Saturday, May 2, 2015

Buck Canyon

On June 6th, the hiking club is going to camp out at Redwoods National Forest for a multi-day hiking extravaganza. Alas, because of a prior commitment, I will be unable to go. Because of that, I volunteered to lead the sad Redwood exiles and other non-participants on a hike up Buck Canyon where slapping at mosquitoes will take our mind off of bucolic trails underneath majestically tall trees. Edwin is one of 'them" that will be camping at Redwoods and he had expressed mild consternation at missing the Buck Canyon hike in June. It had been several years since I last hiked in Buck Canyon so in order to refamiliarize myself with the trail and also to assuage Edwin's would-be disappointment, we set out on the Hummingbird Meadows Trail on our way down to Buck Canyon.

Avalanche lily, sporting a windblown look
This hike has great scenery and a small creek as constant companions, but mostly it's all about the meadows. The first meadow popped up as soon as we entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, our thin path weaving its way past all the cow hoofprints in the grass. The growth was only inches high but already dwarf larkspurs and blue-eyed Marys were providing color.

Edwin ponders the mystery that is the East Fork ford
Several hundred yards past the first small meadow, the East Fork Muir Creek provided the first (and only) challenge as our trail disappeared into the flowing stream. We tried to be clever and step across on rocks but in the end, we each wound up splashing through water slightly deeper than boot height. It's just not a hike unless ice-cold water pours into your boots.

It emerges from the depths
Once on the south side of the East Fork, Hummingbird Meadows hove into view.  Large and expansive, the meadows seemingly go on and on and on and...etc. We were a bit early for the spectacular flower displays that attract the hummingbirds that give the meadows their name. In testament to the recent arrival of spring, tiny yellow glacier lilies and white avalanche lilies were blooming away in the low grasses. Nubs of hellebore were sprouting forth, giving the meadows a somewhat unshaven look,

Glacier lily

Continually angling uphill at a gentle rate, we continued on up Buck Canyon. At all the open spots in the meadows, we enjoyed the blue sky above the green meadows. Buckneck Peak and several other unnamed peaks comprised Buck Canyon's rim with the canyon culminating in the sheer wall that is Fish Mountain. Edwin had to frequently wait, with all the patience of a parent indulging a child, for me to put my camera away and resume hiking. 

The debris pile from Devils Slide
Eons ago, a piece of Peak 6172 broke off and roared down into Buck Canyon, damming the East Fork.  Over time, the resulting lake filled up and became a scenic little meadow with the East Fork lazily snaking its way to and fro in the grass. With the ramparts of Fish Mountain looming overhead, a longer view-soak of this meadow was required so we plopped down on a log and ate lunch there.

This used to be a shallow lake millenia ago
The scars of Devils Slide (the landslide discussed in the previous paragraph) are still visible despite the long passage of time, and we crossed the meadow and explored the rock pile for a bit. Muir Creek tumbles over the rock dam in a noisy little waterfall that was hard to get to and hard to see. In the still waters of the creek, millions of mosquito larva joyfully somersaulted in an omen of things to come.

One of thousands of meadows
On the way back to the trailhead, we took a few side trips to explore some scenic little meadows. We also took a side trip down to Wiley Camp, a small backpacking campsite that was not named after me but could have been. The map shows the trail leaving Wiley Camp and heading directly up and over Buck Canyon's north rim on the way to Fish Creek. We could see the trail charging straight uphill and it looked like it'd be work, especially with a backpack on. Sounds like a dare!

Alligator lizard
Well, we had a buckin' good time at Buck Canyon and I'll be back in June, leading the non-campers here. The mosquitoes await us....

Mushroom of the chartreuse variety
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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