Monday, January 20, 2020

North Umpqua Trail (Swiftwater Segment)

Three weeks into the new year and I finally get in my first hike of 2020. Wow, that puts me on pace for a whopping 130 miles for the year! If I want more miles than that, and I do, I guess I really need to hike more often.

It didn't rain, looks can be deceiving
Weather, concerts, and just a wee bit of laziness had all conspired to keep me from my perennial New Year resolution of hiking more. However, enough is enough and it was time to confront my inner slothfulness and whatever weather was lying in wait for me on the trail. There was a high likelihood of precipitation as it had been raining all week but as it turned out, the only weather issue was that it was cold, getting close to but not quite freezing. But thankfully, no water fell from the sky during my short visit to the North Umpqua Trail. There was plenty of water on the ground though, and all the little creeks along the North Umpqua Trail were running as full and noisy as a constipated goat. Boots did get wet, but, that's a lot more preferable than atmospheric rivers waterfalling from the sky, drenching me from above.

White staghorn fungus was plentiful next to the trail
The Swiftwater Segment was chosen as the destination du jour simply because a friend of mine had posted a photo of the view from Bob Butte and what Tim can do, so can I. Setting out from the Susan Creek Day Use Area, I grabbed the Emerald Trail which is a short connector trail to Tioga Bridge. Emerald was the key color of the forest, as anything not moving fast enough was cloaked and covered with copious layers of moss. I spent a few minutes crawling through the forest cover in search of snow queen, one of the first wildflowers to bloom. While I found many budding out, none were displaying the small lavender flowers that I wanted to photograph. At least my hands and knees got dirty.

Lichen on a tree trunk
It was kind of a slow walk on the Emerald Trail, for there were so many standing trees with small (tiny, even) mushrooms, lichen, and moss thriving on the trunks: much photography ensued. Below the trail, the turquoise'ish waters of the North Umpqua River coursed by, swollen with rain runoff this time of year. Leafless maple trees provided some color what with their mossy branches and trunks contrasting against the dark gray of the sky.

The Tioga Bridge is like the 12th Wonder of the World
The Tioga Bridge was constructed in 2012 and it amazes me that you can still smell the creosote on the stout timbers. The arched bridge is not only stout, but scenic as well and a few minutes were spent taking pictures of the span and the river flowing underneath. On the other side of the river, a T-intersection with the North Umpqua Trail heralded the beginning of the real hike, but not before I stopped to photograph a creek cascading right next to the trail junction. Whew, with so many things to appreciate and look at, it sure was hard to commence hiking in earnest.

The creeks were in full torrent on this day
This portion of the North Umpqua Trail is on a gravel road bed and the grade was gentle as it angled uphill away from the river. Cedar fronds waved over the trail, and mushrooms along with  the ever ubiquitous moss consumed dead trees both standing and fallen. The forest ground cover was a dense and sodden green knee-high carpet of fern, salal, and Oregon grape. Periodically, rustic footbridges spanned the frequent creeks running across the trail. Hikers who like to photograph really appreciate the rustic bridges because the rails allow one to take those exquisite slow creek shots without having to pack a tripod.  

The "real" trail enters the forest
After several miles of this, the trail departed the road bed and became a real trail with rough tread. Unfortunately, this led to the only un-scenic portion of the hike when the path ran underneath some power lines for a brief bit. Much photography did not ensue. Once past the buzzing power lines, the trail entered the forest and I was back in business with the camera.

Bob Creek flows below the footbridge
The path was dropping rapidly in the forest and Bob Creek came into view with plenty of white water shining through the trees. I might not have been able to see the creek much, but I sure could hear it. Running full, the stream was loud as it rambunctiously tumbled over boulders in the bottom of its canyon. At yet another stout footbridge over the boisterous torrent, more photography ensued. I've hiked here before, but nearby Bob Butte had always been hidden up in the clouds which conveniently provided me the cover (pun intended) to avoid the hike up. But today, the dark clouds were high enough to allow views so I cinched up my internal fortitude and continued hiking past Bob Creek.

Let the uphill begin!
Oof! That was kind of steep for the first hike of the year and my winter-atrophied leg muscles were soon complaining. But hey, I like hot food, so I'm used to ignoring the burn and I did that very thing as I trudged up the switchbacking trail through the forest. Just as the trail broke out into the open, I met up with the only other hikers I'd see all day. These two ladies were on the first leg of their goal of hiking the entire 78 miles of the North Umpqua Trail by dayhike. Cool, and so nice to see ambition on the trail.

View of the North Umpqua River canyon from Bob Butte
There is an open area on the side of Bob Butte, consisting of low growing grass and a bunch of rocks. Water seeps out of the ground here and all the rocks were accordingly covered with moss. Oak trees, seemingly out of place among all the conifer and maple, dotted the green slope. And of course, the open greensward provided an impressive view of the North Umpqua River canyon upstream. Small nearby peaks were covered with snow, and I probably was just several hundred feet below snow level.

A rock feels true love's mossy embrace
After a brief stay where I couldn't really sit down because of all the water seeping out of the ground, it was back the way I came, where I could enjoy the creeks and forest all over again. But at least it was all downhill, excepting the climb away from Bob Creek, and leg muscles were appreciative of that. So, the first hike of the year came in a little under seven miles, and my poor flaccid body felt every bit of it. But that was to be expected since it had been about a month since I last had hiked. I really should do this more often. 

Moss rules all on the North Umpqua Trail
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Well, you 2020 hiking has started now! Good to know you are still out there and that someone else also feels pains when hiking uphill. We shall have to hook up and hike when the weather cooperates a little more. We keep checking on the clubs hikes too. Keep on trekin'!