Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cooper Creek Reservoir

The day before this little outing at Cooper Creek Reservoir, I had hiked on the Bolt Mountain Trail under mostly sunny skies and relatively warm sunlight. The one exception to the summery vibe occurred when I rounded the north side of the mountain, where the temperature dropped precipitously in a hint of things to come this winter. Fortunately, that frigid little interlude was relatively short-lived as I emerged back into the bright sun after a mile of hiking in the cold. Contrast that with this day's hike along Cooper Creek Reservoir where the gray day was as unflinchingly cold as a predator's calculating gaze. Seemed like, at least on this day, the entire world was on a cosmic north-facing slope.

A very calm and quiet lake and morning

This was a hike among friends and the five of us began hiking in easy companionship across the lake's dam, the cold air slapping our rosy cheeks (of our faces, to be clear) like an outraged diva. Winter cometh and noses runneth, and I hadn't brought gloves or a knit cap so right away my fingers went numb and my head went dumb, thanks to the frosty temperature. Because fingers are not overrated, my hands took alternate turns at some quality pocket time, and cold digits were grateful until their time in the warm pocket was up. The runny nose problem was taken care of with perfunctory swipes from the back of my non-pocket hand and I wonder why nobody will shake hands or fist-bump with me.

The lake needs to kick its smoking habit

All members of our party were Cooper Creek regulars since the lake is so close to Roseburg and we get out there fairly often. Accordingly, it was readily apparent to all concerned that despite the recent runs of rain, the lake level was pretty low. Exposed shores or not, the lake was as preternaturally calm and serene as a monk in deep meditation. The scenery was in grayscale though, seeing as how the sky was overcast, and the dark waters of the lake could only reflect back the same overall grayness. Vapor emanated from the black water of the lake as we hiked by, ourselves uncharacteristically matching the tranquility out of respect for the peaceful scene. We also matched the whole vapor-emanating thing too, as our breaths hung in the still air like so many miniscule cumulonimbus clouds.

Salal contributes some local color

The forest surrounding the lake was damp and sodden thanks to the aforementioned recent rains. There were still some vestigial remnants of autumn in the form of colorful blackberry, salal, and wild rose leaves; along with occasional yellow maple leaves still clinging to life and mother tree alike. Where there were maple trees, the path was carpeted with dead leaves underneath and our boots churned the leafy detritus into the muddy trail. The overall dampness on the trail tread created a few unexpected mud-ski and skating "opportunities" for hikers every now and then.

Trail through a damp forest
next to an even damper lake
The morning had warmed up a degree or two as we hiked along the quiet lake but the exertion of hiking was the primary reason for warming erstwhile cold bodies. The trail around Cooper Creek Reservoir is not particularly rugged but does serve up a regular dose of up and down hiking. So, winter cometh but hiking warmeth uth. Tho thorry.

A meadow forms where there once was a lake

Cooper Creek Reservoir is long and narrow, almost fjord-like, and the trail rounded the Cooper Creek inlet end after a couple of miles. As mentioned, the lake was low and the retreating shoreline had been supplanted in turn by a rather vigorous meadow of tall grass, mostly dry and desiccate this time of year. Now heading back in the general direction of where we had started from, we stopped for a lunch and laze at a convenient picnic table near the boat ramp.

The forested part of our hike

At this point we discussed options for the remainder of the hiking route. We could turn around and go back the way we came or we could continue on and circumnavigate the body of water. The circumnavigation could be completed by either a road walk or by bushwhacking along the shore. John, Patty, and I (namby-pambies!) opted for the road walk, which I'd never done before, while honorary he-men Jennifer and Gayle (and canine friend Sammy) opted to bushwhack around. All routes were soon perfunctorily hiked and we all met up at the trailhead in short order.

Blackberry does not have black leaves

The cold conditions on this hike were not necessarily dire but they did serve as warning for what is to come. Accordingly, my day pack has since been restocked with winter essentials such as crampons, mittens, ski cap, balaclava, and a flask of scotch which will almost guarantee that none of those items will ever be needed (excluding the scotch, that's always useful) during a winter hike. That's just how it works. 

Almost too quiet!

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

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