Blue Lake

On Father’s Day we were joined by our Son, Dominique, on a jaunt to Blue Lake before heading home. Blue Lake is located south of Highway 20, just east of Santiam Pass. Much of the lake is privately owned but the Elliott Corbett Memorial State Park occupies the western end of the lake.

This area burned in the 2003 B & B Complex Fire and we began our hike at a fire interpretive kiosk in a large paved sno-park lot.
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Starting here meant a road walk of 2.5 miles before reaching an actual trail but the description in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Reagion” (we highly recommend this guidebook) called the final stretch of road “narrow, brushy, steep, rocky and subject to occasional washouts that turn the road into a series of deep gullies”. Given that the hike would still only be between 7 and 8 miles (and an extra 700′ of elevation gain) by starting here we felt it was worth avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend.

We walked through the parking area, which had a nice view of Mt. Washington, to FR 2076.
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We followed this road downhill. It was a beautiful morning and the view of Mt. Washington was spectacular.
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The summits of the North and Middle Sister also made a brief appearance.
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After .7 miles we came to a junction with Road 200 which had a sign warning it wasn’t suitable for trailers. We got ourselves confused here due to not re-reading Matt’s description but instead looking at the topographic image in the entry that showed the lake and trail but not the entire road walk. We should have taken Road 200 here but where the map picked up in the book the track was no longer on Road 200 so we mistakenly thought we needed to stay on FR 2076.

FR 2076 was in fairly good shape and was certainly not steep. It was traversing a hillside south toward Mt. Washington.
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After almost a half mile we knew something was amiss. Looking at the GPS showed we were indeed heading for a lake but it was Island Lake dead ahead not Blue Lake. We pulled the book out and read the directions and realized our mistake. We backtracked to Road 200 and once again headed downhill.

Road 200 was not great, and maybe the previous days short but horrific section of Forest Road 2630 in the Ochocos unduly influenced us, but most high clearance vehicles would probably be fine. Although, meeting a vehicle going the other way would be tricky as there weren’t many wide spots.

Walking the road had its advantages though. In addition to the mountain views were wildflowers including a surprising group of rhododendron.
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The rhododendron were upstaged by a nice buck with velvet antlers which Dominique spotted.
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We took our second wrong turn 1.5 miles down Road 200 when we forked right on Road 200 when we should have stayed straight at what appeared to be a pile of rocks. We’d only gone a tenth of a mile when we caught this one and headed back to the rocks to find a road continuing on the other side. Another .4 miles brought us to a parking turnaround. Here we ignored an obvious trail straight up a hill and took a faint path to the left.
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This path began to climb up a ridge to a sign announcing the end of the Blue Lake Nordic Trail.
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Once we gained the ridge we had a view of Blue Lake below and Suttle Lake a little further to the east.
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Blue Lake fills a collapsed cladera to a depth over 300 feet. The trail followed the ridge along the western end of the lake. We followed it around to a knoll described in the guidebook as the start of private land.
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Opposite the lake, on the other side of the ridge, lay a meadow with Mt. Washington looming behind.
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In addition, the seasonal Cache Falls could be seen flowing down the hillside below hidden Cache Lake.
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After visiting the knoll we backtracked a tenth of a mile along the ridge then headed downhill on a faint path heading toward what appeared to be an old road bed. There was a bit of maneuvering around blowdown to get to the road bed where we discovered a clearer path coming down from a point further along the ridge. Here was also the memorial plaque for the Elliott R. Corbett II Memorial State Park.
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The trail led into and through the meadow before arriving back at the turnaround at the end of the road walk.
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On the way back up we spotted a toad and a frog along the roads.
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As we neared the sno-park Three Fingered Jack came into view through the trees.
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Remember my comment earlier about avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend? Well Google got us again. We had originally planned on visiting the nearby Skylight Cave after the hike. In June between the hours of 9 and 11 am sunbeams come through an opening in the roof a short lava tube. The driving directions in our “Bend, Overall” guidebook were from Highway 242 but a look at Google Maps had shown what appeared to be a pretty straight forward 5 mile(ish) drive from Highway 20. We had written directions for that route but about 4 miles into our attempt we came to a 4-way junction with no road signs. Our written directions indicated we should go straight but we were on a gravel road crossing a gravel road and the road ahead was a narrow dirt track. We tried using the Garmin to figure out where we were, but the Garmin showed far more roads than Google had and it seemed to agree that the dirt road was the one we were looking for. After some indecision Heather decided to give it a go. It was quickly obvious that that was a bad choice as the road was narrow, overgrown, and rocky in places. When we spotted a wide enough spot to turn around we did so retreating once again to the 4-way junction. It was after 10am and now we had no confidence that we were even where we had meant to be. So we threw up the white flag and decided to try again some other time when we can follow the guidebook directions.

