Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cascade Gorge

Slated to lead a Friends of the Umpqua venture, I guess I was committed to a weekend hike. Because of my daughter's illness, I've been commuting between Roseburg and Portland and have not really done or thought too much about hiking. Nonetheless, this 9.6 miler did provide some welcome respite from harsh reality and in the end, I was pretty grateful to have honored the commitment.

Lane takes a photo op at Lost Creek Lake

However, the opportunity to feel glad about hiking on this particular February morning was quite literally, very much in the air. Incessant winter storms had been pummeling southern Oregon for weeks at a time and to no one's surprise. the Lost Creek Lake area was under a winter weather advisory. The weather forecast was ominously dire and more than likely, all the requisite travails and tribulations that a Richard Hike can entail were definitely in the offing.
Like frozen nose boogers

However, I am happy to report the forecast missed it entirely. While the roads were icy and snowy, at the trailhead it was just the opposite of predicted: the sun was out, blue skies floated overhead, and it looked like spring was coming. It didn't quite feel like spring was all that imminent though, as it was still cold enough to freeze nose boogers.

Walking in a winter wonderland
The route called for us to walk away from Lost Creek Lake and up the Rogue River arm of the lake. I had done this hike several years ago and the trail was level and easy, the very antithesis of a Richard Hike. But not to worry kids, this wound up being a Richard Hike after all, just keep reading. But for now, the hike began with a pleasant walk on a snow dusted trail winding its way underneath madrone and fir trees. It's somewhat incongruous to see madrone trees in snow as they tend to grow in drier, warmer, and more snow-free climes.

Simply a sublime day between storms
Anyway, the first couple of miles were a pleasant amble in the woods above the brightly colored lake. The Rogue River arm resembled a Scandinavian fjord flanked by steep and snow-dusted mountains with lake, forest, and mountains all reposing under a gloriously blue and cloudless sky. Hiking on the sunny side of the fjord as we were, we certainly enjoyed what felt like a fine spring morning. And speaking of spring, the diminutive flowers of snow queen carpeted the forest underneath the madrones in a lavender tinted farewell to winter. Life was good on the trail, what possibly could go wrong?

What possibly could go wrong?
Several things, as it turned out. About two miles into the hike, we had to clamber over our first fallen tree laying across the trail. Shortly thereafter, we carefully picked our way across the face of a rather large landslide that had taken out about 20 yards of trail. Soon there were more trees and more landslides. And at one notable juncture, there were dozens of trees and a landslide both. The clambering over trees became more tedious as we had to slither under and through them like ungainly possums, no more easy step-overs for us.

Damaged railings at Hole in the Ground Creek
There are a number of creeks crossing the trail and normally, bridges make it easy to cross over from one side to the other. However, it seemed like the creeks had been a magnet for falling trees and amazingly enough, all bridges remained intact despite the arboreal barrage. Most were severely wounded what with broken and bent railings and planks. The BLM has its work cut out for it if it wants to keep this trail open.

Rock formations at Cascade Gorge

However, this blog will brook no complaining about slides and trees because the scenery at Cascade Gorge was fantastic. The trail broke out into the open and went cliffy on the pinkish rock walls. Oregon sunshine, a bright yellow daisy-like flower, bloomed away in dense patches with the turquoise colored lake sparkling below the trail in the afternoon sun. Throw in snowy hillsides, blue skies, and some brilliant Oregon sunshine (the non-flower kind) and this was one colorful hike! 

Crossing a small creek on the return leg
Skookum Creek was the logical turnaround point, and Lane, Colby, Ezgi, and I ate lunch there, soaking in the sunshine as we sat in middle of all the winter storm debris littering the trail. We proudly represented the slower contingent of hikers as Edwin, John, and Rheo had already started back before us slowpokes had even sat down for lunch. Behind us, Skookum Creek provided a tremendous waterfall that would have been a major tourist attraction were it not for all the brush hiding the cascade from view. Not to mention all that fallen tree and landslide stuff, too.

Ezgi, you go first!
And what's more fun than scrabbling across shifting landslides and through fallen trees? Why, doing it again on the return leg, of course! There is some empirical data that I can offer as testament to the hike's difficulty. The hike only gained 700 feet over its 9.6 miles, yet it took us 6 hours and 16 minutes to complete the trek. That's 39 minute miles and rheumatic turtles walk faster than that. Not so empirically, I felt pretty tired at the end of the hike. However, the following day was again wild and stormy so it was nice to have snuck in a hike between winter tempests.

Cascade at Middle Creek
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Despite the storm debris it looks like a beautiful place! Glad you were able to get out on the lone sunny day.