Silent Creek

Fall has begun in the high country. Here in southern Oregon, our falls do not arrive in a blaze of color like New England’s or Upper Michigan’s; they ease in as quietly as the footfalls of kittens. A crispness and freshness to the air; a flush of red and yellow from the huckleberries in the understory. Later there will be new snow on the peaks and flashes of brilliant reds and yellows from the vine maples and bigleaf maples hanging over the rivers. Now, at the tag end of September, there is only a hint of these glories yet to come. But the huckleberries have already turned.

Huckleberry bushes along Silent Creek.

Last Wednesday, with the sky a brilliant blue and the weather forecasters predicting that the first Fall rains were imminent, we took advantage of an open day in our joint schedules and headed for the mountains. Our destination was Silent Creek, a tributary to Diamond Lake that enters the big lake at its southwest corner. This area, once a deep mountain valley, became a mostly level plain several miles wide when the massive eruption that created Crater Lake filled the valley full of pumice and volcanic ash. Silent Creek meanders across this plain through an open forest of lodgepole pine. The creek is glass-clear, fifteen feet wide, and rarely over eight inches deep. The sunny forest floor seems at least 90% covered with huckleberries.

We are both recovering from colds, and at 77 and 76 that means you don’t push for an early start: so it was after 10:00 AM when we pulled out of the driveway for the 80-mile trip to the trailhead. We picked up picnic supplies at the little store in Union Creek and spread them out on a sunny table in Diamond Lake’s South Shore Picnic Area a half-hour later for a leisurely lunch.

Melody at our lunch table on the south shore of Diamond Lake.
Mt Bailey across Diamond Lake from our lunch table.

It’s a little under a mile and a half from the South Shore Picnic Area to the trailhead where paved Umpqua National Forest Road 4795 crosses Silent Creek; it’s another mile and a half by trail from there to one of the creek’s headwaters springs. We drove the first of those 1.5-mile stretches and walked – or perhaps “sauntered” is a better word – the second. The woods were quiet; the light was golden and lovely. Small frogs hopped across the trail. Silent Creek lived up to its name – barely a ripple broke its smooth, transparent surface, the whole length from trailhead to spring. Fallen logs crisscrossed the creek, half in and half out of the water, bearing bushy green growths of monkey flower, some still in bloom. There were a few asters, and a few lupines, and a single strawberry blossom – well out of season – that had planted itself defiantly right in the middle of the trail. There were no berries on the huckleberry bushes. We were disappointed but not surprised: we knew where they had probably gone. On our way home, we stopped there. Beckie’s Cafe at Union Creek is famous for its huckleberry pies (see the full description in my previous post on Hershberger Mountain). They are served only from Labor Day weekend until the berries run out, which can be as early as mid-September. This year they are holding up. Supper capped with huckleberry pie at Beckie’s is one of Oregon’s finest gustatory experiences. I leave you with that.

Seep-spring monkey flower on a log in Silent Creek.
Clockwise from top left: dwarf lupine, strawberry, Parry’s aster, pearly everlasting.
We stopped at Teal Lake, a tiny pond between Forest Service Road 4795 and the main lake, on the way out.
A pair of mallards in eclipse plumage playing in Teal Lake.

I do need to add my usual note on the performance of the Bolt. I didn’t bother opting for a full charge the night before, so we left home with a 95% charge in the battery, roughly 57 kwh. We got back from this 160+ mile trip with 20 of those 57 kwh still remaining, and with the GOM showing more than 100 miles of range still available. I cannot for the life of me figure out why people still fear that a car like the Bolt (or a Tesla, or a Hyundai Kona Electric, or any of the several other long-range electrics currently available) will somehow run out of electrons on a trip like this. Like a gasoline car with a ten-gallon tank that gets 25 miles to the gallon – the same range as the Bolt – you fill the tank a little more often than you might like; because it’s electric, it takes a little longer to fill. That’s all.

The Bolt at the Thielsen View rest area on Highway 230. Mt Thielsen in the background.

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