Saturday, November 3, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Panther and Mott Segments

On a hike several years ago, our group was debating whether to return or continue on for a more lengthy and arduous hiking endeavor. One of our hikers said "Is it farther? Is it steeper? Good, then I will hike it!" Those are good words to live by but not everybody agrees with me on that. That's why, on a recent hike I led for the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club, it was most gratifying when all but two hikers opted to take the longer option on the North Umpqua Trail, which consisted of stringing together both the Panther and Mott segments of the 78 mile trail, affectionately referred to as the NUT. Yay all ye hikers, and a tip of the hat to the hiking newbies who dared to challenge themselves by hiking the full route.

Tiny mushroom sprouted on a fallen tree
It had been raining off and on all week, but fortunately this day was all off. It still was fairly brisk, though, the air had that cold snap that hinted at the coming winter. The forest was damp but the encroaching vegetation was not all that encroaching so there was no repeat of the leg-soaking that was an issue on my last hike. At least not the leg-soaking related to rain on shrubbery and I shall say no more on this subject. 

A hikin' we will go
Beginning at the eastern terminus of the Panther Segment, we wasted no time gaining elevation as the trail charged up a densely forested slope. The group quickly separated into two canps: athletic uber-hikers in the front and huffers and puffers bringing up the rear. Not totally uncoincidental, the two groups also were without and with cameras, respectively.

Just gotta hike uphill, always
The trail, once it gained peak elevation, then spent a lot of time going up and down; the net effect was that it felt like we were constantly walking uphill. You tend to pay more attention to the slope when your legs are burning with exertion. The North Umpqua River flowed several hundred feet or so below the trail but was only occasionally visible through the dense forest comprised mostly of Douglas fir with a thin interspersing of big-leaf maple and madrone.

I can still hear the swish of the
eaves as we walked through
There wasn't much in the way of leaf color but the trail still had that autumn vibe due to a thick blanket of maple leaves covering pretty much all of the ground on the forest floor. I can still hear the swish of dead leaves as we waded through the autumnal detritus.





Small creeks crossed the trail
Periodically, small streams would cross the trail and moss-covered rocky outcrops would flank the path on the uphill side. And always, ferns fought through the dead leaves to grace the trail with their ferny greenery. you might say this was a "frondly" hike for the Fronds of the Umpqua. I've got a million of them, folks.



The North Umpqua River, seen from its namesake trail
After several miles well above the river, the trail lost elevation, eventually winding up on the banks of the North Umpqua River. And that's where it would stay for the duration of the hike as we closed out the Panther Segment when the trail spit us out on the roadway over the historic Mott Bridge. As mentioned, everybody was feeling walky and willing to tack on another five miles by hiking the Mott Segment of the NUT.

Steamboat Falls
The Mott Segment is one of my favorite sections of the NUT, for virtually all of its five-ish miles are spent within close proximity of the river. With the recent run of rain, the river was swollen, alternating between tranquil and languid pools to seething and roiling rapids. Steamboat Falls, more wide than high, was putting on a show as it made a short drop into a series of noisy whitewatered chutes. 

Red-head in the forest



About halfway through the Mott, several hikers began walking slower and slower, feeling the unaccustomed miles on their legs. No problem, since I was leading from the rear anyway. Much of this segment was spent photographing lichen, moss, and mushrooms; all of which were found in ample quantities on trees both standing and fallen. Waxing professorial, I was able to show my newbies what a wild ginger, British Soldier, and a drum tree was.

Decaying leaves made bridges treacherous
There were several creeks crossing the trail, each big enough to warrant a footbridge across. The bridges were coated with decaying maple leaves which can be treacherously slippery. After admonishing my people to "walk like a penguin", I'm glad to report all hikers remained in an upright position as we carefully waddled across the bridges and boardwalks on the slippery boards.

Leaves upon leaves
The hike ended at the small campground at Wright Creek and we all gratefully hopped into automobiles full of that wonderfully warm air emanating from heater vents. All our newbies were suitably impressed with themselves at tossing off a ten-mile hike on their first attempt.

A zen garden of leaves and logs
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.