Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Cooper Creek Reservoir Trail

One of the many hats I wear is that of Treasurer for the Umpqua Velo Club, a local organization that dabbles in all things bicycle. One active branch of the club goes by the acronym of LUMBR, which cleverly stands for Land of the Umpqua Mountain Bike Riders. One of LUMBR's pet projects has been promoting and maintaining a mountain bike trail around nearby Cooper Creek Reservoir. Because of my affiliation with the bike club, I was well aware that a nice mountain bike trail ran alongside the lake, but it never occurred to me to think of the trail in terms of hiking until the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club went hiking there on a rainy day when snow precluded them from visiting the McKenzie River Trail.

Trail, as it goes through the shady part of the forest
Unfortunately, on that day I had some kind of stomach bug (that was not coronavirus!), and had to sit out that hike. But, after seeing the photos from the club hike and reading the glowing reviews of the trail, I decided I had to experience the Cooper Creek Reservoir Trail for myself. But great minds think alike and the Wednesday group I've been hiking with decided to go there also, and that is the story of how I came to hike this trail for the very first time ever.

Impressionist painting on the lake's surface
Unlike the weekend hike that I did not attend, the weather on this Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day in southwestern Oregon. There wasn't a cloud in the clear blue sky and the temperature was mild, which is always perfect for hiking. We usually number four hikers, but on this fine spring morn we doubled our customary attendance, reaching the lofty number of eight participants.

Dam hikers, pun intended
At the hike's outset, the trail left the parking lot and crossed the reservoir's grassy dam. The lake is finger-like, being long and narrow in shape and form, and we could look down several miles of the reservoir's narrow channel. The air was still and quiet as we hiked across the dam, and the water was like a polished mirror what with the surrounding forest and overlying sky reflecting nicely on the glassy surface. However, the fine spring day sort of came to a screeching halt when the trail entered the forest on the south side of the lake.

The air up there

The trail on the south shore triggered chilly flashbacks to my last hike on the North Umpqua Trail, which had taken place in cold shade the entire day. The Cooper Creek Reservoir Trail had the same vibe as the sun (and the warmth that comes along with it) was just a rumor as we hiked up and down in the forest. The uphill portions of the trail were neither steep nor long so we really couldn't generate our own human-powered heat, so jackets and sweaters remained on.

Trail tunnel through some damp vegetation
If I have any complaint about this trail, it's that logging has taken place fairly close to the trail. On the hillside above us was a large clearcut with an insufficient forest buffer between that and the trail. On top of that, the motor of a bulldozer growled noisily from somewhere above the path. The best thing to do on this hike, was to keep eyes focused to the left, where the blue lake reposed in its scenic little basin.

Oregon grape, all lit up
The forest next to the trail was lush, with ferns growing in frondly profusion. Spring wildflowers were already gracing the trail, the culprits being mainly snow queen, woodland violet, coltsfoot, oaks toothwort, and hound's tongue (which made me think of my ex-wife, for some reason).

A pair of geese warily keep an eye on us
While the lake's shape was basically long and slender, the trail did have to contour around small inlets here and there. By virture of our tromping presence, we irritated several mated pairs of Canadian geese looking to start a family near the lake. The honks of irked geese and the quacking of startled ducks was a common sound wafting across the lake's waters throughout the day.

Lichen hangs from some leafless oaks
Periodically, the forest thinned out and we did get to enjoy the sun on rare and wondrous occasions. But, when we rounded the Cooper Creek inlet on a rustic footbridge at the far end of the lake, the trail ambled through low grassy patches and we were mostly bathed in restorative sunlight. The warm sun replenished our Vitamin D levels and after hiking roughly three miles in a cold and shady forest, it felt so good.

Cooper Creek Reservoir
The trail does not go all the way around the lake, so the logical turnaround point was a boat ramp at about the four-mile mark. From the ramp, we backtracked to a nearby picnic bench on a grassy point and enjoyed a lengthy lunch 'n laze in the warm sun while enjoying the view of the lake ensconced in its wooded valley. But alas, all good things come to an end and we ruefully headed back the way we came.

The trail was freshly maintained
Right now, the trail only goes around about three-quarters of the lakeshore but the plan is for the path to eventually circumnavigate the entire lake. LUMBR has done a great job removing winter downfall (although there was one patch with dozens of fallen trees sprawled partially on the trail) and are to be commended for their fine work. Other hands are also busy restoring this trail however, for we encountered a small trail crew armed with chainsaws heroically toiling to improve the trail. There was also a small bulldozer thingy that was widening the path and smoothing out the rough spots. Apparently, their task is to widen the trail so that two people can walk on it side-by-side. I can't wait to return after the next round of improvements are completed.

Clawing at the sky
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Glad to hear the trail is progressing around the reservoir. Did you consider taking the road back from your turnaround point? It would have been mostly in the sun.