Sunday, February 11, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Mott Segment 2/2018

This hike was all about low expectations. You see, the prior day had been spent hiking on a gloriously sunny day on the Oregon coast, and you just can't beat a sunny day at the coast. Unfortunately, the following day I arose to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the deck outside. The blue sky of yesterday was gone, replaced by a dark brooding cloud cover that perfectly matched my mood in direct correlation to the weather conditions. However, there was a part of me that felt like I had to go hiking regardless, like it was a school assignment or something like that, as mandatory as a politely-worded chore "suggestion" from the wife. So off Luna and I go, with no expectations other than a very short and cursory hike on the North Umpqua Trail.

Life on a tree trunk
I really should have looked at the weather report. The car's temperature gauge said it was 32 degrees and obviously, all the rain I was driving through could quite easily turn to snow. By the time I reached the small town of Glide, the rain became slushy and by the time I hit Idlyld Park, it was definitely more snow than rain. My inner angel and devil were perched on either shoulder, telling me to do the opposite thing in opposite ears: The devil wanted me to turn back and drink some hot chocolate, while the angel wanted me to go hiking anyway, despite the dire conditions. 

Bridge crossing at John Creek
When I parked at the Wright Creek Trailhead, slush was coming down but it wasn't too bad. I compromised with my two imaginary nagging friends and said I'd hike just a mile or two, just to say that I did, and then reward myself with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. But no sooner than I started hiking, the snow started falling in earnest. My criteria for turning back became "when the snow starts to stick", regardless of the hiking mileage. 

Trail shot, as the snow fell
Luna was somewhat confused by the snow. Each time a heavy flake landed on her, she felt it was like somebody tapping her so she spent most of the snowy part of the hike looking over her shoulder for the mysterious spectral entity touching her so. The falling snow occluded the views of the North Umpqua River canyon and mountainsides, so the hike was all about forest, river, and continually moving to keep warm. At least the thick forest somewhat warded off the chill breeze blowing down the river.

Sleety view of the North Umpqua River
After a mile of hiking, the snow was beginning to stick but at the same time, the snow was reverting back to slushy rain. Somewhere around that point, I made the decision to continue as far as Fisher Creek before turning back. See, I was actually beginning to enjoy the hike despite, or maybe because of, the crappy weather. 

Harvesting water
The lush trailside growth of salal and ferns, fed by constant river humidity, were water traps and my pants legs were soon sopping wet as we brushed by. But spring is coming, and snow queen was profuse on the ground, waving small lavender flower buds in anticipation of that event. Lichen and moss were everywhere and it was interesting to observe the various bio-mechanisms employed to funnel raindrops in the eternal pursuit of sustaining life. The lichens tended to offer small cups to the sky while needle-like  moss leaves strategically directed life-giving water to the base of the plant organism. 

Mushrooms push through the lungwort
Cabbage-leafed lungwort lichen clung to life on standing tree trunks, while small mushrooms pushed their way through the lichen. British soldiers, another kind of lichen, entertained the camera with their bright red heads. The hike quickly devolved into photo shoot, what with so many things to take pictures of.

Green, blue, and green
With all the water falling from the sky in both solid and liquid form, it stood to reason that the creeks crossing the trail were rather boisterous with the extra runoff. So too was the North Umpqua, it was wide, fast, and deep, with the water colored an opaque turquoise in the deeper pools, and a dark black color that screamed "cold!" in the shallower parts. 

A web with which to catch wet flies
Last time I had hiked the Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail, we had been entertained by a fallen tree, suspended between two of its standing tree brethren (or sistren). The tree was still there and the top of the tree dipped into the river and bobbed in the current, keeping time with the rhythm of the river flow. With some regularity, the river slapped the tree and gurgled right at the point where the tree entered the water. The "glug" sound then carried up the tree and was amplified, like a giant tuning fork of sorts. "Boom...boom...boom..." that sound reverberated through the forest long before we arrived at the tree and I had one freaked out dog on my hands, "Who's doing that and where is he?"

The hike leader
By the time we reached Fisher Creek, the rain, snow, slush, or all of the preceding, had stopped in entirety and we actually witnessed brief interludes of sunlight on the way back. Luna had hiked most of this hike off-leash, which meant she had hiked double distance at a double speed, as that is her doggy nature. When we got home, she could hardly move, lying on the carpet with her body posture screaming "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Her discomfort was assuaged somewhat by a can of wet dog food, the doggy equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate. 

British soldiers
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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