Two weeks ago, we journeyed just south of Ashland to explore a tunnel started by the long-defunct Oregon & California Railroad. Their tunnel under Buck Rock was only partially-completed and has been abandoned since 1884. We climbed Buck Rock and found the tunnel’s West Portal but not its East Portal. Today was one of The LovedOne’s volunteer days at the library, so I headed out solo to visit the East Portal and bring closure to our Buck Rock saga.
I reached the yellow gate at the trailhead in a thick fog, which persisted all the way to the East Portal, which proved easy to find (given the right directions). From the trailhead, I went up the old road and then took the first turn to the east (left) on another old road.
At 2.3 miles from the trailhead, the old road comes to an open, flat area, then turns west (right) and starts climbing somewhat steeply. To reach the East Portal, I went straight ahead across the open area, then veered right into the trees and a small gully (a use trail became apparent at this point). About 100 feet (30 m) or so up this gully I came to the historical marker and the partially obscured mouth of the portal. The tunnel itself is sound but its mouth has been largely covered by loose dirt sliding down from the slopes above. While the West Portal is a 20-foot high walk-in, this one requires going up and down a pile of dirt through an 8-foot high opening. Inside it’s just as big as the West Portal but a little spookier due to the limited light from the outside.
After visiting the tunnel, I continued up the road (which runs over the tunnel) to the saddle south of Point 4087. The sunbreaks 😎 started just before the saddle and continued, on and off, until I got back to the trailhead. From the saddle, I followed a single-track use trail north over Point 4087 to the base of Buck Rock and then scrambled snow-slippery rock to its summit.
From the summit, I did a short cross-country descent to an old road just to the west, followed that (which is almost a single-track in places) to the road coming up from the yellow gate, and that back to the trailhead.
In all, a 6.8 mile (10.9 km), 1,350 feet (411 m) of gain loop over and around Buck Rock. Once you know where they are, both of the tunnel’s portals are easy to visit in a single loop hike. Throw in the summit of Buck Rock and you’ve got a good day’s worth of exercise, history, and adventure! 😀RETURN TO FRONT PAGE