Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jacksonville Forest Park

How did Jacksonville Forest Park ever escape my attention? Why have I never hiked here? The short answer is that I'd never heard of the place. I had heard of the nearby Jacksonville Woodlands trail system which is basically just across Highway 238 from Forest Park but I had never been on those trails either, my preconceived notion being that the Woodlands trails generally lack adequate mileage. But Forest Park has many trails and so many possible routes that are most hike-worthy in terms of both mileage and scenery. Actually, I have no idea if the trails are scenic or not as I have never been on them but based on my first time out, they probably are.

A tree gets a mossy hug

This was not going to be a long hike, thank my hernia very much! I did put together a route involving the Ol' Miner's, Owl Hoot, Atsahu, Arrowhead Pass, Shade Creek, Canyon Falls, Norling, and Rail Trails. It did not escape my attention there is also a Legburner Trail in the park which could be either good or bad, depending on the mood or inclination of a certain hernia. Anyway, like a couple of urban(ish) trail systems I've been on lately, like Cathedral Hills, a good map is essential to make sense of the numerous trail junctions encountered on most any hike in the park. There also are plenty of trail signs to orient hikers unfamiliar with Forest Park who, despite having a map and decades of experience, still managed to get a little misplaced while hiking here. 

Some of that local attraction on the Ol' Miners' Trail

After a short climb through a thick forest of young madrone, the Ol' Miners' Trail entered a hydraulic mining site, which consisted of a grassy area littered with rusting mining machinery. From there, the route continued uphill to a gold mining site that was off limits with an official detour around the site. The trail was probably closed here because quite obviously, a large number of trees had fallen on the trail. It was probably easier to create a detour than remove them all, or maybe there is some other compelling reason for the reroute. However, following the detour is where and how I got myself "misplaced", despite having a good map on hand.

It was this sign's fault!

My plan was to take the Owl Hoot Trail which would be intersecting my current trail from the left. So, when I ran into an unsigned but very clear trail that surely must be Owl Hoot Trail, a left turn was duly executed. Wow, this trail did not even pretend to be nice, heading straight up an exceedingly steep ridge crest forested with hardwood trees of various ilk, some of which were sprawled in fallen profusion across the trail. To make things worse, after nearly a mile of this, the path just ended. Just like that, with no fanfare or any other proclamation of Customer Appreciation Day. After some irritated "Hoot, mon!" utterances (or some salty variations thereof), there was nothing to do but return back to the junction that had originally led me astray.

Tall madrone trees surrounded the trail

Back on the Boulder Trail, in short succession I ran into the resumption of the Ol' Miner's Trail and the real Owl Hoot trail angling to the left. My legs and hernia had given their all on the Buzzard Fart Trail (my name for that Owl Hoot Trail imposter) and they now couldn't give two hoots about the Owl Hoot Trail. So, stay on the Boulder Trail it was, and that was fine for it was a nice and mostly level walk through woods of moss-covered trees interspersed with smooth-trunked madrones.

One of many small cascades on Jackson Creek

The sound of Jackson Creek trickling through the woods became more pervasive near a nexus of several trails intersecting near the rushing stream. After briefly exploring Norling Gulch, I beat a retreat back down to Jackson Creek and began the next phase of this little woodland sortie. The pleasant Canyon Falls Trail followed the creek on down the canyon. The vibe was somewhat canyonish and there were a number of noisy cascades that bordered on waterfall status. I'm not sure if any singular one of these falls were the famed and elusive Canyon Falls or whether the entire collection is referred to as Canyon Falls, but the walk along the bounding creek was my favorite part of the whole hike.

Bridge to nowhere

The loop hike was wrapped up by way of the Rail Trail, which sports an actual railway trestle that abruptly ends halfway across a ravine. Didn't see any pile of rusting train carcasses laying at the bottom of the ravine from which I deduced the missing trestle half probably disappeared long after mining trains last ran here. The hikers' footbridge crossing semi-stagnant Jacksonville Reservoir's outlet and dam looked very much like a trestle but at least it went all the way across, unlike its railroad bridge cousin.

This way to Rattlesnake Gulch

My hiking buddies Glenn and Carol had both given me sagacious advice not to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch, despite that alluring and enticing name. Seems like it's like a Richard Hike with none of the benefits. Well, with an endorsement like that, don't you know I just wanted to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch? Especially since the trail leaving the junction with the Rail Trail didn't look all that tough as it inclined up into the oak-dotted gulch. But for today, I listened to Glenn, Carol, and my hernia and decided to save that one for later, for I will be back to this charming little park.

