Saturday, April 20, 2019

North Bank Habitat - 4/2019

Oh, we had some grandiose and overly optimistic plans for hiking in the Cascades but alas, the intended trailhead for this weekend's outing had been rendered inaccessible by snow blanketing the forest roads. Besides which, more snow was predicted to fall throughout the weekend and if you can't even get to the trailhead, then it's pretty hard to go hiking, isn't it? Additionally, the person slated to lead the hike couldn't lead the hike that day so a substitute hike leader (me!) was enlisted to take a group on a substitute hike destination, and there's no substitute for the North Bank Habitat when weather conspires to keep hikers out of the higher elevations. 

Soggy Bottom was just that

All that snow falling in the mountains translated to rain in the Roseburg area and accordingly, we had a rather sparse turnout consisting of four hikers and one dog. Surprisingly, two of the hikers (and the dog) were first-timers which is highly unusual for a weather-challenged Richard Hike but hats off to Missy and David for showing up. And hats down to all the hiking regulars who employed years of wisdom and experience to stay home on this wet day.

Sodden landscape in the Habitat
All the rain falling made Soggy Bottom pretty soggy, indeed. But water is life and all the rain this winter had turned the rolling hills and soggy bottoms green with burgeoning new grass and vegetation. Poison oak was budding out with vegetation of the non-green variety, their red buds warning hikers to keep away from the accursed itch-spreading leaves. The oak trees of the Habitat were still behind the spring curve though, remaining leafless for the time being. Naturally, as is customary this time of year, the trail was fairly muddy.

Snowpocalypse 2019 exacted a toll from the trees
This was the first time I had been to the Habitat since Snowpocalypse 2019, a late February snowstorm that had crippled Douglas County. Many of the stately oaks dotting the meadows and rolling hills of the habitat had not survived the snowstorm, the weight of heavy snow on branches toppling the trees to an untimely demise. Accordingly, trees and tree parts lay all over Soggy Bottom and across the trail itself. I read somewhere that up to 40% of the trees in local forests had been damaged and that seemed about right for the forest carnage in the Habitat.

It was a cold and wet hike up to North Boundary Ridge
We took Soggy Bottom Road because the cold rain was travail enough, no need adding a horrendously steep trail to the wet mix. Soggy Bottom Road gets up to the North Boundary Ridge at a much kinder rate than its other trail brethren in the Habitat, making it the logical route choice on a miserable day. At least the exertion from hiking the uphill grade kept us sort of warm on this wet and chilly day. On the plus side (sarcasm), once we left the forest, the open grassy slopes exposed us to a brisk breeze and heavier rain, so we weren't really all that warm. 

This photo says it all
The awesome views from North Boundary Ridge are the reason for all the uphill hiking, but there was only the merest hint of them as we gained elevation. What few views there were on this day had a decidedly wet and wintry flavor and weren't nearly as expansive as normal, which meant we really had no reason for hiking up there in the first place. The cloud cover was barely high enough to allow a peek down the creek valleys running to the North Umpqua River, and the higher ridges disappeared into parts unknown somewhere inside the gray mist of the rain clouds.

O Witching Tree, this cannot be!
The route crested at Grumpy's Pond, our normal lunch stop, but by unanimous consent we all decided to forgo lunch in favor of returning to dry cars as quickly as possible. Near the small pond, there is a tree that I've always referred to as the "Witching Tree" because in my fevered imagination, I imagined anthropomorphic beasts of the woods holding hands, hooves, and paws as they danced a circle around the tree on spooky moonlit nights. But alas, the arboreal landmark had hosted its last haunted rite because it too had fallen victim to Snowpocalypse 2019 and was now lying in pieces next to the trail, the former magnificent tree being relegated to an ignominious heap of broken timber.

Misty view to the higher ridge crests

We descended off of North Boundary Ridge by way of Blacktail Basin. Nobody slipped in the mud so there were no black tails slapped onto any hiker backsides belonging to our wet and bedraggled party. The rain, which up to this point had been fairly light, increased in intensity as we descended and I can still hear the pitter-patter staccato of raindrops striking my hat brim as we hiked.

Splish, splash!

Once down in Blacktail Basin, the trail crossed and recrossed Jackson Creek several times. The creek was running fairly full which should have come as no surprise, given the rainy weather, and we soon gave up all pretense of remaining dry-footed. Everybody pretty much just splashed across the rushing creek, boots be damned, and Arlie (our canine compatriot) was the only one openly happy about the experience.

A landslide gave us cause to scramble over it
Near the end of the hike, the trail was blocked by a good-sized landslide and we had to scramble across the pile of mud and rocks covering the trail. I'll refer you to my previous comment about Arlie's state of mind which would also apply to crossing the mudslide. But cross it we did and we arrived back at the trailhead in short order, each participant satisfied with our hike in spite of the wet weather. 

Poison oak was not one of the high points of this hike
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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