Classic Upper Table Rock (Southwest Oregon) 25-Mar-2022

It was a perfect day – clear, sunny, warm – for a hike. True, the outside world is still a mess. And true, we desperately need a lot more rain. And true, that personal business thing was back in play. But today was, nonetheless, a perfect day for a hike. But only the morning was available. So nearby Upper Table Rock got the nod. We’ve done different hikes at Upper Table, including going across the center of the horseshoe. Today, however, we did the classic out-and-back stroll to the western arm, past the VORTAC station and the old stock pond.

That today was a perfect day for a hike had occurred to more than a few other folks too (it’s Spring Break week here). There were cars in the lot when we arrived, the overflow lot was in use when we got back, and we passed many people going to and from the mesa. But way out on the western arm, it was just us.

The Bear Creek and Rogue River Valleys, with Mount McLoughlin on the horizon
The view west from Upper Table

A few of the early wildflowers were already out – particularly the Henderson Fawn Lilies – but the drought might be making a dent in the exuberance this season’s floral display. πŸ™

Western Buttercup
Scarlet Fritillary
Spring Gold

The Table Rocks are renowned for the vernal pools – hosting plant and animal species endemic to only the Rocks – that dot their flat tops in the Spring. But there were no such pools in evidence today between the end of the official trail and the VORTAC station. Although open water seems to have gone early this year, it did leave behind just enough patches of damp soil to allow some Dwarf Woolly Meadowfoams to flower. 😊

All the vernal pools are dry
Dwarf Woolly Meadowfoam – found only on the Table Rocks
Dwarf Woolly Meadowfoam
Onward toward the VORTAC station
A grass stalk ready to cast its seeds
Mount McLoughlin and contrails

The VORTAC station sits like an inverted funnel between the abandoned part of Pumice Lane and the gravel part still in use as a service road. A little beyond the station, the service road passes an old stock pond that always seems – even in a drought – to be able to gather enough water each winter to actually look like a pond (if only for a few short weeks).

Pumice Lane service road past the VORTAC station
The old stock pond still held some water
Passing the old stock pond

Just past the pond, we turned west, dodged through a narrow band of trees, and came out on to the open west side of Upper Table’s western arm. From here we had an expansive view of Lower Table Rock and the Red Buttes over a surprisingly verdant looking Sams Valley. After taking in the view, we returned to Pumice Lane and followed it back.

Overlooking Sams Valley, Lower Table Rock (1), and the snowy Red Buttes (arrow) from Upper Table’s western arm
View from a cleft in the mesa
Going through the forest to reconnect with Pumice Lane
Looking west across the mesa: (1) Pilot Rock, (2) Mount Ashland, (3) Wagner Butte, (4) Grayback Mountain, (5) Red Buttes
Looking west close-up: (1) Roxy Ann Peak, (2) Pilot Rock, (3) Mount Ashland, (4) Wagner Butte
Going back down the main trail

So, an exceedingly pleasant ramble [7.4 miles (11.8 km) with only 780 feet (238 m) of elevation gain] on a day with weather seemingly perfectly designed for such a thing. 😁 The views were amazing and it was truly heartening to see the Meadowfoams hanging on despite the drought. The weather service is (again) taunting us with the prospect of showers early next week. πŸ€” Let’s hope they’re right this time, as the wildflowers on Upper Table could use a generous dousing! πŸ˜…

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