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˜

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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.

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Farewell, Kitty Mack (Rogue River) 10-Mar-2022

Aside from a few exercise walks up Roxy Ann, it’s been 10 days since our last hike. Part of this gap was due to some anxiety-provoking personal business. Part was due to bad weather – which didn’t turn out to be bad enough (in a good way) to pummel us with much needed rain and snow. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ And part was due to anger and frustration and ultimately despair about what’s happening in Ukraine. ๐Ÿ˜ช Seems we’re all getting a harsh lesson in the realpolitik that happens when a delusional dictator is willing to go nuclear if thwarted. So although hiking has always provided us with some respite from the cares of the world, it just seemed somewhat irrelevant.

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Buck Rock Tunnel (Ashland, Oregon) 28-Feb-2022

The Buck Rock Tunnel is one of the most visible remnants of a rail line that was never built. It was to be part of the Oregon & California (O&C) Railroad Company’s planned route over the Siskiyou Pass and into California. Construction began in 1883, using Chinese labor, and ceased, with the tunnel only partially dug, in 1884. The O&C was acquired soon thereafter by the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad, who put tracks over the pass via a different route. The Buck Rock Tunnel then sat abandoned and nearly forgotten until a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee rediscovered it in 1966. As an important piece of Southern Oregon history, it became part of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2014.

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Backdoor to Bolt Mountain (Southwest Oregon) 25-Feb-2022

Sometime in 1939, my mother moved to London from her small hometown in Scotland. She probably looked forward to an exciting life in the big city after a constrained one in the provinces. It just turned-out to be “exciting” in a very bad way. War had been in the air for awhile but after “peace in our time” people thought they’d dodged the proverbial bullet. Then the Nazis manufactured an excuse to invade Poland and WWII was off and running.

Mom stayed in London for the whole war – through the threat of invasion, the nightly bombings of the Blitz, the V1s, the V2s, and the arrival of the Americans (one of whom was an Army Air Corp officer – my dad). Neither she nor he ever spoke much about WWII – they weren’t an overly talkative generation when it came to that. But I nevertheless picked-up some sense of what they – and millions of others at that time – had been through at the hands of an evil aggressor.

So there was just a little dรฉjร  vu as we watched Russia go on and on about not invading Ukraine (“peace in our time” for the 21st Century) and then manufacture a reason (Ukrainians are Nazis!) for doing just that. Supposedly serious people were shocked! shocked! that this could happen. Mom and dad are gone now, but I don’t think they’d have been too shocked to see yet another dictator decide to simply take what he wanted – or at least try to in the face of stiff opposition. I can only hope that supposedly serious people get over being shocked and get on with helping the Ukrainians fight for their freedom and sovereignty.


Hiking (along with a host of other recreational activities) is a triviality in comparison to war. Not that was it ever meant to be serious. It’s simply a pleasure, a diversion, one that eases the anxiety and stress that comes from seeing the world convulse. Maybe by releasing natural endorphins or something.

I needed a brief break from watching Putin try (try!) to dismantle Ukraine. So, with The LovedOne busy at the library (where cellulose fumes apparently substitute for endorphins), I headed to Bolt Mountain (2,180 ft / 667 m) near Grants Pass to finally hike it on a clear and sunny ๐Ÿ˜Ž day. All our previous hikes of it having been plagued by clouds, fog, drizzle, and gloom. ๐Ÿ˜ž

The official trail starts from Fish Hatchery Park ($5 day use fee) but you can also approach from Stringer Gap (no fee). This is the backdoor to Bolt. Two old roads and a web of mountain biker use trails radiate from the Gap – many of these loop back on themselves and do not go to Bolt. But the old road going south and then west eventually becomes a single-track trail that connects with the official trail to Bolt at about 1,600 feet (488 m).

