Lightweight Backpacking After 60 in the Rogue Valley

Umpqua River

North Umpqua Camping – Flowers, Ferns and Fire

Mary E., Chiyemi D., Bill D., George H. and Terry D. spent three days on the North Umpqua River in Douglas County, a couple hour drive northeast of Ashland. One hesitates to call this backpacking even though it was enjoyed as much and the preparation was identical. I suppose it was the 0.5 mile hike in to the campsite. If you forgot your sunglasses, it was easy enough to walk back to the cars to get them.

There was an abundance of water, both cold and hot: river and hot springs respectively. Water made the moss and ferns luxuriously deep and glowing green everywhere one looked. Two hikes: one upriver an hour (where we found the dragon – see picture) on the first afternoon and then to the hot springs arranged in a series of 5 or 6 hot-tub sized pools the next morning where bathing suits were definitely optional.

Chiyemi gave fire-building lessons and all enjoyed the warmth in the cool evenings and mornings. Very light sprinkle the second (and last) night but always bright sun-shiny days. The canyon of the river kept light out of the campsite until 10am and the sun disappeared over the western ridge early in the long midsummer evenings.

Bailey the wonder-dog accompanied us and was a delight to all with his friendliness and love of attention: petting was required by all. The final stop was at Beckies in Union Creek for lunch on Tuesday. See the last chair photos. A gallery of photos is below the slideshow if you want to enjoy just a few pictures.

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North Umpqua River: Jun 19-21

Hikers: Mary E., Bill D., Mary K.; Dogs: Bailey

Mary E. was originally going to lead a hike into the Trinity Alps, but there was still too much snow on June 19th, so she put her head together with Bill and they decided on hiking a a section of the 79 mile North Umpqua River Trail northeast of Crater Lake National Park in the Umpqua National Forest.

June 19th: We gathered at Bill’s place early and since we were such a small group, took off in one car. It was a beautiful day to drive in the forest. The section of the North Umpqua Trail that Mary chose to hike was called the “Dread and Terror” section–a dramatic name given by forest workers on nearby Dread and Terror Ridge where they were plagued by thick stands of whitethorn ceanothus brush with vicious thorns. Thankfully, this was the polar opposite of our experience on this trip. We checked in at the Diamond Lake Ranger Station for updates and more info, then were on our way up the dirt road toward Umpqua Hotsprings Trailhead, where we parked. Finding the beginning of the river trail going east was difficult–no signs. A careful reading of the guidebook got us started in the right direction. We almost immediately encountered a beautiful cascading waterfall, the first of several along the river. Wildflowers were abundant due to the wet spring.

After hiking about 3 miles, we decided to find a base camp for the day hike tomorrow. At the ranger station they had said there was a camp about 3 miles up the trail. We saw a potential campsite, but it was on gravel, so we continued to a site next to the river that took a little bushwhacking to get to. There was a gravel and sand bar that provided just enough room for two tents. We gratefully shed our packs and made camp. It was peaceful sleeping right next to the river, and the breeze helped to minimize bugs. We also had a campfire–there was plenty of downed wood.

June 20th: After a leisurely breakfast, we took off east, ambling along the fairly level trail next to the river. The trail is canopied with large old Douglas firs and other conifers. We stopped to admire wildflowers and swore to bring a flower identification book next time to solve identification issues. We passed a trail junction that would lead to the Dread and Terror Ridge proper, but we decided to stay along the river. We stopped for lunch a few miles down the trail. Bill looked across the river and saw the small bush like nest of a water ouzel/dipper perched on a log overhanging the water. The bird was close by, hunting in the shallow water making its characteristic bobbing motion. It was a great sighting. We were entertained for quite a while. Mary E., Bill and Bailey headed back to the base camp to relax. Mary K. continued on for several miles. There was another waterfall farther along the trail and many new kinds of wildflowers that she took pictures of to identify later. We spent the evening at the campfire.

June 21: We broke camp and hiked out about 9 AM to get a head start on the drive back and have time to enjoy the hotsprings. Even though there were quite a few cars at the hotsprings parking lot, the springs themselves were not that crowded. We took a short trail to the hotsprings after we changed clothes at the car. There are about 5-6 pools dug into the hillside with a dramatic view of the North Umqua River. The hottest pools are at the top of the slope. One pool has a roof built over it. Mary E. and Mary K. checked out two of the pools. It was almost too hot of a day to stay in the hotsprings very long, although it was relaxing.

On the way home we stopped to eat at Beckie’s Restaurant at Union Creek and indulged in beer and the famous burgers there.

We only sampled a small section of the North Umpqua Trail this time–it would be a good to hike more along this trail and see what other sections have to offer.

Next year: stay at the forest service created campground that is just .2 mile in from the trailhead. It is big and level and right next to a beautiful waterfall. Because of this short distrance to the trailhead, one could take in the hotsprings in the morning, which would be much more refreshing than in the middle of a hot day, like we did. Also, there would be more time to explore the waterfalls that are mainly at the beginning of the trail. On either the first and/or the second day, one could dayhike as far as one likes upriver or even explore the Dread and Terror Ridge (although the book said it wasn’t very wonderful). It would make a beautiful, fun, and easy hike.