Sunday, March 4, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Segment

Bit by bit, springtime is coming! Sometimes its hard to believe, like when copious amounts of rain fall on the deck outside. Drive up the North Umpqua Highway to about 3,500 feet of elevation while your car slips and slides in the ice and snow, and it'll still feel a lot like winter. But in between the ample precipitation leaking from the sky, there are signs here and there that winter is on the way out. Occasionally, sunlight breaks out and the temperatures are at least 10 degrees warmer than it had been most of February. Twittering birds commence constructing nests in the branches while underneath the trees along the North Umpqua Trail, the diminutive lavender blooms of snow queen carpet the florest floor. Yes, I know that winter will have a thing or two yet to say about the arrival of it's seasonal arch-nemesis, but it sure was nice to hike on the North Umpqua Trail without getting frozen or soaked for a change.

Woodland violet
So, the day was not great but on the other hand it wasn't raining...too much, anyway. That was good enough for Luna and I, we saddled up and drove over to the Susan Creek Day Use Area for some winter/spring hiking. As we started, the trail was blocked by a large fallen tree lying across the trail. After a quick scramble over the dearly demised tree, we had to stop again to take pictures of some of the many clumps of snow queen blooming next to the trail. Oh, and there was some woodland violet and twinflower too, which required more lying prone in wet vegetation, snapping a few dozen photos of every flower. Well, to be exact, Luna waited patiently for me while I did my photography thing and I could sense much rolling of eyes behind my back when I wasn't looking.

Tick-harvesting hiking companion
A half-mile and a half-hour later (thanks to the snow queen), we crossed the North Umpqua River on the always picturesque Tioga Bridge, the orange wood of the bridge contrasting nicely with the turquoise waters of the rain-swollen river. Luna too contrasted with most everything, since she is entirely black except for the one patch of white on her throat and chest.

Moss creeps over a bald spot
Once across the river, there were two options for hiking: right turn or left turn. The left-turn version would be on the Tioga Segment of the North Umpqua Trail, but a sign warning of a trail closure several miles ahead cinched the deal. "Not Closed": I like that in a trail, so right on the Swiftwater Segment it was. The Tioga Segment had been ravaged by wildfire last summer and the Forest Service is rightly concerned about landslides and falling trees, plus no doubt most of the wooden bridges were burned up in the fire, too. I'm not averse to getting my feet wet but some of those little ravines would be quite tedious to get across without a bridge spanning them. And as tempting as it is to hike past the closure signs and explore the wild post-fire scenery, there is a hefty fine involved if you happen to be caught and cited. In my post-retirement budget, there is not enough room for a "stupid-tax".

Lots of water in the forest

The Swiftwater Segment was fine though, as it angled gently uphill on an old gravel road bed for most of the first three miles. The vegetation was lush and water soaked, my legs would have been sopping wet had we had to hike on a real trail with encroaching vegetation. We had to endure several short rain showers and I had plenty of opportunity to take photographs of water drops dangling off of branches, leaves, and runny noses.

A small creek crosses the trail
With all the rain coming down in the last week, it stood to reason there'd be plenty of water running in all the seasonal unnamed creeks crossing the trail. And yup, there certainly was and I have hundreds of photographs to prove it. At this rate, we'd spend all day on the trail just to attain one mile of hiking distance!

Moss creeps over a rock

The forest bryophytes (that would be a fancy term for moss, dearies) were on full display here on the shady side of the river. Between the lush vegetation and the ample quantities of mossage (bryophytage?), green was the operative color on the North Umpqua Trail. Moss covers all that does not move, so Luna had no worries, but I had better put the camera away and hie myself smartly down the trail lest I too become just another indistinct green mossy lump in the forest.

So many creeks on the trail
As stated before, the trail was angling up and away from the river and the forest did a pretty good job of hiding the river from view. In several openings in the dense woods, we got rained on and we could see the bright turquoise color of the river water down below through the trees. Nonplussed by the rain, small birds flitted in the damp shrubbery like so many feathered ping-pong balls, attracting the attention of one easily distracted dog.

Snow queen

At about the three mile mark, we came across an area that had been logged right next to the trail. I have to think that the logging activity probably had some connection to last summer's wildfires, although the logging seemed to have occurred more recently than last summer. Civilization further intruded when the trail separated from the old roadbed and followed a not-so-attractive clear-cut beneath some power lines before ducking back into yet another lush forest.

