Saturday, December 10, 2016

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Segment

It rained for 40 days and and 40 nights and from the building of Noah's ark hereafter, a 40 day rain is said to be of "biblical proportions". However, here in the damp Pacific Northwest, it's just another storm and we just shake our heads and wryly note "Only 40 days?"  No ark building is necessary in the continual rain, but if you want to stay somewhat dry on yet another rainy day hike, then good rain gear is essential.

Rain on a cedar
I have tried various so-called waterproof jackets but have yet to find a breathable soft shell that effectively keeps the water out. I do have a hard shell that repels the rain but the problem with that is all my hiking perspiration is trapped by the impermeable fabric so it sort of rains underneath the it smells like an unventilated gym. Maybe two unventilated gyms, even. Maybe even three unventilated gyms full of sumo wrestlers doing aerobics on treadmills. With the heat turned up and the rafters full of farting pigeons, too.

Misty view to Bob Butte
I recently read an article about hiking long-distance trails on the cheap and Frogg Toggs were cited as the favorite rain gear for frugal hikers. A short Internet session later, a set of Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2s were purchased and on their way. The Frogg Toggs are amazingly inexpensive, a mere pittance at $25, especially when compared to other rain gear. When the package arrived several days later,  a rainy day was all that was needed for some gear-testing, like that would be a problem!

Somebody liked the water on the trail

Rainy day and rain gear in hand, Luna and I headed out to the Susan Creek Recreation Area. The rain was light enough I didn't feel the need to go all Gorton's Fisherman and put on the rain pants, too. However, Luna was on her own, although if I would have bought her a pet raincoat, you might refer to her as a Frogg Togg Dogg. And since she likes to play keepaway in the back yard with a huge tree branch, you might even call her a Frogg Togg Logg Hogg Dogg. Sorry, I'll quit now.

A tiny mushroom sprouts on a tree trunk
The Emerald Trail connects the Susan Creek picnic area to camera-friendly Tioga Bridge. However, the trail is not emerald at all, it's mostly black as in pavement and coarse gravel. No complaining though, for the civilized nature of the trail tread allows our alter-abled hiking friends to also enjoy Tioga Bridge.

Graceful arch on Tioga Bridge
Tioga Bridge was built in 2013 and you can still smell the fresh creosote on the stout span. The North Umpqua was running wide and fast, rushing noisily underneath the photogenic bridge. Normally the river water is a beautiful turquoise color but on this day the water was a milky chocolate brown tint as the river was running near flood stage. The day was cold, wet, gray, with low cloud cover rendering nearby Bob Butte barely visible in the mist overhead.

A cascade on a temporary creek
Once across Tioga Bridge, a thundering waterfall on a nameless creek made for an impressive start to the Swiftwater Segment of the North Umpqua Trail. About 100 yards later, a second waterfall on a nameless creek likewise impressed. All the rain was causing the streams to put on a show with winter runoff splashing where there normally would have been no running water at all, like on the North Umpqua Trail.  My feet stayed dry due to my happily waterproofed boots, while barefooted Luna was deliriously overjoyed to wet her feet in all the water streaming across the trail.

Boots got wet on this hike

The North Umpqua Trail is on an old logging road for much of the Swiftwater Segment, so we avoided the whole vegetation wetting pant legs thing. The grade was easy on the legs as the uphill slope was as kind and gentle as a grandmother. Life was good as we hiked while photo-stopping frequently due to all the seasonally hydrologic wonders occurring next to or on the trail. After about 3 miles, the road passed under some power lines and that was our cue to leave the road and start hiking on a real trail.

Mossy branches reach to the sky
The footpath dropped straight down the hill for a short bit, as it followed a clearing underneath the power lines. Not the most scenic part of the hike, to be sure. From there it was another steep drop down through a forest with a thundering creek that was mostly heard and not seen in the canyon below the trail.

Bridge over Bob Creek

I don't know who Bob was but he has a butte and a creek named after him. His creek was pretty full of Bob so to speak, as the rambunctious torrent was absolutely raging in an intimidating display of raw water power. Fortunately, no wade across Bob Creek was required as a nicely constructed footbridge made for both a safe crossing and yet another photo stop. Bob Creek literally was growing larger before my eyes as dozens of runoffs and tricklers poured off the canyon slope, each contributing to the mighty Bob's cause.

Bob Creek was much larger than normal
A brief uphill walk on a trail doing double duty as a creek bed brought us to the base of Bob Butte. There is a really nice view of the North Umpqua canyon from the butte but on this day, the butte was well hidden in the foggy cloud cover just above us. No point in walking up a steep trail just to see gray mist, so we sat down and I ate lunch while Luna mooched.

Orange cup fungus

On the return, the rain really poured just when we had to go up the steep open section underneath the power lines. I'm glad to report the Toggs kept me comfortably dry, just as promised. The breathability of the fabric means air flows both ways so on a cold day, one does need to wear warm clothing underneath. Once we returned back to the forest, the rain gave up, bowing down in acquiescent homage to the amazing water-repelling powers of the Frogg Toggs. With only one hike notched on our rainy day belt, durability remains an open question but so far, the Toggs definitely get more than a passing grade.

Slightly misted trail shot
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Glad your raingear passed it's first test! I may have to check it out. Sometimes the most beautiful scenery can be found while hiking on a rainy day.

  2. I'm almost positive I've seen those Frogg Toggs in Wal-mart, Big 5, and other places. I came really close to trying a pair, but they felt heavy to me. Also, after seeing how inexpensive they were, I figured I would be getting what I pay for. But maybe what you ordered is different?...

    1. Depends which product line...the ultralite 2 is 10.4 ounces

  3. Just think, if the weather is foggy, Luna could be a Frogg Togg Logg Hogg Dogg in a Fogg Bogg!!!! Will have to check into these Frogg Togg things since it is that time of year.