Friday, October 19, 2018

North Umpqua Trail - Hot Springs Segment

The North Umpqua Trail wanders along next to its namesake river for 78 miles and in some future year I WILL backpack the entire route. The last three years, fire has kept me from doing this very thing but maybe 2019 will be the year. Because of the proximity of the North Umpqua Trail (hereafter referred to as the NUT) to Roseburg, I have hiked on most of the NUT but there are yet three pieces of trail that have yet to be graced by an O'Neill boot. Before the hike covered in this brilliantly written blog post, it had been four bits of unhiked trail, but I did manage to cross the Hot Springs Segment off the short list on a beautiful autumn day.

Moss covers all that does not move
The Hot Springs Segment is a relatively short 4'ish mile long section of trail that connects the power grids (there are a number of hyrdroelectric projects and diversions in the area) at Toketee Lake to the naked bathers at Umpqua Hot Springs. Depending how you look at it, both ends have their pluses and minuses, and I should be more circumspect about using the word "ends" in close sentence proximity to "naked bathers". My preconceived notion of the Hot Springs Segment had been that it was a fairly utilitarian segment of trail and thereby not particularly worthy of hiking on. After this gorgeous hike, I'll have to admit that I was wrong (for the very first time, ever).

Rock formation in the forest
Luna (my dog) was mindlessly happy to go hiking, whether the trail be utilitarian or not. I was a little more doubtful but had to admit that the hike got off to a nice start. Toketee Lake was like glass and reflected the surrounding mountains nicely. A footbridge crossed over the North Umpqua River where it poured into the lake, and the trail on the other side of the span headed uphill into a dense forest. 

Mushroom eats what moss does not
In hindsight, the forest was comparatively drab when compared to the forthcoming autumnal delights yet ahead of me, but I enjoyed the greenery surrounding the trail anyway. Mushrooms were sprouting everywhere and moss covered all that did not move. The cedar and fir trees were encrusted with lichen clinging to their trunks. 

Leaf-covered North Umpqua Trail
Vine maples were in full autumn swing, but in the deep shade the colors were a rather subdued pale yellow. That began to change when the trail dropped down to river level. The increased sunlight (not that I felt any of the sun's warmth on the shady side of the river, but that's just me whining) had the vine maples and dogwoods sporting a more vibrant autumnal palette of bright red, orange, pink, and yellow hues. 

Dew formed on leaves and hikers alike
The river moisture sustains an ample supply of moss which grew everywhere, and even though it was mid-morning, the day was at dew-point. Water drops condensed out of thin air and formed on nearby vegetation, dogs, and hikers. You could really feel the moisture in the atmosphere, and I could certainly feel the moisture on my pants legs as I waded through the damp vegetation. When the trail got close to the river, Luna was unleashed for quick sip and dips and she was also became quite wet. It almost felt like we were hiking in the interior of a water balloon.

Trail tunnel
However, the trail eventually peeled away from the river and we quickly dried out as we hiked on a trail covered with fallen leaves. The colors were entrancing and much photography ensued, making our hiking pace quite slow, much to the chagrin of a certain dog who hikes a lot faster than her incredibly handsome owner.  

The North Umpqua was always near
At about the two-mile mark, the trail egressed onto gravel Forest Road 3401 and crossed over to the sunny side of the river on a road bridge. Aah, now this was living! The sun warmed us both up and layers were shed and I converted my pants to shorts by zipping off the lower leggings. The trailhead here had a fair number of cars parked there by hikers looking for a slightly longer walk to the hot springs. 

Bright colors on the sunny side of the river

Autumn was simply awesome on this section of trail. The colors were astounding, made even more so when illuminated in the sunlight. I daresay that at times, the very air was glowing orange underneath the vine maples. And lest the vine maples hog all the fall glory, taller big-leaf maple trees were glowing bright yellow against a cobalt blue sky while dogwood contributed bright colors somewhere between pink and orange to the autumn ambiance. Much photography ensued.

Put your tongue in, I'm trying to take a picture of you
A brand new bridge spanned Deer Creek and that was our turnaround point. Over the last few years, the bridge had been taken out by falling trees and floods. Accordingly, this version of the bridge was brand new and you could still smell the creosote on the planks. Around the bridge, trees had been cut down and the logs were stacked up next to the creek, hopefully this iteration of the bridge will last longer than its predecessors.

Why we hike
On the return, the afternoon sunlight slanted through the forest and shadows were cast longer and longer as the day waned. At the end of the hike, I was kicking myself, wondering why I had never hiked this segment of the NUT before, it had been pretty spectacular. Now, if I can only get to backpack it in summer of 2019. Wish me luck!

Fungal collection
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment