Saturday, December 6, 2014

Butterfly Lake

Our state bird
Consider Robert Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909. The expdition party had to contend with such savage and harsh conditions that the participants barely survived. Fast forward a couple of years to 1911 and now imagine Robert Peary telling his friends "That was fun, let's do it again!" And that's kind of how the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club came to follow me to Butterfly Lake in yet another of the world's great and epic expeditions.

And away we go!
The weather gods taunted us at the start as the drive from Roseburg was done underneath a gloriously blue winter sky that gladdened our hearts. However, at Reedsport, just 7 miles from the trailhead, the blue sky was covered up by dark clouds that saddened our hearts and our hike began in a light rain. We never did see blue sky again on this hike.

Worms writhe up out of the ground
Leaving behind that last bastion of civilization known as Tahkenitch Campground, the path tunneled through dense coastal vegetation. Mushrooms were rampant in the forest's mossy carpet and the group quickly divided into those with and those without cameras. There were strange clumps of fungus that looked like macabre earthworms emerging from possessed cemetery soil in a bad zombie movie. Also spotted on the trail was one lone newt crawling on the ground, but enough about me. The newt was picked up and moved to safety, I'm glad to report no newts were harmed in the hiking of this hike.

Land coral

After a steep climb up and over a heavily forested ridge, the trail took a longer but equally steep descent down to the Tahkenitch Dunes collective and lunch was eaten quickly at a rainy overlook of Threemile Lake.  The lake was full of winter runoff, looking like it could really be all of three miles long (It's not!). A few quick pictures of the lake were taken as wind and rain combined to occlude camera lenses before two photographs in succession could be clicked off. Before we reached the beach, a right turn on a sandy track took us across the dunes, paralleling the coast about a half mile inland as we did so.

While hiking under a dark and gloomy sky, the rain did ease up a bit and everybody followed me on the sandy trail, since I was the official Knower of the Route. Up ahead was a large tree island and when the forested mound was reached, it was time to begin the bushwhack.

Dour faced hikers
A climb up a steep sandy dune on an obvious route eventually became overgrown with dense coastal scrub and young trees. However, the going was not all that tough (yet!) as it was fairly easy to follow a series of game trails through the nascent forest. A quick consult with the GPS was taken and I pointed directly off trail to the left at the impenetrable wall of scratchy vegetation and said "That is where we must go!"

A climb up a sandy hill started the bushwhack
I could just see the headlines in Monday's newspaper: "Hike Leader Lynched by Hikers". I had done this hike before, but I didn't really remember the bushwhack being as long as it was. It was a tough go and as Maureen put it, she stood " a place where no human being would ever have enough room to stand" and asked the rhetorical question "what am I doing here?" much to the amusement of everybody within earshot. The dense vegetation made it hard to see past 10 feet and the group was quickly split up into the Edwin and Richard factions. We kept in touch aurally, hooting at each other like demented owls every 15 seconds or so.  Heard over the hoots, the angy rustling of belligerent vegetation, and the gasps of panting hikers, were frequent mutterings of "...stupid Richard Hike!" Trees and shrubs clawed at us as we clawed by, this was definitely a bushwhack where the bush whacked back!

The rarely seen Butterfly Lake

After working our way down a steep and overgrown gully, we reunited with the Edwins and there it was: the legendary, the mythical, the elusive Butterfly Lake. "Is that all there is?" asked my fellow hikers.  Butterfly Lake, as a destination unto itself, is rather underwhelming, the lake is definitely all about getting there. It's just another small coastal lake surrounded by acres of nearly impenetrable forest and at about 10 yards above the lake, we called it good. Amazingly, the hike leader was not left strapped to a tree to be eaten by deer.

Enjoying the sand slide
A bushwhack in calls for a bushwhack out, and Edwin's easier game trail route provided a natural path out to the dunes. An increasingly easier push through an ever thinning forest spit us out onto the dunes and hikers slid, ran, and generally capered down the steep dunes in sheer joy and ebullience at returning to treeless terrain.

Tahkenitch Creek
The traverse across the dunes ended at the trail running between Tahkenitch Campground and the beach next to Tahkenitch Creek. After the left turn onto the sandy track leading to the beach, Tahkenitch Creek became our trailside companion. The creek over the years has migrated south and is still continuing to do so. Trees and brush clogged the creek bed in mute testimony to the creek's ravenous appetite for coastal forest. The trail soon disappeared as it had been consumed by the creek's southerly rampage and horror of horrors, my favorite little backpack campground next to the creek had been likewise devoured.

Behold the mighty Tahkenitch
In response to Tahkenitch Creek's unauthorized migration, the Forest Service has rerouted the trail to the beach and we followed the path to the shore. Several of us continued on to the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek which was running dangerously fast and deep, there'd be no wading across it today or anytime soon.

Return through the dunes
A short hike back through the forest and dunes returned us to the campground and civilization. While the bushwhack to Butterfly Lake had been arduous and difficult, years from now all of us can regale great-grandchildren with the 1,187th retelling of the great Butterfly Lake Expedition. And on the plus side, unlike the Donner Party we didn't have to eat each other to survive.

Bridge crossing near Threemile Lake
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Love your tales and you photos. I would have been in the camera group and hunting out the fungi.
    Surely glad they did not leave you to be eaten by the deer LOL
    Darlene from the old Webshots