Sunday, April 3, 2022

North Umpqua Trail (Jessie Wright Segment)


"Water heal my body, water heal my soul.
When I go down to the water, by the water I feel whole"

The River
by Coco Love Alcorn

On the way home from this hike, I switched on the radio and the first thing I heard were the above lyrics. Serendipity, the words perfectly summed up my relationship with the North Umpqua River and its namesake trail. The North Umpqua River is always near the North Umpqua Trail and the constant soothing sound of water moving past the forested slopes is like a metaphysical back rub to the soul, although I am nowhere near as eloquent as Coco Love Alcorn, a statement readily confirmed by a random reading of any of my blog entries.

Lots of plants!

Roll the tape back to the middle of the week when I got a text from young Coral Rae who requested her grandfather (me!) take her hiking. Well, when that rare and wondrous event happens, the only proper response is to make it happen. Coral wanted to hike where there were "lots of plants" so we decided on the Deer Leap Segment of the North Umpqua Trail.

A herd of fawn lilies graced the mouth of a cave

I had been on the Dear Leap several years ago and at Medicine Creek, a ginormous boulder had crushed the bridge spanning the small creek. I held hope that perhaps the bridge had been replaced but once we arrived at the site, my hopes were as crushed as the bridge, which was still in pieces right under the guilty slab of rock. I was game for bushwhacking across rain-swollen Medicine Creek, but Coral's shoes were not sufficiently waterproof for that endeavor. 

Not a lot of plants!

No biggie, though, we hiked back to the car and improvised by driving to the Jessie Wright Trailhead, where Wright was right, as far as giant boulders rolling onto trail bridges were concerned. I assured Coral Rae we would see lots of plants but she had her doubts at the start, for the forest was scorched, charred, and mostly dead. Fire is a frequent visitor here and the Jack Fire had hung out here last summer, leaving the trees worse off for the fiery visit.

This trillium patrolled by guard spider

But, as I've stated before, life still thrives in a burn zone and this blackened forest was no different. The ground was carpeted with trillium plants, all displaying flowers with tri-petaled elegance, except for one double-flowered mutant that sported least three-hundred frizzled petals. Crab spiders lurked within the flowers and I found several of them for Coral to gawk at. However, if you are a flower-visiting insect, death also thrives in a burn zone, meted out by the fangs of hungry crab spiders.

Go see what's inside the cave!

At the intersection with the trail coming in from Illahee Flat, there is a large cave sited at the bottom of a sheer cliff. Impressive, to be sure, but the cave's inky black maw was upstaged by a large patch of fawn lilies blooming right in front, the flowers nodding in unison as if to agree with the wise words that leave my mouth, and I liked that. I sent Coral Rae into the cave to check for bears and am glad to report she did not find any.

Water, heal my soul

As stated, the hike began in a burn zone but within a half-mile of hiking, there was sufficient vegetation and live trees to satisfy Coral Rae's plant-centric criteria for the day's hike. The trail contoured up and down before dropping down to river level at a river viewpoint that is one of my favorite places on the North Umpqua Trail. The river widens out here and fans out over several white-watered stair-steps before disappearing around a scenic bend. 

The weirdest flower ever

A sunlit cliff next to the trail provided an opportunity for Grandpa Richard to point out all the plant life clinging to a moist cliff, while Coral Rae surely rolled her eyes behind my back. The flora-based education of Miss Coral continued when I showed her how to find the brown and hairy flowers of wild ginger, and the tiny cups of birds nest fungi. 

Wild strawberry, in its pre-berry phase

This hike was never intended to be an epic test of manhood (or girlhood), so we turned back here. On the way back, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery all over again and the uphill hiking not as much. Coral was excited to find a wild strawberry flower and stated we had to come back to eat the tiny but very tasty berries. Sounds like a good plan to me and like the request to go hiking, it'll be my job to make that happen.

The always scenic North Umpqua River

Inspired by Coco Love Alcorn, I took a post-hike stab at writing beautiful heartfelt lyrics in homage to the river:

"Water heal my back, water heal my knee.
Drink enough water, then I have to pee."

I think I better stick to my day job, even though I don't have one. Plus, I really can't sing either.

The North Umpqua River, 'nuff said

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

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