For six of the last seven years, we’ve made a climb of Stein Butte our last hike of the year (in 2015 we hiked Squaw Butte instead – which became a snow slog of unexpectedly epic proportions 🙄). So we planned to revisit Stein again this year. But mighty winter storms got here first, icing the roads and dumping much, much snow almost everywhere. Our hospitals are (again) packed with plague victims 😥 – so it’s not a good time to have an accident on slick roads. And all the snow made us think that an attempt on Stein would be a repeat of our tribulations on Squaw in 2015. Plus (Wait, there’s more!) another big storm was on its way. So we turned our thoughts to a lower and closer hike.
Those thoughts – plus the little voices in our heads – brought us to Mountain of the Rogue (MOTR) near Rogue River, Oregon. Although primarily a mountain biking venue, it has a few good trails that are also open to hikers. Its high point – Tin Pan Peak – is a good walk (7 miles (11.2 km) round trip) and climb (1,300 feet (396 m)) from the parking lot. And at only 2,394 feet (730 m), just how much snow could there be on these trails? Those little voices said “Not much” but they were wrong, as they often are (except for that Area 51 thing; but I digress).
So we motored to MOTR on clear, ice-free roads, parked in its nice, paved parking lot and started up the RAT Pack Trail, a mixed-use trail that started out free of snow. This area was burned over by the 2021 North River Fire. Although most trees and shrubs were charred husks, we also saw signs of regrowth from the deep roots that had been spared by the flames. 🙂
After 600 feet (182 m) of climbing, we left the RAT Pack Trail for the Sasquatch Trail, another mixed use trail. Snow started to encroach on the trail here and would just get deeper and deeper as we climbed higher and higher.
We followed the Sasquatch Trail to its junction with the RAT Pack Trail and continued on that up to the saddle and a junction with the Easy Street Trail (an old road). Easy Street was covered with a foot (30 cm) or more of fresh powder snow. The boot prints and mountain bike track we had been following stopped here, so we plowed on, breaking our own trail. Not as tough as the 2015 hike but way more snow than we’d expected at such a low altitude.
We followed Easy Street up to its junction with the Arm Bar and Bob & Weave Trails. From here, we kicked steps directly up the ridge to intersect the Darkside Trail just short of the summit. Kicking steps on Tin Pan Peak? Yes, there is a LOT of snow up here. We plowed up Darkside and around to the summit.
Well, we’d gotten up here, now we had to get back down. To minimize snow slogging, we got a little creative. We went down the Darkside to its junction with the Arm Bar, followed that to its first switchback, dropped down to the Bob & Weave, took that to its crossing of the Darkside and got on that trail for the trip back to the RAT Pack Trail. Arm Bar and Bob & Weave are bike-only trails, which, except for all this snow, we would never hike on. But we figured that we’d be unlikely to encounter even the fattest fat tire bikes during the short time we’d be on these trails, so we went for it.
We eventually got back to below the saddle and started down the RAT Pack Trail, which, fortunately, got less and less snowy as we descended.
And so our hiking for 2021 came to an end. It wasn’t the end-of-the-year hike we’d planned for or expected, but a pretty good one nonetheless. But then the last two years have been about planning or hoping to do one thing but having to do something else or nothing at all. In the grand scheme of things, having to change our hiking plans is just no big deal – we’ll get back to Stine Butte soon enough. The blessings are that we still have the ability to hike and the scenery in which to do it. 😁