Saturday, May 16, 2015

North Umpqua Trail - Lemolo Falls

Last year, hiking buddies Toresa, Lisa, and I hiked on the Dread and Terror Section of the North Umpqua Trail. This year, there had been talk of hiking the whole 13'ish mile section but logistics got in the way somewhat. I'm not sure if hiking the Dread and Terror is going to become an annual event or not, but at any rate we decided to hike the Dread and Terror from the northern end for this year's rendition.

Waterlogged trillium
The day dawned as damp and chilly as last night's hairball left on the living room carpet, but it never actually rained. There was a heavy drizzle in the air and the temps stayed in the low 50's: in other words, conditions were just perfect for hiking!

Water black and cold, like my heart
From the Lemolo Lake trailhead, the North Umpqua Trail dropped rapidly through a drippy forest. Visibly waterlogged trilliums drooped their sodden flowery heads from the weight of the water and I knew just how they felt. Small creeks and runoffs trickled across the mossy trail. As we dropped down into the canyon, the North Umpqua River made an appearance, the cold making the waters seem profoundly black.

"That's no waterfall..."
Well, the river was black when it wasn't white and it was white quite a bit as the river leaped from pool to pool. Some of the leaps were 10 to 15 feet high, causing Toresa and Lisa to inquire if one large cascade was Lemolo Falls. In my best Crocodile Dundee impersonation, which really is not very good, I answered "That's no waterfall. Now THIS is a waterfall!"

Half of Lemolo Falls
After a mile and half or so, the real Lemolo Falls showed up. However, it's hard to get a good look at the falls from our side of the river without executing a dangerous tree-hugging scramble down a near-sheer cliff with wrists not partially fused like mine. There is a trail on the other side that provides a great look at the falls but getting there would require a swim across the cold black river, so we had to content ourselves with an obscured look at the nonetheless spectacular waterfall.

Speaking of works in progress...
From the Lemolo Falls overlook, the trail dropped down to the river where some obvious construction is taking place at the plank bridge over the river. In years past, logs had piled up against the bridge and there were obvious cracks and chunks taken out of the footbridge by the logs. But now, the logs had been cut and removed but judging from all the earth removal and tarped equipment hanging around, the bridge repair or installation is still a work in progress.

Tenants on Baughman Bluff 
Our next work in progress, so to speak, consisted of a steep climb up to Baughman Bluff. The path soon acquired a cliffy flavor as it narrowed and clung to the bluff's face like a baby monkey clinging to its mother's back. We sat down and ate lunch there and were treated to a pair of nesting ospreys calling out to each other as they took turns feeding their nestlings.

The river flows next to the Best Campsite Ever
The next several miles were a steady descent from Baughman's Bluff to the best campsite ever at B.D. Bluff. The campsite is sited right next to the river underneath a dense canopy of vine maple. And I do mean dense, the very air was suffused with a soft emerald glow from the ample leafitude.

One more step to the river

Since we had walked 6 miles to get here, it seemed like a good idea to turn back and that long descent then became a long ascent. It's just not a hike unless it goes uphill! We did stop at a viewpoint atop a rocky needle overlooking the river's canyon. Here, the canyon is quite narrow, and it seems almost possible to reach out and touch the cliffs on the opposite side. However, that would not be a good idea as the canyon floor is several hundred feet below; so narrow and deep is the canyon that the river cannot be seen from this trailside aerie.  Much photography ensued.

Moss carries its own hydration bladder
One more protracted climb away from the river and past Lemolo Falls capped this hike off. The hike came in at 12 miles and a couple of more miles would have equaled the distance covered by the entire Dread and Terror Section. As we bid each other adieu, we all agreed it was a great hike with good friends and next year we should do the entire section. It sounds like hiking the Dread and Terror will become an annual event, after all.

The North Umpqua River, above Lemolo Falls
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album

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