When we got home we looked again on Google and discovered that the dirt track had been the correct route and we’d only been about 3/4 of a mile from the cave. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Lake

North Point and Round Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

For Father’s Day weekend we headed over to Central Oregon to visit my Dad and our Son. On Saturday we headed to the Ochoco Mountains for a pair of hikes.

Our first destination was North Point in the trail-less Bridge Creek Wilderness. We started our hike near Pisgah Springs along Forest Road 2630. We made the mistake of following Google’s suggested route which led us over an extremely rough section of that road which we could have avoided. We had turned right off of Highway 26 at a sign for Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie onto Ochoco Creek Road which becomes Forest Road 22. Just before crossing Ochoco Creek, Google had us fork left onto Road 2210 before turning right onto Rd 2630. That was where the road deteriorated quickly into a muddy, giant hole filled mess. Had we stayed on Road 22 past Walton Lake we could have turned left onto Road 2630 a mile and a half beyond the entrance road to the lake. That section and the remainder of Rd 2630 was a fairly good gravel road. We followed Rd 2630 to a fork at a Bridge Creek Wilderness sign where Road 450 went left and 2630 continued to the right.

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Road 2630 became rougher beyond the fork but nothing like the earlier section Google had taken us on. A May 2016 trip report mentioned that the road improved after the first couple hundred yards and this was still the case. A total of two miles from the fork we arrived at an old jeep track near Pisgah Springs.

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We pulled off the road at the jeep track which at one time went all the way out to North Point. Much of the wilderness burned in 2008 and many of the left over snags have begun falling and we’d heard that the track had a good deal of blowdown. Looking uphill from the jeep track we decided to angle left and skirt around the side of a stand of trees.

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The cross country travel was easy through the sagebrush but our pace was slowed due to stopping to admire the many wildflowers along the way.

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Brown’s Peony

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Parsley

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Paintbrush

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The terrain began to level after the initial climb (which was short and not at all steep) revealing some open meadows among the trees.

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We encountered additional flowers in and around these meadows.

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We took a line along between the meadows and a line of dead trees.

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Using the GPS we eventually veered to the right stepping over a couple of downed snags then briefly following the jeep track toward the rim of the plateau.

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We arrived at the rim between point 6607 to the west and North Point to the east.

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The view to the north was amazing and included some very interesting topographical formations.

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Behind us to the south lay Mt. Pisgah and the Mt. Pisgah Lookout

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We made our way along the rim to North Point which was marked with a cairn.

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From North Point we could see parts of the Cascade Mountains from Mt. Bachelor to the south to Mt. Adams in Washington to the north. The only problem was a single line of clouds moving north right in our line of sight for the snowy volcanoes.

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We spotted a few additional flowers on North Point.

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After taking in the views on what was shaping up to be a beautiful day we made our way back to our car amid the ever present sound of birds.

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The hike to North Point had only been 2.2 miles round trip and we were heading for hike number two of the day, but first we wanted to check out Big Summit Prairie. After passing the point on Road 2630 where we had emerged from the apocalyptic section of road from the morning we continued on the gravel road .8 miles to NF-22 where we turned left. After 4.2 miles on NF-22 we turned right onto gravel South Howard Road for 1.6 miles then right again onto Badger Creek Road (NF 4210). We followed this road for 2.3 miles to Canyon Creek Road (NF-42) where we turned left. We drove 9.7 miles on NF 42 which travels along the southern side of Big Summit Prairie.

Covering several thousand acres in the middle of the Ochoco Mountains, Big Summit Prairie sports some impressive wildflower displays from April through Mid-June. We were hoping that we weren’t too late for the show, but alas we seemed to be on the tail-end of the last flowers.

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We stopped near the North Fork Crooked River bridge and took a look at our next goal, Round Mountain rising to the west.

