We’ve been down here on the outer edges of the empire for a couple of months now and have been hiking mostly around the wonderfully bucolic Applegate Valley or in the southern Rogue River Valley (Soda Mountain Wilderness). This is our first hike in the Illinois River Valley – which is the valley west of the Applegate (and southwest of Grants Pass). We decided to start with the short (but steep) Kerby Peak Trail because it promised views. The views came about even on what was an unexpectedly overcast day. We also got a glimpse at the Brewer spruce, which is found only in this region. This is Hike #69 in the Falcon Guide Hiking in Southern Oregon.
The trail, which curiously doesn’t appear on any topographic maps, was nonetheless well-maintained and easy to follow. We started up with a series of switchbacks through an oak / madrone forest,
and into a mostly fir forest.
This region has little pockets of droopy-limbed Brewer spruce,
and is just northwest of the Brewer Spruce Research Natural Area, so we may have caught a glimpse of one of these rare trees. After an invigorating mile or so of “up,” the gradient eased as we reached the ridge with a view into the fog-shrouded Illinois River Valley.
We then contoured around to the east, which gave us views of snow-capped Mounts McLoughlin and Thielsen,
then started climbing again. A series of storms went through here recently but they left only about two inches of fresh snow above 5,000 feet.
There were a few sun-break sucker holes in the clouds. Once The LovedOne saw her shadow, there was hope that we’d have a little more winter (or at least snow).
The summit of Kerby is a rocky outcropping, with certain Easter Island-like qualities,
and increasingly expansive views.
Finally, the summit and a snack, with the Red Buttes on the far horizon.
The summit used to host a lookout, which was burned down in 1966, presumably (per the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)) to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. Apparently the lookout was not vaccinated and there were huge crowds of people on the summit back in the day. ❓
Despite the overcast, we did catch some views. Peakfinder.org identified almost every bump we could see except these snow-covered ones.
And then it was back down, through shaggy forests,
past yawning clear-cuts,
to the trailhead. This was a good, sturdy, steep little hike (6.4 miles round-trip; 2,676 feet of elevation gain) with great views despite the overcast (and hence likely to have awesome views on a clear day). It’s technically a “winter” ascent only because we did it during the winter months. In this pathetic snow year, it was just a cold hike past some sad 😦 little patches of snow.