Sunday, July 15, 2012

Buck Canyon

This year, discerning readers will note that I've been hiking either on the coast or in the Siskiyous.  The Cascades have been ignored just like the tatooed in-law at Thanksgiving dinner who was just released from prison. But the Cascades do have some beautiful scenery and they are closer to my home; eventually I had to make a foray into the heretofore ignored mountain range. So, on a beautiful sunny day, Maggie the Hiking Dog and I found ourselves in Buck Canyon, waiting to get bit by hordes of buzzing mosquitoes.

My mosquito fear was not misplaced. Several years ago, Dollie and I hiked along Muir Creek on the 4th of July and were lucky to survive our exsanguination. However, much to my surprise, there were none of the winged vampires in Buck Canyon.  Nada. Zilch. Ninguno. It was eerie and I didn't know whether to be creeped out or to be joyful, although I mostly opted for the latter. Just starting at the trailhead was reason enough to be joyful as we parked next to a small meadow with a full-on display of flowering lupines.

After a short walk through a shady forest, the trail spit us out into a series of small meadows and it was slow going due to having to stop and take pictures of every flower, or so it seemed. There was larkspur, groundsel, hellebore (which is what they call me behind my back on the party circuit), queen's cup, and Columbia windflowers.

Hellebore, in bloom

A pine white enjoys a flower
After wading across the West Fork Muir Creek, the meadows became more expansive; in fact, becoming expansive enough to merit a name:  Hummingbird Meadows. We didn't see any hummingbirds but this hike was all about the meadows as we continued up the West Fork Muir Creek, flanked by mountains that formed Buck Canyon proper. The sky was a brilliant blue and the meadows were humming with bees and butterflies but no mosquitoes.

Once this meadow was a lake
After several miles of this, the path arrived at Devils Slide.  Many thousands of years ago, a piece of the mountain broke off and slid down into Buck Canyon, damming the West Fork Muir Creek. A small lake formed behind the slide and after an epoch or two, the lake filled up with silt and debris. Nowadays, the slide is just a pile of rocks and the once and former lake is a long meadow with the West Fork Muir Creek snaking its way through it.

And speaking of West Fork Muir Creek, Maggie wasted no time jumping in for a swim with utmost canine exuberance, replete with yips of joy. Mind you, this is a dog that I must subdue with a hammerlock and full Nelson at bath time. I could only watch in amazement, thinking to myself,  "Who are you really and what have you done with my dog?"


Hummingbird Meadows

Somehow, because of my creek wading, a wet sock was forming a blister on my big toe so we cut the hike short a bit and turned back at the slide. The meadows were every bit as sumptuous on the way back. We definitely had a buckin' good time in Buck Canyon.  I'll have to return with a backpack next time as Buck Canyon begs further exploration.

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