Tag Archives: ticks

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.

IMG_2574

2017-06-10 08.58.53

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.

IMG_2579

IMG_2584

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

IMG_2584

IMG_2603

IMG_2605

IMG_2611

IMG_2612

IMG_2607

IMG_2594

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

IMG_2613

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.

IMG_2615

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

IMG_2628

IMG_2629

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

2017-06-10 09.05.35

IMG_2624

2017-06-10 09.08.16

2017-06-10 09.15.49

2017-06-10 09.12.59

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

IMG_2634

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

IMG_2636

IMG_2637

IMG_2640

IMG_2641

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

IMG_2646

IMG_2648

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.

IMG_2657

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.

IMG_2660

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.

IMG_2661

IMG_2671

IMG_2673

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.

IMG_2681

More wildflowers were found along the open hillsides.

2017-06-10 10.40.14

2017-06-10 10.50.08

2017-06-10 10.59.09

IMG_2683

IMG_2697

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.

IMG_2704

IMG_2711

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.

IMG_2713

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.

IMG_2719

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.

2017-06-10 13.05.59-2

2017-06-10 13.06.10

2017-06-10 13.10.02

2017-06-10 13.30.14

IMG_2731

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

Illinois River Trail and Indian Sands

Our wildest hike came Friday. We had planned on a 17.2 mile hike along the Illinois River Trail going 8.6 miles to Silver Creek and back. The description in our guidebook said to look out for poison oak and to check for ticks at the end so we were prepared for a bit of an adventure. Our hike began at a trailhead near the end of Oak Flat Road. To get there we took Jerrys Flat Road from Gold Beach 27 miles then turned right on Oak Flat Road road for another 3.1 miles.
IMG_7225

The trail set off through an open forest with lots of yellow and purple wildflowers and some poison oak.
IMG_7242

IMG_7234

IMG_7240

IMG_7241

As we neared our first marker, Nancy Creek, we spotted a pair of deer that had already seen us and were heading back into the forest. Just beyond Nancy Creek we came upon a nice patch of columbine flowers. The only ones we would see during our vacation.
IMG_7247

Other flowers here included catchfly and henderson’s stars.
IMG_7251

IMG_7264

The next creek up was Rattlesnake Creek. A short distance before reaching this small stream we spotted a black bear in the woods below the trail. It saw us at about the same time and promptly turned around. For some reason I failed to even reach for the camera as we watched it go back downhill through the trees.

Beyond Rattlesnake Creek the trail entered an area where the trees had been lost to the 2002 Biscuit Fire.
IMG_7279

There continued to be a lot of flowers as well as the occasional patch of poison oak.
Pink honeysuckle
IMG_7284

chaparral false bindweed
chaparral false bindweed

Bridges’ brodiaea
Bridges' brodiaea

With the trees mostly burned this section of trail was crowded by brush.
IMG_7286

The amount of poison oak increased in the area of Ethels Creek and we started picking up ticks. Heather was the first to notice. She made an alarmed sound behind me and I turned around to see several ticks climbing up her legs. Looking down at my own I immediately spotted three. We brushed them all off and started to hike again. We had not gone far at all before Heather exclaimed again. We both had multiple ticks on our legs again. This had gone on for about a mile when we reached the Buzzards Roost, a rocky outcrop, at the 2.5 mile mark of our hike.
IMG_7311

A short scramble path went out onto the Buzzards Roost but we could see poison oak along that path and were too preoccupied with looking for and knocking off any additional ticks. We were discussing what to do as the number of ticks that we’d already brushed off was more than we could have imagined and it was giving us the willies. Things didn’t get any better when one of my trekking poles slid off the log I had propped it on. I had made the mistake of leaning it on the log without checking the area around the log. We watched it fall and bounce on some little poison oak plants. We used some wipes to pick it up (along with yet another tick) and then wiped it down as best as we could. I had also left my gloves in the car which would have come in handy since it was the grip that had made contact with the poison oak.

After a thorough cleaning we decided to at least try and go another 2 miles to Indian Flat and Indigo Creek and see if the tick and poison oak situation got any better.

