Hiking up Swift Creek is like going home. I have trekked up the trail over and over again in different seasons, different weather, different moods and with different friends. By this time, the trail is part of the fabric of me. I recognize every tree, anticipate every meadow, and have favorite resting spots.
The magic of Swift Creek is that it is always welcoming and always beautiful. On this spring day in mid-June, I was on an overnight with friends Stephanie and Mike and our destination was Mumford Meadow. This was Stephanie’s first backpack and it is always a joy to see a trail from a newcomer’s perspective. I could tell right away that Stephanie has a future in the wilderness; her eyes lit up with every new view.
We have written about Swift Creek Trail before, so regular readers of our column will find this description familiar. The beginning of the trail has many very big cedars and pines keeping the walk shady and smelling wonderful. It was clear right away that we were going to have extraordinary azalea luck. In some places the trail was lined solid on both sides with blooming, head-high azalea bushes. It was like walking through an azalea cathedral. The azalea smell is my favorite wildflower smell in the wilderness. I was really excited that we hit the peak bloom.
About half a mile up the trail, there is one of the best displays of California pitcher plants. I can’t think of a single hike that we haven’t stopped and enjoyed a snack while visiting with these carnivorous darlings. Next along the trail is the appropriately named Swift Creek Gorge. This was Stephanie’s first time looking into the gorge so we lingered a bit.
Over the next couple miles are two creek crossings, Steer Creek and Parker Creek. In spring and early summer these creeks can be show stoppers. We’ve been turned back many times. This hike though, we waded through water so pathetically shallow it didn’t even wet our boot laces. No rock-hopping skills necessary.
After the Parker Creek crossing it isn’t far before the trail enters the mile-long absolutely gorgeous Parker Meadow. I never know what I will find blooming in Parker Meadow – there is such a variety of flowers throughout the season. But regardless of which flowers are blooming, I know it will be breathtaking. Parker Meadow never disappoints. We sat at Foster’s Cabin and gazed into the upper meadow for what seemed like hours, watching for bears. None sighted. Dang.
About a mile past Parker Meadow is the lower edge of Mumford Meadow. This was our destination. I was beyond happy that my favorite camp spot was available. Yippee. It pays to hike in on a weekday rather than a weekend. We set up our camp and then got right to the business of gazing into the meadow. Hoping for a bear. None. After dinner we gazed a couple hours. No bear. We walked down to the creek and got wet and then came back and gazed until dark. Geez. Is ONE bear so much to ask for? If I was a bear I would be out frolicking in Mumford Meadow every day.
The next morning we rose early and gazed. Then ate breakfast and gazed until it was time to hike out. No bears. But that’s OK. If I saw a bear every time I might get bored with them. Ha! No way. I could never get bored with bears.