Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Cathedral Hills

Cathedral Hills is another one of those places that I'd never been to because of a preconceived notion the hikes are too short to justify the drive from Roseburg. However, a friend recently made mention of the Cathedral Hills trail system and with the idea of hiking there now placed irrevocably onto the part of my cerebral cortex that warehouses possible hiking destinations, the distinct possibility of hiking there had to be considered. Besides which, any place with the word "Hills" in it will always stand a chance.

It was a bit chilly at the outset

It turned out that stepson Carl and family had just moved into a place literally just down the hill from the Sky Crest Trailhead so I made a surprise swoop to see the new digs and to temporarily free grandson Liam from the stultifying constricts of parental dictatorship via the escape route of hiking with Grandpa. Didn't need to ask him twice!

Madrone trees were very much a thing on this hike

There are several trailheads with which to access Cathedral Hills but we chose Sky Crest Trailhead solely because it was just up the hill from Liam's house. There were only a few cars in the trailhead parking lot when we arrived and in this age of Covid, that's a good thing. 

A frozen web, ready to snare frozen flies

It was downright chilly at the start and the surrounding vegetation was lightly frosted like an old dude's unshaven chin. But hey, trails heading uphill are made for warming up cold hikers and the heat generated by the exercise kept some of the chill at bay. Thick woods comprised of scrawny madrones and dense patches of manzanita bushes flanked the track as it gained elevation. Periodically, the vegetation and forest cover opened up, affording views of nothing but gray, for the low cloud cover hid from sight any vistas that otherwise would have been enjoyed by the two of us.

A burl mars an otherwise perfectly smooth madrone trunk

A good map is essential because this relatively small park presents a myriad of trail options that intersect each other with great rapidity when hiking. The BLM website has a downloadable pdf map which was an invaluable asset in negotiating the trail system so as to arrive back at the car. Don't you just hate it when you can't find your car at the end of a hike? Hasn't happened to me yet, but then again I usually carry a map when I hike and strongly urge all hikers to do likewise.

Frosted pine trees were the only view we had today

Our route was a loop hike on the Skycrest Trail, Outback Loop, Hogback Trail, Cloverlawn Loop, Backside Loop, Outback Loop (again!), Ponderosa Pine Trail, Outback Loop (redux), Bowl Trail, Upper Hogback Trail, Outback Loop (a repeat customer!), and finally, the Skycrest Trail (Round 2). Now you see why a map is essential and even though we had one, we still got "misplaced" for a bit. I'd blame the navigator but that would mean taking personal responsibility for my own actions, so I'll just falsely accuse Liam instead.

Lichen finds a purchase on a smooth manzanita trunk

The route crested at the intersection of the Skycrest Trail and Outback Loop and from there it was a steady descent toward the general direction of busy Espy Road Trailhead. Most of the hike was spent in easy companionship chit-chatting about life in general and I was grateful for the quality time spent with Liam today. Virtually all of the descent was also spent surrounded by madrone, oak, and manzanita. Not to mention, there were also some poison oak bushes flanking the paths, even though I just mentioned it.


Most difficult!

The lower part of our route was a combination of the Outback Loop and Backside Loop that basically hugged the southwestern corner of the park. Several trails branched off to the right, each one of those trails being belligerent tests of manhood that charged madly up wooded ridges with nary a pretense of switchback or any other modern invention designed to ease the grade. Naturally, we namby-pambies stayed to the left at all junctions. For a little more mileage we grabbed the Ponderosa Pine Trail after being asked for directions by a random hiker, like we would know anything about this park on our first visit! But we were reading our map at the time, and that made us more knowledgeable than the hapless mapless fellow asking us for directions.

Setting for the "Witches of Cathedral Hills" movie

Somewhere on the Ponderosa Pine Trail, I missed an intersection on the map (but not on the ground) while monitoring our progress. So, while we were actually on track the whole way, I, the trail, and the map were now all out of sync with each other. Navigationally, it was obvious we were heading in the correct direction so we continued walking in the expectation that we'd soon figure it all out soon enough. In essence, we were following the return leg of the Outback Loop which consisted of a picturesque trail on a ridge crest wooded with usual suspects madrone, manzanita, and leafless oak.  

Liam patiently waits while Grandpa checks the map YET AGAIN!

This part of the hike was the only real sustained uphill stretch of trail but no complaining allowed for the trail was quite photogenic as it wandered through the manzanita and other hardwood trees. The vegetation was sparser here than in the lower woodlands, so we got to see cloud cover hiding the vistas from sight all over again. I imagine that on a sunny day, there'd be some views to partake of. Both of us enjoyed our first Cathedral Hills experience, it's a good early season hiking option and I'll have to drag my friends here at some point in the near future. Stay tuned!

Moss slowly and inevitably claims a tree

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

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