Raging fires, poor air quality and closed roads meant fewer hiking options along the North Umpqua, but the conditions provided a great opportunity to visit South County.
It also came with the chance to connect with other Douglas County hikers and learn a little more about hiking south of Roseburg.
The Cow Creek area seemed to be the best place to go, when looking for quiet, easy to moderate hikes that are no more than 5 miles in length.
In fact, I was able to do two hikes from the same starting point and get two completely different experiences.
Our adventure started at Devil’s Flat Campground, which is about 10 miles past Galesville Reservoir. It’s a small campground with only the basic necessities available.
We first hiked the Elk Skull Bluff trail for a 0.4-mile loop up the hill to a viewpoint of the Upper Cow Creek drainage.
The sun had withered all the life out of the plants, leaving a dry, brown trail.
At the viewpoint you could see the pine trees growing near the creek for miles around, although the actual creek was kept out of sight.
Trees had fallen on some spots of the trail, providing us with some obstacles to climb over, while at other spots, trees had fallen and taken part of the trail with them, providing us with some more obstacles to climb.
Some tree limbs were growing low on the trail and we had to duck, sometimes nearly crawl, to continue.
Both trails gave me playground flashbacks, although I used to pretend the floor was lava, and on the Cow Creek Falls Trail the ground would sometimes be water.
Cow Creek Falls Trail, a 0.5-mile loop hike, started on the other side of Devil’s Flat campground next to the 1915s log cabin.
This trail was greener but maintenance was much the same, and berries and wildlife flourished in this part of the Umpqua National Forest.
My daughter, Zoey, and the dog, Dixie, walked a few feet in front of us and as we were slowly making our way down the hill, we could hear, “Dixie, no! Dixie, stay!”
Collectively, the three of us looked over and the dog was standing up, ready to take off, with her ears perked up, her tongue hanging out of her mouth and her tail wagging. Next to the dog was Zoey with her finger wagging and a strong hold on the leash.
“What’s going on?,” I asked.
Well, there were three deer on the trail and of course the dog wanted to play with them, so she started to run and pulled Zoey along with her.
But as soon as she was giving her command to stay, she stopped.
For the rest of the hike, both the dog and Zoey stayed a little closer to us.
We came to a bridge that connect a variety of trails, but we turned just before it and started walking back up the hill with the Cow Creek Falls on the right of us.
Water tumbled over the rocks and the falls were more of a steady downhill flow than the tall waterfalls along the North Umpqua.
The riverbed was visible because the water was so clear, but the water was far from shallow.
It was quite a steep hike back up the hill, and it was all on loose rocks, creating yet another obstacle on this hike.
At the end of the trail, we encountered a 1920s barn where horses and donkeys used to rest as they took supplies to Red Mountain Lookout.
Perhaps we’ll follow in their footsteps when it gets a bit cooler and make our way up the Red Mountain.
For now this was a great, short, quiet hike with some added obstacles to keep it interesting.