Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River IV 24-Apr-2021

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. 🙄

Breakfast at Horse Sign Creek
Our campsite just above the creek
Horse Sign Creek
Looking down river from the beach at Horse Sign Creek
Just a little farther
The take-out at Oak Flat
Bringing a raft up
Almost loaded
It was comforting to look back and see that it was raining where we HAD been…

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!

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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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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River II 22-Apr-2021

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. 🙄

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Rafting Oregon’s Illinois River I 21-Apr-2021

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.

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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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Snailback Falls (Oregon) 31-Mar-2018

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.

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Snailback Falls (Oregon) 22-Feb-2019

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).

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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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Sorry Hike, But Nice Flowers (Selma, Oregon) 11-Mar-2018

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon

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?

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Kerby Peak (Siskiyou Mountains) 02-Mar-2017

Kerby Peak Siskiyou Mountains Oregon

I usually like to take a break between hikes but what with the latest decent weather window only two-days wide, I felt impelled to do back-to-back hikes.  With The LovedOne up in Portland for the  Rose City Yarn Crawl, I felt empowered (or sufficiently unsupervised) to have yet another go at a winter climb of Kerby Peak in the Siskiyou Mountains east of Selma, Oregon.  We’d first done this peak in the low-snow winter of 2015 but had no luck in the “real” winter of 2016 – we’d turned back halfway when The LovedOne started post-holing to her waist.  We hadn’t taken snowshoes on that hike and so I thought if I tried it this winter with snowshoes then all would be different.  This is not known as a winter hike – snowshoes or not – so I’m not sure what I was thinking here.  Later, I would come to embrace this as yet another hike encouraged by hubris and deflected by irony…

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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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