Friday, June 29, 2018

Roughrider Falls

This blog should really be titled "Rough Roughrider Fails" with the accent on the "Rough". Coming as it did, right after a less than stellar hike to Sherwood Meadows, a disappearing trail should have come as no surprise, but nonetheless I didn't anticipate a National Recreation Trail to be in such poor shape.

A frog basks in the sun
Starting out from the Hammaker Meadows Trailhead, the Upper Rogue River Trail gave no hint of the travails that awaited me about 1.5 miles into the hike. Sure, there were a few fallen trees scattered here and there, but nothing outside of the norm with most lying right next to the trail and not across it.

Candystick emerges after the winter layoff
The mid-summer flowers were in bloom, and I took my time and took my photographs, too. The white spectrum of the rainbow were well represented by Queen's cup and Columbia windflower, with thick carpets of bunchberry earning the miniature dogwood-related plant the Most Profuse Flower of the Day award. Pink and white spears of candystick poked up out of the ground, joined by wintergreen and Prince's pine. Much photography ensued and my pace was relaxed and leisurely.

A large waterfall that was not Roughrider Falls
The trail hugged a forested slope above the Middle Fork Rogue River, glimpses of which could be seen through openings in the trees. The water was amazingly clear, which shouldn't be surprising given that Boundary Springs, the river's fount, was less than 10 miles away. Lush green meadows flanked the clear running stream, which snaked to and fro in the abundant riverine greenery. About a mile in, there was a sizable, yet nameless, waterfall and I bushwhacked a bit to get some pictures of the scenic cascade.

A portent of things to come
A little over a mile, a tree lay across the trail and I stepped over it. Not a big deal, but about a quarter-mile further lay another tree. And shortly further along the path, another tree. See the trend? The trees were coming in ever increasing frequency and the size of the trunks grew larger and larger. No more easy step-overs for me, nope. I was having to scramble over, crawl under, or bushwhack up or down off the trail to get past the prone behemoths. Progress slowed dramatically, my rate having nothing to do with photography fun.

Gnome plant 
I was determined to reach Roughrider Falls, damn the trees anyway, but then they started coming in twos and threes and this hike was rapidly turning into hard work. My resolve began to falter when I worked my way past a pile of six trees that required both a slither underneath and a crawl over. Rounding the next bend, there was a veritable wall of trees, maybe a dozen and the pile was probably about 15 feet high. The trail was contouring across a steep slope so I couldn't really go around them, I would have to go up and over that pile. That sound you heard was my determination exploding as it crash-dove, trailing flames and smoke, into the forest floor.

Columbia windflower
Figurative tail between my legs, I turned around and negotiated all the fallen trees all over again. But, the good ol' Upper Rogue River Trail had one more surprise to throw at me. Once I reached the section of trail that did not have trees laying on top of it, the hike found me in a rhythm with only my own thoughts for company, and I didn't have much of those, either. Suddenly, movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention, there was some small black furry animal walking in the woods, paralleling my direction. 

Ripening grouseberries

What was that creature? My first thought was a weasel or maybe a feral cat but then, upon closer inspection, the dog-like snout and rounded ears gave it away: a bear cub, about 15 yards away from me. Walking just behind the cub was another cub, so by my count that made two cubs and my one overriding thought was "WHERE IS MAMA?" From behind a fallen tree, a large black head arose and there was Mama Bear, and boy, she was giving me the stink-eye.

The Rogue River courses through a meadow
Quickly, my idle thoughts became very active, "Think, Richard, think!" I walked backward down the trail, kicking aside sticks and stones to make noise as I did so. I wanted Mama to know a) I was leaving and b) where I was at all times. We didn't want her wondering about my location at all. Meanwhile, the cubs ran like black lightning right up a tree. I didn't realize how quick bears can move, it was truly amazing the speed and agility of the two ursine tykes as they ran up the tree. Meanwhile, Mama bear beat a hasty 30-yard retreat into the forest and waited, while yours truly stopped retreating, making sure to remain visible to all concerned. Plus, I wanted to know where all the moving parts were, too. 

Slime mold, looking a lot like bear urp
I'm not going to lie, I really wanted to get closer and photograph the bear family but the logical portion of my brain said that was a really stupid idea. The smart brain won out but still... Anyway, Mama grunted out some commands that her kids understood, as they ran down the tree trunk and the entire bear clan just melted back into the woods and the ordeal was over, sort of. I say sort of, because the whole encounter left me spooked to the point that every fallen tree or log was a bear and every twig snapping or bird flitting was a bear on the trail behind me. However, I'm glad to report that every fallen tree or log was just that, and every noise in the forest was just a noise in the forest.

Freshly cleared trail near Hammaker Meadows
When I reached the trailhead, I hadn't hiked very far due to my turning back. So, for extra mileage (obviously, I had calmed down by now) I continued south on the Upper Rogue River Trail, expecting to run into fallen trees at some point. However, this section of trail had been recently cleared out and you could still smell the sawdust from the freshly cut logs flanking the trail. Unfair! 

Hammaker Meadows
A short walk brought me to expansive Hammaker Meadows, and I bushwacked down into the meadows. I tell you, there is nothing like green grass under blue sky. Throw in some forested mountains flanking the meadows and river valley, and all the day's travails suddenly almost became worth it. Normally, I hike to relax but this had been a beary tough and stressful hike.

The conks need to eat a lot more trees
For more pictures (no pictures of the bears, sorry) of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Maybe those bears were meant to give you incentive to go up and over all the downed trees! And no pictures? Where is your sense of adventure!