Sunday, March 4, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Segment

Bit by bit, springtime is coming! Sometimes its hard to believe, like when copious amounts of rain fall on the deck outside. Drive up the North Umpqua Highway to about 3,500 feet of elevation while your car slips and slides in the ice and snow, and it'll still feel a lot like winter. But in between the ample precipitation leaking from the sky, there are signs here and there that winter is on the way out. Occasionally, sunlight breaks out and the temperatures are at least 10 degrees warmer than it had been most of February. Twittering birds commence constructing nests in the branches while underneath the trees along the North Umpqua Trail, the diminutive lavender blooms of snow queen carpet the florest floor. Yes, I know that winter will have a thing or two yet to say about the arrival of it's seasonal arch-nemesis, but it sure was nice to hike on the North Umpqua Trail without getting frozen or soaked for a change.

Woodland violet
So, the day was not great but on the other hand it wasn't raining...too much, anyway. That was good enough for Luna and I, we saddled up and drove over to the Susan Creek Day Use Area for some winter/spring hiking. As we started, the trail was blocked by a large fallen tree lying across the trail. After a quick scramble over the dearly demised tree, we had to stop again to take pictures of some of the many clumps of snow queen blooming next to the trail. Oh, and there was some woodland violet and twinflower too, which required more lying prone in wet vegetation, snapping a few dozen photos of every flower. Well, to be exact, Luna waited patiently for me while I did my photography thing and I could sense much rolling of eyes behind my back when I wasn't looking.

Tick-harvesting hiking companion
A half-mile and a half-hour later (thanks to the snow queen), we crossed the North Umpqua River on the always picturesque Tioga Bridge, the orange wood of the bridge contrasting nicely with the turquoise waters of the rain-swollen river. Luna too contrasted with most everything, since she is entirely black except for the one patch of white on her throat and chest.

Moss creeps over a bald spot
Once across the river, there were two options for hiking: right turn or left turn. The left-turn version would be on the Tioga Segment of the North Umpqua Trail, but a sign warning of a trail closure several miles ahead cinched the deal. "Not Closed": I like that in a trail, so right on the Swiftwater Segment it was. The Tioga Segment had been ravaged by wildfire last summer and the Forest Service is rightly concerned about landslides and falling trees, plus no doubt most of the wooden bridges were burned up in the fire, too. I'm not averse to getting my feet wet but some of those little ravines would be quite tedious to get across without a bridge spanning them. And as tempting as it is to hike past the closure signs and explore the wild post-fire scenery, there is a hefty fine involved if you happen to be caught and cited. In my post-retirement budget, there is not enough room for a "stupid-tax".

Lots of water in the forest

The Swiftwater Segment was fine though, as it angled gently uphill on an old gravel road bed for most of the first three miles. The vegetation was lush and water soaked, my legs would have been sopping wet had we had to hike on a real trail with encroaching vegetation. We had to endure several short rain showers and I had plenty of opportunity to take photographs of water drops dangling off of branches, leaves, and runny noses.

A small creek crosses the trail
With all the rain coming down in the last week, it stood to reason there'd be plenty of water running in all the seasonal unnamed creeks crossing the trail. And yup, there certainly was and I have hundreds of photographs to prove it. At this rate, we'd spend all day on the trail just to attain one mile of hiking distance!

Moss creeps over a rock

The forest bryophytes (that would be a fancy term for moss, dearies) were on full display here on the shady side of the river. Between the lush vegetation and the ample quantities of mossage (bryophytage?), green was the operative color on the North Umpqua Trail. Moss covers all that does not move, so Luna had no worries, but I had better put the camera away and hie myself smartly down the trail lest I too become just another indistinct green mossy lump in the forest.

So many creeks on the trail
As stated before, the trail was angling up and away from the river and the forest did a pretty good job of hiding the river from view. In several openings in the dense woods, we got rained on and we could see the bright turquoise color of the river water down below through the trees. Nonplussed by the rain, small birds flitted in the damp shrubbery like so many feathered ping-pong balls, attracting the attention of one easily distracted dog.

Snow queen

At about the three mile mark, we came across an area that had been logged right next to the trail. I have to think that the logging activity probably had some connection to last summer's wildfires, although the logging seemed to have occurred more recently than last summer. Civilization further intruded when the trail separated from the old roadbed and followed a not-so-attractive clear-cut beneath some power lines before ducking back into yet another lush forest.

Bob Creek
A short drop through the thick lichen-encrusted woods brought us to Bob Creek, it's footbridge still intact and untouched by fire. That was a logical turnaround point and we rested a bit and ate treats before turning back. On the way back the rain ceased and the sun broke out. There is a saying about Oregon "if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes" There should also being some saying about experiencing summer, spring, fall, and winter all in one day, but that's just me whining.

Susan Creek
At any rate, in keeping with the adage cited in the previous paragraph, the rain returned by the time we reached the car at the end of a shortish 5.5 mile hike. More mileage was called for, so rain notwithstanding, we crossed the highway and resumed hiking on the Susan Creek Falls Trail, a short but heavily used path to the spectacular falls.

Susan Creek Falls on a rainy afternoon
The trail had been graded, graveled and fence-railed into submission and I get a little peeved when comparing this path to my normal ankle-twisting trail tread. But then it wouldn't really be hiking if all trails were like that, either, so I'll stop with the complaining. At any rate, Susan Creek Falls were predictably spectacular, particularly with the spring runoff increasing both the aural and water volume of the cascade. We didn't tarry long at the falls, for the rain was a little more insistent by now, it was just as well we turned back for the wonderful and heavenly warm air that can only be obtained from a car heater on a cold and wet, yet fine spring day.
The color of the river is amazing
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. This segment of the NUT looks very easy, but then looks can be deceptive. Just look at you and me (Glenn) Richard. Will try to get up there and hike the NUT this summer.