Our Valley â€˘ April 20, 2014
April 20, 2014 â€˘ Our Valley 3
Oregon Outdoors wants to share your adventures We’re always looking for accounts of hikes, river runs, fishing trips, bike rides, ocean explorations, backpacking trips, wildlife encounters and anything else our readers are doing outdoors. Whenever we can, we publish My Adventure stories from readers in the Mail Tribune’s weekly Oregon Outdoors section, which runs every Friday. We’ve had people write about bouldering, camping trips, mountain
April 20, 2014
climbs, birding trips, whitewater adventures, snowshoe outings, day hikes and much more. Some were dripping with adrenaline, many were contemplative or decidely laid back. But they’re all fun to read. If you’ve been romping in the outdoors recently and are willing to share it, email a 500-word story and photos to Mail Tribune features editor David Smigelski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Valley 2014 Our Outdoors
Things to do and places to see outdoors in Southern Oregon
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
Section editor David Smigelski Read this and previous Copy editor issues of Our Valley Cathy Noah online at Photo editor mailtribune.com/ourvalley Bob Pennell Graphic design David Smigelski Contributing writers Tony Boom, John Darling, Janet Eastman, Mark Freeman, Eileen Garvin, Kris Henry, Dan Jones, Bill Kettler, Sarah Lemon, Damian Mann, Daniel Newberry, Ryan Pfeil, Greg Stiles, Teresa Thomas, Tim Trower, Mandy Valencia, Bill Varble, Sam Wheeler
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Outdoors in Our Valley
April 20, 2014
8 Inside Our Valley
70 Good to go
12 Studio under sky
72 Float trip
14 Freedom to ride
76 Kayak time
16 The emerald necklace
78 Trout on ice
80 Beacon on the horizon
24 Capture the crustacean
84 Trails are for running
26 Catch your own chowder
87 Thundering waters
32 Freedom to fly
92 Winter on the rim
38 Whale of a good time
96 Beyond the rim
42 Oregon Caves
99 Packing in
47 Image hunters
50 Wilderness guide
54 Families on wheels
108 6 on the fly
56 Wine country on wheels
111 Nordic tracks
60 Tales of the Table Rocks
114 Forest fungi
64 Wild are the flowers
117 Snow busting
68 Great escape
120 Greenway flyway
It would take many names to describe all that happens here
Plein air painters chase the light to craft their outdoor scenes Motorcycle touring in Southern Oregon
The Bear Creek Greenway is an 18-mile jewel for outdoors lovers of all stripes Rockhounding can be a rewarding way to get down and dirty Every Oregonian needs to spend at least one day catching crabs ... here’s how Razor clams, gapers, cockles and more
Southern Oregon is a world-class paragliding destination Watching whales can be both moving and exhilarating Tips for planning your trip Local photographers offer tips for capturing nature
The Rogue Valley is surrounded by wilderness areas with unique features Tips for places to go free-wheeling with kids Cyclists say wine tastes better after a ride The iconic mesas are a can’t-miss treat
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Southern Oregon is a wildflower haven Having fun in RV country
Car camping is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of sleeping outdoors From half-day floats to multiday excursions, the key is picking the right trip
Tips for learning to kayak the Rogue safely Tips for ice-fishing Southern Oregon’s high-mountain lakes Tips for exploring one of the area’s most recognizable landmarks — Pilot Rock Trail running has become a popular pursuit, and local trails are perfect for it Umpqua waterfall loop is a treat any time Ski tour around iconic Crater Lake is a lifetime experience 10 things to do in Crater Lake National Park, if you’re willing to leave your car Tips for backpacking in Southern Oregon Mount McLoughlin seems to beckon from the horizon, and many answer the call Archery is booming in popularity, and local options abound Six spots to fly-fish on the upper Rogue Options for cross-country skiers Wild mushrooms abound in area forests Snowmobiling the high country Birding the Bear Creek Greenway
Inside It would take many names to describe all that happens here
Our Valley Story by BILL VARBLE
hen the great anthropologist Franz Boas came to the Northwest, he found American Indian place names that signaled the adoption of identity from nature. Places like “Tree Standing on Flat Beach,” “Having Coho Salmon” or “Sound of Dripping Water.” Writer Kim Stafford, in “Having Things Right” (Penguin, 1987), observed that such names were about what happens somewhere. Like the two
