Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pine Bench

Robinson Crusoe was lost and until he made friends with his man Friday. The Lost Boys were just that in Neverland until Peter Pan and his Tinkerbell showed up. America got "Lost" every week until ABC ended the show. Will Robinson, Robbie the Robot, and the simpering Dr. Smith took a wrong turn just past Mars and became lost in space in what has to be the worst navigating job ever. The Donner Party got lost and ate each other. Lost happens. While I don't ever like to say I've been lost, I have been location challenged, or misplaced, a time or two. I just didn't expect to be, make that "alternately located"...on a trail that I've hiked a million times. But hey, lost happens.

Bird's nest fungus
The night before, Dollie and I had gone to Eugene for a Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis concert. By the way, here's my plug: Great band! Since we rolled into into Winston around 2 AM with ears still buzzing from the show, it made for a late start for the next day's hike. Gotta get my beauty rest, you know. Because of the much needed sleep-in, it stood to reason it'd have to be a short drive to do a short hike and Pine Bench fit the bill.

Spring fed water for your health
Beginning at the ungodly hour of high noon, a short walk away from the North Umpqua River brought me to Soda Springs. The rust colored waters seep from a steep hillside and in spite of the rather putrid looking water, the grasses surrounding the springs were green and lush. Little froggies hopped frantically in front of me as they fled the big scary, yet incredibly handsome, hiker. Deer tracks were visible in the orange muck but hey, deer will drink anything. I don't know if the water is drinkable or not, but the springs do support an abundance of flora and fauna. I wasn't going to try the water because I generally like my water clear and sparkling, and not rusty orange.

What a bushwhack looks like
Rejoining the trail after visiting the springs was where I went wrong. The clearly defined trail paralleled a large waist-high fallen tree before crossing a small creek and then disappearing altogether. This particular area is in a burn zone from the 2008 Rattle Fire and the undergrowth was brushy and full of brambles. Fallen trees littered the slope in chaotic profusion. I made the incorrect assumption the trail had been lost to the fire regrowth, something that happens all too often in fire-scarred Oregon.

So glad to see the poison oak!
I knew if I kept walking uphill, I'd eventually hit the Bradley Trail so I struggled uphill in all the junk. I kept going and going and going and going and....but never did find the Bradley Trail. My visual tether was a small creek canyon way below; the GPS also helped. When the creek canyon disappeared from view, it was time to turn back before I became lost for real. Later, after looking at the map, I discovered that I was basically paralleling the Bradley Trail. While I would have eventually reached it by walking uphill, it would have been another mile or more. Glad I turned back.

A good trail is not overrated
So back down I go to the burbling creek, stepping over the trickling waters.  And just on the other side of the creek was the well-defined Soda Springs Trail. Turned out, that tree next to the trail was actually lying upon the trail. All I had needed to do was clamber over the tree trunk and continue on my merry way. The path I had taken was probably a side trail that provided a brief look at the small creek. Once I stepped over the creek, there was no more trail and the bushwhacking commenced.

View towards Mount Bailey
Now on a real trail, I merrily skipped uphill towards the burn zone from not one, but two fires in proof that lightning does strike twice. But lightning requires clouds and there weren't any on this day, making this a pleasant electricity-free hike. In between the ghostly snags, nice views were had up the North Umpqua River canyon with snowy Mount Bailey reposing above. The peaceful view was interrupted by a noisy roar from a presumably large rockslide that lasted about 10 to 15 seconds. I could not see the slide and the cars on the North Umpqua highway inched forward like ants on a kitchen countertop; clearly the slide had not covered the busy road.

View across the Boulder Creek chasm
The trail leveled out on Pine Bench and I followed the grassy path under the pines and firs to the intersection with the Boulder Creek Trail. After a nice lunch at a grassy lea overlooking the chasm containing Boulder Creek, I headed down a short distance towards the North Umpqua Trail but began imagining the route below covered by that unseen and mysterious rockslide. I didn't want to discover an impassable trail below and then have to backtrack back for a long and arduous hike in the little daylight that was left. I'd done enough bushwhacking and backtracking for one day. So back on the Bradley Trail I go, plucking off the occasional tick crawling on me. I made it back to the trailhead without getting misplaced again.

Snow queen
For more pictures, please visit the Flickr album.

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