Day 5: To Steamboat Falls campground - Waterfalls of Calapooya 2013 - CycleBlaze

June 28, 2013

Day 5: To Steamboat Falls campground

Today is the big mountain climb of the tour. Starting at 1800 feet, climbing to 4577 feet elevation. Plus a waterfall hike. Being less than fully rested after hiking until 9 PM yesterday, I rested a bit in the morning and got on the road at 9:30. The temperature was 70F, warming rapidly.

Today is much warmer than yesterday. High of 90F, and humid because of the recent rain. Not ideal for big climbs, but tolerable because I'm in the shade most of the time.

After 3.3 miles steady uphill I stopped at the Parker Falls trailhead. A single trail goes 0.4 miles uphill to a junction. Then a 0.1 mile spur goes to Lower Parker Falls and a 0.35 mile spur goes more steeply to Upper Parker Falls. Round trip hike to see both falls is 1.7 miles, with 400 feet elevation gain to the upper falls.

The round trip hike to see both waterfalls is 1.7 miles. Both trails are uphill.
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Lower Parker falls drops 35 feet (11 m).
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Hiking the trail to the falls is easy. But getting to a good photo vantage point sometimes requires scrambling down steep perpetually wet mossy slopes. Upper Parker Falls required a particularly long scramble. Dangerous and strenuous. My fanny pack stays on the trail. I carry only the camera in a pocket and the tripod in one hand. I wish I had a shoulder strap for the tripod, to give me better use of the "tripod" hand. I can grab a handhold weakly while holding the tripod.

Looking down on Upper Parker falls.
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Upper Parker falls drops 40 feet (12 m).
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After hiking back to the bike I continued climbing on FS 22 along the upper reaches of Brice Creek. I was tired and hungry after the hike and wanted to fuel up for the big climb ahead. So I took a long roadside stop to make macaroni and cheese and tea. Just a few feet away was a beautiful cascading small creek.

Lunch stop next to the cascading creek.
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Cascading creek alongside Forest Road 22.
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3 miles past the Parker Falls trailhead I turned right, leaving paved FS 22, onto unpaved FS 2133 which is signed "To highway 138". I let more than half the air out of the tires to improve traction because much of the mountain climb is 8-10% grades with abundant loose (but small) rocks.

High in the Calapooya mountains.
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Forest Road 2133.
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Navigation got confusing near the summit when I got to a turnoff to the left that said 3 miles to Grass mountain. My 2 miles per inch "Land of Umpqua" map doesn't show that road connecting to this road. My 4 miles per inch "Benchmark Oregon Atlas" does show the connection, reassuring me that I'm on the correct road.

The climb and descent has few open views, and the views looked directly into the afternoon sun because the road traverses west-facing slopes.

The grade is tough and I didn't feel like Superman. I pushed the bike for about a mile. I could have pedaled most of the part that I walked, but I just didn't want to work that hard.

No excitement at the summit. No sign, no view. The road simply starts going down instead of up, and the road number changes from FS 2133 to FS 3831. Always surrounded by tall trees.

On the left is Bohemia mountain which still has active gold mines. Fairview Peak fire lookout is visible on the middle peak.
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I'm now in the Umpqua watershed. The descent to Steamboat Creek is very long, dropping 3000 feet on loose gravel, requiring continuous dirty braking to keep the speed down to 12 mph or less (slower when the grade is steeper). Much of the descent is through tracts that have recently been thinned. The forest looks good, but still no distant views.

FS 3831 dead-ends onto Steamboat Creek road, FS 38. Still gravel at this point, but now gentle downstream along Steamboat Creek. The gentle downgrade allows me to go 20 mph without skidding.

Steamboat Creek. I'm now in the Umpqua watershed.
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Pavement resumes after 2 miles. 16 miles of gravel roads today, with most of the day's ascent and descent. After 11 fast easy miles on pavement I turned left at the turnoff to Steamboat Falls campground. A narrow bridge crosses the creek, then a paved road goes a mile upstream to the 10-site campground on a bluff overlooking the waterfall. I got site 4 which has the best view of the falls. $10, vault toilet, but no water faucet. Two other campsites were occupied.

No hiking required to see this falls. My campsite has a good view.
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A few visitors passed through my campsite in the evening to see the falls. I don't mind. I snapped a picture of the falls in the golden late evening sun, but knew it would be even better after the scene is in full shade.

Steamboat Falls in the evening sun. View from the fence at my campsite.
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Time exposure of Steamboat Falls in full shade. I climbed over the fence to get a cliff-edge view.
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I don't understand Steamboat Falls. On the left is a natural 10-foot basalt cliff. On the right is a dam and fish ladder built in 1966 to help steelhead get to spawning grounds upstream. If fish jumped up the waterfall for eons before humans arrived, why do they need our help now?

Further online research reveals that this fish ladder actually hinders fish migration. Construction of the dam and fish ladder eliminated the deep plunge pool that steelhead previously used to get the necessary vertical speed to jump up the falls. Now the fish can't jump the falls and they must use the fish ladder. But the fish ladder routinely clogs with debris during spring runoff, obstructing fish migration until somebody notices and calls Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which eventually sends employees to remove the debris. The fish would be better off if man did nothing here.

I'm down to 1400 feet elevation and the evening was very warm. I didn't even consider putting the rainfly on the tent. The tent would be too warm inside. Few insects in the evening...nice.

It felt good to have the big climb behind me, giving me confidence that I will finish the tour as planned.

Distance: 34.1 miles (55 km)

Climbing: 3025 feet (917 m)

Average Speed: 7.0 mph (11 km/h)

Unpaved roads: 16 miles (26 km)

Hiking: 2 miles (3.2 km)

Waterfalls: 3

Covered Bridges: 0

Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 154 miles (248 km)

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