Monday, October 14, 2019

North Umpqua Trail - Swiftwater Segment

I'd like to tell you I injured my ankle by valiantly fending off a camp-raiding deer by placing a well-aimed kick right in, that's it, smack between the antlers with my right foot!  Alas, the true story of how I injured my ankle is a lot more mundane and unheroic. On my last hike in the Santiam Pass area, it began throbbing for no reason at all other than it's been walking on rough trails for the better part of 63 years and it's tired of all the toil and abuse foisted upon it by its owner. Forced to accede to my ankle's demands by a serious threat to go on strike for the rest of our mutual lives, I reluctantly caved and granted a fortnight's rest to all parties concerned. But after two weeks of sheer slothfulness and indolence, it was time for both feet to get back to work.

No explanation necessary

It was a beautiful autumn day on the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) and old favorite Swiftwater Segment was the chosen piece of the North Umpqua Trail to hike on. At the west end of the Swiftwater Segment, the BLM has kept up trail maintenance so not only was the well-tended route mostly flat, it was also parklike and both aspects thereof were very easy on a tender ankle. As the trail meandered above the North Umpqua River while tracing a route through dense forest, the parklike aspect was also easy on the eyes and friendly to the camera.

Some of that mushroom ilk and specie

From the western terminus of the NUT, the first part of the Swiftwater Segment wanders through lush forest comprised mostly of Douglas fir. Accordingly, the fall color here was green mixed in with a little bit more green. No russet or golden hues here! Further adding to the pervasive green vibe, moisture in the air emanating from the nearby North Umpqua River provides wet succor to ferns, assorted vegetation, and moss that covers all which does not move. The rough tree bark of the firs also provides a home for mushrooms and fungi of various ilk and specie, with the same being said for various ilk and specie of lichen. This was a maiden hike for some recently purchased extension tubes for my camera, and much time and attention was spent taking macro photos of all the various ilk and specie aforementioned.  

Time for some of that burned forest ambience

The civilized aspect of this trail came to an end when the path entered a burn zone, a souvenir left courtesy of a wildfire from about five summers ago. The track was a little bit rougher and rockier, and definitely less level as the trail climbed up, down, above, and alongside the North Umpqua River. The lush and green forest disappeared, supplanted by acres and acres of a tree graveyard. However, as is its wont, life abounded amid the snags.

Fireweed cotton

Fireweed was thriving on the sunny hillsides and the air was filled with their cottony seeds floating away on the slightest breezy provocation. A new forest is taking root here, and the canyon slopes were color-dotted by young vine maples and big-leaf maples turning yellow with autumn's onset. Fungi were happily engaged in the never-ending project of recycling dead trees to the musical accompaniment of twittering birds chirping at me from the brush as I hiked by. And because there were little or no live trees to block the view, the trail provided plenty of look-sees at the North Umpqua River coursing below.

Autumn is on the way

An unnamed creek had cut a pretty good-sized ravine, now littered with fallen trees toppled by the fire, but a stout footbridge made getting from one side to the other easy and safe. Although for the more daring, a fallen tree also spanned the ravine in tandem with the footbridge. I used the footbridge but back in the day, I would have been sorely tempted by the log crossing. At any rate, just after the bridged crossing and at a little over two miles in, the path returned to the lush and green forest.

Coral fungus, extra close up

Back in the forest, I popped the extension tubes onto the camera and began taking photos of all things small. Accordingly, I came home with lots of pictures of mushrooms, moss, and lichen. The red-hatted fruiting bodies of British soldiers, a distinctive and unique lichen, were an oft-favored photo topic from this outing. Slightly on the macabre side, a detached insect wing lying at a crime scene also made for a macroscopic photographic subject, the crime scene being a bed of moss on a stump. Needless to say, I was not in any particular hurry today.

A beetle naps on a yellowing fern frond

Despite the laconic indulgence of a sixty three year old tot playing with a new camera toy, I could not hike forever and turned back just before the North Umpqua Trail began a rather strenuous climb up and over Bob Butte. That's the good part about having a tender ankle, it's a ready-made excuse for avoiding a difficult hike. So it was an easy four miles back to the trailhead, enjoying all the forest, river, and other scenery all over again as the day wore into afternoon. What little sunlight filtered through the trees nicely dappled the trail and illuminated spotlighted maple leaves in spectacular fashion. And I'm happy to report the ankle in question survived the day's labor so I don't yet need to find a new hobby.

A small tribe of puffballs

For more photos of this hike, Please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment