Friday, October 28, 2016

North Umpqua Trail - Jessie Wright Segment

Way back when, when Dollie and I were newly married, we had to plan our first vacation as a married couple. I'm glad to report our marriage survived that experience! At any rate, I put a mason jar on the kitchen table and next to it were a pen and a note pad. The basic plan was when one of us had an idea for a vacation, we'd jot down our suggestion and drop it into the vacation jar. At some point in the future we'd select a vacation destination by reaching into the jar blindfolded, and grabbing the lucky sticky note. As it turned out, the two adults and the two children in the house had lots of good ideas and in no time that mason jar was full of great vacations. But then Dollie had to ask "When are we going to choose the vacation?" and I had to answer "The day we leave!"  I was serious, too.

A zen moment
Our conversation then continued in this basic form for the next several months:

Dollie: What if we go there and the campground's full?
Me: Then we stealth camp in the forest
Dollie: What if there is no motel room available?
Me: There is always a motel room available and if not, then we stealth camp in the vacant lot behind the motel.
Dollie: Grrrr....
Jessie and Aislinn: Which one of you gets us in the divorce?

Lemon yellow dogwood
I finally relented when one night, Dollie woke up in terror. "What's the matter?" I asked. Gasping for breath, she answered "I had a nightmare" as she wiped the cold sweat off her brow "I dreamed we were on vacation and we had no plans...I can't breathe." Clearly, this was becoming a psychological neurosis, so in the middle of the night, we reached into the vacation jar and pulled out a piece of paper with "Mount Rainier National Park" scrawled on it and our marriage was saved. Plus, we had a pretty cool vacation, despite its being planned in advance.

Autumn mosaic
So, now that we established that Dollie is order and I am chaos, no doubt you all are wondering what the heck does this parable have to do with hiking? Well, it's got all to do with my plans for backpacking in 2017. Normally, I decide where I'd like to hike and I say "I'm going there!" And then the week before, I get bored with my intended destination and read about another real cool destination in say, Backpacker Magazine, and then I'm off chasing squirrels, so to speak. And the day before I am to leave, I say "Sod it!", and wind up staying home dayhiking for the weekend because I couldn't settle on a backpack destination. So, this time I thought I'd take a page from Dollie's book and figure out where I'm going in 2017 and plan accordingly, repeating all the while Dollie's mantra : "Thou shalt not deviate from thy plan!"

Sunlit dogwood graced the trail
One of the trips on the list is the 78 mile North Umpqua Trail. The trail starts (or ends, depending which direction you hike) at Swiftwater Park, near the hamlet of Idlyld Park and finishes at Maidu Lake, the source of the North Umpqua River. The trail is divided into 12 sections with trailheads at either end and I've dayhiked most of the trail at one point or another. Because of its proximity to Roseburg, the North Umpqua Trail is just a short drive away and provides a nice day hike on days when one just does not feel like driving several hours to a more distant trailhead.

Tiny little parasol
So, on an autumn day where I was feeling lazy, Luna (our dog) and I hopped into the car and headed up the scenic North Umpqua Highway. After disembarking from the car at Marsters Bridge, we headed east on the Jessie Wright Section of the North Umpqua Trail. Immediately, our legs were soaked as the forest and encroaching brush were damp from the recent rains, although this day was sunny but cool. However, hiking at the bottom of the river canyon, we didn't get to experience the sunny joy much and we finished our hike with same low Vitamin D levels we had started with.

My future backpacking route if I don't change my mind
The first part of the hike was on what looked like an old road bed and the trail was gleefully level. Autumn was in full display as big-leaf maples were all glowing bright yellow above the trail. The vine maples were pretty much done but dogwood trees made up for their absence from the autumn fireworks display. The forest floor was likewise yellowed out with bracken fern, thimbleberry, and vanilla leaf all going gold in one shade or another. Dead leaves muffled the sound and the only noise heard was the rushing of the nearby river, our feet kicking the leaves, and an incredibly handsome lone hiker occasionally yelling at a dog who insists on pulling on the leash.

Creeks are to play in
The only animals seen were small twittering birds but Luna alerted a couple of times at something hidden upslope of the trail. I deliberately willed myself not to be too curious about what was lying in wait in the shrubbery and we walked by as quickly as possible which is not all that quick when the dog wants to just stand there growling. It probably just was deer stalking us.
The North Umpqua River was always nearby

So the trail was remarkably flat and I imagined myself hiking this with a backpack on. Wow, hiking this trail is going to be easy, it'll be level all the way to Maidu Lake! Heh heh, like that is going to really happen. Once off the old road bed and onto a real trail, the route went up and down for the rest of the hike, but fortunately none of the climbs were overly long. At times, the path got fairly close to the river running wide and fast due to the recent storms.

Thanks, Richard Sommers
Progress was fairly slow as this was more photo shoot than hike, there was just so much autumn finery to take pictures of. We did stop to eat lunch at Eagle Creek, admiring the rustic bridge spanning the creek. It used to be you had to wade across the creek but the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club paid for a bridge from an endowment received from Richard Sommers when he passed away. There was a sign honoring Richard and I made sure to thank him as we relaxed next to the creek flowing under the bridge. 

Bridge crossing of Boulder Creek
We continued on for another mile to Boulder Creek which was the logical turnaround point. The bridge offered up another contemplation point and we stopped for a bit to simply enjoy the creek rushing underneath. From there it was back the way we came, enjoying the idyllic scenery, our company, and autumn colors all over again. Fully sated in body and soul, we arrived back at Marsters Bridge and I'll be back on this trail, probably with a backpack on next time...unless I change my plans.    

Trail serenity
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Lovely fall hike! I admire your spontaneity - I'm more of a planner like your wife.

  2. It has been a great Autumn season this year and it looks like you got another colorful hike in. We have not been hiking 11 years and still have not hiked a single step on the of these days!!!! Is there a particular section you would recommend for us to hike when we do???

    1. You just can't beat the Dread and Terror Segment fom Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead...prettiest two miles of trail anywhere

  3. I like the pictures of the fallen leaves.

    1. Thanks Anne, I remember at the time being quite taken by the variety of colors and ages of the leaves at that one particular spot