Dread & Terror Segment … Best Scenery … Ever
Dread & Terror is the 2nd segment on the North Umpqua Trail ... an incredible 35+ mile ride in Southern Oregon. To read about the first leg of the ride please click: Lemolo Segment. To read about our struggle to find the trailhead please click: North Umpqua Trail.
The Dread & Terror segment began to drop immediately as we left the road, not steep, no switchbacks, just a winding trail through a thick forest descending along the sides of the deep canyon. As we progressed, the sound of rushing water became more and more prevalent.
Dread and Terror Segment
Length: 13 miles
After about a mile from White Mule Trailhead the thick forest thinned on my left and the sound of rushing water turned to a continuous thunder. I jumped off my bike and climbed down onto a rock near the river to get a better view of the twenty foot high, horseshoe-shaped falls above me. Being from Southern California (where water is at a premium) I was amazed to find such a beautiful setting. What turned out to be even more amazing was … despite Cindy and my efforts, we were never able to learn the name of that waterfall. So in this post I am going to call it the “Top Waterfall,” on Dread and Terror.
A half mile farther down the Dread and Terror brought us to another dose of earsplitting jet wash. This time the roar was traveling up from the bottom of 102 foot Lemolo Falls. The trail emerged at the same height, and maybe 50 feet across from the top of the falls. I had to venture out onto a rock outcropping (much to Steve’s dismay) to get a photo and video of the Lemolo Falls from top to bottom.
Below you will find videos of the two best waterfalls on the Dread & Terror Segment, the “Top Waterfall” and Lemolo Falls. To watch the video on a full screen click the icon in the lower right corner just to the right of the YouTube emblem.
To view all MBD videos please visit my YouTube channel at MountainBikeDiaries.
Shortly after leaving Lemolo Falls we arrived at the bottom of the canyon, where we crossed a bridge to gain access to the southern part of the canyon bottom.
The canyon floor was incredible! Jurassic Park? Fantasy Island? None of these had anything over this area … ferns as tall as a person … water cascading off the sides of canyon walls, and a dense canopy of trees. Everything was green … even things you normally expect to see as brown (tree bark), grey (rocks), and yellowish-white (wooden bridge) … they were all green. Angel’s hair moss (a yellowish green) hung from most of the trees. The only parts of the canyon floor not green were the spots so wet they caused soggy, black, shallow depressions.
The Dread & Terror air was damp and clean, the moisture invigorating like immediately after a hard rain.
Exposure to Height
When the canyon narrowed we rode a trail etched into the south wall, with steep drop-offs to penalize riders for a loss of concentration, a loss of balance, a loss of nerve. I tried riding across one real narrow stretch with Steve standing behind. I leaned too far toward the uphill side (scared to lose balance the opposite way). My left pedal hit the wall and immediately stopped … pulling me and my Stumpjumper toward the wall. I instinctively put my feet down and caught my balance … no problem … but I thought Steve was going to have a melt down.
“Why did you try to ride that? You almost fell! I can’t get down there to help you!” he yelled. He was right, of course. We were in a totally inaccessible area and could ill afford to take chances. I am not sure what I was thinking … guess maybe I wasn’t.
When the canyon widened we found ourselves riding through the ferns, once again. Steve, being a Professor of botany, sometimes tells me about the plant life while on a ride. At one place on the canyon floor he pointed out some waist-high bushes he called Horsetail Ferns. He said the ancient predecessors of these ferns are what created coal, millions of years ago. “Sometimes, when they pull apart a coal ball they find clear remnants of this species, not totally transformed into coal,” he shared.
At one point when the canyon narrowed and we had to climb I spotted some kind of flume across the canyon. The bottom part seemed to be fairly new and made of concrete, while the upper part looked to be made of wood and rusty steel. I later learned this flume was bringing water to Lemolo Power Plant #1.
On another one of these climbs I noticed my chain ringing while using my small front sprocket. By looking down and pedaling I was able to diagnose the problem.
The tips of a couple of the small gear teeth were bent, causing the chain to stick to the ring even when it should have peeled off. For the remainder of this ride 10th gear was my lowest … several times not low enough.
I’d ridden across several of the black, muddy patches … but this one surprised me! My front tire rolled onto the black patch, and despite me sliding to the rear of my seat, sank in about a foot. I started to fall over the handlebars but was not moving fast enough, so I kind of rolled over onto my left side, into the mud.
As I scrambled to get up I smeared the black muck all over the left side of my jersey, shorts, knees, sunglasses, and helmet. I was up and ready to go by the time Steve appeared on the trail. He wisely stopped before hitting the black patch of trail.
“What happened to you,” he asked.
I pointed to the black hole, “It almost swallowed me whole.”
At one point I heard a rider behind me and figured Steve must have gotten his second wind. I pulled over to let him by but instead witnessed a young lady, who rushed right by, followed by another. Startled, I still managed to say “hello,” not sure whether they even noticed me. I figured they were trying for a new Strava best or were at least racing each other. As I often do after being passed by a female,
I immediately jumped onto my bike … trying to re-pass them. I managed to keep sight of the second girl but never came close to catching them until they stopped at a bridge with a large stream flowing from a side canyon. They got off and took some photos and sat down (with their back to me) to eat a snack. I too, dismounted and snapped a few pictures while waiting for Steve. I did not try to initiate any conversation … their body language saying they were not interested in socializing with some middle-aged guy.
- Below you will find a map for the best 5 segments of the North Umpqua Trail.
- Dread & Terror is the green part.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
Steve’s Reaction to the Girls
Steve rode up a few minutes later, took a couple of snap shots, and headed on up Dread and Terror. The trail began to get steeper as it began to lead us out of the canyon. Not more than 5 minutes later the two girls came roaring past us. I had no chance re-passing them, especially without any gears lower than 10th (at least that was my excuse).
At one point Steve said something like, “Did you see those girls, they had hardtails … no wonder they were able to pass us.” My response was something like, “I don’t care what kind of bikes they were riding, they are stronger riders than we are. I doubt we could keep up if we were on hardtails.” (A hardtail is a bike with no rear suspension. They are generally lighter and climb better than a rear suspended bike.)
On our climb out of Dread & Terror we came to a place where water was coming off the side of a 15 foot cliff, and passed under our trail as it crossed a bridge. This happened quite often on Dread and Terror. What made this different were the vertical shafts of rock, completely covered in moss … and the water cascaded off the sharp edges. Steve said he had drunk from these falls the last time, but would not consider it this time.
I took a chance and placed my open mouth below one stream as it flowed off one of the sharp, mossy edges … it tasted great … cool and crisp … much better than the water I had been getting from my Camelbak. (It did seem kind of weird drinking from a green, fuzzy surface.) I later learned someone had named these the Columnar Falls … and I didn’t get sick drinking from them!
I had been telling Steve I was getting hungry and he had kept saying, “We are almost done with this segment,” much like we tell our kids when driving in the car.
Cindy often says I act like a kid … so maybe that was what Steve was thinking too. But I knew when we were really getting close the trailhead when we started seeing out-of-shape hikers and little kids coming down the trail toward us.
When we finally finished the climb out of Dread and Terror we found dozens of people milling around and several cars parked at the trailhead. We crossed the bridge which marked the end of the Dread and Terror Segment … and the beginning of Hot Springs, our next segment on the North Umpqua Trail.