We backpacked the Rogue River Trail in 2015 and have returned almost every year since to make the shorter journey from Grave Creek to Whisky Creek Cabin and back. This is mainly because this is a wonderful low-altitude, early-season hike. We also like to visit the final resting place of Kitty Mack, the beloved cat of the cabin’s last owner. We last did this hike almost exactly a year ago, just as the impacts of the Big V were starting to become clearer. Last year two private raft trips were starting out from Grave Creek (permits are not required until mid-May) but there weren’t many hikers. This year there were no rafts but lots more hikers – hiking have become immensely popular as a counter to the Big V’s depredations. We added something extra to this visit by going up for a quick look at the Reno Mine, which metastasizes a slope above the cabin.

It was going to become a clear, sunny, warm day but we started out in the cold under low clouds. Although we haven’t had an unusually wet winter, there seemed to be plenty of water around to bring fully to life the little creeks draining into the Rogue. We had to hop rocks just to leave the trailhead.

Leaving the trailhead at Grave Creek
Grave Creek Rapids
The large waterfall that covers the trail in a wet Spring
Past a fern wall on the trail
A denizen of the fern wall
The clouds started to break-up as we passed Sandersons Island
A small waterfall in an unnamed side creek
The clouds part over Rainie Falls
China Gulch
Through an oak grove along the trail
The clouds were completely gone by the time we got near the cabin
Whisky Creek running high

When we got to Whisky Creek, we found that some COMPLETE IDIOTS had left their campfire still burning near the beach. 😡 We smothered the largest burning pieces in the river because we had nothing (then) in which to haul water. There is no excuse for this kind of irresponsibility given the terrible wildfires – some started by campfires – that we’ve had around here in the last few years.

We doused the biggest pieces of the still burning campfire in the river

The cabin and Kitty Mack’s last resting place were generally in good shape. However, we were saddened to find trash in the cabin and appalled to find used syringes in the cooler behind the cabin! We’ve alerted the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to this but be careful when visiting the cabin until they can do some clean-up.

Kitty Mack

While looking for the road up to the Reno Mine we followed a trail up-canyon that took us to a large tent and a bunch of trash. Someone had been squatting here. The drugs and the squatting seem odd given that we’re a good ways from the nearest road and even farther from the nearest town. We went back and found the wide and steep (and obvious) road (BLM 33-8-27) to the mine. It took us past an old, empty building labeled “explosives” and on up some 600 feet (182 m) to a T-junction. Here BLM 33-8-27 continues north and an older road contours west toward the Reno Mine.

On the road up to the mine

The Reno Mine is one of several old mines here just outside the Rogue River’s wild and scenic river boundary. It’s been around at least since 1916 (it was called the Elwilda or Kramer Group then) and is still an active mining claim. So there are a lot of no trespassing signs. We only went far enough to get a glimpse of something that looked like a mine. We settled for some ore car tracks. The hill here is apparently honeycombed with tunnels but it’s unclear whether this mine was ever a good return on investment as the most successful mines (i.e., the few that actually made a profit) in Southern Oregon were all hydraulic, not hard rock.

An old track for an ore car

We had a snack on the mine road and then headed down to the Rogue River. We used our now empty snack bag to carry water to the still smoldering campfire. 😡 And then it was back on the Rogue River Trail to Grave Creek. Along the way we passed or were passed by over a dozen hikers and backpackers. We were impressed by all the wildflowers that had already made an appearance, along with the butterflies attracted to them. 🙂

Crossing the creek at China Gulch
On the trail past Sandersons Island
Grave Creek Rapid with the trailhead in the distance
Wildflower shadow

Another good hike to visit Kitty Mack and one of the Rogue’s old mines (9.4 miles (15.1 km), with 870 feet (265 m) of gain, mostly up to the mine) on what turned into a beautiful Spring day. 🙂 This otherwise perfect day was, however, marred by that untended campfire and dangerous trash at the cabin. Drug users struggle with some horrible demons but people who leave burning campfires behind are simply complete idiots for whom there are no excuses. None. 😡

Our hike along the Rogue River Trail and up to the Reno Mine (“T” is the abandoned tent we stumbled across)