Boulder Creek Wilderness (Oregon) 22-Feb-16

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

As part of our continuing project to hike (even just a little) in all of Oregon’s 47 wilderness areas (less the two that are aquatic), we took a drive north to the Boulder Creek Wilderness on the North Fork of the Umpqua River. It’s one of the few official wilderness areas that’s snow-free in winter. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive for us but we did get to see Mount Thielsen with a full snow cover on our way to the trailhead.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Mount Thielsen from Highway 230

We started at the Soda Springs Trailhead and then followed the Soda Springs Trail #1493 as it ducked below the penstock which feeds the small hydroelectric plant further down river.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Under the 10-foot in diameter penstock

The #1493 climbs up past the wilderness boundary,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Along the #1493 trail

past Soda Springs,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Soda Springs along the #1493 trail

to a junction with the Bradley Trail #1491. We took the Bradley west toward Pine Bench, out into an area devastated by the 1996 Spring Fire (the 2008 Rattle Fire burned even more of this wilderness).

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Snags from the 1996 Spring Fire

Our transit of this burned area was brief and we were soon entering the forest on Pine Bench that had been mostly spared by these fires.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Arriving at Pine Bench

Huge Ponderosa pines are a unique feature of this wilderness. Their survival on the bench is attributed to long taproots that can reach groundwater and a bark resistant to wildfires.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Truly majestic Ponderosa pines rise on Pine Bench

We were able to catch a glimpse of Mount Bailey to the east through some of the burned snags on the bench,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Mount Bailey through the snags

before reaching a junction with the Boulder Creek Trail #1552 . Note the wire loop that once held a forest telephone line insulator.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Wire loop (arrow) that used to hold a Forest Service telephone line insulator

Judging from the quality of the tread, the majority of the visitors to this area make it to the bench – with its open meadows and plentiful camp sites – and not much further.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Pine Bench

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

A meadow in Pine Bench

We decided to explore further north on the #1552, thinking we could reach the small waterfall on Boulder Creek at 2,300 feet. The #1552 is in good shape up to a short side trail to a spring on the left and a nice campsite on the right. Shortly after that it enters another burned area,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

A burned area along the #1552

and its quality deteriorates markedly. Efforts were made at some point to keep it clear of the larger fallen trees but there has been new blowdown (not show-stopper size but irritating) and some invasion by brush. It seemed to us that it gets far less use than do the trails to the bench. After about 0.7 miles, we came to a junction with the Perry Butte Trail (formerly USFS #1487), which was badly damaged by the fires and as a result has fallen off the USFS list of maintained trails in this wilderness. Fortunately, some members of the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club in Roseberg have been making a effort to keep Perry Butte open.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Start of the reclaimed Perry Butte Trail

We kept on but trail conditions remained irritating and the LovedOne began making mutinous noises such that reaching the waterfall seemed less and less likely.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Stuff like this quickly takes the “fun” out of hiking

We’d just reached a point where I could at least see the waterfall,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

The waterfall (arrow) was just in sight

when open rebellion broke out in the ranks. Rounding up the usual suspects and shooting the ringleaders seemed inadvisable in this case, so we headed back.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Sometimes an orderly retreat is your best choice

Rather than returning on the Bradley Trail, we continued south on the #1552 down a long set of sweeping switchbacks,

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Continuing on down the #1552

to a trailhead at a junction with an old road that comes down canyon from the powerhouse. You can supposedly drive to this lower trailhead but the road is pretty rough.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Continuing back on the old road past the powerhouse

We walked up the road to the Soda Springs Trailhead, stopping to be amazed by the contorted basalt columns forming the cliff across from the powerhouse.

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Basalt as art

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

More basalt art

A short (8.3 miles roundtrip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) but interesting hike on a bluebird day in a previously unvisited wilderness – 13 more wilderness’ to go!

Pine Bench Boulder Creek Wilderness Oregon

Our track around Pine Bench

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