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We drove back on NF-42 12.7 miles to a sign for the Independent Mine on the left. We had been here before in 2014 when we hiked to the summit of Lookout Mountain.

We parked at the same trailhead as before just a few hundred feet up Road 4205. A good sized parking area here doubles as the Lower Lookout Mountain and the Round Mountain South Trailheads.

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From the trailhead the Round Mountain Trail descended into a small meadow before entering some trees and climbing up to a crossing of NF-42.

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The trail climbed gradually through wildflower filled meadows to a view of little Prospect Pond.

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As the trail continued to follow a ridge uphill the wildflower displays kept getting better.

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The trail briefly leveled off at the wide Onion Pass.

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We soon got our first good look at our goal, Round Mountain.

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Shortly after crossing a road at the 2.3 mile mark the trail traversed an open slope with views of several Cascade Mountains.

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The flowers continued to impress along the entire trail with the pink Oregon geraniums being some of our favorites.

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After another short level stretch along what appeared to be an old road track the trail finally began to climb with some urgency through a series of hellebore meadows.
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The trail was in great shape with only a minor slide which was easily passable.

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The trail wrapped around under the summit of Round Mountain to Round Mountain Road (yes it is possible to drive up).

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We followed the road up past the signed junction with the Round Mountain Trail coming up from the northern trailhead near Walton Lake.

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The 360 degree view from the 6755′ summit did not disappoint. The clouds that had hidden parts of the Cascades had mostly burned off (except for over Three Fingered Jack) and Diamond Peak joined the line of snow covered volcanoes.

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IMG_3131Diamond and Maiden Peaks

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The plateau of the Bridge Creek Wilderness was visible to the NE.

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Lookout Mountain rose across NF-42 to the south.

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While Big Summit Prairie stretched out to the east.

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We spotted a couple of flowers near the summit that we hadn’t seen lower including a few pink phlox, a patch of purple silky phacelia, and some yellow bells along the road.

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silky phacelia

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We returned the way we’d come. After crossing NF-42 we spotted a doe which seemed fitting since we were close to a road and we seem to see more deer from the roads than we do on the trails.

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It was a great day in the Ochocos and it had felt really nice to finally spend some time in the mountains. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Point & Round Mountain

Enchanted Forest and Felton Memorial Trails

We typically try and have a relatively short hike (by our standards anyway) planned for our drive home from vacations. For our Medford trip this wound up being a 6.8 mile hike on the Enchanted Forest and Felton Memorial Trails. The trailhead is located approximately halfway between Jacksonville and Grants Pass. To reach it from Medford we took Highway 238 through Jacksonville and turned right on North Applegate Road at the community of Applegate. After 4.5 miles, where N. Applegate Road turned sharply left, we continued straight on Kubli Road for 100 feet before turning right on Slagle Creek Road. We followed that road for 1.5 miles to its end where we parked on the shoulder away from the private driveways.
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The Enchanted Forest Trail began on the far side of a green gate and passed through a brief section of trees before entering a meadow.
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The trail split in the meadow with a hiker only trail going straight and the right hand fork open to horses and bikes. The trails rejoin after .2 miles making a short loop. We stayed on the hiker path. The trails rejoined before re-entering the forest and passing an old pickup.
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At the .7 mile mark we arrived at the signed junction with the Felton Memorial Trail.
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We turned right onto the memorial trail which crossed a nearly dry creek then gently rolled up and down along the hillside before dropping to the memorial which honors the three victims of a 1993 helicopter crash.
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After paying our respects we returned to the Enchanted Forest Trail and headed uphill. This trail climbed gradually along an off and on again creek through a green forest that was made a little more enchanted by the fog.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the trail junction the Enchanted Forest Trail turned sharply left, away from the creek and launched uphill at a fairly steep grade. The climb only lasted about two tenths of a mile where the trail came to a brushy opening with a few wildflowers. On a clearer day there would have been a view of the valley below but it was too cloudy on this day.
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We continued past the opening and past a “Leaving Public Lands” sign to a saddle where, again, it was too cloudy for a view.
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We headed back this time tacking the horse/mountain bike path through the meadow.
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We didn’t see any horses but there were plenty of snails on the trails.
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The path passed some nice fields of bachelor buttons, a non-native flower, but pretty nonetheless.
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Other flowers included yellow moth mullen, madia, pink checkermallows, and purple elegant brodiaea.
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We finished the hike having only seen one tick, much better than the previous two days had been, and successfully avoided any issues with the poison oak. It had been a good four days of hiking, infinitely better than our May vacation where I threw the camera in the Coquille River, injured my foot, and wound up with the stomach flu. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Enchanted Forest and Felton Memorial Trails

