Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mule Creek

Many years ago, I volunteered to lead a Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club hike up Mule Mountain. In the annals of club lore, that hike will live in infamy. The trail was basically 4 miles of uphill with no shade under the hot sun. That was the first time I heard the phrase "Richard-Hike" bandied about, and not in a complimentary way, either.

You ain't nuthin' but a hound's tongue

Despite the relentless climb, I enjoyed the hike. There are magnificent views of the Siskiyou Mountains and given the right time of year, the slopes are festooned with wildflowers of every color. Because I've enjoyed this hike, I have returned to visit the Mule Mountain area many times since. And many times since, I have questioned why I hate myself as sweat mixed with sun lotion runs into my eyes, ticks burrow into my skin, poison oak makes me itch for the next three weeks, and of course all the trails run straight uphill.

Shooting stars carpeted the forest floor
A couple of days ago, we caught our first taste of summer heat as the temperature reached the 90's. Tree-lined Mule Creek (below infamous Mule Mountain) looked like it was shady and that was the only reason this trail was chosen. The Mule Creek Trail is accessed 3/4 of a mile up the Mule Mountain Trail which meant I got to relive the Mule Mountain leg-burn experience by climbing steeply through a shaded forest carpeted with bright fuschia colored shooting stars.

View to Little Grayback Peak above Mule Creek
Once on a Mule Mountain spur ridge, the Mule Creek Trail heads steadily down through grassy and brushy slopes into Mule Creek's canyon. On the way down, I enjoyed nice views of the Applegate River valley and of Little Grayback Peak looming at the head of the canyon. Of course, I had to be careful to dodge poison oak encroaching the path but the tick-checks yielded none of the little vampires, thankfully.

Build me up, buttercup
From glacier lilies to red bells, the spring flowers were putting on their usual show.  A member of the onion family with one of my favorite names (ookow) was also prevalent.  Ookow is also known as blue dick, which prudish Webshots censures, thereby denying Webshots users some crude hilarity.  The hound's tongue were blooming in profuse clusters of blue flowers; the term "hound's tongue" refers to the shape of the leaf and has nothing to do with my ex-wife.

Once at the bottom of the canyon, the trail follows an old road bed alongside the creek.  The creek was overgrown with brush and was mostly heard and seldom scene.  At the point where the roadbend ended, the path crossed the creek and became a bonafide trail.  The mid-afternoon heat was rolling down the slopes and collecting at the bottom of the ravine and I paused to stick my head in the remarkably clear waters of the stream.  Yikes!  The water was not far removed from snowmelt and gave me what felt like a brain freeze, only the freeze was in the whole brain and not confined to just the upper sinuses. 

C'mon in, the water's freezing!

Steep trails make me hate hiking
After a second crossing of the creek, the trail charged up a dry hill covered in madrone. The trail had been heading uphill all along, but this was steeper than the price of gas nowadays. It was hard to gauge my progress because of all the trees but it did seem like I was heading up the creek's headwaters below the disturbingly named Baldy Peak. Several miles later, I was still wondering where the @#$% end of the trail was and I was hot, tired, and as sweaty as a Zuma class in a sauna.

I turned around at my self-imposed 4:30 PM deadline and headed back down the trail, totally defeated. I didn't feel so bad on the way down because it was readily apparent why I was tired:  this was a long and steep trail. Of course, there was the steep climb out of the creek canyon to the Mule Mountain Trail to look forward to. 

Typical hike in this area:  I came back with lots of nice pictures and yet again, I'm wondering why I hate myself so.


  1. Hey, your pictures are overlapping the text so I can't read big chunks of it.

  2. Love the shooting stars shot ...
    Also, I warned you about browser difficulties; in detail!