Saturday, October 21, 2017

McKenzie River Trail

When I got up in the morning, the rain was just pouring down in sheets, loudly pelting the living room windows and disturbing the cat's sleep. "Watch", I told Dollie "I really don't want to go hiking today but there'll be three morons at the parking lot and I'll have to lead the hike anyway". John was the first to show and he said "Good morning, Richard" and I replied "One moron, two to go" Number two presented arms a few minutes later when Diana arrived. And right on cue, Lane appeared seconds before deadline. "Three morons, I called it", my hostile-sounding remark eliciting a puzzled look from Lane.

The Moron Hiking Club is now called to order
Lane picked up Ceresse in Springfield and after initiating her as an honorary member of the Three-Moron Club, we then headed up the McKenzie Highway, 5 intrepid hikers strong. The original plan was to hike around Clear Lake but I was watching the temperature gauge and it was just a few degrees above freezing. The east side of Clear Lake is all exposed lava fields and the idea of hiking through that in a rain/slush/snow combo just didn't sound very appealing. After a quick roadside confab, we made the impromptu decision to hike on the McKenzie River Trail instead. The thinking was that we'd see the fall colors that make the McKenzie River area so spectacular in October. Plus the thick forest would possibly provide some protection from the rain. 

Diana crosses Scott Creek
It was really pouring and it was cold. That about sums it up, weather-wise. The raindrops were heavy and fat, it was like being pelted by ice-cold water balloons without the balloon part. It was so wet that even the salmon stayed indoors. The overhead forest protection delayed the inevitable in that we were soaked within 5 minutes instead of immediately. Ceresse was heard to mutter to Lane about me "Doesn't he know that we could have mall-walked instead?" What, and miss all this?

Soggily spectacular
Rain notwithstanding, the vine maples were out-of-this-world spectacular. The maple growth underneath the tall firs was thick and profuse and all of it was tinted some variation of bright yellow. The day was dark and gloomy, yet the forest seemed to glow with a gold light from within. I'd like to say the fall colors were so spectacular that we forgot all about the cold rain but no, it was so darn wet we could not help but wonder what the heck we were doing out there.  Oddly enough, we never saw another hiker all day, not sure why that was. Come to think of it, we didn't see any mountain bikers, equestrians, or river rafters, either. Not even deer, raccoon, or newt; just us, all alone in the wet woods.

Trail shot

After nearly two miles, we crossed the McKenzie River on a road bridge and the trail was less groomed and more like a real trail. Meaning, the low spots in the trail were full of water and that was where I found out I have worn a hole in my boots. Oh well, at least my feet were wet and cold, didn't want them to miss out on all the watery fun. It was somewhere around here that I removed the camera battery and stored the camera in a waterproof trash bag for safety's sake.

You have to admit, it is an unbelievable display of color
I began to sense waning enthusiasm from my charges, a subtle sign of such was when Diana, Ceresse, and Lane turned back, each telling me in no uncertain terms I am no longer on their Christmas card list. Plus, my phone number has been blocked and they are not answering my text messages. John, though,  was still up for more and I figured he and I could turn around at the intersection with the forest road, winding up with a soggy 6 mile hike. As we continued on, the puddles became deeper and deeper, along with increasing frequency. Eventually, the trail was just one long continuous puddle and my cold wet feet got colder and wetter, if such a thing was possible. After all the spectacularly wet trail miles, it was almost anticlimactic when we turned around at the nondescript gravel road, but at least we got to splash through the puddles all over again on the way back.

Trail through the golden arches

I wound taking just 36 photos, a far cry from the 597 photos I brought home from the Upper Rogue River. I also wound up with 55 pounds of wet day pack, boots, socks, and other assorted clothing, but at least the camera still works. Once inside a dry car with the heater cranked up to full, we all stated that we enjoyed the experience and that we all felt sorry for all the people cooped up in their homes, foolishly staying out of the rain. Yup, we were 5 pretty proud morons!

A river and yellow leaves just about sums it up
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.