We did our last hike about a week ago in anticipation of big winter storms. For once we got the timing right as shortly thereafter mighty snows blanketed our surrounding mountains, with some snow even reaching the valley floor! This weather extravaganza, mixed with the usual holiday diversions, kept us limited to snowy walks around the neighborhood.
So we had a very comfy, at home, non-traveling Christmas. 😁 Sofie (our cat) and the tree coexisted, with no damage to either. The traditional dinner was deliciously excessive (for us at least). We’re facing caloric offsets in the form of rice cakes in the week ahead. 😒 But we had a White Christmas, for the first time in 33 years! So, done and done! But no, wait, it’s still snowing and snowing and seemingly will be doing so for the next few days. Looks like we ordered the deluxe White Christmas package by mistake! And it’s too late to return it! 😲
We got 0.75 inches (19 mm) of rain here over the last two days! Just like the forecast promised! Miracles! Less than an inch might not sound like much, but after you’ve gone months and months with practically none, it’s a lot! Enough to squelch the wildfires and wash away the smoke. The fronts that brought this rain had moved on by Sunday afternoon, so today dawned cold, clear, and bright. 😎
The LovedOne had something this afternoon and we’re busy tomorrow but it just seemed wrong – so wrong! – to not go outside and breathe a lot. So we carved out some time this morning for a brisk walk around the Military Slough Unit of the nearby Ken Denman Wildlife Area. The rain had washed the dust off the trees there just in time for the Fall color display to start. 😄
Oregon’s transition from Spring into summer has always been a little chaotic – the old joke being that summer doesn’t start here until Fourth of July. But, with some extra weather weirdness due to the atmosphere’s ever rising CO2 content, we had 100+°F (37+°C) temperatures in late May (several records were broken), then temperatures plunged toward 60°F (15°C), then it was thunderstorms, downpours (a month’s rain in a day!), and a spritz of snow higher up – all in the space of a few days. The rain was most welcome but had little impact on our continuing severe drought. Makes you wonder about the climate. 🤔
This pandemic is starting to feel like a prolonged marshmallow test. The one where you put a tasty marshmallow in front of a small child and if they don’t eat it right away, they’ve intuitively master delayed gratification and, by doing so, will assuredly go on to success and fame. I passed the test only because I don’t like marshmallows all that much (at least not without graham crackers and chocolate which, fortunately, were not part of the test). I didn’t eat the marshmallow but am still waiting for success and fame. And waiting… 🙄 As usual, people just aren’t as simple as sugary treats and recent research is calling nonsense on evaluating children this way. But, the basic premise, that sometimes you have to wait for the good stuff, still holds. And so we wait – for our turn in the vaccine line, for further easing of local restrictions, for the opportunity to travel again.
Christmas was a muted affair this year. It rained almost the whole day and the next, which made sheltering in-place just that much easier. Presents were low key too – as what we crave most these days is not (more) stuff but more experiences. We’ll just have to be patient with that.
This weekend The LovedOne was fully consumed with the library’s quarterly book sale (run by volunteers, all of it’s proceeds go to help the county library). But I needed to continue rehabbing my back with a lengthier – but not too lengthy – hike. My recent foray into spinal trauma had abruptly ended my two year infatuation with shoulder strap-only, loosely structured daypacks. 😥 So I had a new daypack – one with a properly lengthy torso, good load transfer, and a hip belt – to get comfortable with. 🙂 After acquiescing to a forecast of no rain (or snow) but little sun, I opted for a return visit to the nearby Ken Denman Wildlife Area. This time, I’d explore the area north of Little Butte Creek and, if nothing else, get to see the Rogue River and Little Butte Creek in full Spring flow.
To begin recouping our investment in a 2-year state park pass, I parked at the TouVelle State Recreation Site, then followed the park’s interpretive trail into the wildlife area’s Military Slough Unit. The trail was pretty muddy – even flooded in places – so I was happy to follow the dry gravel road that runs past the old Camp White ammunition storage bunkers to Agate Road. A short walk west on the road brought me to the Fish & Wildlife parking area for the Little Butte Creek Unit and a sign for the Little Butte Loop Trail. There is no signage past this point and the loop trail is only distinguished from a myriad of use trails by its width and horse hoof prints. It’s easy to get turned around on these trails. Most go to fishing spots along Little Butte Creek but one looked to reach the shores of the Rogue River above the confluence. When this trail disappeared into a seasonally flooded slough, I left a visit to the Rogue for another day and headed back. Overall, a good 8.3 mile leg and back stretch capped off by the usual brief ray of sunshine just before it ended. 🙄 But my back and the new pack seem to get along, so win-win. 😀
Much needed rain and snow arrived (aptly) on Thanksgiving. A welcome relief from the drought and a dry, way-too-smokey summer. It felt great to breathe particulate-free air again. And to see crisp blue sky. Then we got a break in the weather. While The LovedOne was doing her usual Saturday shift at the library, I went for a short stroll at the nearby Ken Denman Wildlife Area. This is one of those places we’ve driven by a lot – on the way to the Upper and Lower Table Rocks – but never stopped to visit.
During World War II, this area was occupied by Camp White, an Army training base for 40,000 soldiers. In 1954, the federal government gave 1,760 acres of the decommissioned camp to the Oregon Game Commission (today’s Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) for wildlife management purposes. Some of the camp’s old ammunition storage bunkers (“igloos”) are still in place. The wildlife area’s Military Slough Unit is adjacent to the TouVelle State Recreation Site. Both the site and the wildlife area require a parking permit but the site’s day use fee ($5) is cheaper and easier to obtain, so I hiked from there, along the Rogue River, into the wildlife area.
I soon crossed into the wildlife area, where there are walkable old roads, hiker and equestrian trails, an interpretive trail, and a myriad of user trails seeking access to the River and Little Butte Creek. Signage is non-existent except on the interpretive trail. I continued on, through dense riparian thickets, clumps of oak forest, and open meadows to the confluence of the river and the creek.
From the confluence, I followed the most heavily used trail along the east side of Little Butte Creek, dodging away from it periodically on side trails to get close to the creek. If it weren’t for these use trails, it would have been hellish (if not impossible) to get through the blackberry thickets guarding the creek’s banks. About a mile and a half from the parking area, the trail left the creek to swing through more meadows, before returning to it one last time.
Once I left Little Butte Creek for good, the trail became an old road and, a little over 2.5 miles from the parking area, brought me to one of the wildlife area’s less-than-deluxe parking pull-outs on Agate Road. The wildlife area is in the middle of some of the most industrialized land in the Rogue Valley, but I was oblivious to all that – rambling along the creek and through the meadows – until I got to this point. Ah, civilization.
From Agate Road, I headed back a different way – along an old gravel road that became a trail and then a road again as it passed by several of the old WW2 ammunition bunkers.
I continued on the old road past the bunkers to where I could get views of Upper and Lower Table Rocks across the meadows. That made me think of all the times we’d gazed down from atop the Rocks without realizing we were looking at this wildlife area.
The old road I was on eventually crossed TouVelle Road (the main road into the wildlife area) and I followed that road to its end near the confluence. Then it was the trail I’d come in on back to the parking area, making a slight diversion to check-out part of the interpretive trail I’d missed earlier.
All told, I did about five easy, interesting miles with no appreciable elevation gain. At this time of year, wildlife was limited to woodpeckers, of which there were many, chirping and bouncing from tree to tree. The ground near the parking lot was strewn with acorns, many of which the woodpeckers had dutifully inserted into a nearby tree. Hundreds and hundreds of holes pecked and acorns inserted all the way up the trunk.