Sunday, June 2, 2019

Taylor Creek

In the summer of 2018, a wildfire broke out close enough to Taylor Creek to acquire the name of Taylor Creek Fire. Twenty miles away and in the vicinity of Klondike Creek, located within the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, the Klondike Fire birthed into flaming existence. In the rugged topography of this area, fire crews had no real chance of extinguishing either fire and eventually the two wildfires merged into one humongous conflagration which eventually consumed 228,097 acres of forest, making it Oregon's second largest fire ever. "If you're going to go, go big" says the old adage, but wildfires and deer should really be an exception to that rule.

All that hard was not for naught
Needless to say, that summer I didn't hike at Taylor Creek once the fires began. But, an entire year had elapsed since the fires raged, and I was curious to see what was left of what had been a gorgeous forest, creek,  and trail. Also, my friends at the Siskiyou Mountain Club had refurbished the trail before the fire and had replaced the decaying and teetering footbridges with some of the more well-constructed bridges you will ever find on a trail. The thought of all that hard work being turned into acrid ash and brown smoke filled me with dismay but word was out this summer that all seven of the new bridges had survived the fire intact. Additionally, the Siskiyou Mountain Club had recently returned to Taylor Creek and cleared the trail which had a fair amount of fire debris on it. A well-deserved tip of the hat to those guys for all the fine trail work they do.

Beetles honeymoon in a farewell-to-spring flower
At English Flat Trailhead, the fire damage was readily apparent in the form of charred trees with dead leaves attached to blackened branches. You could almost still smell the smoke a full year after the immolating fire. Despite the rampant death and destruction, there nonetheless was plenty of life growing in effuse abundance in the burn zone. Greenery was plenteous under and around the charred trees while wildflowers put on a show as if the fire had never happened at all. Birds twittered in the forest and flying insects buzzed noisily as they commuted from flower to flower. I generally sort of pull for wildfires to completely vaporize poison oak and ticks but alas, I was disappointed on both counts, having to pluck off several ticks found crawling on me and then winding up with a small itchy poison oak rash on my calf. 

There was a fire here?
Anyway, the trail descended through the forest down to Taylor Creek itself, flowing fast and clear as it always does. At the bottom of the canyon, it appeared as if the humid air of the creek had offered some protection from the fire, for at  the English Flat homestead site, the meadow was full of green grass as if to demonstrate a seeming imperviousness to the ravages of wildfire.

After crossing Taylor Creek on one of the aforementioned bridges, the trail headed uphill in earnest, eventually settling on sidehilling through the burned woods roughly about 150 feet higher than Taylor Creek flowing on the canyon floor. It was not as green here, for the fire damage was pretty severe and pervasive as the trail contoured its way through the dead forest. Plenty of fallen trees were randomly scattered both above and below the trail, but fortunately the path was mostly clear of any fire-caused downfall. 

Waterfall on Burned Timber Creek

There wasn't much of interest at this point as the forest was monotonously charred and mostly dead, until a clear stream with the unfortunate but apt name of Burned Timber Creek flowed across the trail. Shortly after the trail crossing, the creek plunged over a cliff in one of the prettier waterfalls you can find on any trail. At least, the cascade is a little easier to see now that the forest doesn't block the view like it used to before the fire.

No more rails for you, trail!
After crossing a forest road near the falls, the trail re-entered the burned forest and where there used to be a fence railing to keep hikers on trail for some undiscerned reason, there now existed only the charred nubs of the former fence posts, each blackened nub being only about a foot tall. Wow, now that the railed fence is not there any more, hikers will surely wander lost in the woods, how will we ever survive? After a protracted climb and equally protracted descent, I stopped at a rocky overlook of some nice swimming holes on Taylor Creek. Here, the slopes were open and exposed to direct sunlight, and sun-loving wildflowers were expressing their gratitude by blooming profusely.

Hey, this flower's taken!
A brodiaea that goes by the name of "pretty face" was blooming in spherical onion-type ball-head formation which only makes sense because brodiaea, like onion, is a charter member of the allium family. I think that when I die, I will return as a pretty face, which would only be fitting. Ookow, luina, and angelica were also blooming away in the sun, the angelica providing rafts of white flowers dotted with all kinds of beetle species ranging from longhorns to ladybugs. 

Some trees survived the fire

After a lunch and laze at the charred and sooty rocky point overlooking the creek, I decided to turn back instead of continuing on to the next set of trailheads. With nothing but a dead forest surrounding the trail, it was getting to be downright hot in the rocky canyon and shady succor was in short supply. Not only was it hot, it was also humid and I dripped enough sweat to start a new forest were it not for the salt contained in perspiration. 

A crab spider lurks
Walking head down as I focused on returning to the trailhead, I wound up on a path that was rapidly getting sketchier and sketchier. Darn game trails do it to me every time, and I had to backtrack to the real trail, but it wasn't all bad for I did get a nice extended visit to some rare green forest next to Taylor Creek. 

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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