The South Fork Rogue River, a 25-mile tributary of Oregon’s Rogue River, rises in the Blue Lake Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and flows generally northeast to its confluence first with the Middle Fork and then with the main Rogue slightly upstream of Lost Creek Lake. The South Fork is bordered for part of its length by three hiking trails: the Lower South Fork Trail between Lower South Fork Bridge and Imnaha Creek (USFS #988), the Middle South Fork Trail between the Upper and Lower South Fork Bridges (USFS #988), and the Upper South Fork Trail from near Upper South Fork Bridge to the Blue Lake Basin (USFS #986). Both the Lower and Middle trails are locally popular and are also described in almost every hiking guidebook for this area. The Upper trail is rarely mentioned (if at all) in local guidebooks and is described by the Forest Service as a minimally maintained primitive trail, one not recommended for horses, and a challenging workout for hikers. This made a hike of it sound intriguing for one last venture into the Sky Lakes until the end of mosquito season in September.
The 11-mile Mule Mountain~Mule Creek loop hike in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Valley (USFS #919) used to be a winter/spring favorite owing to its accessiblity in winter and wildflowers in spring. Unfortunately, access to the bulk of the trail on federal land was across a 0.3 mile easement on private land. In 2016, when that private land changed ownership, the easement was revoked. While some people still seem to be using the trail, doing so technically constitutes trespassing – which may become more of an issue if the new owner takes up residence on the site. The U.S. Forest Service is supposedly negotiating for a new easement but, in the meantime, they suggest accessing the loop from its top via the Charlie Buck/Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918). This approach does not have nearly the accessibility (it was closed by snow all winter) as did the old #919, but it’s what’s on offer at the moment.
The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail was the first trail we hiked in Southern Oregon before deciding to move south (post). Granted calling a trail “mine ditch” doesn’t make it sound all that attractive but it is, in fact, a very pleasant, low elevation, year-round trail, with wildflowers in the Spring and a rich history. We’ve now hiked the entire length of the trail between its Deming Gulch, Wolf Gap, and Little Applegate trailheads (post). Having done all this, the eternal quest for a new hike or a twist on an old hike kicked in. A posting by the Ashland Hiking Group attracted our attention to Anderson Butte (5,197 feet), a lumpy peak which rises above the eastern end of the ditch trail and which used to be graced by a fire lookout. After deep cartographic introspection, it looked like a loop could be formed using the ditch trail, some forest roads, and a bit of cross-country travel. The LovedOne has grown just a little leery of my “experimental” hikes and thus obtained a Winter Solstice Deferment (not enough daylight!) to avoid accompanying me on this one. So, feeling warmth only from my Dutch Brothers White Chocolate Mocha, I headed into the wilderness…
A few weeks ago, our local paper, the Medford Tribune, ran a story (here) about how the Forest Service, in collaboration with numerous volunteers (and with some artful grantsmanship), had been able to replace five bridges on the Taylor Creek Trail (USFS #1142). This was a near miraculous story given that trail building (and even trail maintenance) too often seems but a distant memory. So, of course, we had to see this miracle for ourselves. Taylor Creek is a popular hiking and mountain biking trail in Summer (because it’s shaded and goes along the creek), in Fall (because of the colors), and in Winter and Spring (because it’s too low for snow). We managed to miss almost all of the Fall colors and so, again, focused on the mushrooms, which were numerous.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows, from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park, generally westward for 215 miles to the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach, Oregon. Of the river’s total length, 124 miles has been designated as Wild and Scenic under the provisions of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Hiking trails follow the river for approximately 100 miles, divided into three major trails: (1) The Lower trail, which runs 11-miles westward from Agness, Oregon; (2) the very well-known Rogue River Trail (post), a National Recreation Trail which stretches for 40 miles between Grave Creek and Foster Bar (USFS #1160), and (3) the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034), also a National Recreation Trail. The #1034 mostly roughly parallels the river for about 47 miles from near its headwaters at Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. It can be thru-hiked but is more often hiked in sections, each of which is readily accessible from Highways 62 or 230 (USFS Guide).
The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today we finished the last section – from River Bridge Campground to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area – of our effort to hike the entire length of the #1034, section by section. As with a previous section, we again went from south to north to accommodate a hike & bike approach. We turned east off Highway 62 on to Forest Road 6210 (mostly good gravel) going toward the River Bridge Campground for a short distance to its junction with FR 6210-050, where we hid the bike. Then we backtracked south on Highway 62 and turned west on a gravel road to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area (parking, picnic tables, and a pit toilet). This turn is about 100 yards south of the USFS Ranger Station, at mile post 43, and across from where the road from Prospect junctions with Highway 62. There is a sign for the recreation area but it’s barely visible from Highway 62.
The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today I finished another section – from Foster Creek to Hamaker Campground, going from south to north to accommodate a hike & bike approach. The LovedOne had a doctor’s appointment plus she was concerned that this section would be the same unmaintained mess as was the Foster Creek to Big Bend section (post), so I was on my own for this one.