Wednesday, July 6, 2022

North Umpqua Trail (Deer Leap Segment)

At Medicine Creek and about three years ago, a huge boulder went on a gravity-induced rampage through the forest along the North Umpqua River. Trees stood no chance against the humongous rock and one tree in particular, was leveraged into karate-chopping the stout hikers' footbridge on the North Umpqua Trail into two large sections of kindling. Somewhat surprising after several years though, the bridge still remains unrepaired and unusable for hiking. To continue on the North Umpqua Trail's Deer Leap Segment from the Soda Springs Trailhead, hikers are forced to bushwhack down to the creek and then either wade or rock-hop across.

Bridge with a back problem

Friend Missy and I set out on the North Umpqua Trail on an overcast morning and within a third of a mile, we ran into the aforementioned crime scene at Medicine Creek. A large destroyed footbridge is truly an awesome sight to behold and we gawked for a bit before actually doing the tedious work of scrambling down to the creek, and then wading (me) or rock-hopping (Missy) across. From there it was a short but steep scramble (both of us) up to the North Umpqua Trail, where in essence, the real hike commenced.

Some of that morning rain on the local vegetation

It had been raining for days prior to this hike but the rain had stopped and apparently this was the day for the storm to dissipate into happy blue sky oblivion. We couldn't fully celebrate being dry, however, as the burgeoning spring vegetation was only too happy to transfer idling water drops stored on leaves and flowers onto the clothing of passing hikers.

Slide Creek slides on by

We passed several creeks crossing the trail but only Slide Creek was deemed worthy of a name. We decamped from the fully intact hiker's bridge there and attempted to get closer to the stream tumbling though its rocky defile. Missy got on a mossy boulder that was canted at an incline towards the creek and the moss let loose and she had a scary glissade that stopped just short of sending her into what surely would have been a painful freefall into the creek and surrounding rocks. Maybe that's why it's called Slide Creek!

Remnant of an ancient landslide

No, Slide Creek did not get its name from Missy nearly sliding into the creek. As we hiked away from the creek, we passed by the obvious remnants of an ancient rockslide that gave Slide Creek its name, the slide now covered with a thick layer of moss. Besides the rockslide, other geologic formations loomed between the intervening trees in the lush forest, as rocky cliffs, spires, and ramparts all stood at attention in permanent testimony to the volcanic origins of the North Umpqua River terrain.

There was plenty of uphill hiking 

The hike gained nearly two thousand feet of elevation over the course of three-plus miles, testing our mettle somewhat but I'm glad to report we were both up to the challenge. By now, the sun was making a concerted effort to warm the day and the combination of wet plant life and hiking exertion turned this hike into a rather humid, sweaty, and smelly affair. And the same goes for me, too!

Candystick emerges 

The season was spring, and to go along with the rampant greenery was rampant flowering with a multitude of colors on display. The rhododendron bushes were still festooned with large pink blossoms but clearly their blooming glory was on the wane. I pointed out to Missy the white and pink flowers of prince's pine and she suggested that become my trail name. White hyacinth, yellow tarweed, and brown wild ginger flowers all represented their respective slices of the color spectrum and we also spotted the striking red and white canes of candystick emerging onto the forest floor from some subterranean sugar shop in the dark earth beneath. 

Nice view, but don't get too close to the edge

The downhill side of the trail dropped away rather abruptly, making for a dizzying overlook of the North Umpqua River coursing over a thousand feet below. I always thought deer with broken hearts leaping to their deaths to squelch their sorrow was how the Deer Leap Segment got its name, but that's just me, because everybody knows deer are heartless creatures. At any rate, we enjoyed the view of the river, canyon, and mountains a safe distance away from the sheer edge of the rim.

The sun came out as we descended to the trailhead

After about four miles of going uphill, the trail finally crested and began to head downhill. Pleased to be hiking downhill but unwilling to surrender our hard-earned elevation gain only to have to regain it on the way back, we called it good and ate lunch at a level spot among some manzanita bushes. On the return leg, it was the same old sublime forest scenery all over again, but happily it was a pleasant downhill walk this time.

Missy picks her way down to Medicine Creek

After crossing over Slide Creek, where we both avoided any near-falls this time, we returned to the wreckage of the Medicine Creek Bridge. From there it was a sketchy drop down to the creek, and from there it was another simple wade (me) across Medicine Creek or a complicated and arduous rock-hop (Missy) that had her wishing she could just do a Deer Leap across. Maybe that's how Deer Leap got its name.

Lava formations were a common sight next to the trail

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

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