Friday, March 9, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Panther Segment

Sometimes, you just have to be in the mood and clearly, I wasn't. The rain was pouring down and the temperature was cold, hovering just this wet side of snowfall. That was cause enough for me to throw up my hands and whine "I just want to go home". And after a paltry 4 miles of hiking, I did that very thing, much to the disappointment of my canine companion, Luna. Its really too bad, because visually, this is a beautiful hike and on a slightly less belligerent day, the hike would be as eminently enjoyable as a homemade enchilada.

Wild ginger flower
March comes in like a panther and out like a lion, or something like that, and this March was no exception, snarling and screeching in with a series of rainstorms that really tested one's resolve to hike every weekend. On this particular Friday, the morning dawned dark and gray with a steady stream of fat raindrops pattering against the living room windows. I really didn't feel like hiking in that crap but figured if I could just get  out to the trailhead then the joy of hiking would rekindle the smoldering embers inside my hiking heart, just like it always does. I was wrong.

Even on a rainy day....
Luna was game though, and bounded up the North Umpqua Trail in unrestrained ebullience that quickly resulted in her getting leashed for the remainder of the hike. She has no filters and the forest has so many squirrels in it. As we set out upon the trail, the rain was tapping out a steady drumbeat on my hat brim, and we were surrounded by the three-dimensional aural hiss of rain falling throughout the forest.

A small piece of the North Umpqua River
The Panther Segment of the North Umpqua Trail spends a lot of it's miles high above the North Umpqua River, and started out by immediately charging uphill to get up there. In no time at all, I was sweltering underneath my raincoat, despite the chilly weather. The turquoise color of the river, muddy and silted with increased runoff, could be seen here and there between the trees in the dense forest. 

Soggy and happy
Despite the wintry vibe, spring is definitely here. Lavender sprigs of snow queen were abloom everywhere and one ugly brown wild ginger flower was spotted by your merry blogster. On mossy cliffs with rain dripping off everything, happily soggy (or is it soggily happy?) saxifrage plants were offering up small white flowers as sacrifice to the rain gods. 

Sun, please stay longer than 30 seconds
At the crest of a rather vigorous climb, the sun actually came out and I could almost hear a choir of angels sing as a sunbeam lit up the trail. I stopped to take off layers and jackets but before I could actually consummate that task, the sun disappeared and the rain resumed. That was such a tease!

Mushrooms in the moss
One of the many things I like about the North Umpqua Trail is the rampant greenery along the trail. The river canyon traps humidity and the forest is amazingly lush. Mushrooms sprout on trees, ferns and Oregon grape carpet the forest floor, and moss covers all inanimate and sedentary objects. Today was no different and much photography ensued.

One of a million creeks crossing the trail
The rain had all manner of creeks and streams cascading down the forested hillsides and I daresay boots got wet as I waded where they crossed the trail. But the rain was really coming down by now, and enthusiasm by the human half of our hiking contingent was waning. At the 1.9 mile mark, a fallen tree cinched the deal.

Some of that winter blowdown
The tree was over waist-high and lay perpendicular across the trail, effectively blocking the way. Luna hopped on the log and promptly skidded and slid down the inclined trunk before hopping off about 10 yards downhill. I declined the opportunity of repeating her experience. Half the tree was uphill which would have required an extremely tedious and muddy bushwhack up and around a sizable root ball. And on the downhill side, the upper half of the tree lay on a steep slope covered with riverine jungle. Good enough for me on this wet day, and we turned around.

Sun again, for thirty seconds, again
On the way back the sun came out again, just enough for me to feel bad about turning around. And then it was never heard from again as incessant heavy rain started up for good. I figured that when we made it back to the trailhead, we could continue hiking on the Calf Segment for some decent mileage.

Panther Creek runs into the North Umpqua

However, the Calf has been burned up in several forest fires over the last decade and accordingly, there is not much in the way of trees flanking the trail. We were totally exposed to the elements and the Calf Segment demonstrated the difference between rain falling in forest and the totally unfiltered version of the same rainstorm. That was it, no more hiking for the day; so back to car we went, figurative tails between our legs. You just have to be in the mood, and I wasn't.

British soldiers in the moss
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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