Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reynolds Pond to Black Lava Trail

In summer, when Roseburg gets quite warm, my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors all grouse about the oppressive heat. I'm not so quick to get on the Waah Express, though, as I grew up in southern California and Baja California. There, it'd be 90 degrees before 8AM and we'd play soccer in the baking heat during recess and lunch break. "Yeah, but it's a dry heat!" say my grumbling acquaintances as they daintily sip their iced drink of choice. Well, sad to say, after this last weekend in the Oregon Badlands, I looked in the mirror and saw an bona fide Oregonian blinking myopically (put on your glasses, Richard) back at me. Somewhere, somehow, I became an Oregonian, so get ready to listen to me whine about the heat.

What passes for a meadow in these parts
The temperature topped out at around 90 degrees which is not excessively hot, but there was something about the heat that sapped the will to walk for both Lane and myself. We had planned an ambitious 11'ish mile hike on the Black Crater Trail, but when Lane suddenly stopped and said "You know, I've been thinking about this...", I turned around and began walking back the way we came without even listening to another word. It was kind of like that eloquent non-verbal communication that married couples engage in; perhaps Lane and I have been hiking together too long.

The basic plan was to hike a longish loop consisting of the Black Lava, Tumulus, and Basalt Trails. However, if we plan to keep doing this kind of thing, we really should bring a map next time. We had studied a trailhead map a day and 4 beers ago,  and so relying on our incredible memories,  Lane and I crossed a gate next to a nameless canal and proceeded to hike on a gravel road next to the aqueduct. Well, turned out we were on the wrong side of the canal and unbeknownst to us, we had actually hiked out of Oregon Badlands Wilderness. I guess our incredible memories were just edible. The trail scenery still consisted of juniper trees and sagebrush, though. Lots and lots of juniper trees and sagebrush.

So yeah, the scenery was remarkably similar to the prior day's hike to Flatiron Rock. Having said that though, there was one item that was totally at odds with the harsh desert environs: a canal flowing with cool water next to the trail. Initially, the canal was slow flowing with graceful curves, the glassy surface reflecting the blue sky above. But there were places where elevation was lost in tumbling cascades, imparting a seemingly alpine vibe to the hike. However, we were still surrounded by desert so the alpenicity only extended to only about 5 feet on either side of the canal. I doubt alpenicity is even a word but it does seem like it has possibliness to it. At any rate, it was all desert surrounding the canal.

The Central Oregon Canal just got a little bit bigger
About a mile into the hike, a much larger canal came in from the right and we found ourselves walking in between the two canals. Looking like a prominent river, the larger aqueduct was big enough to have its own bland name: Central Oregon Canal. After a short walk alongside the COC, a gravel road spanned both canals and we crossed over to the other side of the nameless canal, putting us officially on the Black Lava Trail.

A juniper puts its foot down

We didn't see any black lava and by this time, the heat was hot (well, duh) and our will to finish off this 11 miler faded in indirect proportion to the amount of time we spent in the open sunlight. Given the lack of trees overhead, we spent virtually all of our time in the sun so before long, Lane had his let's-go-back epiphany and I had my excuse to turn around. It was somewhat ironic that we were so sunbaked and parched within sight of the snowbound Three Sisters on the western skyline.

From personal experience, they bite!
On the way back, we stopped for a couple of extended shade soaks, both of us harboring an irrational fixation on the notion of hurling ourselves into the canal for a cooling soak. At our glampsite next to Reynold's Pond, it took us all of a nanosecond to open an ice-cold citrus beer.  All life should be as good as that ice-cold beer. The rest of the day was spent watching lizards scurry to and fro and listening to the coyotes howl as the day ended. We went to bed having learned things about ourselves today: namely, we are from Douglas County and we love and adore shade.

We almost went swimming
So, our little visit to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness was somewhat underwhelming but interesting, nonetheless. I think there is a portion of the wilderness that consists of true badlands features sucha as canyons, arroyos, and lava-based features. Looking at the map, there are a number of trails criss-crossing the the wilderness and I'm not ready to give up on the Oregon Badlands yet. I'll be back for further exploration, just not in the middle of summer.

The Hot Lane
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. I'm a heat wimp too. I'd say wait until fall and visit when the temps are cooler.

  2. That's because you are a west-sider like me, lol!