Sterling Mine Ditch

Day three of our Medford trip was supposed to be a hike along Applegate Lake on the opposite shore from our first day’s hike, but upon arriving at the French Gulch Trailhead we discovered that the Granite Man, an off-road running, triathlon and duathlon event, was taking place that day. That would have meant sharing the trail with numerous runners and mountain bikers which wasn’t all that appealing given that stepping off trail to let them pass wouldn’t be all that easy due to the presence of poison oak.

We went to plan “B” which was a hike in the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail system. The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is a little over 17 miles long offering several different starting points and other trails in the area make loops possible. For our visit we decided to try an 11.6 mile loop described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Southern Oregon” guidebook. His description of the hike starts at the Wolf Gap Trailhead on Armstrong-Deming Road (39-2-8) and finishing with a walk up that road to get back to the trailhead. We decided to park lower along Armstrong-Deming Road at the Deming Gulch Trailhead.

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There wasn’t much parking along the shoulder of the road here which may be why he suggests starting at the larger Wolf Gap parking area, but we’d rather start with a road walk than end with one and we were the only car there so parking wasn’t an issue. We set off up the steep road on another better than forecasted morning.

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Road walks aren’t all bad as they usually sport a fair amount of roadside flowers and this walk was no exception.

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After 1.8 miles, and 900′ of elevation gain, we arrived at the Wolf Gap Trailhead.

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Given the steepness of the road we were really glad that we tackled that climb first and not at the end of our hike. From Wolf Gap we followed an actual trail uphill to the left.

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After a brief uphill the trail began to descend through a forest of ponderosa, oak and madrone.

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Here we spotted more flowers including some we hadn’t seen along the road.

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As we descended views began to open up across the valley.

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The trail then crossed an open grassy hillside twice as it switchbacked down toward the Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel.

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The trail then reentered the forest where we passed a sign for a “Giant Double-Trunked Madrone”.

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A faint trail led off in that direction but soon petered out. We weren’t sure where the tree was and there was just enough poison oak in the underbrush that we didn’t feel like bushwacking to try and find it so we returned to the trail and continued downhill.

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Ticks were also becoming a nuisance. I was beginning to pick them up every few minutes while Heather was being mostly spared. We took to stopping whenever there was a nice area free of trail side poison oak to do some quick tick flicking.

We arrived at the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail a mile and a half from the Wolf Gap Trailhead.

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The 26.5 mile Sterling Mine Ditch was hand dug in 1877 to bring water from the Little Applegate River to gold miners digging in the Sterling Creek Hills. The trail follows the ditch at a fairly level grade along the steep hillsides.

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It was interesting to follow the ditch and the scenery was nice despite the clouds that had moved in. In fact we finally got a decent shower after being spared for the first 2 1/2 days.

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More wildflowers were found along the open hillsides.

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At one point we wound up behind a family of turkeys on the trail. It took a while to get past because every time mom would just about get everyone into the underbrush she’d pop back up onto the trail.

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We had (mostly me) knocked several dozen ticks off our pants by the time we’d seen the turkeys and had been considering bailing from the trail at the Armstrong Gulch Trailhead to road walk back to Deming Gulch since picking up ticks in the middle of the road was unlikely. The trail soon left the drier slopes and entered a greener forest where the tick sightings decreased dramatically.

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By the time we reached the side trail down to Anderson Gulch it had dawned on us that leaving the level Sterling Mine Ditch Trail for a road walk would be a lot of steep climbing so we decided to stick it out.

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Once we reached the trail down to the Armstrong Gulch Trailhead it was only another 1.5 miles back to the Deming Gulch Trailhead anyway. We enjoyed the scenery along the final stretch and had minimal tick encounters.

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Another good shower started just as we arrived back at our car. We’d timed it well and after a thorough tick check we were on our way back to Medford where we had a really good dinner at 4 Daughters Irish Pub.

