Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 12 - Umpqua River, Oregon

Day 12

Saturday, September 27, 2008

We planned to visit Crater Lake National Park this day, and stay the night in Eagle Point, where we would attend church the next day. Plans changed when we reached the Colliding Rivers viewpoint and picnic area in Glide, Oregon, at the west edge of the Umpqua National Forest. After a picnic lunch we visited the information center at the ranger station, where the staff member gave us a map to “dispersed campsites” in the area. Dispersed meaning unimproved, free, and remote – emphasis on remote. She also gave us a brochure with directions to the many waterfalls in the area, the first of which was Deadline Falls on the Umpqua River. Described as “short but massive”, it was a short quarter-mile walk from a parking lot just off the highway.

We talked to a nice jogger in the parking lot, who told us it was probably not the right time of year to see the salmon jumping up the falls (on their way to spawn upriver), but that the walk would be pleasant. Indeed it was pleasant. Tyson especially liked the moss that draped from the pine branches. The curtains of moss were a couple feet long, so not quite as long as the moss I saw in the New Orleans area. I can’t wait to take Tyson there so he can see some *really* impressive moss. We were at the far western end of the North Umpqua Trail, a 75-mile trail system that runs along the river. After viewing the falls and reading about the perilous spawning journey of the native salmon, we headed back to the car and returned to the highway.

We wanted to take a look at some of the dispersed camping, in case we wanted to camp that night. As I perused the packet of dispersed campground descriptions, I saw that most of them were very far from the main highway, with directions along the lines of “Turn right at Milepost 7 onto Apple Creek Road, proceed for 7 miles, then turn left on to Forest Service Road 404 for 9 miles, then turn right on FS 477 (unpaved) for 5 miles, then turn right on FS spur road 479 for 1.5 miles, then hike .5 miles from the trailhead.” Whoa! Some of the access roads were closed due to a forest fire in the area, so that further limited our options. I found one that described an old fire lookout shelter at a place called Cougar Bluffs that was “only” about 16 miles from the highway, so we decided to at least go take a look.

Let me tell you, without our GPS, we would have been totally lost, and even with it, we were still lost a couple of times. The roads were steep and winding, and we could only drive about 25 miles per hour. We eventually found what seemed like would be called “bluffs”, but we couldn’t find the trailhead. We turned around and went back 1.5 miles on a wild dirt road, only to find we were on the right road after all. On the second try, I saw the trail, and we hiked a third of a mile to the little shelter where the fire lookout rangers stayed before there were paved roads in the area. Turns out we were only a four-mile hike from the highway. It took us as long to drive to the camping area as it would have taken us to hike there!

Like I said, we weren’t set on camping, as we had planned to continue on to Crater Lake that day. However, we were now so far up in the mountains, it was going to take us an hour just to get back down, so we decided to set up camp and bag our Crater Lake plans. Unfortunately, this also meant bagging our church plans for the next day, which I was disappointed about. Relaxing in the remote camp spot was lovely, though. We read our books and drank hot chocolate and tried to ignore the ever-encroaching smoke from the forest fire.

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