After several stormy days in otherwise bucolic Southern Oregon, today opened to near perfect bluebird conditions – sunny, crisp, and clear, with just a hint of clouds for contrast. Rummaging through our list of low-altitude, snow-not-ready-yet-for-snowshoes, Winter hiking options, we came up with the Payette Trail (USFS #970). This hiking and mountain biking trail runs for about nine nearly level miles along the eastern shore of Applegate Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers managed reservoir on the Upper Applegate River. The reservoir’s pool elevation can change by 100 feet or more annually in response to seasonal rainfall. So it looks like a real lake in mid-summer but a large mud bathtub in mid-winter. Nonetheless the trails around it are good ones, and all offer some pretty vistas if you accept the “lake” for what it is.
The Upper and Lower Table Rockslie just north of Medford, Oregon and are probably the easiest, most visited, local hikes in the Rogue River Valley. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that the Rocks are visited annually by more then 10,000 people; most heavily in the Spring, which is the best time for viewing the many different wildflowers (post) that fill the mesa top and the migratory birds working the oak scrub and madrone forests. But the trails are open all year round and Winter offers moody vistas, vernal pools, and many fewer visitors. Hikes on both are Hike #31 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd edition) but Chris Reyes’ 1994 The Table Rocks of Jackson County: Islands in the Sky provides (if you can find a copy) a lot more detail about the natural history and cultural history of the Rocks. The short (3 mile round-trip), but interesting, hike up Upper allowed us to wedge some rain/snow-free exercise into a gap in the wierd rain/sunshine kabuki dance being performed by our pre-Winter weather (making this yet another of the many times we’ve visited the Rocks in all seasons (post)).
As the Northern Hemisphere enters its inevitable transition from Summer to Winter, the usually mellow weather here in Southern Oregon becomes conflicted, turbulent, truculent, and garrelous. Weather fronts sweeping in off the Pacific Ocean interact with our variously oriented and variously elevated mountain ranges to make local weather predictions tricky at best. Deep conversations about white-outs and snowshoes once again enter the conversation and sneaking in just one more summer-like hike becomes a crap shoot. But when all the different weather prognosticators seemed to agree that the remainder of this Thanksgiving Week was going to be locally frought with storms, rain, and snow, we decided to try for that one last snowshoe-free hike of the season. With the weather being difficult, we weren’t going to go all in for a big hike and so cast around for something short and close but (maybe) with a view. After consulting the oracles, we settled on Boccard Point from a new (for us) trailhead.
As we’ve noted in previous posts, we have a project underway to at least visit all of Oregon’s 47 established federal wilderness areas that we’d missed visiting in years past (less the two – Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks – that are closed to public entry). We started in January 2016 with 18 wilderness areas left to be visited and it looked like we would get to visiting all of these this year – until other hiking and travel opportunities diverted us and we lost monentum. So when personal business took us up to Portland, Oregon (aka the “big city” now that we live out in the provinces), we grabbed the chance to visit the Lower White River Wilderness. This is another of those small (2,871 acre), fairly obscure wilderness areas whose primary human purpose is watershed protection and not recreation. There is a small USFS forest camp (Keeps Mill) at its north end but no established trails in the wilderness itself. A use trail goes a short ways downstream from the camp, and you can go cross-country if you’d like (Koda’s trip report), but, again, this one is about watershed protection not hiking.
Prescott Parksits on the eastern edge of Medford, Oregon, covering the sloping terrain surrounding Roxy Ann Peak (3,573 feet), the park’s high point, and is managed by the City of Medford. With a high point of 3,573 feet and a low point 1,960 feet the park has over 1,600 feet of vertical terrain to access. This terrain is spread over 1,740 acres of oak savannah and pine forests. A variety of soil types are present as well as a number of rocky outcrops and jumbles. The existing trails and roads, along with its vertical terrain and its proximity to Medford, make this a hugely popular year-round destination for hiking, biking, running, and walking.
Last week we did an out-and-back hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Dead Indian Plateau to the viewless summit of Old Baldy (post), passing a sign for Vulture Rock along the way. “Vulture Rock” is the local name for Point 6054 and subsequent research showed that it’s the go-to spot for views along this section of the PCT. So, of course, we had to go see for ourselves. Unfortunately the LovedOne was busy elsewhere, so it fell to me to confront the Vulture alone (sigh). Rather than hike north from the Keno Access Road like we did last week, I opted to mix it up some by hiking south from the Pederson Sno-Park trailhead on Dead Indian Memorial Road (USFS). From this minimalist trailhead (no amenities other than off-road parking),
A few weeks ago, our local paper, the Medford Tribune, ran a story (here) about how the Forest Service, in collaboration with numerous volunteers (and with some artful grantsmanship), had been able to replace five bridges on the Taylor Creek Trail (USFS #1142). This was a near miraculous story given that trail building (and even trail maintenance) too often seems but a distant memory. So, of course, we had to see this miracle for ourselves. Taylor Creek is a popular hiking and mountain biking trail in Summer (because it’s shaded and goes along the creek), in Fall (because of the colors), and in Winter and Spring (because it’s too low for snow). We managed to miss almost all of the Fall colors and so, again, focused on the mushrooms, which were numerous.