Saturday, April 14, 2018

Taylor Creek

Spring has arrived, putting a spring in my step! Oh, there'd been hints, whispers, and innuendos that spring was on its way but this hike on the Taylor Creek Trail was the first hike this year where I could just smile and say "It's spring!" And accordingly, I spent much of my trail time lying prone, photographing the many wildflowers growing along the trail. Still had be careful about where I lay though, due to the many fronds of poison oak likewise growing along the trail and keeping the wildflowers itchy company. Not all of spring is good, apparently.

A tale of five bridges
The last time I had hiked on the Taylor Creek Trail, the many bridges crossing and recrossing the creek were rotting and you crossed at your own risk. The mountain biking crowd had given up on the bridges altogether and had blazed their own trails and wet fords next to the sagging spans. However, according to the U.S. Forest website, our fine friends at the Siskiyou Mountain Club had recently replaced the treacherous bridges, and I just had to go see for myself; especially since I am leading a hike here in a few weeks.

Unerringly straight through the forest
Taylor Creek may be just a small creek, but it has carved a massive canyon in the short run from its headwaters to the Rogue River. In fact, I often say Taylor Creek is like the Rogue River Jr. Well, that's not factually correct as I really don't say that often at all. In fact, I hardly ever talk about Taylor Creek but I have been known to make that observation after past visits to Taylor Creek.

Pasture at English Flat
Anyway, since the road stays high above the canyon, hikers get to warm up by hiking downhill. That's a nice feature, although its not as nice coming back after nearly 10 miles of hiking. No matter how great the hike was, it's just wrong to have to hike uphill to the car. As the trail lost elevation, the surrounding forest had that typical Siskiyou vibe of tan oak, madrone, and conifer trees all mixed together. After the quick downhill walk to reach Taylor Creek reposing at the bottom of the canyon, the trail spit us (me and my imaginary friend) out onto the grassy meadow at English Flat.

Stately trillium
I don't know much about the history of English Flat but it had obviously been a homestead back in the day. The grassy pasture and rogue fruit trees blooming next to the creek were a clue that this site had been settled, probably by an English family or by a family named English. The English may have even been English, for all I know. Blooming maple trees surrounded the once and former homestead, and the ground underneath the trees was carpeted with elegant tri-petaled trillium blooming away in glorious profusion. 

Taylor Creek flows under a bridge
The first bridge crossing of Taylor Creek was a beauty, nearly a work of art. Sporting brand new unweathered wood, rising high above the creek, with graveled on-ramps, the well constructed bridge merits a grateful tip of the hat to the crews that built the bridge. It sure beats wading across, and I speak from personal experience, having deemed some of the former rotting bridges too dangerous to cross on foot.

Fawn lily was everywhere
Once across the creek and back into the forest, the trail headed uphill for a rather brisk and protracted climb up and away from the canyon floor. I was feeling pretty walky and actually enjoyed the uphill hiking, ignoring the screams and shouts from protesting leg muscles. Despite the relative speed of my hoofing it up the trail, I still found some time to take photos of the myriad flowers blooming next to the path,

Exotic looking calypso orchid
The forest was carpeted with snow queen, trillium, hound's tongue, and woodland violet, just to name a few of the usual suspects. However it was fawn lily that rightly earned the Most-Profuse-Flower Award, as their distinctive nodding blooms made their presence known nearly everywhere on this hike. I also spotted my first calypso orchid of this year, the wildly festive bloom in the relatively drab forest seemingly as incongruous as a Rio carnaval dancer at a Puritan quilting bee.

Burned Timber Creek flows through
a tangle of unburned timber
With all the rain we'd been receiving in the buildup to spring, it stood to reason that there'd be creeks running across the trail. A few of them were ankle-splashers on the wade across while the larger streams had boardwalks thoughtfully provided to keep hiker's boots relatively dry. Most of the creeks were unnamed with the notable exception of Burned Timber Creek.

Picturesque waterfall on Burned Timber Creek
Burned Timber Creek is one of the star attractions of this hike as it joins up with Taylor Creek in a spectacular and camera-friendly waterfall. The cascade is not all that visible from the trail so a brief off-trail excursion to an overlook is required, and is well worth the relatively minimal effort.

Trail, as it hugs a rock face
Taylor Creek was not always visible but was always heard from the trail, except for one particular stretch of trail. For some strange reason, the path peeled away from the creek and charged uphill, causing me to curse trail designers all over again. After cresting a dry ridge, the trail then dropped back to Taylor Creek in what was a senseless and gratuitous abuse of quad muscles.

Where two creeks collide
After walking on a cliff edge, crossing two gravel roads, and experiencing a whole lot more ups and downs on a forested trail, the way straight across was blocked by two creeks running into each other. I had always thought that because the road next to the twin streams is Minnow Creek Road, that surely must mean this was Minnow Creek running in front of me. Wrong again, sardine! A quick perusal of the map divined that Taylor Creek and the South Fork Taylor Creek were the two creeks colliding in the middle of all the twiggy branches overhanging the twin creeks.

Oak toothwort
After crossing the two creeks on yet another pair of brand new, beautifully constructed bridges, I reached my turnaround point, another bridged re-crossing of the South Fork. A bear had shown great disrespect to the bridge builders's work by crapping right in the middle of the graceful span. On a prior Taylor Creek Trail ramble, when I was feeling amazingly walky, I had continued on past this point, climbing a steep trail to Lone Tree Pass, a nondescript trailhead on a forest road. As I climbed up to the pass, as the South Fork grew smaller and smaller, eventually dwindling to nothingness like that little point of light on an ancient TV monitor. I'm dating myself here but those of you who remember TV's before color, cable, and solid-state electronics will understand.

Moss creeps on a rock
Anyway, that climb to Lone Tree Pass was tough and not particularly scenic, and the hike up to the pass and back wound up being something like 14 miles long. By turning around at this particular bridge, today's hike wound up being just under 10 miles, a totally respectable distance. On the way back, the downs became ups and vise versa, through the same pleasant woods I had hiked through. On the way back, I took less pictures, simply happy to be fast-walking (on the Taylor Swift Creek Trail?) in the woods, until the last uphill push to the car. Wasn't so happy about that, nosiree. But up until then, this spring walk had definitely put a spring in my step.

Candy flower
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Beautiful flower pics! Got your message about your trip through the gorge. It's sure sad what the fire destroyed isn't it? I don't think I'll be hiking there for a long time.

  2. This trail looks and sounds familiar? It is indeed a beautiful trail and we are very glad that bridges are there. Hope the club comes out for this hike as we know they will enjoy it too!

  3. Why yes some of the residents of English Flat were the Englishes! We were there from about 1948 to 1972.