The ticks had caused us to move a little faster than we would have liked. The scenery along the trail begged for a slower more observant hike. In any case it was a nice hike overall. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sterling Mine Ditch

Mill Creek Falls, Lost Creek Lake, and Lower Table Rock

For our second day of our extended weekend in Medford we had planned on doing a pair of hikes to the north of town. The plan was to do a short warm-up hike at Mill Creek Falls then do a longer hike along Lost Creek Lake. As the title of this post indicates our plans changed during the course of the day and we wound up adding Lower Table Rock to the itinerary.

We started our day by driving Highway 62 from Medford just beyond milepost 42 where we turned right on Mill Creek Road and followed signs for a mile to the Mill Creek Falls Trailhead.

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A wide path led downhill a short distance to a signed junction.

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We headed right following the pointer for the falls reaching a viewpoint of 174′ Mill Creek Falls after .2 miles.

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We continued another .2 miles where we arrived at a rock outcrop whith a view of the taller (total of 3 drops), more complex, Barr Creek Falls.

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After a short stay at this viewpoint we headed back to the junction and took the left fork toward the Avenue of Giant Boulders. After a quarter mile we arrived at a sign pointing left to the boulders and right for access to the Rogue River.

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We headed right first, arriving at a little beach along the raging river.

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We then made our way over to the Avenue of Giant Boulders. The boulders location here is a result of Mt. Mazama’s eruption which resulted in Crater Lake which is over 20 miles from this location.

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The hike to the falls and the boulders came in as 1.6 miles on our Garmin leaving plenty of gas in our tanks for the planned longer hike at Lost Creek Lake. From the Mill Creek Falls Trailhead we returned to Highway 62 and headed back toward Medford. Just before reaching a bridge over the Rogue River at Lost Creek Lake, we turned right onto Lewis Road for a mile to the Lewis Road Trailhead.

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Our plan was to take the Rogue River Trail along the lake to Lost Creek and back with a brief side trip to Blue Grotto at the 2.4 mile mark.

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The level trail was lined with various wildflowers (and plenty of poison oak) and offered occasional views of Lost Creek Lake and back to Needle Rock and its rock arch.

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Shortly after we passed a grassy hillside covered with yellow flowers I started noticing ticks.

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From that point on, until we reached the side trail to Blue Grotto, I picked up a decent number of the little parasites. It was beginning to remind us a little too much of our visit to the Illinois River the year before.

We turned up the .1 mile path to Blue Grotto and followed it to its end.

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This unique spot is another result of Crater Lake’s volcanic history. Ash from that volcano gives the rocks their color.

When we got back to the Rogue River Trail we faced a choice. We could stick with our original plan and continue another 3.4 miles to the Lost Creek Trailhead before heading back or we could declare victory here and head back now. The tick situation ahead could have been better but maybe not and we’d made it to the Blue Grotto, which was the featured attraction in our guidebook, so we decided to head back. We continued to see (and flick off) some ticks on the return trip but we also saw some more welcome wildlife.

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We were back at the Lewis Road Trailhead before 11:45am so we decided to pick out another hike to do on the way back to Medford. Our choice was Lower Table Rock.

From Lost Creek Lake we drove toward Medford to Highway 234 which we followed to Table Rock Road where we turned left and followed pointers to the trailhead just off of Wheeler Road.

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Upper Table Rock was just across some fields from the trailhead.

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The wide trail climbed gradually, at first, through wildflower dotted grasslands.

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As the trail neared Lower Table Rock it steepened, climbing up into a forest of oak and madrone trees.

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The trees began to thin near the top of the mesa, which we reached after 1.5 miles.

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The Table Rocks are known for their Spring wildflower displays and are home to some endangered species. We were a little concerned that we might be too late to see much in the way of flowers but those fears were quickly wiped away.

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An earlier spring visit would have provided different flowers and possibly a better show but the fields of winecup clarkia were spectacular and as were the displays of elegant brodiaea.

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An old airstrip is used as the trail on the mesa. Just beyond a boardwalk (to protect the vernal pools on the mesa) we turned left on a spur trail for .4 miles to an eastern viewpoint.

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From the viewpoint Upper Table Rock rose up amid the farmlands while snow helped identify some of the Cascade range despite some cloudy conditions.

