In the last two years, Prescott Park, which surrounds Roxy Ann Peak to the east of Medford, Oregon, has added more than a few miles of new hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, as well as a new upper parking lot. When the spirit is willing for a hike, but not for a long drive, we head to the park. So when truly bluebird skies greeted us on what may be the last day of Indian Summer, we siezed the moment (Carpe ambulo!) for a stroll around the peak on some of the newest trails. Continue reading →
I first became aware of this trail from a 2013 Ashland Hiking Group post and then later found it posted as that on the Hiking Project. In both posts, the trail was described as indistinct, brushy, and hard to follow in places. Yet I could see it as part of a hike and bike loop – perhaps the last one of the 2017 summer season – involving it, Forest Roads 20 and 22, and the Wagner Butte Trail. So I girded myself for some bushwhacking and route-finding and set-off on a perfect bluebird day to explore this variation on the classic hike to Wagner Butte. As this loop progressed, I would be pleasantly surprised to find that the Ashland trails plan that has been in the works for years had finally come to fruition for this tread. Continue reading →
In July 2017, the Spokane Spokesman-Review ran a story called “What’s in your daypack?” It’s premise was that when heading out on anything other than the easiest trail (and maybe even then), you should have with you what’s needed to survive an incident or accident. I felt more than a little vindicated after reading it. My years spent hiking, climbing, and mountaineering taught me (usually the hard way) to be prepared, to be ready to self-rescue if possible, to have some means of mitigating the sufferfest (either mine or someone elses), and – above all – to not put others (like SAR folks) at risk only because I was poorly equipped for prevailing conditions. I know, I know; many, many people go on hikes with little more than a t-shirt and shorts, flip-flops, a phone, and a can of warm soda (a dubious variation on “go light, go fast”), and 95 times out of 100 the poop doesn’t hit the rotor. So why carry all this stuff? Well, life is, and always will be, a little (or a lot) like shooting craps. May you always roll sevens; but if (or when) a hike rolls you snake eyes, this stuff is really, really nice to have along. Think of it as a hedge on your hiking bet.
The Sky Lakes Wilderness stretches north to south along the Cascade Crest between Crater Lake National Park in the north and State Highway 140 in the south. Three major lake basins (Seven Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Blue Canyon) occupy this wilderness and we’ve so far hiked in all of them. But the Dwarf Lakes Area, a subsidiary of the Sky Lakes Basin, had gone unvisited, and I’d planned a first visit for earlier this Fall. But then a host of wildfires (the High Cascades Complex) blew-up, keeping this wilderness closed until the end of September. One of the complex’s component fires, the North Pelican, had burned its way west off the slopes of Pelican Butte and into the southern end of the Sky Lakes Basin. Then an early season blanket of snow put an end (mostly) to this reign of fire, opening the way for a late-in-the-season visit to the Dwarf Lakes. With the LovedOne busy at the library, I approached this hike solo with a lot of trepidation about what I would find the North Pelican had done to this basin.
Humans plan; the gods laugh. I had several new hikes planned in Southern Oregon’s Sky Lakes Wilderness to enjoy it during the usually glorious (and bug-free) Fall weather. But lightning strikes (thank you, Zeus!) ignited the Spruce Lake, Blanket Creek, and North Pelican fires, and these closed this wilderness (and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)) until a week ago. Then we got our first snow (thank Chione for that!), with more coming soon. So, with my Sky Lakess hiking needs unmet, and the weather window about to snap shut, I consulted the augeries and soon visualized Devils Peak. Devils isn’t the highest peak in this wilderness (that would be Mount McLoughlin), but it is the presiding monarch of the Seven Lakes Basin and a summit which, based on previous trips, I knew had one heck (metaphorically speaking) of a great view.
Earlier this year, we did an out-and-back hike along the Layton Ditch Trail above Williams, Oregon. That trail is a piece of Southern Oregon’s mining history, as is the Chinese Wall it crosses. After plotting our track for that hike, I got to looking at maps for other possible hikes in the area. One that caught my attention was along the ridge east of Ferris Gulch, with a return via Ferris Gulch Road – about an 8 to 9 mile loop. The LovedOne was up for a not-too-long, not-too-far away hike, so we decided to capitalize on the continuing perfect Fall weather to have a go at this Ferris Gulch Loop (which seemed particularly fitting since one of the LovedOne’s most favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are well known (and well used) hiking and wildflower venues just north of Medford, Oregon. They present different, but always attractive, short- and long-distance vistas throughout the year. By Fall, the expansive wildflower meadows that graced the plateaus in Spring have gone fallow. Any surface water has been supplanted by hardened soil and the color palette has shifted from multiple colors to various muted hues of yellow and gold. Reasons enough for a return visit (one of many to date) to Upper Table Rock. This Rock is horseshoe shaped, with the legs of the “shoe” pointing south. Popular guides to this area usually mention only the short hike (3 or so miles round-trip) to the tip of the eastern leg. But you can craft a longer (8 or more miles roundtrip) and more varied hike by venturing over the top of the shoe and out to the tip of its western leg. So, on a day with near perfect weather for hiking, I (today being one of the LovedOne’s library volunteer days) set out to enjoy the colors of a different season, and a longer hike, on Upper Table.