Bob Creek
A short drop through the thick lichen-encrusted woods brought us to Bob Creek, it's footbridge still intact and untouched by fire. That was a logical turnaround point and we rested a bit and ate treats before turning back. On the way back the rain ceased and the sun broke out. There is a saying about Oregon "if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes" There should also being some saying about experiencing summer, spring, fall, and winter all in one day, but that's just me whining.

Susan Creek
At any rate, in keeping with the adage cited in the previous paragraph, the rain returned by the time we reached the car at the end of a shortish 5.5 mile hike. More mileage was called for, so rain notwithstanding, we crossed the highway and resumed hiking on the Susan Creek Falls Trail, a short but heavily used path to the spectacular falls.

Susan Creek Falls on a rainy afternoon
The trail had been graded, graveled and fence-railed into submission and I get a little peeved when comparing this path to my normal ankle-twisting trail tread. But then it wouldn't really be hiking if all trails were like that, either, so I'll stop with the complaining. At any rate, Susan Creek Falls were predictably spectacular, particularly with the spring runoff increasing both the aural and water volume of the cascade. We didn't tarry long at the falls, for the rain was a little more insistent by now, it was just as well we turned back for the wonderful and heavenly warm air that can only be obtained from a car heater on a cold and wet, yet fine spring day.
The color of the river is amazing
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

East Applegate Ridge Trail

I must be losing my touch! 5.5 miles one way? And all downhill, too? I can hear my hiking comrades now: "Who are you and what have you done with Richard?" Well, I guess not every hike needs to be a test of manhood and/or womanhood. All I have to say is that my hiking buddies had better appreciate this one-time reprieve from the usual rigors of a Richard Hike, or else!

Dancing madrones
Having previously hiked the East Applegate Trail as an out-and-back, I can attest firsthand to the leg-burning travails of the uphill portion of the hike. But my thinking was that the East ART is such a fantastic trail with great views and due to it's newness (it was constructed just last summer), nobody in my hiking circles, other than Glenn and Carol, had ever set foot on the trail before. So, since the main objective was to get Roseburg hikers to fall in love with the trail as I did, then we shan't give anybody anything (like, say, 5.5 miles of uphill hiking) to complain about.

Lichen brightens up a tree trunk
Part of being a hike leader is being able to authoritatively drive to the trailheads without getting lost and since I didn't even know where the lower trailhead was, a scouting trip ahead of the scheduled Friends of the Umpqua hike was in order. Hiking buddies Glenn and Lane were happy to come along and frankly, Glenn was of great assistance since he knew how to drive to both the upper and lower trailheads. Lane came along solely for comic relief, although the constant stream of bad puns and jokes from Lane and I had Glen walking quicker than normal to get further away from us.

On the trail again...
In February, it had been pretty hard to hike what with snowstorms and rainstorms pummeling southwestern Oregon on a daily basis. Accordingly, we were most appreciative to see some sunlight when we set out on the path, each one of us offering a silent note of appreciation to the weather gods. 

Peak 3320, as the hike started
The path wandered through a forest briefly before popping out into the open and voila, the first of what would be constant eye-popping panoramas lay before us. The route basically contoured a grassy ridge between the deep drainages of Poormans and Bishop's Creeks. As we broke out into the open, we were staring right down the formidable valley carved out by Bishop Creek. On the left side of the valley rose forested Woodrat Mountain and on the right side was grassy Peak 3320, our trail etched across the face of it like a pirate's scar from a knife fight in Mogadishu. Way cool, and our pace was leisurely with lots of camera stops.

Red-limbed manzanita

The vegetation was somewhat Siskiyou-ish, evidenced by stands of madrone and leafless oak trees flanking the trail, and in the more open areas, nearly impenetrable thickets of shrubby red-limbed manzanita and thorny ceanothus, also known as buckthorn. Oh, and let's not forget the ample quantities of poison oak; between the poison oak and buckthorn, we had plenty of thorny and itchy incentive to stay on trail.

About to hike off the end of the world

As we continued hiking steadily downhill, the clouds thickened and we temporarily bid adieu to the sun we had been enjoying. But the rain held off and the cool temperature was perfect for hiking. Periodically, the path would dip into woods comprised of either madrone, oak, or spindly conifer of some ilk. In one such grove of trees, the path actually left the Bishop Creek drainage, swapping the epic view of Bishop Creek's valley for that of Poormans Creek.

