Roxy Ann: Full Conditions 15-Dec-2021

The highest point in Scotland is Ben Nevis. At 1,345 m (4,413 ft), it’s not as tall as some mountains but, at 56° N, its gullies (and those on other Scottish mountains) “…presented a fearsome, icy sight in winter.” It was in these sinuous and confining gullies that the Scots, lead by the legendary Tom Patey, ushered in ice climbing’s modern era. At those more northerly latitudes, winter storms howling down out of the Arctic can beleaguer the poor ice climber with what came to be termed full conditions. 🥶 I’ve climbed in such conditions and do not recall the experience as being “fun” by any measure used by a sane person.

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Big Sky Over Roxy Ann (Southwest Oregon) 29-Jul-2021

We’ve been having some peculiar weather lately (but then haven’t we all 🙄). First heat domes, drought, wind, and smoke. Now thunderstorms and rain – one whole day of rain! Today the atmosphere sought to combine heat, smoke, and incipient thunder clouds. The result turned a simple exercise hike up Roxy Ann Peak into a lot of sky ogling. I only had my phone along. It can’t do all the things my “real” cameras can but it does enough – and takes snaps good enough – to sometimes make me feel like a Luddite for still using those “real” cameras. Sigh. Now if I could just figure out how to make the phone’s camera filters make me look 30 years younger. And more handsome too. 🤔

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Wildflowers on Upper Table (Southwest Oregon) 13-Apr-2021

Vernal pools and wildflowers flourish briefly each year on the flat summits of the Table Rocks, two extremely popular local hiking areas. We missed seeing the ponds and flowers last year because of Big V-driven closures. This year we visited Upper Table in February and Lower Table in March, just in time to see the vernal pools form. We promised to come back for the wildflowers, particularly the Dwarf Meadowfoams, subspecies of which are found only here. Yet we kept letting another visit slide. But the rains came late this year and left early and the drought rolled on and temperatures were “above normal” and the vernal pools withered. It suddenly dawned on us that we going to miss the meadowfoams yet again! The LovedOne was busy but I pushed off a Zoom meeting to make an early morning pilgrimage to the top of Upper Table.

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Snow Festoons Roxy Ann (Southwest Oregon) 15-Mar-2021

We guess that snow was more common in Southern Oregon at lower altitudes back in the day. In the last few years, however, it seems you need to be above 6,000 feet (1,828 m) to have a chance at serious, lasting snow. At just 3,573 ft (1,089 m), nearby Roxy Ann Peak rarely qualifies for a snowy mantle of any depth or longevity. Last night, however, a powerful, wet, cold front swept through, leaving 6 inches (15 cm) of fluffy white stuff on Roxy. It won’t last long. But, anticipating it’s arrival, and verifying same from our back porch early this morning, allowed us to speed up there to enjoy it while it lasts. Snow, when you don’t have to shovel it, dig your car out of it, or otherwise involuntarily mess with it, is truly enjoyable. And it really does give Roxy and the surrounding area a whole different look and feel. 🙂

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Interlude on Upper Table (Southwest Oregon) 10-Feb-2021

We had a nice visit to the Blue Grotto over the weekend, followed by two days of work and volunteering. But walls of water – in the form of a series of storms off the Pacific – are due in starting tomorrow. Today was an interlude. Initially forecast to be foggy, it started that way, then quickly evolved into a bright, clear day. 😎 One that called for yet another visit to a local favorite. Upper Table Rock is always the same place, but never really the same. Nature is dynamic – change is constant – there’s always something fascinating happening at some level. You just have to keep adjusting your frame of reference. So we went for a pleasant 6 mile (9.6 km) walk, gazing at the sky and the ground and in between as we went. Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii) shoots have started to appear, signalling the approach of Spring. It was a good walk on a fine day. 🙂

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2020 Around Roxy Ann (December 2020)

Roxy Ann Peak (3,573 ft / 1,089 m) is the high point in the City of Medford’s Prescott Park. It’s not far from our house. We hike there frequently, mostly for the exercise, the ever-changing views, and the madrones. We used to post about these hikes more often. We stopped doing so because it seemed like Roxy was getting to be old (but not fake) news. But, thanks to what’s made 2020 so special, we’ve spent more time around Roxy Ann this year than ever before. A…lot…more…time. As a result, we’ve amassed phone photos of the park for every month of 2020. So here, old news or not, is a visual homage to the blessings of this readily accessible open space. This park has been good to (and for) us. We get it. We absolutely do not need another year like 2020 to remind us of that. Never, ever. 😐

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Low Clouds on Lower Table (Southern Oregon) 14-Dec-2020

The weather finally turned colder, wetter, and snowier. Which, considering our drought status, is a very good thing. The Big V is, on the other hand, still out there, wrecking havoc. That is a very bad thing. So, what with the weather, the virus, and a little work (volunteer and paid), we’ve been inside a lot. Then the weather service threw us the promise of a little sun and no rain. So we went outside to hike another local classic.

