Our knack for picking vacation weeks that coincide with wet weather was on display once again as we started a week of day hikes. In January the plan had been to travel to the Pendleton and John Day areas for this vacation but in February Umatilla County experienced severe flooding which damaged many roads and trails and then COVID-19 began shutting everything down so we settled on day hikes from Salem instead. Our vacation got off to a rocky start when Saturday’s forecast was for a lot of rain and so was Monday’s with less on Sunday and Tuesday then it looked like the rest of the week would be better. We bumped our hike to Henline Falls and Mountain (post) from Saturday to Sunday and planned our next hike for Tuesday.
By Monday afternoon the Tuesday forecast had gone from partly sunny to showers and a chance of thunderstorms so we adjusted our plans again bumping Tuesday’s hike to Wednesday. Wednesday morning we set off for Cottage Grove, OR to visit three waterfalls in the Umpqua National Forest. The hikes to Spirit, Pinard, and Moon Falls were one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we still needed to do but for various reasons we had not been able to work them into our schedule yet.
We started our day at the Spirit Falls Trailhead.
A short but muddy .4 mile path descended to the 40′ waterfall.
The one positive of the recent rains was that there was plenty of water feeding the falls.
Our next stop was the Pinard Falls Trail.
The Pinard Falls Trail is just over a half mile long following an old road bed for the first .3 miles before turning into a true trail.
Pinard Falls is a 65 foot tall horsetail waterfall.
Our last waterfall for the day was Moon Falls. The road to that trailhead was blocked by a large downed tree a little less than 100 yards from the trailhead.
Downed tree across the road.
Like the trail to Pinard Falls the Moon Falls Trail was also just over a half mile long and followed an old roadbed for the first .3 miles.
We had unintentionally done the hikes in order of waterfall height from smallest to largest. Moon Falls is an 80′ fan which turned out to be our favorite of the three.
The three waterfall hikes were excellent but short so by the time we were done with them we had hiked just a little over 3 miles. We took the opportunity to add a couple of additional stops to the day starting with the Swordfern Trail located at Rujada Campground. This 2-mile loop was on our way back from the waterfalls so we thought we’d give it a try.
The Forest Service website said the trail was open but the conditions were unknown as of 5/8/2020 but a sign at the trailhead cautioned about severe winter damage.
We figured if it was still open it couldn’t be that bad and since the loop was only 2 miles a few obstacles wouldn’t hurt. The trail set off along Laying Creek and passed by a picnic area.
It wasn’t long before we got a taste of the severe damage.
Looking back at some of the obstacles.
More obstacles ahead.
When there wasn’t nearly constant obstacles the trail was nice.
Ferns along the Swordfern Trail.
When the trail began to loop away from the creek we completely lost the tread under forest debris.
We used the GPS to attempt to relocate the tread but to no avail which was probably for the best given the return would have been on the same hillside just a little higher up. We cut down from where we were to relocate the portion that we had already hiked and made our way back to the trailhead. Instead of a 2-mile loop we did a 1.8 mile out-and-back.
Knowing that even if we had done the 2-mile loop as planned we would still have only been around 5 miles for the day we had planned on a fifth and final stop on the way home at Bake Stewart Park.
A wide path led through a meadow (with a little poison oak) to the Row River Trail, a converted rail line.
Looks like something in the mallow family.
Sneaky poison oak
The .3 mile path brought us to the paved Row River Trail where we turned left.
The trail passed several fields with flowers and butterflies before arriving at Dorena Lake, a reservoir created by damming the Row River.
Approaching Dorena Lake
No idea what this is, possibly non-native.
There seemed to be a good amount of water in the reservoir which made it look more like a lake than reservoirs often do.
At the 1.5 mile mark we came to Smith Creek.
Beyond Smith Creek there were good views across a marshy wetland popular with geese, ducks and herons.
A great blue heron with at least one duck in the grass.
The trail then passed through a few forested sections and past one rocky cliff where a viewpoint looked out across the lake.
You can see a bit of the rocks on the opposite side of the trail.
A mix of flowers, mostly non-native brightened the viewpoint.
We had decided to make Rat Creek our turnaround point which was 3.5 miles from the parking area in Bake Stewart Park. Just before reaching Rat Creek we passed through Harms Park, another possible trailhead.
Dorena Lake from Rat Creek
Bug on the Rat Creek bridge.
We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for anything new on the way back. In Bake Stewart Park we spotted some really tall bluehead gilia and a nice little clarkia.
With the 7+ miles on the Row River Trail we had finished our day with a total of 12.4 miles. The three waterfalls were great short hikes and each would be a worthwhile stop on its own. If the Swordfern Trail receives some much needed maintenance it also seemed like it would be a nice short hike although not as impressive as the falls. For a paved trail near town along a reservoir we were pleasantly surprised by the Row River Trail. We will certainly be keeping it in mind for another visit. Most likely when the higher trails are inaccessible. Happy Trails!