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Mt. McLoughlin

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Peaks in the Sky Lakes Wilderness

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Crater Lake

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After returning to the airstrip we continued further along Lower Table Rock arriving at a southern viewpoint after about a mile.

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We watched as a number of rain showers passed by just waiting for the one that would finally drench us but all we ever got was a brief sprinkle.

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We stopped at the first south viewpoint for a while where we were joined by a ground squirrel.
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To the south was the snowy Mt. Ashland and Wagner Butte.

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and Dutchman Peak among others.

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A path led to the right following the rim out to a second viewpoint at the furthest end of the mesa.

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As it turned out the tick issues at Lost Creek Lake had turned out to be a blessing as we would not have experienced the wildflowers here otherwise. The clarkia and brodiaea stole the show but there had been others along the way.

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As great as the hike at Lower Table Rock was some of the things we witnessed there were not so great. First on the way up we passed a pair of young guys, one of which had a handful of flowers obviously picked from the mesa. Not cool. Then some fools had made cairns out of the rocks in the vernal pools, really not cool.

Next on our way back from the furthest viewpoint we noticed a couple with a dog at the other viewpoint despite the clear signs at the tailhead stating “No Dogs Beyond This Point”. Finally on our way down another young guy was busy chasing an alligator lizard through the brush. Harassing wildlife isn’t cool either but we did take a little comfort in watching the kid crash through and grab some poison oak. Hopefully the lizard got the last laugh.

We wish if people are going to visit these places that they would follow the rules and respect the areas. If they can’t do that it’d be nice if they just stayed home. Okay rant over, Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157684856053206

Collings Mountain and Jacksonville

Lingering snow in the mountains has continued to force us to rearrange our planned hikes. We had planned on an extended weekend backpacking trip from 6/8 to 6/12 from Grayback Mountain to the Red Buttes Wilderness but by mid May it was clear that unless we wanted to deal with a good deal of snow we’d need to hold off on that trip. After much juggling on our spreadsheet our new plan was 4 days of hiking around Medford and Jacksonville.

We set off early on Thursday morning heading south on I-5 to Medford. Our plan was to get a hike (or two) in before checking into our motel. Our first stop was at Hart-Tish Park at Applegate Lake. From Medford we followed Highway 238 through Jacksonville to Ruch where we turned left on Upper Applegate Road for 15.9 miles.

After picking up a $5 day pass at the Hart-Tish Store we set off from the day use area on a paved path toward Applegate Lake.

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The lake was pretty busy for a Thursday morning.

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From the picnic area we turned right following the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail along the lake shore.

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The forecast had called for rain but it was shaping up to be a really nice day.

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A nice variety of flowers were blooming along the level path.

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There was also a fair amount of poison oak but the trail was wide enough that it was never really an issue.

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After 3.6 miles we arrived at Watkins Campground where we crossed Upper Applegate Road to the start of the Collings Mountain Trail.

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The 6.9 mile Collings Mountain Trail would lead us back to Hart-Tish Park after passing over the 3625′ summit of Collings Mountain. The trail climbed through a dry forest with occasional views down to Applegate Lake and to the snowy Red Buttes Wilderness beyond.

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There isn’t really a view from the summit but we spotted a few additional types of flowers along the trail.

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Just over three miles from the summit the trail passed a prospectors adit on the left.

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Another quarter mile brought us to an unmarked but obvious side trail on the left that led uphill a short distance to a Bigfoot Trap which was unfortunately empty.

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From the side trail it was a little over half a mile back to the the Hart-Tish Park day use area where the clouds had lifted enough to reveal Red Buttes beyond the far end of Applegate Lake.

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It was a little after 3pm when we arrived back at our car which meant we could check into our motel now, but we had one other hike planned for the day in Jacksonville. We drove back to the former gold mining town and parked near the visitors center at the end of C Street.

From the parking lot we followed stairs up to a crossing of Highway 238.

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Another set of stairs brought us to Britt Gardens, the site of the home of Peter Britt that unfortunately burned down in 1960. Uphill to the left an open air amphitheater hosts the Britt Festival’s summer concerts.

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We followed a path to the right to a sign board for the Sara Zigler Interpretive Trail.

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This trail passes the Britt Sequoia, a 4-foot-diameter tree planted by Peter Britt in 1862 on the day of his Son’s birth.

