Saturday, February 17, 2018

East Applegate Ridge Trail

I must be losing my touch! 5.5 miles one way? And all downhill, too? I can hear my hiking comrades now: "Who are you and what have you done with Richard?" Well, I guess not every hike needs to be a test of manhood and/or womanhood. All I have to say is that my hiking buddies had better appreciate this one-time reprieve from the usual rigors of a Richard Hike, or else!

Dancing madrones
Having previously hiked the East Applegate Trail as an out-and-back, I can attest firsthand to the leg-burning travails of the uphill portion of the hike. But my thinking was that the East ART is such a fantastic trail with great views and due to it's newness (it was constructed just last summer), nobody in my hiking circles, other than Glenn and Carol, had ever set foot on the trail before. So, since the main objective was to get Roseburg hikers to fall in love with the trail as I did, then we shan't give anybody anything (like, say, 5.5 miles of uphill hiking) to complain about.

Lichen brightens up a tree trunk
Part of being a hike leader is being able to authoritatively drive to the trailheads without getting lost and since I didn't even know where the lower trailhead was, a scouting trip ahead of the scheduled Friends of the Umpqua hike was in order. Hiking buddies Glenn and Lane were happy to come along and frankly, Glenn was of great assistance since he knew how to drive to both the upper and lower trailheads. Lane came along solely for comic relief, although the constant stream of bad puns and jokes from Lane and I had Glen walking quicker than normal to get further away from us.

On the trail again...
In February, it had been pretty hard to hike what with snowstorms and rainstorms pummeling southwestern Oregon on a daily basis. Accordingly, we were most appreciative to see some sunlight when we set out on the path, each one of us offering a silent note of appreciation to the weather gods. 

Peak 3320, as the hike started
The path wandered through a forest briefly before popping out into the open and voila, the first of what would be constant eye-popping panoramas lay before us. The route basically contoured a grassy ridge between the deep drainages of Poormans and Bishop's Creeks. As we broke out into the open, we were staring right down the formidable valley carved out by Bishop Creek. On the left side of the valley rose forested Woodrat Mountain and on the right side was grassy Peak 3320, our trail etched across the face of it like a pirate's scar from a knife fight in Mogadishu. Way cool, and our pace was leisurely with lots of camera stops.

Red-limbed manzanita

The vegetation was somewhat Siskiyou-ish, evidenced by stands of madrone and leafless oak trees flanking the trail, and in the more open areas, nearly impenetrable thickets of shrubby red-limbed manzanita and thorny ceanothus, also known as buckthorn. Oh, and let's not forget the ample quantities of poison oak; between the poison oak and buckthorn, we had plenty of thorny and itchy incentive to stay on trail.

About to hike off the end of the world

As we continued hiking steadily downhill, the clouds thickened and we temporarily bid adieu to the sun we had been enjoying. But the rain held off and the cool temperature was perfect for hiking. Periodically, the path would dip into woods comprised of either madrone, oak, or spindly conifer of some ilk. In one such grove of trees, the path actually left the Bishop Creek drainage, swapping the epic view of Bishop Creek's valley for that of Poormans Creek.

It's Miller (Mountain) time!
On the other side of Poormans Creek rose a series of tall mountains with Miller Mountain and Mount Isabelle being most prominent. Eventually, Mount Isabelle will be incorporated into the continuation of this segment of the Applegate Ridge Trail and I, for one, can hardly wait. The Poormans Creek valley intersected with the much larger Applegate Valley, the valley floor quilted with farms, wineries, and a small town or two. The low cloud cover hid the larger Siskiyou Mountains from view but we periodically got brief hints of their snowy mass lurking behind the clouds. very hot!
The trail eventually became an old road bed and the sun broke out and roasted us like so many chestnuts on an open hearth. But that's OK because we were just about done with the hike by then and besides which, it sure beat the run of snow and rain we had all been enduring this February. It did feel like the hike was over almost before it started but on the plus side, I'll have some happy hikers on hand when we return in a couple of weeks!

Manzanita, always reliably photogenic
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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