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Return to Upper Table (Southwest Oregon) 11-Oct-2020

The Table Rocks are another set of compelling hiking areas near us. They’re very popular and best known for the wildflower displays and ecologically-sensitive vernal pools that burst out on their flat summits in the Spring. A visit then in search of new or different wildflowers – or better photos of old favorites – has become a bit of a ritual. Not this year. The Rocks are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Nature Conservancy, who chose to close this area for several months because of the Big V. The closure was eventually lifted but then there was a lot of heat and smoke in the valley. So the last time we were able to visit was just before Christmas in 2019. But it rained ( 😀 ) yesterday, clearing the air and dropping the temperature. And some artistic clouds appeared! So we headed out to reprise a hike we did in 2019 that took us off the popular paths and through the wild center of the formation.

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Days of Fire & Smoke 13-Sep-2020

All of our travel plans this year got cancelled, save one – a six day mule packing trip (you hike; mules carry your stuff) on the northern edge of Yosemite National Park and in the Hoover Wilderness.  What with all of the restrictions California was imposing because of the Big V, we weren’t sure even this trip would go.  But California eased-up a bit and we went.  We had no issues with social distancing or proper sanitation, but four days of the trip were impacted (to varying degrees) by wildfire smoke.  And there was some drama involving a rescue (not us).  We also didn’t know until we came out at Twin Lakes that all the national forests in California had been closed because of fire danger!  But, overall, it was a good trip.

As we were being shuttled back to town from the trailhead, the driver mentioned – almost in passing – that there were huge fires in Oregon and that 10% of the population was under evacuation orders.  What!?!?  But he had no details to share.  When we got to our hotel room and saw the “Are you OK?” emails and what was on the internet about fires in Medford, we were both appalled and scared!  Then our neighbors thoughtfully texted us that our house was still standing.

Even knowing that our house wasn’t a cinder, the 6.5 hour drive home was tense.  All of it was through smoke (from the many other wildfires burning in California and Oregon) so thick it was hard to see a half-mile ahead.  When we finally got home, we found our house ash-covered but undamaged.  The same cannot be said for the 600+ homes [2,357 as of 16Sep20] in the small towns of Phoenix and Talent along Highway 99 between Medford and Ashland. They are all gone, along with many other businesses and structures.  So far, five people have been reported as dead, with some still missing. 😥

As of this moment, it is suspected that all this carnage was caused by an illegal campfire along the Bear Creek Greenway.  High winds blew the flames into one of the trailer parks near Ashland and then an “exceptional” wind rushed the fire north from there.  Firefighters were able to stop the burn at Medford’s southern boundary.  Had they not, flames could easily have engulfed Medford’s west side.

Now we’re home, immersed in thick smoke.  The air quality index here is currently 300+, where 50 or less is considered healthy.  This choking smoke is expected to last for several days, as there is another large fire nearby (the 30,000 acre+ South Obenchain) pouring smoke into the valley.  The Almeda Fire that devastated Talent and Phoenix lasted less than two days – it was all over before we got out of the Sierras.  But recovery is going to take A LOT longer.

Just when you think 2020 can’t get any worse, it throws another crisis in our faces. ENOUGH ALREADY!  Let’s just save some disasters for later…much later…hopefully never. 😦

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Lower Table Rock Plateau (Southern Oregon) 23-Dec-2019

The horseshoe-shaped Upper and Lower Table Rocks are among the most popular hiking spots in the Rogue Valley. We’ve certainly hiked both of them a bunch. The Spring and early summer wildflower and vernal pool displays on these mesas are particularly attractive. But it’s the winter months, when the luxuriant poison oak, voluminous ticks, and feisty rattlesnakes are on holiday (i.e., not a creature was stirring, etc.), that open-up some off-trail possibilities.

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Soda Springs Trail (Oregon) 25-Apr-2019

The lure of unexplored trails is strong in this one. That, combined with the onset of wildflower season, lead me to a write-up about Dunlop Meadows in the hills just east of Medford, Oregon. While considering that, I came upon the Soda Springs Trail (USFS #1009) coming up from Camp Latgawa on Dead Indian Creek. Combining the two trails with a short stretch of road walking would be a round trip of about eight miles, so why not? Well, it’s one thing to read about a trail online; it’s sometimes quite another to actually find it on the ground.

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