Saturday, June 23, 2012

McCloud River Trail

After a stormy night camping at Siskiyou Lake, the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club shook off the raindrops, piled into cars, and drove over to the McCloud River. The destination was chosen because the waiter in last night's restaurant said it was pretty cool. So off we go on this well-researched and meticulously planned hike.

But the guy in the restaurant said...

The lower falls
As we arrived at the trailhead, the cloud cover broke up and it looked like we were going to get a cool and sunny day for hiking. The lower McCloud falls poured off a ledge right below the parking lot. And from the parking lot we descended some stairs, prompting a Webshots fan (yes, I have fans)  to comment "Stairs and handrails! What kind of hike is this?"

The middle falls on
the McCloud River
From there the path followed the river and a short half-mile away the middle falls came into view. Clearly, the middle falls were the best on the day, being wide and tall (just like me) under a cloudy sky. Yes, the sun had disappeared and we would find the weather to waffle and tergiversate (thanks, Thesarus!) as much as an undecided voter in an election year.

Above the middle falls 
There was no tergiversating by the trail though, as it headed decisively to the canyon rim in a series of switchbacks capped off by another set of stairs with handrails. The view from the top down to the middle falls were impressive even though another rail kept hikers from going over the edge. Leave it to California to take all the luster off of a cliffy trail, but I guess there are people in California in sufficient numbers that need protecting from themselves.

Staying high above the river, the trail left the campgrounds and city-slickers behind and behaved more like a real trail. After a three-quarter mile or so walk, the upper falls spewed forth from a rocky notch into what is probably a blue-watered bowl (like a sanitized toilet) in broad daylight.

The upper falls

The trail followed the McCloud River
Above the falls, the McCloud River funneled into a narrow and rocky chute before taking the plunge. The rocky walls of the chute were pockmarked with large bowls carved out by the river in testimony to the power of water.

Now that we got all that waterfall stuff out of the way, the river became more tranquil, pooling scenically while lush vegetation bordered the river. At Lakin Dam, the river became even more tranquil at the backwater behind the dam, reflecting the clouds, sun, and sky. I took a series of photographs here as the weather changed like every thirty seconds or so. 

Lakin Dam

That amorphous red blob is my wife
Continuing on, the river disappeared into the expansive willow thicket that is known as Bigelow Meadow. The weather turned as the skies darkened while a serious rain poured down on us. It felt like the rain would be semi-permanent so Dollie and I dug out raingear from our packs. After a few minutes of this, it was deemed that heading back to the car would be more fun, so back the way we came.

Ox-eye daisy

And of course, a few minutes later the sun came out in a relatively cloudless sky; the sight of Dollie walking in the sun while clad in a poncho was amusing. The sun stayed out for the rest of the hike and it became obvious that California is a land of fair-weather hikers as we encountered mobs of hikers, fishermen, and swimmers on our way back. The parking lot at the trailhead was full and we could have made money by raffling our parking spot before we left. Not your wilderness hike, no tergiversating about it.

1 comment :

  1. How about sticking in a Google map as a picture so that others can find the same trailhead later? The pictures are tantalizing.