Starting out on one of the old roads
Frozen
Sunshine on an old road
The eastern side (arrow) of Bolt Mountain comes into view
Along the south side of Bolt
A handmade sign marks the junction with the official trail
On the official trail
Looking at a giant clearcut to the west
On the north side of Bolt
Approaching the summit ridge
The top of Bolt Mountain – in sunshine for the first time!
Looking to the southeast through some smoke haze
Looking west toward the Siskiyou Crest
Grants Pass to the northeast
Heading back
Sunlight and shadows
Spring Gold – another early season wildflower
Back on the old road

From the Gap to Bolt and back came to 5.4 miles (8.6 km) with 1,000 feet (305 m) of elevation gain. This was a good break. Then it was back to watching evil try to defeat freedom. More storms are supposedly headed our way so maybe by early next week we’ll be all wet. ๐Ÿ˜

My double lollipop hike to and from Bolt
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A Good, Cold Walk… (Southwest Oregon) 23-Feb-2022

A forecast “big” storm actually rolled through our area over the past few days. It brought a lot more cold than water (we’re still 27% below historical normal precipitation ๐Ÿ˜ฅ) but was welcome nonetheless. Then it was gone and the sun popped back out. While the valley floor got only a light (very light) dusting of snow, 8 inches (20 cm) had fallen up on Mount Ashland. So we surmised that there might be some snow on the trails in Forest Park. Inquiring minds wanted to know…

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Layton Ditch Headworks (Southwest Oregon) 08-Feb-2022

Between 1874 and 1877, Chinese laborers hand dug a 21-mile (34 km) long ditch to bring water from the Pipe Fork of the East Fork of Williams Creek to J.T. Layton’s hydraulic gold mines in Bamboo and Ferris Gulches. Although profitable (not something you can say for most mines around here), the gold-bearing alluvium feeding these mines eventually played-out. So, by the 1920s, this ditch (and others like it) had been abandoned and mostly forgotten. But its alignment and the ditch tender trail next to it remained. Then the restoration of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in the mid-2000s showed how these old ditches could become highly popular hiking and riding venues. For the Layton Ditch, the Williams Community Forest Project teamed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore 13 miles of it as a hiking and riding trail. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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Old Trails on Lower Table Rock (Oregon) 29-Jan-2022

The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are arguably among the most popular hiking destinations in Southern Oregon. The current official trails to the plateaus atop both rocks are well marked and very well used. We have a weakness for Upper Table because longer hikes are possible there; for example, an out-and-back to the VORTAC station on old Pumice Road or a little cross-country (staying on game trails) across the valley between the two arms of its plateau. Lower Table always seemed a little less interesting, mainly because its main trail only goes to the old landing strip (built in 1948) and to a few use trails to views out over the Rogue and Bear Creek Valleys. But there’s a little more to Lower than just this strip and those views – as I first discovered on a hike there in 2017.

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Cathedral Hills Park (Oregon) 26-Jan-2022

We had a huge, intense dump of snow over the Christmas holidays. Rejoicing ensued – as this was seen as the start of the promised (and much needed) wet, cold La Niรฑa winter. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ Then high pressure settled in – there has been no precipitation, much less snow, for three weeks. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ All the snow and cold has skipped over us and gone East, where it won’t be as appreciated as it would be here. A faint odor of trepidation as to the moistness of our future hangs in the air. We need gloomy weather rather than to be gloomy about the weather. It also doesn’t help that, in the spirit of ” fair and balanced” (cue some sarcasm ๐Ÿ˜), we got online subscriptions to both the New York Times and the National Review. These weather worries and too much left/right doomscrolling are starting to make our metaphorical glass seem less than half full.

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A Brush With Vulture (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 31-Oct-2021

Three peaks straddle the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) due east of Oregon’s Howard Prairie Lake: Brush Mountain (with north and south summits), Old Baldy, and rocky Point 6054 (known locally as “Vulture Rock“). Point 6054 was never the site of a Forest Service fire lookout, while Old Baldy hosted one between 1924 and 1961, and two sat atop Brush Mountain between 1915 and 1930. The lookout on Brush Mountain’s northern summit was probably one of the most unusual ever allowed by the U.S. Forest Service:

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Skies Over Upper Table (Oregon) 05-Oct-2021

And so a summer that was too hot, too dry, and too smokey finally comes to a close. It won’t be missed. A change in the weather pattern started today – with dropping temperatures and cloudy skies ahead. And maybe magic sky water too! And there is even crazy talk of a La Niรฑa winter! Oh, rapturous joy! ๐Ÿ˜‚ What better place to celebrate the changing sky than by gazing longingly at it from the flat expanse of nearby Upper Table Rock. ๐Ÿ™‚

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