Mossy tree trunks were a thing on the Canyon Falls Trail

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cut Creek/Bullards Beach Loop

During my usual wintertime pastime of browsing brochures, guidebooks, and websites, I came across a horse-trail map of Bullards Beach State Park. If I began at the Coquille River Lighthouse, I could cobble together a seven to eight mile route through the coastal woods and dunes lurking behind the beach. The allure of this route was that I had never been on the Cut Creek Trail, Northern Loop, and Tsunami Trail before, so all these routes were already pre-permeated with the alluring scent of new trail. Best of all, the terrain was fairly flat for the hernia-impaired and whatever could go wrong?

New camera took a picture of an old rock

Heh heh, a lot apparently, but more on that in a bit. First off, I was really excited about this hike because not only was this a brand new trail for me, but it was both a new trail AND a new camera! I had been having technical problems with my old camera so I ordered my accountant (to whom I'm married) to drop everything immediately and buy me a new camera, stat! That didn't work too well and I had to rephrase and resubmit so it sounded more like a politely worded request, plus I had to actually ask for permission, saying "please" and "thank you" and all that stupid polite stuff. But, after four days of impatient waiting, the camera arrived and it was now time to go play and hike. I think I was so overjoyed that I nearly ran across the dunes and capered through the woods like some of my uninhibited canine friends, hernia notwithstanding.

The mighty Coquille River

At any rate, the hike began near Bullards Beach Campground and I followed the paved trail overlooking the wide Coquille River to the Cut Creek Trailhead. Along the trail, Scotch broom heralded the coming hay fever season with a few desultory but vibrantly-colored yellow flowers. The paved pathway morphed into a soft brown trail comprised of decomposing pine needles flanked by a green coastal jungle and my new camera was immediately put to work.

Yes, this really is the trail

The Cut Creek Trail is primarily a horse trail and accordingly, begins at Bullards Beach Horse Camp. Upon entering the woods right at the start, I had to step around a puddle of water on the trail. The puddle was only an inch or two deep and I could nearly step across it with one manly stride. But that was too good to last. After the first puddle came another, and another, and another, etc. Each puddle was wider and deeper than the preceding puddle. It was kind of like a computer game in that you could brag "Hey, I made it to Puddle Level 14 today!" 

A knee-deep section of trail with a nice reflection

I'm not sure who Jack was but there is a Red Jack Trail and a Black Jack Trail that lead away from Cut Creek Trail to the beach. Both trails are about a quarter-mile long and hiking on either trail was eschewed in favor of the dubious hiking glory that awaited me on several miles of water-covered Cut Creek Trail. The surrounding terrain was heavily wooded and the thick growth made it nigh impossible to bushwhack around these puddles that now bordered on the size of small lakes. To make it worse, years of usage by the horse-riding crowd had turned the trail into an earthen trough and the puddles, just like teenagers the world over, now had a lot of lip. At some point, water began pouring into my erstwhile waterproof boots from above the ankles, making feet wet and cold. My boots were still mad at me over the Threemile Lake expedition and soon became pretty warm with justified ire. However, the icy coldness of the water kept any sweltering of feet to a minimum, but I got the point.

Trail shot (kidding!)

Suddenly, the path exited the woods and traversed a sandy track that was awesomely dry. Heh heh, that was just a joke played on me by trail-makers because the deep puddles soon resumed even if the dense woods did not. This was open marsh and beachgrass country and I found myself merrily splashing past a series of lakes and ponds that fortunately, were not part of the trail. I ran into several people exploring the dunes on horseback and while they seemed nice and all, I couldn't help but notice their steeds wading in water that nearly came up to their bellies, realizing that they were walking on the trail waiting for me in my immediate future. But after steeling my resolve and hoisting the new camera high, I bravely waded across while the riders, who had stopped to watch, applauded either my bravery or foolishness.

Pictures you take when standing in the surf

Well, after nearly three miles, it was nice to get out of all the standing water and on to the relatively dry confines of Bullards Beach. I had given up on the rest of the Northern Loop which, at a trail junction, appeared to have even more water on it than the Cut Creek Trail. Anyway, my loop route would be closed by a less taxing return on Bullards Beach. As I headed south towards the Coquille River, the day gradually changed from sunny to cloudy, and the surf transitioned to high tide. Normally, I'd run from the incoming waves but what the heck, my boots and the feet contained within were already soaking wet so what would be the point. I stayed put, letting the surf wash around my ankles while I photographed the scene. 

The North Loop was even more waterlogged!

