The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (#1470) runs, as its name suggests, for some 30 miles between Huckleberry Gap and Three Lakes along the divide between the Umpqua and Rogue River watersheds. I have a love/sadness relationship with this trail. Sections of it are in good condition with big views, while others are viewless brush-choked slogs that haven’t seen maintenance in years and years. We’ve spent the last five years hiking it in sections. Today’s effort was to explore the section north from Forest Road (FR) 37 to Three Lakes. The LovedOne was joining me on this ramble and I worried that we’d experience one of those brushy slogs she detests. But no worries. This section of the #1470 is outside the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness and the Umpqua National Forest has opened it to motorcycles. So, in short, thanks to use by responsible motorcyclists, this section of the #1470 proved to be brush-free and easy to follow, with only deep ruts in a few places. It had obviously been ridden recently but we encountered no motorcycles during today’s visit.
With the trail all laid-out for us, we could just stroll along enjoying the views. The most remarkable of these are the huge meadows that the trail skirts – vast expanses of grasses and other vegetation now gone golden with the onset of Fall. These are as nice as the ones at Donegan Prairie and much more accessible. It had rained up here the night before and steam was rising off the meadows as we walked through.
The recent rain also wet all the vegetation – more than just dew would have – and we were soon pretty wet from the knees down. This was still a vast improvement over the tinder dry forests we’ve been hiking through for most of this summer. 🙂
Eventually, the trail started climbing more steadily, up and away from the large meadows, and into a moss-draped forest. Some of the trees through here were huge – obvious old-growth specimens that had survived European settlement in this area.
About 1.8 miles from the trailhead, we came to Clear Creek Camp – the sign is still here but the campsites are overgrown and covered with fallen trees – crossed the creek and continued climbing.
About 2.6 miles in, we came to an old road (FR 350) that had been cut years ago to access two clear-cuts on the west side of Rim Rock. The original impetus for this hike had been to check-out the condition of the #1470. By now it was obvious that it was clear (thanks to the motorcyclists) all the way to Three Lakes and our hiking it wasn’t going to tell us anything more. So we decided to use the old logging road to reach Rim Rock, thereby adding some adventure and possible views to today’s journey.
We followed the old road for about three-quarters of a mile until it faded into a vague single-track, then went cross-country up to the ridge that is Rim Rock. It was rockier and more open up here and easier than thrashing through the forest below. We got a view to the northwest mainly because the clear-cut below us had extended all the way up to the ridge.
The Rim’s high point is a rocky promontory south of the rim itself. We headed in that direction but turned back after we saw that a descent/ascent through forest would be required to reach it. We wanted to save our energy for getting back to the old road. Which, despite having to dodge a lot of manzanita and getting all wet again from water on the little trees growing in the old clear-cut, went fine. We were soon on the #1470 heading back.
Overall, we did 7.9 miles with about 1,000 feet of gain. It was a good hike (worth it even if you only go in as far as the big meadows) but one that left us with mixed feelings. We don’t begrudge responsible motorcyclists (the irresponsible ones can rot in Hell – if it will even have them 😡 ) their fun and it’s obvious this section of the #1470 might have been lost to us were it not for them. Yet it’s sad that use by hikers alone couldn’t keep this section (or other deteriorating sections of the #1470) alive. 😦
Now, thanks 🙄 in part to the Big V, there seems to a growth in both hiking (good) and complaints (bad) about crowded trails and campsites. Well, duh (to quote Homer Simpson, the apparent sage for our times), if you all insist on going to the same spot to take the same photo so you can tell your friends you went to “the” same spot (along with everyone else). Spread out! Go do some exploring! Take a chance that an unfamiliar trail may be great – or a path of misery (builds character!). There are thousands of miles of trails (for the moment) out there just waiting for someone to come adore them! That could be you! Hike as though your trails depend on it! Because they do! 😀HOME