Fawn Butte – Blue Grotto Loop (Southwest Oregon) 07-Feb-2021

The Blue Grotto is a geologic feature just above of the North Shore Trail on the north side of Lost Creek Lake. It’s where a seasonal stream has cut a 40-foot (12 m) waterfall through a greenish rhyolite formation that is ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, the volcano that created the Crater Lake caldera. The Grotto is at its best in the late winter to early Spring when runoff brings the waterfall to life. We figured that rain and snow melt from a big storm a week ago had by now found its way to the Grotto’s waterfall, so we set off on our annual visit. In previous years, we’d simply hike out-and-back on the North Shore Trail from the Lost Creek Trailhead, which is a lovely hike. Then I discovered an old road that runs past Fawn Butte, above and parallel to the North Shore Trail. This makes it possible to form a loop that includes views from the hills, a visit to the Blue Grotto, and a walk along the lake.

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Viewpoint Mike (Southwest Oregon) 02-Apr-2020

We’re into week two of our shelter-in-place and hiking is still allowed. Provided, of course, you stay 6 feet (2 m) – or more – away from other people. This admonition to maintain a social distance of 6+ feet apparently confused a lot of people, who then gathered in large groups at beaches, in parks, and at trailheads to discuss what it means. 🙄 The powers that be were not amused by this failure to grasp the obvious and reacted by closing our state parks, our one national park (Crater Lake), and a bunch of national forests (mostly the developed parts but some trailheads too). The Bureau of Land Management chimed in with a few closures of particularly popular hikes under their jurisdiction. Sigh. Now we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the social distance message has finally 😡 been received, so that hiking (or any other outdoor activity) isn’t just banned outright. 😥

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Fawn Butte Loop (Lost Creek Lake) 26-Feb-2020

We’re having a run of unusually good hiking weather for February. So good, in fact, that we’re now officially classified as abnormally dry (which differs from being classified as abnormal – but I digress). Anyway, if this condition isn’t remedied by some late winter / early Spring storms, we could be in for a long, hot, dry summer. 😦 Suffice to say that the climate that was (and which we all got used to) is not the climate that’s going to be (and to which we’ll all have to adapt). In the moment, however, cool air and warm sun confronted us. I decided to take advantage of it for a hike. The LovedOne used it to get a start on this year’s gardening. We should note that February is, even for southern Oregon, suspiciously early for gardening. Let’s just say we’re adapting… 🙄

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Blue Grotto Redux (Lost Creek Lake) 07-Feb-2020

Lost Creek Trailhead to Blue Grotto, Lost Creek Lake, Oregon

It rained some. Then it snowed some. Then it did these things again (and again). The snow pack deepened. Creeks rose. Intermittent streams came alive. It was thus time for our near yearly pilgrimage to see the Blue Grotto in full flow. This is where, in a narrow canyon on the north shore of Lost Creek Lake, a seasonal stream falls some 40 feet over a pour-off composed of soft greenish rock, which is ash from Mt. Mazama (which exploded, some 7,000 years ago, to form Crater Lake). The walk to the Grotto from the Lost Creek Trailhead (7 miles out and back, with no appreciable elevation gain) is a pleasant stroll through oak and pine forests, across meadows, and over several side creeks, with views of the lake all along the way.

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South Shore Trail (Lost Creek Lake) 17-Jul-2018

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon

Lost Creek Lake is a 3,340 acre (when full) reservoir operated by the U.S. Corp of Engineers. It’s situated on the main stem of the Rouge River in a scenic valley basin approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. The Corps calls the trails that go around the north and south shores of the lake, as well as the trail that goes northeast up the Rogue River from Peyton Bridge, the “Rogue River Trail”, even though that name is usually reserved for the iconic trail that runs along the Rogue between Grave Creek and Foster Bar. Anyway, we’ve hiked the “North Shore Trail” before, particularly in the Spring when the Blue Grotto is in full flow. We touched on a piece of the “South Shore Trail” as part of a loop over Viewpoint Mike last year but had yet to hike all of it.  So, despite smoke from numerous lightning-sparked wildfires clouding an atmosphere whose temperature was pushing above 100ºF, today seemed as good a time as any to try that hike.  The LovedOne begged to differ, opting instead to do the library friends taxes in air conditioned comfort while muttering something about no fool like an old fool as I headed out the door.

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Blue Grotto (Lost Creek Lake, Oregon) 02-Feb-2018

Blue Grotto Lost Creek Lake Oregon

Lost Creek Lake is a very large reservoir situated on the main stem of the Rouge River in a scenic valley approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. Two trails – the North Shore and the South Shore – circle the lake. Situated at about 2,500 feet elevation, these trails are open year-round, even when snow (ha!) closes those further up in the Cascades.  Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers (the folks who actually operate the dam and this lake), both trails are well-built and well-maintained, and very easy to hike or bike.  The LovedOne was still catching-up on her library stuff, so it was up to me to take advantage of today’s outstanding Spring-like weather (the snowshoes are back in storage – sigh) by hiking to the Blue Grotto, where a seasonal stream falls some 40 feet over a greenish rhyolite cliff.  The green rock is actually ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, the volcano that created the caldera now known as Crater Lake. 

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Dam You Elk Creek! (Oregon) 09-Apr-2017

Rogue River Elk Creek Oregon

Elk Creek is a tributary of Oregon’s Rogue River whose confluence with the Rogue is just northeast of Shady Cove, Oregon.  In 1986, about three miles upstream of the confluence, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began construction on what was expected to be the Elk Creek Dam.  It was to be the last of three dams (the other two being the William L. Jess Dam (1977) on the Upper Rogue River and the Applegate Dam (1980) on the Applegate River) authorized by Congress in 1962 to help control flooding along the Rogue River. The Rogue’s capacity for horrendous flooding was well established and the two existing dams have done a great deal to mitigate that threat.  But the Elk Creek Dam was not to be (nor did it need to be).

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Viewpoint Mike Loop (Lost Creek Lake) 24-Jan-2017

Viewpoint Mike Lost Creek Lake Oregon

After the Great Storm (aka the Big Dump) of 2017, we were able to sneak in a quick hike before the Spawn of the Great Storm was upon us.  Now that too has passed and a period of sunny high pressure is settling in for a few days.  Oh, bluebird days ahead!  To celebrate the return of the Sun, while waiting (yet again) for the snow to settle, we decided to try the short low-altitude hike to Viewpoint Mike overlooking Lost Creek Lake, where the William L. Jess Dam impounds the Upper Rogue River.  The trail meanders 2.5 miles (and gains ~1,000 feet) across several ridges on its way to a rocky outcrop about 600 feet above the dam.  An out-and-back hike is fine but a loop hike is better still, so when we found that, back in 2009, the Ashland Hiking Group had made a loop out of this hike, we decided to try that.  This was Plan A.  But 2017 is not 2009 and we would discover, part way into the loop, that a Plan B was needed.

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