Blue Grotto (Lost Creek Lake, Oregon) 02-Feb-2018

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon

Lost Creek Lake is a very large reservoir situated on the main stem of the Rouge River in a scenic valley approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. Two trails – the North Shore and the South Shore – circle the lake. Situated at about 2,500 feet elevation, these trails are open year-round, even when snow (ha!) closes those further up in the Cascades.  Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers (the folks who actually operate the dam and this lake), both trails are well-built and well-maintained, and very easy to hike or bike.  The LovedOne was still catching-up on her library stuff, so it was up to me to take advantage of today’s outstanding Spring-like weather (the snowshoes are back in storage – sigh) by hiking to the Blue Grotto, where a seasonal stream falls some 40 feet over a greenish rhyolite cliff.  The green rock is actually ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, the volcano that created the caldera now known as Crater Lake. 

The Blue Grotto is located 0.1 miles north of the North Shore Trail just four miles east of the Lost Creek Trailhead (the Lewis Road Trailhead is closer but the section of trail between Lost Creek and the Grotto is particularly nice). The Grotto is open all year but one’s chance to see the waterfall is best during the Spring (March – May) when runoff is high.  We haven’t had a particularly wet year, so I wasn’t sure whether there’d be a waterfall there or not. Onward regardless…  From Lost Creek, the North Shore Trail makes a gentle climb up the ridge southwest of Fawn Butte.

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Passing below Fawn Butte

The broad top of this ridge will be absolutely awash in wildflowers – particularly monkeyflowers – in the Spring.

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Passing below Fawn Butte
Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Passing below Fawn Butte; Tatouche Peak in the distance

Then the trail drops easily off the ridge,

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Going east from Fawn Butte

almost to lake level (or where it will be come summer).

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lost Creek Lake at winter draw down

After that, the trail ducks in and out of coves, through stands of forest,

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
A stand of trees along the trail

and across meadows (more wildflower bonanzas here in the Spring),

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
An oak woodland and meadow along the trail

before reaching the cove holding the Blue Grotto. This cove is easy to identify thanks to the floating PortaPotty moored in it (to relieve boaters visiting the Grotto during the summer).

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Floating relief, with the Jess Dam in the distance

A signed spur trail conveyed me from the North Shore Trail up into the bowl of volvanic ash holding the waterfall. Although the rhyolite is green, the Grotto seems to be named for the Blue Gulch, one gully to the east.

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Entering the Blue Grotto

I was in luck in that there was enough water for a waterfall, which helped bring out the greenness of the rock.

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The waterfall in the Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The pool in the Blue Grotto

Unless the stream is in full flood, it’s easy to work your way around behind the falls.

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Behind the waterfall
Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Behind the pool
Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Coming out from behind the waterfall
Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Farewell to the waterfall

After a snack, I headed back to Lost Creek, stopping to admire a tiny mushroom growing in some moss,

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
1 cm of sprouting fungus

and an amazingly large cavity in a still very much alive oak tree!

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
A cavity big enough for a condor…

A very, very plesant hike (8 miles roundtrip; 500 feet of elevation gain) on a full bluebird day that could have passed for one in Spring. On the way back, I was the recipient of an early season tick, one that died a hideous, agonizing death – or not, depending on how good a swimmer it is (or was). Out of respect for Nature, I’d like to take a more conciliatory attitude to these little blood-sucking demons, but with Lyme Disease now established in Oregon, I can’t. Vade retro satana!

 

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon
To the Grotto and back!

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