formidable redoubt of Cape Blanco. Large driftwood logs lined the beach below the yellow (gorse was blooming on the hillsides) cliffs. At the end of the beach, Needle Rock loomed, seemingly trying to pop the blue sky balloon above. We all sat and rested for a bit, gathering our strength for the steep climb to the top of the cape.

This was the first time I had hiked this loop in a clockwise direction and "Ugh!" is all I have to say about the hike up. There is no official trail, just a muddy goat path that is challenging enough on the descent, never mind the daunting challenge on the way up! Looking down at the beach on the climb up, we spotted small army of hiker ants marching on the sand and stopping to rest at Needle Rock like we did.

Gulls taunt the dog from across the river
Another steep and muddy path took me off the cape and down to the beach on the north side. I unleashed Luna and she was overjoyed at her freedom and I was somewhat inspired to keep walking by watching her frolic and caper in the waves. A mile later, we arrived at the Sixes River, which was carrying a lot more water than it had been during our December visit. A flock of seagulls napped on the opposite bank, much to the consternation of Luna who could see but not chase the gulls across the river.

Light show
In December, a herd of sheep had been grazing in the pastures flanking the Sixes River, but they were not there any more. That was a good thing, considering I was walking an easily excited dog at the end of this hike. All in all, this wound up being another great hike on another great day at the Oregon coast, even if the day did not match the standard of the Best Day Ever.

Spiders try to snare passing hikers
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.