Friday, May 22, 2020

North Umpqua Trail (Deer Leap Segment)

A funny thing happened on this hike. The hiking festivities on the Deer Leap Segment of the North Umpqua Trail commenced with a rather rigorous uphill slog and there was nothing to do but lower my head and attack the mad uphill charge. In short order, the trail crested and the hike continued on what would wind up being an up-and-down all-day thing. But, wait just a minute here! What just happened? Who didn't stop for rest breaks on the way up? Who was feeling pretty darn walky on this day? This dude, that's who! I've already managed a round shape so it's about time I started rounding into shape!

Raindrops keep falling on my head...
My retirement had not been going as planned. Initially, my vision was for me to become an uber-fit hiking and biking dude after ceasing engagement in any form of gainful employment. My intentions were good, but once I found out I could just sleep in, wave bye-bye to the uber-fitness regimen and say hello to general all-around slothitude. I did keep up a minimal token hiking schedule though, generally getting out onto the trail at least once a week. But, because of a notable paucity of any physical activity in between outings, my hikes had gradually became shorter and less challenging. Clearly, a change was needed and lately, a mostly every-other-day schedule has been adopted and implemented.

A small waterfall was
the turnaround point
Some mental acuity should be incorporated to go along with the physical exercise program because at the trailhead, it was discovered my socks and liner socks were still sitting on the living-room couch, where they did me no good at all. Additionally, my boots had recently seen duty a couple of days prior on the Briggs Creek Trail, and that particular hike included a wet ford across Dutchy Creek. Not only were my boots still wet, but Dutchy water mixed with stinky feet offal was noisily sloshing inside. Nothing to do but stick my bare feet in cold, wet, and stinky boots and commence hiking. That'll teach me. Maybe.

Rain beads up on a skunk cabbage leaf
Speaking of wet and cold, it was raining as I set out on the Deer Leap segment, beginning from Toketee Lake. Three weeks ago, I had tried to hike this segment from the Medicine Creek side but didn't get very far due to a destroyed bridge, courtesy of a ginormous rock rolling down from above. Hiking west from the Toketee Lake end of the trail segment, there was very little chance of encountering smashed  bridges or deep creeks, so my chances of getting in a decent hike were pretty good, lack of socks notwithstanding.

Eminently green trail
Anyway, up through the forest in the rain I go and yay, my sockless legs were certainly under me today! Once the trail crested, the sun came out and let's have another yay, it might even turn out to be a sunny day. Not really, though, this was "raisun" weather, alternating rapidly between rainy and sunny throughout the day.

Devil's matchsticks light up a rock
Spring was in full song with a lush and verdant forest bursting at the seams with rampant greenery and scenery. If you love a luxuriously green forest, then you will absolutely love this section of the venerable North Umpqua Trail. Wildflowers were also going at it, mostly due to whitish colored species such as Columbia windflower, candy flower, yellowleaf iris, false Solomon's seal, and the like. For a some non-white color variety, I did come across the first pink woodland phlox and rhododendron flowers seen (by me) this year, but not certainly the last.

Candystick emerges from the depths of winter
A moment of hilarity occurred when I ran into the only other hiker I'd see on this day. Her dog was clearly out of its element out in the woods and was jumping nervously, looking over its shoulder at every sound like the city-slicker fraidy-cat canine it was. Throw in a scary but incredibly handsome hiker into the mix and dog therapy was clearly going to be required if the erstwhile household pet was ever going move on from this traumatic and mentally scarring event. That dog was not going to walk by me on the trail at all, no sir, no how, no way. However, when the hiker did go past me and called to the dog the pooch tentatively tip-toed past, breaking out in a terrified run and yelp as two humans laughed in uproarious amusement.

Trail through the rock garden
The middle portion of this hike was the coolest part, though. Apparently a large avalanche occurred so many eons ago, to go along with the formation of basaltic cliffs and other rock formations. During the subsequent epochs, a forest sprung up around the rocks so what you have now is about a mile of huge boulders and forbidding cliffs interspersed with trees, all covered with the ever present blanket of moss. The trail snaked through the rocks and I really enjoyed hiking in this North Umpqua-style zen garden.

There's a river down there somewhere
Although this was the North Umpqua Trail, which in theory follows the North Umpqua River, the truth is the Deer Leap Segment is high, well inland, and ensconced deep within a dense forest above the river. Naturally, the North Umpqua is hidden from view, although it could always be heard through the trees. Besides the usual river noise, a deeper riverine roar emanated from scenic Toketee Falls at one point; too bad the spectacular waterfall was hidden from view. Apparently (later confirmed on the map) the river made a sharp bend for the trail crested at a forested saddle where the river could be heard from both front and rear. Near the saddle, a small break in the trees provided a partial view down the impressive river canyon.

It's about the journey and not the destination
The entire Deer Leap Segment is between eight and nine miles long and I was not going to hike the full segment as an out-and-back. I may have been feeling walky but sixteen-plus miles would have sorely abused my newfound energetic mood. Instead, the basic plan was to hike at least four miles in and then, solely based on weather and/or fatigue, more formally at which arbitrary mileage number to turn around at. The whole of this mileage dissertation is to state that basically, this was a hike without any real sense of destination.

My lunchtime view

All that changed when an unnamed seasonal creek waterfalled down a mossy rock face, landing photogenically into a splash pool next to the trail. This made a nice spot for lunch, relaxation, and peaceful contemplation and I so obliged. And best of all, it met the criteria for a logical turnaround point. After a healthy recharging of soul batteries, it was time to turn around and hike back in the rain or sun, depending on the rapidly changing moods of the sky above.

Life, or at least this water drop, hangs in the balance
After the hike was done, I felt pretty good as my boots were removed at the car. All the ups on this up-and-down hike had not been as daunting as normal. In fact, my legs still had more miles left in them after this 8'ish mile walk. Plus, the sublime forest beauty left me a little more at peace than when I had started. However, my feet did not have a lot more miles in them as they were pretty well chafed after eight miles in wet boots with no socks. I'll have to keep this hiking and mental regimen going because one should not waste an ample mind, but one should mind an ample waist.

The North Umpqua Trail rocks!
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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