It's Miller (Mountain) time!
On the other side of Poormans Creek rose a series of tall mountains with Miller Mountain and Mount Isabelle being most prominent. Eventually, Mount Isabelle will be incorporated into the continuation of this segment of the Applegate Ridge Trail and I, for one, can hardly wait. The Poormans Creek valley intersected with the much larger Applegate Valley, the valley floor quilted with farms, wineries, and a small town or two. The low cloud cover hid the larger Siskiyou Mountains from view but we periodically got brief hints of their snowy mass lurking behind the clouds. very hot!
The trail eventually became an old road bed and the sun broke out and roasted us like so many chestnuts on an open hearth. But that's OK because we were just about done with the hike by then and besides which, it sure beat the run of snow and rain we had all been enduring this February. It did feel like the hike was over almost before it started but on the plus side, I'll have some happy hikers on hand when we return in a couple of weeks!

Manzanita, always reliably photogenic
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Mott Segment 2/2018

This hike was all about low expectations. You see, the prior day had been spent hiking on a gloriously sunny day on the Oregon coast, and you just can't beat a sunny day at the coast. Unfortunately, the following day I arose to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the deck outside. The blue sky of yesterday was gone, replaced by a dark brooding cloud cover that perfectly matched my mood in direct correlation to the weather conditions. However, there was a part of me that felt like I had to go hiking regardless, like it was a school assignment or something like that, as mandatory as a politely-worded chore "suggestion" from the wife. So off Luna and I go, with no expectations other than a very short and cursory hike on the North Umpqua Trail.

Life on a tree trunk
I really should have looked at the weather report. The car's temperature gauge said it was 32 degrees and obviously, all the rain I was driving through could quite easily turn to snow. By the time I reached the small town of Glide, the rain became slushy and by the time I hit Idlyld Park, it was definitely more snow than rain. My inner angel and devil were perched on either shoulder, telling me to do the opposite thing in opposite ears: The devil wanted me to turn back and drink some hot chocolate, while the angel wanted me to go hiking anyway, despite the dire conditions. 

Bridge crossing at John Creek
When I parked at the Wright Creek Trailhead, slush was coming down but it wasn't too bad. I compromised with my two imaginary nagging friends and said I'd hike just a mile or two, just to say that I did, and then reward myself with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. But no sooner than I started hiking, the snow started falling in earnest. My criteria for turning back became "when the snow starts to stick", regardless of the hiking mileage. 

Trail shot, as the snow fell
Luna was somewhat confused by the snow. Each time a heavy flake landed on her, she felt it was like somebody tapping her so she spent most of the snowy part of the hike looking over her shoulder for the mysterious spectral entity touching her so. The falling snow occluded the views of the North Umpqua River canyon and mountainsides, so the hike was all about forest, river, and continually moving to keep warm. At least the thick forest somewhat warded off the chill breeze blowing down the river.

Sleety view of the North Umpqua River
After a mile of hiking, the snow was beginning to stick but at the same time, the snow was reverting back to slushy rain. Somewhere around that point, I made the decision to continue as far as Fisher Creek before turning back. See, I was actually beginning to enjoy the hike despite, or maybe because of, the crappy weather. 

Harvesting water
The lush trailside growth of salal and ferns, fed by constant river humidity, were water traps and my pants legs were soon sopping wet as we brushed by. But spring is coming, and snow queen was profuse on the ground, waving small lavender flower buds in anticipation of that event. Lichen and moss were everywhere and it was interesting to observe the various bio-mechanisms employed to funnel raindrops in the eternal pursuit of sustaining life. The lichens tended to offer small cups to the sky while needle-like  moss leaves strategically directed life-giving water to the base of the plant organism. 

Mushrooms push through the lungwort
Cabbage-leafed lungwort lichen clung to life on standing tree trunks, while small mushrooms pushed their way through the lichen. British soldiers, another kind of lichen, entertained the camera with their bright red heads. The hike quickly devolved into photo shoot, what with so many things to take pictures of.

Green, blue, and green
With all the water falling from the sky in both solid and liquid form, it stood to reason that the creeks crossing the trail were rather boisterous with the extra runoff. So too was the North Umpqua, it was wide, fast, and deep, with the water colored an opaque turquoise in the deeper pools, and a dark black color that screamed "cold!" in the shallower parts. 

