We had gone all out yesterday to get within two, rapidless, miles of the take-out at Oak Flat. Which is also where the Illinois River Trail ends. So we got a somewhat leisurely start and were rowed on out. Momentum’s van and trailer arrived not too long after we did and it didn’t take long for the guides to get everything loaded. The bad news was that the Bear Camp Road was still closed and we’d have to return via Highway 199 – which added about two hours to our drive. The good news was that it was only pouring rain along the coast, not inland. Rebekah got dropped off in Grants Pass, us in Medford, and the rest continued on to Ashland. We were home by 6:00PM, just in time to keep our adorable new cat – Sofie – from trashing another ball of The LovedOne’s yarn stash. She is temporarily my cat when things like this happen. 🙄
A highly technical river like the Illinois was a completely different experience from the ones we’d had on larger rivers like the Colorado, Snake, and Salmon. This smaller, but highly convoluted, water was more intense and exciting and intimate than bigger waters and it was a privilege to be able to experience it. Running the Green Wall would have been a plus but not doing so didn’t detract in the least from what was, for me at least, exactly the trip I’d anticipated. After hiking the trail, I wanted to see the Illinois up close and that’s exactly what happened. The scenery – although a little scorched – is wonderful. And the startlingly clear water, with its various undulating shades of greens and blues, is absolutely amazing. Despite the drought, the side creeks were running well and almost all were decorated with colorful pink Indian Rhubarb. A bald eagle also made an appearance. It also didn’t hurt that we were a small, experienced group on a river that we had all to ourselves. In sum, it was a truly magical trip.
But we owed the positiveness of this experience to the professionalism, skill, and experience of our four guides. There are also really good, affable people – and good cooks. This is our second trip with Momentum and we remain impressed that this small, local company can attract such skilled and personable people. So much so that we’re scheduled (thanks 🙄 to last year’s virus debacle) to hike the Rogue River with them next month!
This section of the Illinois contains eight named rapids, including the famous Class V Green Wall. If yesterday had been a wet, but easy, day, today was expected to be a hard and wet day. We prepared for the ordeal ahead with meditation and stretching.
The run from Pine Flat to South Bend, where we would camp tonight, has several rapids, but no named ones. That said, two of us (me included) managed to get shot out of our raft when it collided head-on with the side wall in one of the rapids. I was expecting to have to ride the waters to the eddy below the rapid but Jonathan managed to pull both of us back aboard fairly quickly. Still, it was a character building way to start the day. 😳 And it did clear up any lingering personal hygiene issues. 🙄
Oregon’s Illinois River stretches some 56 miles (90 km) from its headwaters east and south of Cave Junction, Oregon to its confluence with the Rogue River near Agness, Oregon. The Wild and Scenic Section of the Illinois flows through a steep canyon for 29 miles (46 km) between Briggs and Nancy Creeks. This section features 150 rapids, of which 11 are Class IV and one is Class V. It is reputed to be the most remote, inaccessible river segment in the continental United States. Compared to the bigger rivers we’ve rafted, the Illinois is a very technical one, with a great deal of skill (the guides, not ours) required to weave through its boulder-strewn rapids.
Kerby Peak (5,545 feet) rises above the east side of the Illinois Valley, almost directly across from Pearsoll Peak in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Since the trail to the old lookout site on its summit was rebuilt in 1998, it’s become somewhat of a local favorite (even if Sullivan has relegated it to the back of his Southern Oregon guidebook 😦 ). It offers some good exercise, big views (if you time the weather right), and a variety of wildflowers (again, if you get the timing right). Today we hiked it mainly for the exercise (or just to show that we still had the legs), didn’t get the weather timed right, but were spot-on with the wildflowers.
The history of Southern Oregon is defined, in large part, by the search for gold. Here, the principal form of mining was hydraulic, where copious amounts of water were used to wash a water-sediment slurry through sluice boxes to capture the gold. All this water was usually conveyed to the mines via ditches, with a berm on one side along which ran a trail for the ditch tender.
Our first attempt at reaching the base of Snailback Falls, in the Illinois Valley just west of Selma, Oregon, was rebuffed by deep snow on a sketchy trail. Now, a month later, all that snow is gone and the falls are still running well. Obviously time for a rematch. After failing 😦 to rekindle any enthusiasm in The LovedOne for another hike here, I found myself alone 😥 at the informal trailhead for the falls on the Illinois River Road about 3.5 miles west of the blinking light in Selma.
Snailback Falls, when conditions are wet, cascades down a steep rocky ravine in the Illinois Valley just west of Selma, Oregon. It’s not much to look at in the depths of summer but during and after winter storms the falls cascade over 400 feet and can be seen from quite a distance. We first heard about them from a 2011 Medford Tribune article by Gabe Howe (Siskiyou Mountain Club).
Kerby Peak (5,545 feet) overlooks Southern Oregon’s Illinois Valley, just to the east of major peaks in the Kalamiopsis Wilderness. A hike to its summit in summer is a local favorite (a tough hike to big views!) but there’s no tradition of it being hiked during “official” winter (between December 21 and March 20). We’d gotten up there in February of 2015, during a winter that featured essentially no snow. So, of course, getting to its top in winter – and when the peak was covered in snow – became one of my minor obsessions. We tried it in 2016 and turned back on the shoulder of Point 5112 after The LovedOne plunged into a post-hole. Then I (The LovedOne was having nothing more to do with this delusional behavior) tried again in March 2017, only to turn back when my snowshoes sank out of sight at around 4,800 feet.
Snow came late this winter, so I could have repeated our 2015 snow-free ascent this January. But, nooo, for 2018 I had to wait until it had snowed. Well, my obsession was thwarted again (at the shoulder of Point 5112 no less [4.1 miles round-trip; 2,100 feet of elevation gain]) but the views were great! I have been warned, however, that my beer ration will cease if there is any attempt to continue with this nonsense in 2019 or beyond. Must find a new obsession…
We awoke under an overcast sky to find an hour missing from our lives (actually just borrowed – it would be returned in the Fall). All of the electronics in the house already knew this and had pro-actively deducted that hour for us. Something eerie about this – a wisp of the Singularity? But at least we didn’t have to remember how to reset our few remaining digital clocks (…push the left button twice, while simultaneously holding the middle button down, then push…). Anyway, we responded to this sleep deprivation from the onset of Daylight Savings Time by picking a new (to us) hike right out of a guidebook. The hike’s write-up did warn us that it would be along a road that gets really rough, but we’d be going along the scenic Illinois River, so how bad could it be?
The trail up Kerby Peak from the White Creek Trailhead is steep and challenging but well graded and rewards your efforts with wonderful views of the Illinois Valley, the Siskiyou Crest, and beyond. We’ve hiked it before (post) and even tried (unsuccessfully) to summit it when its covered with snow (post). But, while contemplating the map for another hike of Kerby, I saw a small lake – Rabbit Lake – just below the ridge running south from the peak. Lakes are a rarity in the Siskiyous so checking-it out quickly took precedence over yet another hike of Kerby. I found a description of the use trail to Rabbit on the Highway 199 website and the short out-and-back hike discussed there seemed ideal for what was going to be (finally) a sizzling hot day in Southern Oregon.