Saturday, April 7, 2018

North Bank Habitat (west Loop)

The weather forecast again called for rain so it was just me, John, and 3 first-timers at the trailhead. One of the first-timers was shaking hands and introducing himself "Hi, I'm Ed". Hey, I know Ed! Back in a previous life, I had worked 13 years at a mushroom farm in Watsonville, California. So did Ed! It turned out that Ed is also a good friend of a colleague of mine when I worked for the government, and life coincidentally took us both to Roseburg. So here we were, 27 years since we last worked together, reminiscing on the trail about the farm and the people who worked there. Small world, as they say.

Maple trees are still leafless, but not bloomless
And speaking of old friends, the North Bank Habitat is just that. It's close to Roseburg and the trails are mostly snow-free all year and are always reliably scenic, even in bad weather. And when the aforementioned bad weather keeps us from hiking a scheduled hike at higher elevations, the North Bank is always quietly accepting as a backup destination, despite our constant philandering with other more glamorous hiking destinations.

Uphill, in the rain
As we began our hike the rain was coming down but what else is new these days? Out came the rain gear from our packs, and we headed up a gravel jeep road. Before long, we were all pretty warm from the exertion despite the cool and wet weather, because all trails go uphill at an alarmingly fast rate in the North Bank. That is our penance to pay for making our old friend a second choice destination over and over again.

The North Umpqua perambulates around Whistlers Bend
The good news though, was that by the time we reached Middle Ridge, the rain had stopped and we actually enjoyed intermittent bursts of sunlight on the open ridge. The wind had picked up though, and the remainder of the day would be on the gusty and blustery side.

View down to Soggy Bottom
Because of the possibility of unkind weather, we had left the shorter loop down Chasm Creek in play, as a return leg option. However, when we reached the intersection with the Chasm Creek Trail, the weather still wasn't too bad, and we were all still willing, so it was onward and upward to the North Boundary Ridge.

Walking on top of the world
If you are going to hike uphill all day, your destination should be something like the North Boundary Ridge. Fantastic views like these are why we hike. The open windblown grassy ridge dropped away at our feet and we looked down the  Jackson Creek drainage running into the North Umpqua River, glistening in the midday sun. Beyond the river lay the topography of most of southern Oregon and regrettably, we could see a pretty good wall of clouds and inclement weather fast approaching from the west.

Ed ponders the uphill hiking in our future
Ostensibly, we were headed downhill but the seeming reality was that the trail was going up and down like the world's slowest roller coaster. That's OK, though, because each subsequent climb allowed for another view-soak and rest stop. As we were hating and enjoying the uphill and downhill, respectively, the wall of clouds finally arrived and we found ourselves hiking in a mild hailstorm.

Shooting starts, doing what they do
As we continued dropping down to Chasm Creek and eventually, our trailhead, the hail stopped, the clouds dissipated, and the sun warmed bodies and spirits. Such is life in the North Bank, and we all enjoyed the time spent on a fine spring hike with old friends.

Incoming hailstorm, approaching from the west
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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