A web with which to catch wet flies
Last time I had hiked the Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail, we had been entertained by a fallen tree, suspended between two of its standing tree brethren (or sistren). The tree was still there and the top of the tree dipped into the river and bobbed in the current, keeping time with the rhythm of the river flow. With some regularity, the river slapped the tree and gurgled right at the point where the tree entered the water. The "glug" sound then carried up the tree and was amplified, like a giant tuning fork of sorts. "Boom...boom...boom..." that sound reverberated through the forest long before we arrived at the tree and I had one freaked out dog on my hands, "Who's doing that and where is he?"

The hike leader
By the time we reached Fisher Creek, the rain, snow, slush, or all of the preceding, had stopped in entirety and we actually witnessed brief interludes of sunlight on the way back. Luna had hiked most of this hike off-leash, which meant she had hiked double distance at a double speed, as that is her doggy nature. When we got home, she could hardly move, lying on the carpet with her body posture screaming "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Her discomfort was assuaged somewhat by a can of wet dog food, the doggy equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate. 

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Bullards Beach to Seven Devils Wayside

That's it, I quit! No more hiking inland! Lately, every time I hike in either the Cascades or the Siskiyous, the weather's been rainy, cold, or all of the above. In contrast, almost every time I've hiked at the coast in the last few months, the weather has been absolutely glorious with spring time sun shining brightly with perfectly mild temps. The latest case in point was a recent hike from the Coquille River to Seven Devils State Recreation Site (which is just a glorified name for "picnic area on Seven Devils Road").

Between the Friends of the Umpqua and the South Coast Striders (a sister hiking club from Coos Bay), we had nearly 20 hikers presenting to arms. By the time we showed at the meet-up point at Seven Devils, the Coos Bayliens had already worked out the intricate machinations of the vehicle shuttle. By way of explanation, the shuttle process was required because this was a one-way beach walk of 8.2 miles with drivers needing a ride back to their vehicles at Bullards Beach after the hike was over. We left a couple of cars at Seven Devils for that express purpose and began hiking from the Coquille River and its attendant lighthouse and river jetty.

This fossil found a fossil
The lighthouse used to be sited on an island in the middle of the river entrance but man in his infinite wisdumb, constructed a rock jetty to shepherd the river safely out to sea. The normal oceanic shoreline currents were interrupted and impeded by the jetty, with the result that backfill soon connected the lighthouse's island to the shore. I think that also as a result of this particular instance of man tampering with nature, is that Bullards Beach is always (within my experience, at least) littered with rocks that make this beach the beachcomber's equivalent of a yard-sale addict with $500 to spend at an estate sale. 

Sanderlings do the wave dance
Well, it didn't take long for me and several other beachcombing like-minded individuals to start walking slower, eyes carefully scanning the ground for beach treasure. Directly related to said activity, my pack soon weighed more that it did when I had started hiking, due to my toting a healthy sampling of clam fossils and petrified wood. My buddy Jay was similarly afflicted and burdened.

Our basic view for 8 miles
Although a cool breeze was a constant and the temps were somewhere in the low 50's, the sun was out and there was no chance of rain. The Oregon coast stretched out in front of us and we could see all the way to Cape Arago. I told Jay we were hiking all the way there because it was  so much fun to hear him cry with dismay.

The tide was out, to put it mildly

The tide was receding and by the time we reached Cut Creek at the 4 mile mark, we had acres of sand to walk on as the ocean had sullenly withdrawn from all beach proceedings. Tidal flats and sand bars were exposed by the retreating sea, and there was more slow walking due to some more obligatory beachcombing. There was probably like 40 or 50 yards of wet sand that was firm enough to provide a nice hard surface for easy hiking.

Jay ponders how to cross without getting feet wet
The next landmark after Cut Creek was Whiskey Run, a medium sized creek that sinuously S-curved its way to the much larger ocean. A pair of kite surfers were doing their thing in the choppy surf while fisherman were filling up their buckets with perch, enjoying peaceful beachy solitude as they plied their avocation. At the water's edge, flocks of sanderlings comically darted in and out, matching the ebb and flow of the waves.

