With the sun beaming above us and the Little River flowing beside us, we drove until the pavement turned to gravel and then kept going for another seven miles until we came to the Lake in the Woods.
The warm 70-degree spring weather was a perfect setting for a family picnic and hike.
After breakfast, preparations started for a picnic and by 11 a.m. we were on our way to go into the Umpqua National Forest.
Freshly mowed lawns and well-kept fields turned into fields covered in wildflowers. The forest grew thicker and thicker as our trip went on.
Once the pavement ended, the road was shaded by the tree cover and the temperature dropped to provide a nice spring day, instead of some of the sweltering days we had encountered recently.
We parked our car near the entrance to the Lake in the Woods campground and decided to go for a hike before we ate our lunch.
The area has a lot of options for hiking, but we opted to hike to Yakso Falls on a trail which starts across the road from the campground.
A rugged trail was ahead of us, with branches covering part of the winding roller coaster-like path that started with a steep incline in the first quarter-mile.
Near the end of the trail a narrow bridge led to an even narrower path next to a steep drop-off with water rushing below.
Although the dog was on a leash she tried a few times to take a shortcut down to the water, dragging her owner, me, nearly off the ledge.
We stayed as far away from the edge as we could and once the path turned we could see the waterfall appear through the trees.
Yakso means “hair of the head” in Chinook jargon, and the fan waterfall that is split at the bottom by a basalt rock does in some way resemble long cascading hair.
To get closer to the waterfall the kids jumped down a steep embankment like only children and dogs can. The adults had to get down on all fours to get to the water, doing a crab-walk-like crawl down a 2-and-a-half-foot embankment.
A log kept people from going into the water and we could see the rocks through the clear water. The kids walked on the log and the dog tried to drink some of the water.
I, however, was up for a little more adventure and wanted to make my way across the water and get a view of the waterfall from the other side of the river.
So I made my way up the log and tiptoed to where the water didn’t seem so deep and hopped in. The water reached up to my knees and the dog struggled to keep her head above the water as she tagged along.
A few steps later I reached the shallowest part of the river and was only in ankle-deep. I made my way to a big rock that was sticking up out of the water.
The water rushed by my feet and it’s easy to see how a small child could get swept away in the rapid-flowing river.
My little ones weren’t eager to walk in the water, it was too cold. They just wanted to play on the log and see how many bugs they could find.
It turned out there were a lot of small animals — millipedes, mosquitoes, horseflies, beetles, fire ants and snakes were among a few of the species we saw on the trail. I imagine larger animals were just a little farther into the forest. We didn’t see any from the trails, but we did see some of their tracks.
More weekend warriors came up behind us and we started on our trek back.
Once we got back to the trailhead we grabbed the bag out of the car and made our way to a picnic table at the campground, near the lake.
We ate our lunch and played around near the lake until the children and puppy were out of energy.
The lake was once a swamp that was transformed into a small lake for horses to get water when the forest was used for logging. Now the 4-acre lake is about 8 feet deep at its deepest point and is used primarily for fishing.
Another family was fishing and told us the fish weren’t biting much as the sun shone on the lake.
It didn’t matter much to us, as we weren’t fishing, but it would’ve been fun to see them reel something in.
We packed up our stuff, made a final stop at the restrooms and started on our trip back home.
The dog stuck her nose out of the window and when she got tired, she curled up in the backseat and snored all the way home — the sound of a good family trip.