Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River III 23-Apr-2021

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.

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Windy Valley (Oregon Coast Range) 21-Oct-2020

Windy Valley is an amazingly beautiful place at the end of a long drive and a short hike. Despite being burned around by the 2002 Biscuit, 2015 Collier Butte, and 2017 Chetco Bar Fires, it has remained a pristine mountain meadow bisected by a small, crystal clear creek. Amazing! I first found out about it while perusing the “More Hikes” section of Sullivan’s Oregon Coast Guide (Fourth Edition, 2018), where it’s Hike #139. I was intrigued. But it’s a long drive for a day trip. So it had to wait until we could add it to an extended trip to the coast. Which we did. So after being baffled by the Trees of Mystery and charmed by barking sea lions near Hidden Beach, we headed inland to visit the valley.

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Kerby Peak (Southwestern Oregon) 08-Jun-2020

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.

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Canyon Peak (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 03-May-2019

In 2002, the Biscuit Fire roared through Southwest Oregon’s rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness, reducing 500,000+ acres of cool, green forest to charred sticks and cinders. Then the Chetco Fire in 2017 and the Klondike Fire in 2018 added to this misery. Trails were lost along with the trees and, for many years, access (to the extent there was any) was a brush-chocked steeple chase over miles and miles of downed trees on faint tread. Then Gabriel Howe and the Siskiyou Mountain Club stepped-up and began the arduous task of bringing these trails back from oblivion.

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A Winter’s Trail on Kerby Peak (Selma, Oregon) 12-Mar-2018

Kerby Peak Selma Oregon

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…

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Big Blue Sky (February 2017)

“I never get tired of the blue sky.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

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Vulcan Lake (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 19-Apr-2016

Vulcan Lake Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon

On our way back from the Illinois River Trail, we decided to do the short hike to Vulcan Lake on the west side of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This lake, like Babyfoot Lake on the eastern side of the wilderness, is one of the few relatively accessible lakes in the Kalmiopsis. And, of the many alpine glacial lakes in Southern Oregon and Northern California, this is the only one reached from the coast. Hence it appears in most of the popular guidebooks for this area (Hike #92 in Sullivan’s Oregon Coast and Coast Range guide (2014); Hike #85 in Bernstein & Urness’ Hiking Southern Oregon guide (2014)).

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Illinois River Trail (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 16/17-Apr-2016

Illinois River Trail

2020 Update: The Siskiyou Mountain Club has now repaired and restored the #1161, which was damaged by wildfires and landslides.  They also restored the Florence Way Trail #1219A, which had been impassable for a decade or more.

In 2015, we backpacked the justifiably famous Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Foster Bar and had a wonderful time doing so (Rogue River Trail).  As I was researching that trip, I kept coming across references to the Illinois River Trail (USFS #1161; but the sign at the trailhead says #1162) as a worthy adjunct to the Rogue trail.  The western end of the Illinois River Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail because of its outstanding scenic qualities and the Illinois River itself was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in October 1984.

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Eagle Mountain (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 14-Jun-2015

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon

After a week spent adventuring – hiking, rafting, beach walking, wine tasting – with family visiting from the East, we needed a short hike in a new area to regain our senses. Eagle Mountain seemed like a good choice (Hike #83 in Bernstein & Urness’s Hiking Southern Oregon (2014)). The peak can be reached via the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail #1124, sits just west of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and so would give us a chance to see how the wilderness looked 10+ years after its devastation by the 2002 Biscuit Fire. One of my few regrets in this life (other than not buying Apple shares in 1992 for $5 each) is not having found the time to visit this wilderness before the Biscuit Fire, despite having driven past it numerous times. A hiker’s mea culpa for sure. The Kalmiopsis Rim Trailhead was readily accessible via 12 miles of good gravel Forest Road 4201 [which is also access to the popular Babyfoot Lake trailhead and the trail down to the Chetco River] but seemed a little naked.

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