Sometimes we have to look hard for the “southern” in Southern Oregon. The last forecast of 2016 had predicted sunny, clear, but very cold (for our area at least), weather for the first week of the New Year, so we signed-up for a meet-up hike at Lost Creek Lake on Wednesday (4 Jan). But the weather models were in conflict for this period, so alternative outcomes were certainly possible. And so it was. Between midnight Monday and midnight Tuesday, about 8.3 inches of snow was recorded by the National Weather Service station at the Medford airport. Despite this dump, the record for a 24-hour period still belongs to 11 Dec 1919, when 11 inches fell, vanquishing the previous record of 8 inches set on 21 Feb 1917. Pretty tame stuff for other, perhaps more northerly, places, but a big deal here.
By Wednesday morning, over 12 inches had fallen in our backyard, and we were almost covered in the stuff. Needless to say, the meet-up hike got canceled.
By Wednesday afternoon, the skies had cleared,
the air temperature had risen to a little above freezing, and some melting had begun. Then clear skies and solid snow cover drove the overnight temperatures way, way down (13ºF), which gave us some very icy roads on Thursday morning. My one memorable experience with black ice involved sudden spinning, lodgement in a roadside ditch, and a winch-out by a passing beer truck. While I’ve appreciated beer ever since, driving on ice is simply not fun! But cabin fever was now ravaging the ranks and getting out of the house seemed the only way to save ourselves (and give our cat a chance to catch-up on her sleep). So we struck out toward old reliable Lower Table Rock – not an uncommon occurrence when weather closes-off other hiking venues. Once we got down our side street and out to the county road driving conditions improved mightily and it was ice-free motoring all the way to Lower Table, which was sporting a cover of snow like we’d never seen before.
With schools, businesses, and government offices closed by the weather, folks looking for something to do had already beaten a path for us through the snow (and through any late season venemous reptiles).
So it was up through the scrub oak grassland,
then through mixed oaks and pines,
then through the madrones,
to finally emerge on the flat, totally snow covered tableland atop the Rock. The top is at about 2,000 feet, 1,500 feet above the recent storm’s snow level, so there was a good 12+ inches of snow up there. Amazing! It was brilliantly sunny but the air temperature was stuck in the low 20ºF zone. Fortunately there was no wind or it would have felt as cold as it was!
The Rocks are famous for their vernal pools which, for the moment, were frozen over.
Mount McLoughlin, the Rogue Valley’s very own iconic volcano, was its usual bold self, sticking out above one of the vernal pools,
and above the fairly rare scene of a snow-covered Rogue Valley.
It was a beautiful day on Lower Table – clear skies, sunny, big views – but it was cold, very cold. So, after we’d hiked out to the southern tip, a hot lunch suddenly seemed like one of the world’s great ideas, so we headed back,
taking a couple of art shots along the way.
The weather gurus are predicting one more day of sun and bitter cold, followed by an abrupt return to our classic winter weather – 40ºF and rain, followed by yet more rain! But such wetness won’t last forever (this is Southern Oregon, not Portland) and soon we’ll be looking at some ideal snowshoe conditions near Mount Ashland and on the Dead Indian Plateau. So, unless you prefer to stay inside all day, this is one great place to live!