Fall’s Gold on Upper Table Rock (Southern Oregon) 14-Oct-2017

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

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.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

At the start of the trail

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Oak woodlands and dried grasses on the way up

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Plumes of steam rise from the lumber mills in the valley

After 1.1 miles, the “official” trail ends at a small wooden fence from where I had an expansive view to the southwest on this absolutely clear day. The haze on the far horizon is actually smoke from the still burning Abney Fire (part of the Miller Complex Fire) along the Siskiyou Crest. We’ve had some rain and snow but not enough yet to fully terminate this burning beast.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Looking southwest from the end of the official trail

From here, use trails (clearly visible on Google Earth) fan out in all directions but I hunted up the end of the old road that used to swing around the entire horseshoe (it’s still in operation on the western side as the VORTAC station’s service road). Following this road – which shrinks to just a trail in a few places – takes you directly toward the top of the shoe and also (and more importantly) minimizes trampling of what will be wildflowers come Spring.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Toward the VORTAC station at the top of the horseshoe

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Closing in on the station

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

A perfect Fall day

The old road becomes a working road (Pumice Lane) at the VORTAC station and I followed this working road south past what was a large pond in May but is now just an expanse of rumpled dried mud.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

The pond drieth up…

Just before Pumice Lane starts down off the plateau, a very old, nearly invisible, two-track road juts off to the east. It becomes easier to see the further east you go and it’s big advantage is in providing a way through the flesh-ripping buckbrush.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Start of the old two-track off Pumice Lane

From the spot elvation (Point 2062) on the western leg, I got a good view of a popular use trail on the eastern arm and of Mount McLoughlin on the horizon.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Mount McLoughlin above the eastern leg of Upper Table Rock

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Mount McLoughlin above the cliffs of Upper Table Rock

I was meeting the LovedOne for lunch, so, after a few snapshots, I headed back. Mounts Bailey and Diamond, and the rim of Crater Rim – all some 60 or more miles away – were visible as snow-specks of the far horizon.

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Heading back along Pumice Lane

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Mount McLoughlin overlooking a field of gold

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

Mount McLoughlin

A longer (8.6 miles round-trip; 800 feet of elevation gain) and more varied leg-stretch than the usual one in the guidebooks, with (thanks to the wonderful weather) views in all directions, along with a different perspective on the eastern leg of the horseshoe. Onward to winter!

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

End of the season among the oaks

Upper Table Rock Medford Oregon

My track to the western leg

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