Tag Archives: Lower Table Rock

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

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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