Saturday, April 26, 2014

North Umpqua Trail - Dread and Terror Section

It's 1:49 AM, time for all good hikers to be asleep the night before a hike. But on this night, the smoke alarm chirps to announce the death throes of its battery. I didn't even know we had an alarm and Dollie was of no help because a choir of 200 chirping smoke alarms would not have roused her from her sleep. I suffer from no such affliction however, and I turn on the living room lights and search for the accursed chirper.  It's hidden from sight, of course, and silent too. I go back to bed and then it chirps again. After about 15 repeats of this cycle, I finally wake up Dollie and she shows me where it was hiding in plain sight on the mantel. After taking the alarm outside and running over it with the Jeep, I go back to bed.

This is how I appear to the cat
It's 2:11 AM when the cat begins meowing, demanding in that loud self-centered way cats have and I immediately get up and ponder the moral dilemma. Do I let the cat out so I can expediently go back to sleep? If so, what message would I be sending the cat? That we will do his bidding if he is annoying enough? Unwillingly awake and totally pissed off, the remainder of the evening would be about administering cat lessons. I grabbed a squirt bottle and the cat dashed under the couch. No problem, I lifted the curtain on the bottom of the sofa and let loose a spray and a cat dashed out and headed upstairs with me right behind. After a round of administering watery cat justice I returned to bed and minutes later the yowling resumed. Let's just say that for the rest of the night, both the cat and I got our exercise and the living room furniture got wet. I should have run over the cat with the Jeep like I did with the alarm. So, suffering from sleep deprivation, it figures I would leave my hiking boots at home, but who can blame me? 

Dude, where are your boots?
Last January, the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club had penciled in a hike on the North Umpqua Trail's Dread and Terror Section. However, the hike was canceled due to snow and ice and they went hiking elsewhere while Ray and I attempted an ice hike on the D&T, as we like to call it. At that time, Coos Bay hiking buddy Toresa had driven all the way to Roseburg to do the D&T, and was left wanting. Ergo, we made arrangements to hike the section on this particular weekend in late April.

Wonder why our feet are wet?
Joined by Toresa's Grants Pass hiking buddy Lisa, we set forth from the busy Umpqua Hot Springs trailhead. The Dread and Terror section (starting out from the hot springs trailhead) is one of my favorite sections of the North Umpqua Trail due to the numerous springs and waterfalls crossing the trail, most coming in the first mile and a half. Hiking in tennis shoes, I was more sensitive than usual to the amount of water running across and on the trail.  Oh well.

A creek is born
The first item of interest was a large creek gushing out fully formed just below the trail.  I'd seen this creek tumbling down into the North Umpqua River many times before, but got to experience the wonder all over again through the medium of my hiking companions who appropriately oohed and aahed at the spectacular cascade.

Loafer Creek
Next up was Columnar Falls, a frail and misty cascade spraying over an amply mossed-over wall of basaltic columns. More oohing and aahing ensued. The hits kept on coming with Loafer Creek's (named after me?) "blue pool", Surprise Falls, Michelle Creek, and many other nameless creeks, cascades, and  springs trickling over and under the trail. The cliffs were covered with a healthy green growth of moss and stonecrop with water flowing on the rocky portions of the path.

Moss. trail, and ice cold water
Below the trail, coursed the North Umpqua River, running cold and fast this time of year. On the opposite side of the river loomed basaltic cliffs which were not quite as picturesque as Columnar Falls, but they were still pretty neat looking.

Mr. and Mrs. Calypso Orchid

When not immersing hikers in trailside hydrologic wonders, the NUT undulates up and down in verdant forest where moss reigns supreme. Green was the color as the understory was comprised of salal, rhododendron, oregon grape, and ferns. Wildflowers were in bloom with the early spring culprits such as trillium, calypso orchid, red currant, and woodland violets providing a colorful counterpoint to all the green moss. Professor O'Neill even found a few of the hairy and brown wild ginger flowers for our D&T newbies to peruse.

Skunk cabbage
Shortly after a muddy marsh full of the large yellow spathes of pungent skunk cabbage, I began a search for a Best Campsite Ever candidate. Several years ago, I had run into a perfect backpacking campsite situated next to a scenic bend in the river in a stand of white-trunk alder trees. Alas, I think the river has done some rearranging here because nary a glimpse of the rustic Shangri-la was glimpsed. Ah campsite, we barely knew ye.

This picture says it all!
We turned around at the 4.5 mile mark because my wet feet in my wet tennis shoes were beginning to develop some hot spots, precursors to blisters. One good thing about an out-and-back hike is we get to enjoy the same spectacular scenery again. The only change on the way back were the thick clouds scudding over as the temperature dropped. At the end, Lisa and Toresa both expressed their appreciation for the scenic hike which is what it's all about. A storm was coming in and the rain started on the drive home. On the way home, I purchased a Super Soaker in preparation for unfinished business between the cat and I. Let the yowling begin!

Cliff time!
For more pictures of this hike, put on the wading shoes and visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mildred Kanipe Park

It's happened to all of us. You bump into an old friend, one you haven't seen in a while, and the friend begins to talk to you about a new found religion, eyes burning with the crazed zeal of a true believer as you silently cross him or her off the Christmas card list. Well, it happened to me recently, with more than one friend announcing they have become a Kanipian, joining the church of Our Lady Mildred of the Sacred Park. Probably, a picture of a haloed and beatific looking Mildred Kanipe hangs in their respective living rooms. Being an open-minded heretic, I just had to visit Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park and see for myself what all the wild-eyed proselytizing was all about.
Here's my butt dance, now will you marry me?
My first impression of the park had more to do with peacocks than with hiking. These magnificent birds, feathered in iridescent and metallic blues and greens, ambled through the parking lot, either greeting hikers or asking for handouts, or maybe all of the above. As I was lacing up my boots, a group of peahens sashayed down the road, setting off a chorus of loud hoots from all the males gathered nearby. As the gals neared, the peacocks in turn displayed their magnificent plumage and then showed their backsides to the females while executing a stiff legged butt dance with little mincing steps. Presumably, the best plumage, loudest hoot, and the tightest little butt dance results in a happy mating. Similar mating rituals take place every Friday night in neighborhood taverns throughout the country but let's leave that alone and go hiking instead.

Trail through an oak glade
For my readers not from this area, Mildred Kanipe Park has been in the news a lot this year. Due to a lack of funds, the Douglas County Commissioners decreed that all county parks had to pay their own way, so to speak. The original plan for Kanipe Park was to log a stand of firs in the park, but within the Kanipian community that idea was about a welcome as a fart in church. The eventual solution was to instead construct a campground with the stipulation being that the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park had to raise the necessary funds for the campground construction. I'm glad to report that just several days ago, the monetary goal was attained.

Elegant cat's ear
Anyway, while several of my hiking friends had gotten religion about the park, the sad fact was I really didn't know that much about it. Since I had half a day to kill on Easter Sunday, the nearness of the park made for a convenient hiking quickie. And, since it was Easter, I had the entire park to myself as apparently I am the only person in all of Douglas County that hikes on holidays.

View from a small hill
Shortly after crossing an orchard and cow pasture, the trail headed straight up a hill, my punishment for sacrilegiously hiking on a religious holiday. A nice view of the flat lands of English Settlement and the rolling foothills surrounding the quaint and historical town of Oakland was enjoyed. Tall oak trees dotted the grassy slopes alongside the trail under a blue sky that got bluer as the morning mist burned off.

One of 764,289 oak tree pictures taken on the day
The oaks were just leafing out on a beautiful spring day but there were a couple of downers just off trail. One was English hawthorn, an invasive plant imported from England, of course. The meadows were dotted with the thorny bush which has a nasty habit of turning into a tree that makes many little thorny babies.  Piles of dead hawthorn showed where park volunteers attempted to eradicate the unwelcome invader from Europe like Aztecs fighting Spaniards, and probably with the same degree of success, too.

Get thee away, poison oak!
The other blot on this fine Kanipey day was poison oak. The stuff was growing everywhere and the new leaves colored bright red would have been very attractive were it not for the not so wonderful itch factor. I noticed there were no piles of dead poison oak probably because the rash-making plant is a native worthy of preservation and probably because nobody with at least half a brain cell volunteers for the poison oak work crew. I was wearing shorts and with all the fronds reaching for my bare legs, I gladly accepted the one dime-sized rash on my arm. It could easily have been worse!

Shooting star
At any rate, the trail climbed up a grassy ridge and through marvelously shaded oak glades. Life was good as the path wove its way through the trees and I didn't even mind the numerous evil deer spotted in the woods along the trail. Random thought: Why don't deer get poison oak rash? After topping out on a wooded ridge, the trail dropped down and intersected with the Fern Woods Trail, colored bright purple on my map.

A religious moment in the Kanipe church
The trail had several mudholes that got my boots mad at me but we soon left the mud behind as we climbed up into the woods that were the source of the political tempest.  The forest was comprised of fir with a rich understory of ferns and salal. Sunlight slanted through the branches and songbirds twittered melodically in the shrubbery. This is a special place and mellowness crept into my soul and I nearly became a Kanipian until the coarse cawing of crows disrupted the moment. It was then that I noticed all the poison oak vining up the trees and I became a hawkish proponent of logging the forest, provided they take the poison oak with them.

But I kid of course, the park is indeed a special place and worthy of preservation. But I stop short at hanging a picture of a haloed Mildred Kanipe in my living room although I may keep the butt dance.

Thank you!
For more pictures of this wonderful little park, stop by and visit the Flickr album.

Nice clothes!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

North Umpqua Trail (Sections Panther and Mott)

This hike was a lot of work. Not because of the 10.7 up and down miles along the North Umpqua River, but because I was in charge of this Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club venture. We had 32 hikers show up, about half opted to hike the North Umpqua Trail's 5 mile Panther Section with the remaining half opting to tack on the Mott Section for a 10.7 miler. It was so hectic with coordinating rides and shuttle vehicles that it was a relief to set foot on the trail and begin hiking.

Fawn lily, fawning away

I don't think I've ever hiked on the lower sections of the North Umpqua Trail in any other season than winter. I really should visit the venerable trail in spring and summer if this hike is any indication of the woodland beauty available for camera toting hikers to enjoy. On the Panther Section, the trail gently angled upwards and I quickly found myself behind the group, poking my camera into all the trailside shrubbery. Trillium, calypso orchid, snow queen, and wild ginger were blooming all over in the forest; spring has definitely arrived!

Smooth-trunked madrone 
The trail spent most of its miles in deep shade. We could see blue sky above in forest openings, and the bright turquoise waters of the North Umpqua River were simply iridescent when illuminated by the bright sun. Sunbeams filtered through the trees and happy plants sprouted where the beams touched down. A cool breeze kept the temperature just perfect for hiking.

Small little creeklet
Small creeks crossed the trail at various points and foot bridges allowed us to cross over dry-footed. The bridge railings served double duty as makeshift tripods for exquisitely long camera exposures of the creeks tumbling down the hillside. Good thing I lead from the rear because that's where I would have been anyway with all the neat spring thingies to take pictures of.

A perfect day to hike
Basically the trail was crossing across the face of Panther Ridge and at just about halfway, the trail crested across a rocky cliff and began a general descent to the end of the Panther Section. After coordinating the shuttle pickup by yelling at drivers to hop in Valerie's car, I bid adieu to the five-mile hikers and continued hiking forth on the Mott Section, joined by Lane and his son, Colby.

Water under the bridge
The Mott Section generally was closer to the river than the Panther had been and we enjoyed walking in the shade next to the strikingly blue river. The clime here was a little bit drier than it had been on the Panther and the forest was carpeted with salal. We crossed several creeks on rustic bridges, the creeks being large enough to have names.

A brook babbles, just like me!
One such creek was Fisher Creek, so named because the famed author Zane Grey had a fishing camp there, a commemorative sign marks the spot. As an aside, his wife Dolly managed his business, proofread, and edited his writings. It seems Zane Grey and I have a lot in common, except for the fame and fortune thing (or lack, thereof). I'm not sure if his Dolly made him mow the lawn, either.

This picture will make me famous!

After this hike, Timber Creek will always be a special little place for me. Crossing over on yet another footbridge, I took a few pictures of the creek. Later, various pictures from this hike were uploaded to Flickr. The following morning, I found out that the Timber Creek picture on the left was literally seen by thousands as it was featured in Explore, which is Flickr's place for special (in the good sense of the word) pictures. That made my day, and maybe I will someday become as famous as Zane Grey after all.

The North Umpqua River
After 10.7 miles of hiking, we arrived at the Wright Creek Bridge, our end point. Strewn about and resting on the bridge, were the rest of our 10 milers, all waiting for us. Seems like we were not Wright on time. Across the roadway was the start of the North Umpqua Trail's Tioga Section and Lane did not make a lot of friends when he happily stated "Two sections down, one to go!" He was about to get lynched until I interceded by pointing out Lane was our shuttle driver. The one remaining duty as hike leader after that was to get all drivers shuttled to the Panther Trailhead and then get waiting riders picked up. Everybody made it back to Roseburg, or if they didn't, then it hasn't wound up in the newspaper yet which makes this another successful hike in spite of my leadership.

Did I mention it was a perfect day to hike?
For more pictures, please visit the Flickr album.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Little Grayback Mountain Trail

Sometimes, two words just go together just right, like "mountain" and "trail". So, Little Grayback Mountain Trail gets my attention after reading just half the name. However, the name Little Grayback actually refers to the lice that drove early gold rushers batty, which goes to show you need to read the fine print when looking at a trail name.

A perfect day for hiking

After meeting up with Medford hiking buddies Glen, Carol, and Katie the banana-eating dog in the itty bitty town of Ruch, we set our 10 feet on the Little Grayback Mountain Trail. The contrast between this hike and the North Umpqua Trail from the day before was illustrative of the difference between hiking in the Cascades and hiking in the Siskiyous. Where I had to contend with water in all its liquid states on the North Umpqua, there was nary a drop to be found on the steep slopes of Little Grayback Mountain.

Shady forest

The trail alternated between shady forest and sunny slopes covered with stunted or dead growth. In the shady parts, snow queen, shooting star, avalanche lily, and Oregon grape were all blooming away.  The shade was cool but just as we started to shiver with exposure, the trail would spit us out onto dry and warm slopes. And just as we started to get overheated, the trail would take us into the shade again.  It sort of reminded me of a long car trip with Mrs. O'Neill and I cranking up the heater or turning on the air conditioning every 5 minutes or so, only with considerably less discord.

View to the Red Buttes 
The Little Grayback Mountain Trail is a close relative of nearby Mule Mountain Trail and the Stein Butte Trail, except the Little Grayback Trail angles uphill at a steady but never overwhelming grade. No blood gets shed, unlike the other two trails, and the scenery is remarkably similar what with open slopes with great views all day long of the snowy Red Buttes and other Siskiyou Mountain friends.

Lunchtime panorama

We ate lunch at a meadowed slope dropping steeply away from us into the Squaw Creek Basin. At the bottom of the valley lay the larger Squaw Lake, nestled in a forested bowl among the surrounding mountains. Snowy peaks surrounded us and the warm sun made us feel all fuzzy and mellow. Katie was happy too, although her happiness had more to do with shared sandwiches and bananas than with the awesome vista.

My trail name is Runs From Ticks
So there we were, totally relaxing when Glen found a tick on his pants leg. After rolling up the seam on the zipper (not that zipper!) halfway up his pants leg, several dozen ticks dropped out of where they had been surreptitiously hiding. Glenn apparently had not paid enough attention in Man School, erroneously hearing "tick magnet" instead of "chick magnet". Carol found a couple too but I had nary a one on me, thankfully. On the hike out, Glenn continued to harvest the eight-legged disgusting little buggers no matter if he hiked first, last, or any point in between. Apparently ticks find him to be quite the tasty Glennchilada and please pass the hot sauce.

Oregon, the Tick State!
Well, back to us relaxing at lunch: After Glenn found tick after tick after tick after tick, I could just feel little tick feet crawling all over me. Eeeh! After we performed a tick check, removing clothing and searching bodies as much as decorum allowed, we vacated the meadow and headed back, relaxation time over. Walking  in shady forest and on open slopes with awesome views just hammered the point home that we live in one of the most beautiful places on our planet. Aw, who am I kidding, I can still feel imaginary ticks crawling on me!

Intruder alert!  California red bell, in Oregon
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

North Umpqua Trail - Tioga Section (sort of)

Two weekends ago (March 30 and 31) a rare event took place: I did not go hiking for the first time in 2014. Some snickering hecklers would say it was due to the copious amounts of cold rain falling out of the sky that weekend, but faithful readers know that a little (or a lot of) rain would not ground the Richard Hike express. Nope, the reason my boots stayed in their very own hyperbaric chamber that weekend can be chalked up to That 1 Guy, who was in Eugene, putting on a fine concert in Eugene that weekend. He plays an instrument that resembles a love child between electrician and plumber and it's just not a concert until That 1 Guy plays the Magic Boot.

The North Umpqua River
Speaking of magic boots, my boots made sweet music of their own as they splashed through mud puddles on the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) last weekend. The Tioga section of the NUT used to be 16 miles long and I had hiked at either end of the Tioga but had never made it to the middle part. A couple of years ago, a brand new bridge was built, cutting the Tioga in two like a biology student halving an embalmed earthworm in dissection lab. From personal experience, biology professors have no sense of humor about preserved earthworms garnishing a salad plate. But back to subject, I had never hiked in either direction from the new bridge and it was about time.

Oh no, I've been marooned!
Saturday morning, I was feeling lazy and about as energetic as a sedated banana slug and the rain didn't help matters much, it's a wonder I even made it to the trailhead.  However, fawn lilies sprouted all around the picnic area at Susan Creek, providing an immediate pick-me-up while trillium graced the forest floor. Not to be outdone, exotic calypso orchids and dainty snow queen also contributed to the floral ambiance. Lichens clung to tree bark while oxalis carpeted the forest floor with a quilt of clover-like leaves. And all this in the first 20 yards of trail! My camera was happily clicking while its owner/operator inelegantly sprawled not so happily in the mud puddles on the trail.

Tioga Bridge

After crossing Susan Creek on the second-most sturdiest bridge ever, I arrived at Tioga Bridge, the first-most sturdiest bridge ever. In 1964, a flood washed out an existing bridge, leaving behind a pair of concrete piers in the river. The piers stood tall in the river for the next 48 years, serving no useful purpose until the Tioga Bridge was built on top of the old piers. The bridge is an architectural masterpiece, gracefully spanning the turquoise waters of the North Umpqua River while the piers now have a renewed purpose in life.

A small creek 
The basic plan was to walk up the Swiftwater Section to the top of Bob's Butte. From the bridge, the trail was on an old road bed that eventually became less old and more road than trail.  When the road veered well away from the river and my GPS said I was on BLM Road 220, I naturally assumed I'd missed a trail sign somewhere and headed back in search of the NUT. The road returned me back to the bridge and call me confused. Either the road was the trail or I'm the biggest moron in the whole wide world. The two options are not mutually exclusive.

Witch's butter looks more like witch's boogers
When life gives you lemons you make lemonade and when life gives you confusing hikes then you make confusing hikeade. Heading east from the Tioga Bridge was a bona fide trail that could only be the North Umpqua Trail's Tioga Section. The vegetation was lush, a veritable jungle of green growth celebrating the arrival of spring as I set forth on the Tioga Section.

Curvy road
This was more photo shoot than hike as my pace was slow and relaxed while I took pictures of all the neat stuff along the trail. Eventually, my pace was slow and relaxed due to the steepness of the trail switchbacking away from the noisy North Umpqua River. Not wanting to be called a namby-pamby, I made sure to wait for the trail to level off on a forested bench well above the river before turning around.

Sign of a great hike
On the way back the light rain became a steady downpour and a businesslike walk back to Susan Creek brought this 8 mile hike to a close. At home, I did consult a map concerning the Swiftwater Section puzzle and it turned out the road I was on was indeed the trail.  Oh well, now I have a good reason to come back again.

Lungwort lichen
For more pictures, please visit the Flickr album.

I was just as wet

The wandering route