Tunnel Ridge Loop (Southwest Oregon) 15-Apr-2022

Well, last week gave us some of the weather we’d liked to have gotten spread out across January, February, and March – rain, snow, hail, sleet, high winds, etc. But, no, the skies waited and then slammed us with this stuff all at once. Recently brown hills are now green lower down and white higher up. The wildflowers are confused. But magic sky water is most welcome here however and whenever it arrives. More of this celestial moistness is expected in this evening and may then continue for another week. ๐Ÿ˜

The first hike we ever did down here, way back in 2013 when life seemed simpler ๐Ÿ™„, was a short loop on the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail between the Tunnel Ridge and Bear Gulch Trailheads, with a return on Little Applegate Road (4.9 miles (7.8 km); 550 feet (167 m) of elevation gain). So, when this morning offered us a brief break in the stormy weather, we took that as an omen to take a walk down memory lane and reprise this hike.

Sunshine greets us on the Tunnel Ridge Trail
Upward through a forest of oaks
Tolmie’s Mariposa Lily
The hills are green again (for the moment)
Looking west down the now verdant valley of the Little Applegate River

The Tunnel Ridge Trail ends right at the non-natural feature – a hand dug tunnel – which gives both the trail and the ridge their names. By boring 100 feet (30 m) or so through the ridge, the ditch builders avoided having to dig some 1,700 feet (518 m) of ditch around the ridge.

The famous tunnel through Tunnel Ridge
Continuing along the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (the ditch is still clearly evident on the right)
One of the original stone walls built to shore up the downslope side of the ditch
Balsamroot

One of the biggest (maybe the biggest?) madrone we’ve ever seen around here lives next to the ditch trail. In nine years, it seems to have lost a little bark on its main trunk but otherwise looks to be healthy.

The LovedOne provides a scale for the giant madrone during our hike in 2013
The main trunk is a good 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1 m) across
Continuing on *
Menzies’ Larkspur
Scarlet Fritillary
Almost to Bear Gulch
Starting down the Bear Gulch Trail
Ferns in Bear Gulch
Along the Bear Gulch Trail

This was a good, pleasant hike when we first did it back in 2013 and it’s still such a hike today. It was certainly the hike that got us thinking about the outdoor possibilities in Southwest Oregon. We were lucky to be able to revisit it on a day that, for about 3 hours, gave us perfect hiking weather. And thus we came full circle on our almost nine years of hiking in Southwest Oregon and Northern California. ๐Ÿ˜

Our Tunnel Ridge (T) to Bear Gulch (B) Loop
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2 thoughts on “Tunnel Ridge Loop (Southwest Oregon) 15-Apr-2022

  1. Thanks! After that big snow in December would not have been the best time to try even an easy hike like this one. Have them try it again soon, when more wildflowers are out. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Thanks for the guided tour.
    I had friends attempt to hike this back after the December snow. They became hopelessly lost and it nearly ended in tragedy. Iโ€™m going to forward your link to them. Next time they will be better informed.
    Your hikes never cease to amaze. Thank you.

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