Sunday, June 23, 2019

McKenzie River Trail (Boulder Creek to Deer Creek)

This little section of the McKenzie River Trail is one of my summertime go-to hikes. The route is perpetually shaded for most of its eight miles or so, numerous creeks cross the trail, the forest is eminently green, and the McKenzie River makes frequent appearances with each break in the vegetative cover. Because the bottom of the river canyon is well shaded, the temperatures tend to be cooler here than in our urban areas sprawled next to Interstate 5. Also, the trail is blessedly flat for the most part, making the hiking both easier and cooler, especially on a baking warm day. So, let's hike already!

Candystick, flowering away
Despite the allusions to baking hot days, on this day the temperature was fairly mild, so the purpose of this hike rendition tended more towards sheer enjoyment of the river and shade and not at all towards frantic relief from the brain-parboiling heat of summer. Normally, I begin this section of the McKenzie River Trail from the resort at Belknap Hot Springs, but just to do something different this time, this hike commenced from the road bridge spanning the river near Boulder Creek. That way, I could make it as far as Deer Creek, which would be a whole new trail experience for me.

This small creek is actually part of the McKenzie River

Regardless of the new starting point, it was still the same old river, forest, and shade, and it felt wonderful. The path basically followed the river and rustic footbridges crossed several small creeks that were in no real hurry to meet up with the McKenzie, judging by the languid pools reflecting the low light within the forest. The canopy of mostly vine maple leaves let in very little light and the ample leafage imbued the very air with a soft green glow.

Tiger lilies prowled the trailside brush
While the creeks were in no particular hurry, dozens of women were very much intent on speeding down the trail with as much alacrity as they could muster. Seems there was a nearby women's retreat that also involved a trail run event. Me, I would retreat from any retreat that boasted a trail running event, that looked like way too much work. Besides which, I'd be sure to roll my weak ankles at some point, always a miserable occurrence. Also, despite exchanging cheery greetings with me, not all of the participants had facial expressions that said they were enjoying their more frenetic pace along the trail.

The McKenzie River Trail followed a forest road for a bit

At about the mile mark, the trail inscribed a switchback in the opposite direction and headed uphill to a forest road that is the actual McKenzie River Trail, gravel road appearance notwithstanding. After going under some power lines the road then descended back down to the river, that little detour making no sense to me at all. At any rate, the hike returned to the more comfortable milieu of fungus, flowers, and forest.

Bridge, leading from light unto dark
At about the 2.5 mile mark, the trail crossed Frissell Creek on a stout wooden bridge and from here on in, it would be all new trail for me. Underneath the bridge, the small creek flowed on its way to the river, the waters of the creek coursing amazingly clear.

Where the McKenzie divided around an island
After crossing Frissell Creek, the trail tended to stay fairly close to the river. Because of the thick forest and vegetation, it was not always easy to get the "big picture" of what the river was doing. At times, it seemed that the water flowing below the trail and through the trees had to be a creek instead of the river, although no creeks were nearby according to my GPS. The mild mystery was solved when  the river clearly divided around a heavily wooded island, sending a much smaller volume of river water on the trail side of the island just to confuse me.

Backpacking sites called to me
At a large bend in the river which was hidden from sight by the forest, the trail went high into the woods and temporarily left the river behind. At the four mile mark, the trail crossed a paved forest road before sideswiping a nice backpacking campsite next to the bridge at Deer Creek, The campsite was one of several seen on this hike and all of them were fairly luxurious when compared to my usual meager camping spots when backpacking. I really must come back and backpack the full McKenzie River Trail sometime, but I digress.

The well-engineered bridge at Deer Creek
Deer Creek has carved a rather large and deep valley in the surrounding mountains so I really was expecting a creek commensurately sized to match the geological terraforming. However, the reality is that Deer Creek was just a small creek, nothing more than any of the other creeks already encountered on this hike. The wooden bridge crossing the creek was more impressive though, spanning the comparitively wide canyon. Because of the width of the bridge, it shook and swayed in the middle as I walked across.

The texture of Deer Creek
Deer Creek made for a logical turnaround point, and I ate a quick lunch there while meditating upon the reflecting pools of the small creek. After that, it was back the way I had come, with the same enjoyment of forest, shade, river, flowers, and fungi. By this time, the other side of the river was bathed in sunlight and the bright reflections rippled zen-like on the pools of the various creeks running across the trail.

Sparkling clear water on a small creek
By this time, the last trail runner had long passed by but I still had to step aside every now and then for mountain bikers trundling past. Unlike the trail runners though, their facial expressions said they were enjoying their ride. I couldn't see my facial expression of course, but hopefully it was adequately conveying how enjoyable this hike had been.

My view for most of eight miles
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment