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



  1. Richard,

    Just a few more steps and you would have reached the high-tension lines cutting back down to the river, and that is where the trail leaves the road. It would have been pretty slippery until the NUT cuts west again.
    Glad you enjoyed the flora. You caught some nice pictures.

    1. Yeah, I was thrown off by expecting the NUT to be an actual trail, not a road. You know what they say about assume...