Tidepool scenery at Fivemile Point
About a mile past Whiskey Run, Fivemile Point seemingly blocked the way. Now, I've hiked around the point a time or two, but always on a receding tide. In each instance, it had been tricky scrambling over the rocks while waves tried to eat me. But ah, at low tide, no such issues at all, it was merely a simple walk around the point.

Exposed shoals at low tide
Well, maybe not all that simple, for the retreating tide had left numerous tide pools that just called for exploration and photography. Jay and I, who were already lagging far behind the main body of power-hikers, soon lagged even further behind but on the other hand, we both have lots of photos of the scenic pools and rocky islands at Fivemile Point. 

Twomile Creek beelines for the sea
Even though it is only a mile further past Fivemile Point, the creek there is called Twomile Creek. Around here, they must use the metric system when naming their landmarks. But Twomile Creek marked our exit point off the beach and the end of this 8.2 mile beach walk. We all really enjoyed this sunny day on the coast, made perhaps even more memorable by comparison to the next day's hike in a swirling snowstorm on the North Umpqua Trail. Seriously, I'm just going to hike at the coast from here on in.

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

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rogue River Trail 1/2018

Last December I hiked at Cape Blanco and then the Rogue River. In January, I hiked at Cape Blanco and then the Rogue River. See a trend? Yup, me too, but rest assured that in February, I will not hike at Cape Blanco or the Rogue River. I did have good reason to double up on Cape Blanco though, as I was helping Lane get acquainted with the route and then helping him lead a very large group on the subsequent outing, But the twin Rogue River hikes were more happenstance than actual intent.

Tumbling creek falling into the river
Daweson and I had hiked on the Rogue River Trail in December and shortly afterwards, the Friends of the Umpqua added the Rogue River Trail to their schedule. So my choice on this January Saturday was to hike elsewhere alone or reenact the hike with the club. Apparently, I needed company on this day, for I joined up with the club and hiked the oh-so-familiar Rogue River Trail with my friends. Well, maybe it's a stretch to say that I have actual friends, but at any rate I had company and companionship on this hike, if for no other reason than I had the car keys in my possession.

Rain was a constant threat
Actually, the decision to hike along the Rogue had more to do with weather than having comrades somehow validate my meager inconsequential existence as a human being. It had been pretty rainy which meant snow in the Cascades and less than optimal conditions at the coast. Chances were pretty high that we would get rained on at the Rogue but at least it would be a short drive for that dubious privilege.

A waterfall tumbles across the trail
The theme of the December Rogue River hike was cold air and it was definitely warmer now than it had been back then. The current hike was much wetter, though. About a half-mile from the trailhead, a small creek waterfalls onto the trail at the infamous "wet spot". The trail is narrow and due to the year round waterfall, the rocks can get quite slippery when the algae grows. Normally, you cross the wet spot very carefully, placing your hands on the cliff side for support. However, the waterfall was carrying so much volume that there was no hope of staying dry, and my right leg was promptly soaked from the hip down, thanks to immersing said leg in said waterfall as I crossed. Good thing it wasn't as cold as that December hike!

Typical view from the trail
Because of the increased water volume, the Rogue River was not its usual blue-green, aquamarine water machine. Today, the water was greenish-brown like dooky water backing up behind a pipe blockage, with the increased bulk of the river appearing somewhat menacing when seen from up close. Fortunately, we hiked mostly high above the river, enjoying views of the river safely ensconced in its canyon.

Whiskey Creek
On any spring day, numerous creeks and seasonal runoffs cross the trail and today was no different. What was different was the volume of water, as almost all of the intermittent streams were larger than normal due to the recent run of rain. The good news was that while we were occasionally spattered with raindrops, the day remained relatively dry. In fact, about two miles into the hike, the sun  even broke out and we basked in its warm bright glory...for all of two minutes. The day then went dark and cloudy and so it would remain.

Oregon sunshine says spring cometh
We ate lunch at rustic Whiskey Creek Cabin before turning around. I soon lagged far behind everybody else but there were so many things to take pictures of. I actually spotted my first wildflowers of the year, in the form of Oregon sunshine, oak toothwort, and cliff-hugging moisture-loving saxifrage. That's OK, though, as I was driving and my car-mates had to wait for me out of necessity. That's it for this month's version of the Rogue River hike and we'll see you at Cape Blanco next month...not!

An unnamed creek splashes across the trail
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.