Saturday, March 23, 2019

Payette Trail 3/2019

A month prior, I had hiked the Payette Trail to familiarize myself with the route and thereby imbue myself with a certain air of infallibility that comes with knowing where you are going. But then again, my comrades know me already and their opinions of my leadership, good, bad, or indifferent had been cemented into their minds long ago. At any rate, this was the day to actually lead a group on the hike. 

Good weather to start with

The weather gods were not kind to me. A pretty good rainstorm was forecast and accordingly, only three hikers (regulars Diane, Brad, and Lindsay) decided to go on a Richard Hike. Well, at least that made carpooling a whole easier. However, when we arrived at the trailhead, patches of blue sky appeared here and there in the cloud cover and the air was decidedly dry. Would our good fortune hold out?

It's a beautiful day, for the time being
Well, for the lakeside contour portion of the hike, yes it would. We had a rather enjoyable hike in dry weather and I daresay, we even enjoyed that wonderfully warm sensation of sunlight on skin here and there. Unfortunately, the weather forecast came to fruition just as we sat down for lunch at the intersection of the Payette and Osprey Trails.

Here comes the rain!
As we ate, the blue sky disappeared, overtaken by a fast-moving wall of ominous looking clouds. A gusty breeze announced the presence of the rainstorm and we'd have a steady rain falling on us for the rest of the hike. Accordingly, we all opted for a shorter route back by grabbing the Osprey Trail and now I was back in unfamiliar territory. So much for preparing the route ahead of time!

Totem in the middle of the forest
The Osprey Trail basically climbs up and over the peninsula lying between the French Gulch and Squaw Creek arms of Applegate Lake. Accordingly, the trail headed uphill at a moderate grade, which warmed us up sufficiently enough to ward off any cold from the inclement weather. After a mile or two, we arrived at Dagelma Trailhead, the parking lot empty because apparently, we were the only people in all of Oregon out for a hike on this wet day.

Lindsay hops over a trail obstacle

At least all the bad uphill stopped at the Dagelma Trailhead and it was all downhill from there. Our only travail (besides the steady rain) were a couple of large trees lying across the trail and we got to practice our clambering skills getting over them. At least no trees fell nearby, like in my previous outing on the Payette Trail. We unanimously agreed it had been a fine walk and we pitied all our friends who didn't go hiking out in the rain on this day.

Spiders from Mars
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Lost Creek Lake 3/2019

Years from now, old-timers will refer to late February 2019 as "The Snowpocalypse" or as I refer to it in a losing cause, "Snowmageddon". The rest of the world probably refers to it as "Meh" or "I have no idea what you are talking about". You just had to have been here when two feet of snow fell on Roseburg over a day or two. Now two feet may not seem like much but this was a wet snow and weighed more than the usual powdery fluff. The trees couldn't handle it, and entire trees and/or branches fell over and/or snapped off, landing on cars, homes, and power lines. As a result, we were without power (and heat) for four days and we were the lucky ones: my daughter was out for eleven days and a hiking buddy of mine was out for thirty-one days! I sat on my deck, clad in like seven layers of parka, and listened to the trees fall, at least one every thirty seconds or so. Needless to say, not much hiking was accomplished during this Snowtastrophe, although the dog thought this was the coolest week of her life, she likes snow so much. The cat meanwhile, thought it had died and gone to hell which contrary to popular belief, has icicles in it. Me, I'm with the cat on this one.

Lost Creek Lake and what Snowpocalypse?
Given the backdrop of  the Snowsaster, you can imagine my joy when the sun came out and melted the snow off the roads so as to make them driveable again. Time to go hiking and make a happy reacquaintance with normalcy. Perennial favorite Lost Creek Lake was the chosen destination because the Snowtaclysm was, amazingly enough, pretty much a Douglas County-only experience, meaning Medford was spared from experiencing similar misery. In the context of hiking, it also meant their trails weren't covered in fallen trees like ours were.

The trail curves through a stand of oaks
On a gloriously sunny day, dog buddy Luna and I set out on the Rogue River Trail, not to be mistaken with the Rogue River Trail. Confused? That's what happens when two separate trails in the same geographical area have the same name. After a week of freezing temps both indoors and out, with dark clouds that made it seem like nighttime at high noon, I can't tell you how mindlessly happy we both were to be hiking in warm sunlight. Of course, Luna is mindlessly happy no matter the circumstance, she'd be happy in any event as long as it doesn't involve fireworks or vacuum cleaners. But for me, the sun was profound and warmed not only body parts but soul parts as well. It was way more than just mere sunlight.

The trail follows the shore of Lost Creek Lake
The first part of the hike was a pleasant ramble through woods comprised of spindly conifer, madrone, and oak trees. The oak trees were still leafless, although budding new growth could clearly be seen emerging on the ends of branches. Openings in the forest revealed Lost Creek Lake below the trail, the waters glowing blue-green under a cobalt blue sky. The surrounding mountains were all covered with a thin layer of snow, the sight of which triggered flashbacks and a severe facial tic. Take deep breaths and focus on the lake and sky, Richard.

A tangle of manzanita branches
The trail tunneled through dense stands of manzanita, their burgundy branches draped with hanging lichen barely swaying in the still air. The scene was quiet enough that I unleashed Luna, and the the two of us strode in easy companionship as the trail wended its way through the bare oaks.

Hey, look at me here, the dude with the camera!
The lake was calm, about as serene and tranquil as a pacifist practicing Zen after a good meal. Nary a ripple or wind zephyr dared to mar the mirror-like surface of the lake. The trail traversed a rocky bench with an amazing view of the lake: this little spot is one of my all-time favorite happy places in all of Oregon. A nearby bench allows hikers and silly dogs to sit and contemplate the lake at meditative length, and we indulged. On a not-so happy note, I lost several minutes of my life attempting to persuade Luna to pose for a photo. Frustratingly, that dog has the attention span of about one gazillionth of a Planck time unit and just will not look into the camera no matter how much I cajole or threaten. 

The waterfall at Blue Grotto
We left the lakeside trail and headed up Blue Gulch to see Blue Grotto. The grotto did not disappoint, its odd greenish-gray rocks photogenically contrasting with the deep blue sky above. Due to the recent rains (and snow!) Blue Gulch was in full song and the waterfall was carrying a healthy torrent over the ledge and into the grotto. We sat for a bit and ate lunch and doggy treats and I used the occasion to inspect Luna for ticks. To be clear, I ate the lunch, Luna ate the doggy treats, and the searching for ticks had nothing to do with lunch whatsoever. Luna didn't have any ticks on her, but then again we had put bug spray on her prior to the hike. 

One of a pack of box elder beetles
We continued alongside the lake for a couple more miles before making another contemplative lakeside picnic stop underneath  a shady copse of pine trees. The preternatural quietude of the lake was contrasted with the frenetic business of box elder beetles scurrying off the log we had just claimed for our own.

Luna is all like "Dude, why you walk so slow?"
On the way back, we ran into a pair of hikers out for a spring hike next to Lost Creek Lake. They were from nearby Medford and stated they were glad to get out in the sun after all the rain they had received. Rain? What a bunch of slackers! You just can't complain about rain when your next-county neighbors were busy experiencing a Snowrricane.

Silty creek at Blue Gulch
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Luna enjoyed the weather disaster as only Luna can
Just for fun, here are some photos I took of our house during Snowlamity.