So, to summarize, this was one wet-footed endeavor whether on beach or through woods. Sounds like a great hike to me, and don't listen to my boots! For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Cooper Creek Reservoir

Some random notes and observations from a recent round of health stuff: CT scanners resemble giant electronic donuts standing on edge and as they slide you in and out of the hole like so much jelly filling, but it doesn't really seem like much of anything really happens. However, the size of the bill afterward says something large and wondrous definitely happened. Also, the iodine injection associated with the scan gave me hot flashes that made me think this manly specimen was going through manopause. And speaking of manly specimens (besides the urine sample in the paper cup), why is this particular charter member of the male species afflicted with a hernia? Shouldn't it be called a hisnia? Asking for a friend.

Bird's nest fungus adorns a twig on the forest floor

At any rate, I'm not completely banned from hiking before the requisite hernia surgery but I've been instructed not to do any strenuous hikes. There's some wiggle room in that edict in that it is up to me to decide what is strenuous or not, "You know best what a hard hike is and what's not" said the doctor. I see what she did there, she put the onus on me should there be any hernia-related pre-surgery complications. Guess I'll have to keep my hikes mild in the interim, like this one around Cooper Creek Reservoir.

Jeff and Kim were training for their
upcoming Pacific Crest Trail through-hike

Beginning at the reservoir's dam, about fifteen hikers set sail with the first ten or so rapidly disappearing from the last five's sight within minutes. The morning was cool and quiet with low cloud cover fogging up the surrounding forested hills and mountains. The lake was still as a mouse hoping the hawk soaring overhead doesn't see it, and the mirrorlike surface reflected the clouds previously mentioned. Initially, the trail hugged the southern shore and we hiked exclusively on the cold and shady side of the lake.

C'mon in, the water's gross!

The lake's waters were colored an unappealing greenish brown, but then again it is winter and the tributary creeks run muddy this time of year. Later in the year the water will blue up and in the interim, we'll just have to restrain ourselves from drinking the water or jumping in for a quick dip. After several miles of hiking in a forest of young trees with the forest floor carpeted by ferns, red-fronded Oregon grape plants, and small lavender-flowered snow queen, we reached a broad meadowed swale that was the Cooper Creek inlet and the end of the lake.

The good part of the trail

We crossed Cooper Creek via a wide footbridge as we rounded the lake. From here on in, we'd be hiking back in the direction of the dam and trailhead. The trail used to end at a boat ramp and hikers then had the choice of completing the loop around the lake via paved roadway or returning back the way we had come for a longer distance with no loop around the lake. While we ate lunch at a scenic overlook replete with picnic table, Lane walked over to the boat ramp to unleash his inner Cooper Creek, so to speak. As we were gearing up for a return via trail, Lane came back waving his hands and yelling in that cute squeaky voice of his that the trail continued on past the boat ramp. Hey, maybe the circumnavigation of the lake had finally been completed!

The nice new trail begins a disappointing fade into obscurity

Our local mountain biking club has been diligently working on completing the trail around the lake, and initially, the new section of trail was freshly cut into the vegetation and soil but eventually petered out to a faint track covered by numerous fallen trees. Here, most of our group decided to walk uphill to the roadway and return via said roadway. After a brief round of pointless dithering, Michael, Lane, and I decided to continue on the faint path and bushwhack if need be, should the trail tread disappear altogether. Michael's dog Boog had no say-so in the matter.

A hike in need of a trail

Whew, that was work! Most of the last two miles were spent contouring a steep slope and ankles (and paws, too!) were soon fatigued from the constant sidehilling. Some enterprising and kind soul had left a trail of pink ribbon "bread crumbs" for us to follow yet on more than one occasion, we lost the official "unofficial" track in the thick and scratchy brush. Yet, the forest was green and lush, even if scratchy, and the lake was always below, sparkling in the afternoon sun like so many rhinestones on an Elvis impersonator's costume.

Lane, Michael, and Boog reach the boater's picnic area

It was jarring to suddenly leave the lakeside tangle of brush and brambles and stroll out onto a grassy picnic area but hey, after all that, we happily accepted the trail gods' beneficence. Tuned out we were on a boaters' but not a hikers' picnic area and we had one more bushwhack scramble to perform, much to the amusement of our road walker colleagues watching us and loudly pointing out that the only way up to the road was through thorny and skin-raking blackberry brambles. We responded in kind by pointing out that the road walkers were a bunch of namby-pambies at which point Rheo objected. Seems like while Lane, Michael, and I were busy handwringing over what to do, she just lowered her head and charged solo through the brush ahead of us. And here we thought we were such bad-ass trailblazers! At any rate, we conceded her point and granted an honorary membership into the He-Man Hiking Club. Boog was also granted an honorary membership, even if he was carried over fallen trees on occasion.

Thanks, guys!

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

Friday, February 5, 2021

Rainie Falls

It's February already, yet this is only my second hike of 2021. At this rate, I'm on pace to wind up with 48 miles on 12 hikes this year. I'd hiked so little recently my knees were oxidizing and in sore need of some life-giving hiking oil. Accordingly, younger brother Don and I set up a hike at Takelma Gorge but snowy weather caused us to postpone that little venture for a later date. The Rogue River was nearby though, and situated below snowy weather elevation, thereby making the Rogue our impromptu Plan B. And because I felt as rusted over as the Tin Man, Rainie Falls was chosen simply because it was not as rigorous as the up-and-down Rogue River Trail on the opposite side of the river from the Rainie Falls Trail.
A cold day all around

Despite being shorter though, the Rainie Falls Trail is a lot more rugged. The trail is crudely chiseled into cliff faces above the river and the tread is rough and rocky in a lot of places, rendering both of our inner mountain goats ecstatic. Although we'd get neither snow nor rain on this day, it was frosty cold and was all that was needed for actual snowfall was just some precipitation. The surrounding mountains disappeared into a low cloud cover on a gray day and no doubt the mountains did have snow higher up.

Numerous seasonal creeks ran across the trail

It was readily made apparent that this hike would be all about water. Of course, the rain-swollen Rogue River coursed below the trail and was eminently visible for virtually the entire hike. But weeks of rain and snow created new creeks and runoffs while replenishing and rejuvenating old ones. Don likes to take videos and I like to photograph, so we basically hiked in same style, which consisted of frequent stops to take photos or videos or all of the above.

Not the smoothest trail in the world

There was a duality to this hike in that the time and miles were equally split between trail etched into exposed rocky cliffs and lush forest green and vibrant; one or the other with no in-between. The forest was that odd Siskiyou mix we know and love, being comprised of strange tree-fellows madrone, myrtlewood, cedar, oak, and fir. Don and I crumpled up myrtlewood leaves between our fingers, enjoying the sweet intoxicating aroma emanating from the bruised leaves.

Don hikes through the ferns and Oregon myrtle

A fellow Pacific Northwest nature geek once admonished me "Do NOT call it bay laurel, it is Oregon myrtle!" Yes sir, and I dutifully obeyed so as not to be unfriended or written out of the will. However, if you look up "Oregon myrtle", you will find it also called "California bay laurel" and please don't hit me. All this discussion of laurel vs. myrtlewood is because Don speculated myrtlewood is a true bay laurel endemic to northern California and southern Oregon. That sent me to some online research where I found out: a) it is not a true laurel although the fragrant leaves smell as such and b) the range is the entire California coast and about half of the Oregon coast and c) I am the smarter and better looking brother.

Some madrone orangery among all the greenery

We had a similar discussion about the range of madrone, he thought it was likewise limited to Oregon and northern California. Actually, madrone can be found the world over but our particular madrone species, the Pacific madrone, grows only on the west coast from San Diego to the Vancouver Island area in British Columbia. Good thing Don and I did not discuss any other species of flora or fauna because otherwise I'd still be immersed in this research project, but I spare no effort to prove to my readers that I am always right. 

Good thing the river gods aren't hungry

This time of year, the winter rains and snows fill up the Rogue River and naturally, the river was silty, fast, and wide. The extra water just overwhelms Rainie Falls, making it seem more like a watery speed bump for the rafting and kayaking crowd instead of the feared river obstacle it is. However, the strong and powerful current is still plenty capable of chewing up careless boaters and spitting out the husks like so many used-up sunflower seed hulls. The inherent danger didn't necessarily stop us from standing right at the edge but on the other hand, we both have cool photos and videos of the falls. Maybe neither one of us is the smarter brother.

It was cliffy and we liked it

After a nice little lollygag, it was back the way we came and we got to experience the awesome Rogue River Scenery all over again. The ponderous bulk of the greenish-brown river flowed in the bottom of its canyon and we observed many creeks waterfalling down the mountainsides before splashing into or onto the river. This was Don's first visit to the Rogue River and much like all newbies I have brought here in years past, he was reliably awed. Mission accomplished, especially since I didn't hurt any more body parts on the hike, which is something you say when you are the older brother.

Don saw the Rogue River, and
he smiled and said it was good

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.