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The trail traverses a hillside before dropping slightly to a crossing of Jackson Creek near another possible trailhead along Highway 238.

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We took the Jackson Fork Trail from this parking area and quickly recrossed Jackson Creek.

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We followed the Jackson Fork Trail uphill where we spotted a a Washington lily, a California harebell, and several California ground cones.

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We stuck to the Jackson Fork Trail until we saw a pointer for Panorama Point at which point we followed pointers for it amid the oak grassland.

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The horizon was too cloudy for us to see Mt. McLoughlin but on a clearer day it would have been visible from the viewpoint.

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We continued past the viewpoint and descended into Rich Gulch.

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Then we followed pointers for Oregon Street.

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At Oregon Street we hopped onto the road and followed it into town where we took a brief walking tour of the historic buildings.

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Before returning to our car we stopped at Bella Union for dinner. As it turned out they were celebrating their 29th birthday with free appetizers, birthday cake, and a champagne toast. The food and atmosphere were wonderful and an excellent way to finish off the first day of a vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Collings Mountain and Jacksonville

Castle Rock

We continue to have to swap out our originally scheduled hikes due to the above normal snow levels and late melt this year. Our most recent hike to Castle Rock was the result of one such switch. Castle Rock it the site of a former lookout tower atop a 3808′ rocky outcrop. Castle Rock is located near the McKenzie River off Highway 126 approximately 5 miles beyond Blue River. There are several possible trailheads that can be used to reach the lookout site including an option at the end of Road 480 that would make the hike less than three miles. For our visit we chose to begin at the King Castle Trailhead. A map at this trailhead showed the entire O’Leary Trail Complex.
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The trails in the area are open to mountain bikes and we did see a handful of riders but not until we were well into our descent. The King Castle Trail was in excellent shape as it passed through the forest.
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There were lots of woodland flowers in bloom.
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Star flower and queen’s cup

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Anemone

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Striped coralroot

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Spotted coralroot

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Rhododendron

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Wild rose

The trail climbed approximately 1500′ in almost 4 miles to a crossing of Road 480.
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The trail continued on the far side of the road where it climbed for a bit before dropping slightly to a junction with the Castle Rock Trail.
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A dogwood tree was in full bloom near this junction.
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We turned right onto the Castle Rock Trail which climbed for another half mile to a junction with a trail from the upper trailhead along Road 480.
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None of the climb had seemed particularly steep considering we knew we had a total of 2600′ to gain from the trailhead. We were expecting the final mile to seem quite a bit steeper but the trail made great use of switchbacks leaving the final 700′ to feel only slightly harder than the earlier 1900′. The flowers along the final mile had changed from those we had seen at the lower elevations. Here fairy slippers and vanilla leaf were still blooming.
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It had been an overcast morning and now we were climbing up into the clouds.
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It was cool but not cold. Although, for a rubber boa, that we spotted next to a tree along the trail, it was way to chilly.
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The trail switchbacked up to a meadow near some rocky cliffs where we found a surprisingly nice display of wildflowers.
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Bindweed

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A saxifrage

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At the top of the meadow there was a viewpoint to the NE (with no view today) where several other flowers stood out.
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Larkspur

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The trail then climbed past some black oaks, chinkapin trees and a madrone to the old lookout site.
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With the clouds surrounding us we weren’t going to be getting a view of the Three Sisters so we explored the rocks looking for more wildflowers before taking a break at the lookout site.
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After resting and eating lunch, we headed back down through the little meadow. Here we noticed that there were little beetles on one particular type of plant.
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Neither of us had noticed them on the way up but they were on every one of those plants. It’s amazing how much we miss even when we think we are paying close attention. 🙂

Another example of that were the many candy sticks we noticed on the way back to the car. We had seen one a little ways off the trail on our way up to Castle Rock, but on the return trip we noticed at least a dozen others popping up along the trail.
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The sun came out near the end of our hike leaving us to wonder if there would be a view at the top in the afternoon. One of the few drawbacks of starting first thing in the morning is that we often reach viewpoints before the morning clouds have burned off.
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Even without the view though this had been a really nice 12.2 mile hike. It’s certainly one that we’d do again, especially since we didn’t get the view, and given it’s relatively low elevation it’s a good option when there is still snow higher up.
Happy Trails!

Flickr: Castle Rock