Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pine Bench (with Boy Scouts)

Once it was discovered Daweson's grandfather is the "hiking dude" that writes for the News-Review, it was only a matter of time before I'd be asked to help his Boy Scout Troop 82 with a hike or two. Pine Bench was suggested as a destination because it is a short hike and the trailhead is fairly close to Roseburg. Of course, the last time I was there a couple of weeks ago, I wandered off trail and lost the trail altogether, so I'm not sure that I may not have been best choice to lead newbies into the wilderness. But they did not know that....

All hail Lord Daweson!
Because the scouts were a relatively inexperienced bunch, I gave them a speech about what to do when lost, showed them what poison oak looked like, crossed my fingers, and uttered a silent prayer to the hiking gods asking that I be allowed to return with the same amount of scouts we started out with. And with that invocation, we ducked under the large water pipes below Soda Springs Dam and headed up the trail. I was glad to see the fallen tree that had sent me astray several weeks ago had been cleared off the trail.

Uphill through a forest

Because my young charges were inexperienced, they were quickly huffing and puffing as the trail headed uphill to Soda Springs. Along with the huffing and puffing came the "How much further?" type of questions and along with the questions came my stock answer "we're halfway!" no matter whether we were halfway or not. Daweson and Issiah know the drill as they have hiked with me a time or two and they were just happy to be out on the trail. They also knew (from past experience) not to ask me how much further to go.

Stormy view down to the North Umpqua
All the bad uphill stopped after crossing a burn zone with the trail leveling off in the pastoral woods atop Pine Bench. The day was overcast and the skies were threatening, making for a moody and portentous view into the North Umpqua River canyon.

Pinnacle overlooking Boulder Creek
We ate lunch at the spring which had a nice overlook of the Boulder Creek chasm. Across the canyon, Illahee Rock was dusted with snow. As we ate and as the boys explored a nearby rocky pinnacle, the temperature dropped, a brisk breeze rolled in, and then it started to hail. Lunch was officially over and we headed back in the suddenly less than optimum conditions.

There's snow in them hills
I was bringing up the rear and noticed part of the group had missed the left turn at a trail junction.  I yelled at them and then we counted heads once everybody came back. We were one scout short: my Issiah. In his quest to be first back to the trailhead, he didn't get the message to turn back and now he was somewhere on his way down to the North Umpqua Trail.

Little Boy Lost
Remember my little lecture about getting lost?  Well, Issiah paid attention and once he figured out he was by himself, he did what his grandfather said to do: he stayed put! He did hedge his bets a little bit by taking his bright red poncho out of the pack and draping it over a small tree off trail for added visibility.  And sure enough, Scoutmaster Dave spotted the poncho well below us. I was quite pleased with Issiah's coolness under duress, that can make all the difference sometimes.

Witch's butter
So now that we had the proper number of scouts, we returned to the trailhead under blustery conditions but at least the rain held off for the most part. After it was all said and done, the boys were openly appreciative of the experience. I think we're halfway there!

We're halfway there!
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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