It did improve some beyond the Buzzards Roost where the trail had rounded the hillside and was now on the southern facing slope which was drier with less brush crowding the trail. The flower display along this section was impressive.
Henderson’s Stars
IMG_7314

IMG_7318

Silver puff
IMG_7320

Paintbrush
IMG_7325

Blue gilia in the foreground
IMG_7329

Balsamroot
IMG_7332

Mariposa lily
IMG_7333

Fleabane
IMG_7344

Madia
IMG_7357

Penstemon
IMG_7428

Narrowleaf blue eyed mary
IMG_7429

California lady-slippers
IMG_7373

Western wallflower
IMG_7377

Ookow
IMG_7437

About 1.7 miles from the Buzzards Roost an old roadbed split off to the left. This led .2 miles to the meadow at Indian Flat.
IMG_7380

IMG_7389

IMG_7388

IMG_7391

IMG_7392

We continued on the Illinois River Trail and descended to the bridge across the lovely Indigo Creek.
IMG_7399

IMG_7405

IMG_7408

IMG_7411

On the far side of the creek we stopped to do a more intensive tick check. There were just a couple of stragglers to knock off and we decided to try and continue at least another .7 miles to Fantz Ranch. The trail began to climb uphill to reach a saddle above the ranch. As we climbed the switchbacks the amount of poison oak began to increase again. When it appeared that there was going to be no way past one patch without going through it we finally gave in and decided to call it. We’d made it a little over 5 miles and had seen a lot of neat stuff despite everything.

As we made our way back we stopped regularly to brush off the inevitable ticks. There were other more enjoyable critters out along the trail as well including a large number of alligator lizards. We hoped that they were filling up on the little blood suckers. 🙂
IMG_7435

IMG_7448

IMG_7451

IMG_7458

IMG_7397

IMG_7474

Back at the trailhead we wiped everything down in an attempt to remove an urushiol we might have picked up from contact with poison oak and did a final tick check before heading back to Gold Beach. We stopped by our room to shower and soak in the hot tub to try and relax.

We decided that since we had cut our hike short we should go back out in the evening to check out Indian Sands in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. We had not gone that far on Thursday when we were hiking in the southern portion of the park so we drove back down and parked at the Indian Sands pullout.
IMG_7478

We set off on the wide Oregon Coast Trail.
IMG_7479

A confusion of paths led off toward the ocean and the dunes of Indian Sands from the trail. We weren’t sure which was the “correct” one but we just kept heading toward the Pacific until we could see sand and then headed for that.
IMG_7482

We followed a path out to a wildflower covered viewpoint of a rock arch.
IMG_7492

Sea figs
IMG_7484

IMG_7485

Seaside daisy
IMG_7495

Sea thrift and paintbrush
IMG_7497

Mariposa lilies
IMG_7500

IMG_7498

IMG_7506

The sandstone cliffs here create the dunes making it an interesting area unlike anything else we’d seen in the park.
IMG_7513

IMG_7514

We made our way north following footprints in the sand.
IMG_7516

IMG_7521

IMG_7519

IMG_7527

IMG_7528

We came to a saddle with a great view where a trail to the right led up through a brush covered slope back into the forest and onto the Oregon Coast Trail.
IMG_7532

IMG_7536

IMG_7541

Turning right on the Oregon Coast Trail would have taken us back to the car but we decided to turn left and check out the Thomas Bridge Viewpoint. We’d driven over the bridge multiple times already and read that it was the highest bridge in Oregon at 345′. We left the Oregon Coast Trail at a split in the trail where it headed uphill toward the parking area for the viewpoint. We headed downhill to the left to find the viewpoint. The first viewpoint we came to was partly blocked by trees.
IMG_7543

The trail continued out along a ridge so we followed it looking for a better view. We noticed another trail along the right that hopped over the ridge and headed steeply down into the trees. We ignored that and continued heading for the ocean. No view of the bridge had appeared as we rounded the end of the ridge but the trail kept going now heading downhill back inland. It did wind up leading to a better, but not great, viewpoint.
IMG_7547

From this viewpoint we followed a path uphill that wound up being the same trail we had seen going over the ridge and down into the trees. When we crested the ridge we met another couple looking for the viewpoint. We pointed them in the right direction before heading back to Indian Sands.

In the end it worked out really well to have turned back on the Illinois River Trail in time for us to get the hike in at Indian Sands. It was definitely worth the visit. We appear to have escaped the poison oak without any ill effects (at least not yet) and haven’t had to brush off any ticks since leaving the Illinois River Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666245754163