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islands where a land bridge sometimes forms at low tide called “Two Round Things Meeting Now and Then.” If we practiced such nomenclature, we’d have places like “Crazy People Drop From Sky,” “Riffle Turns Kayakers Upside Down,” or “Sunset Knocks Socks Off.” As author John Kemper wrote in his book “Exploring Southern Oregon’s Beautiful Places” (Outdoor Press, 2003), “Without sounding too
much like a Chamber of Commerce representative, I’m going to say right at the outset that Southern Oregonians live in an earthly paradise.” Who’s to argue? As a grandfather was overheard telling the youngster at Crater Lake, “To live in Oregon and not come here is like living in Arizona and not going to the Grand Canyon.” The marquee attractions — Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, Table Rocks, Mount McLoughlin, the Rogue River,
the Oregon Coast — are tips of the iceberg. The riches are sometimes tucked away. “Don’t expect to find it unless you know where it is,” guidebook author William Sullivan says of Toketee Hot Springs, a swimsuits-optional kind of pool near Toketee Falls. That advice could apply to any number of places that have to be sought out. We’re still adopting identity from nature. Just talk to a fishing bum on the trail of winter steelhead, a birder stalking a gray-crowned rosy finch, a paraglider waxing poetic about drifting the sky. We live among eight wilderness areas comprising half a million acres. Do you know where to try your hand at backpacking? Where to find the perfect camping spot? Where to go paragliding, rafting, kayaking, mushrooming, trail running? What can you do at Crater Lake once you’ve seen the lake? Did you know you can fish for rainbow trout and kokanee on the lake’s Wizard Island? Or take an easy .6-mile walk to the Pinnacles, needle-like rock formations known to scientists as fumaroles? How do you get started backpacking? What if you want to go kayaking on the Rogue River? Some hardy souls around here fight the winter blahs by cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, camping, ice fishing or snowshoeing. When the Oregon Coast calls, your choices include whale watching, crabbing, clamming, hiking, scuba or fishing for species ranging from chinook salmon to tuna. With all of this going on around us, it seems that almost everyone has an interest in outdoor photography, and the region is certainly jam-packed with professionals who are keen to share tips with the rest of us. The same goes for all sorts of outdoor learning. Local residents and visitors have a constant stream of classes and outings at their disposal — many of them free — ranging from guided hikes, ski outings and bird walks to the classes organized by the Siskiyou Field Institute, Coyote Trails School of Nature and others.
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Mail Tribune file photo
Inside from Page 9
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This issue of Our Valley was inspired by the outdoor possibilities that abound in our backyard, from wilderness excursions to more civilized pursuits. For instance, have you visited the wine-tasting rooms around the Bear Creek Valley? It’s a lovely outing, and one that cycling devotees claim is even better on your bicycle. Want wildflowers? You can see them in Southern Oregon fully half the year if you know where to look, thanks to elevation differences and the vagaries of geology. Grizzly Peak is just one prime spot for wildflowers, including delphiniums that tower over your head as they bloom from late July into August. And don’t forget to check out the vernal pools at the top of the Table Rocks, with their signature botanical oddity: dwarf woolly meadowfoam, which grows nowhere else in the world. Speaking of wildfowers, did you know there are more than 100 species inside Oregon Caves National Monument? Along with 86 bird species, 75 kinds of butterflies and eight different bats. To make the caves even more accessible, the National Park Service will begin offering a new Oregon Caves tour this year aimed at families, giving kids the opportunity to explore at their own level. For adults interested in the science, there will now be a “speleo-science tour” of greater depth. If you’ve watched expert kayakers running whitewater and thought about trying your hand, but you were unsure where on the Rogue to get started — and what to do when you capsize — we’ve got you covered. The same goes for rafting. Fly fishing. And paragliding. In fact, Woodrat Mountain near Ruch is one of the top sites in the country for paragliding. Local fliers say it’s extremely mellow, almost
Photo by Jamie Lusch
meditative — until a bald eagle soars up and gives you the flinty eye. In some of Southern Oregon’s wild places, you will inevitably see instances of humankind’s continuing abuse of the natural world. The litter at popular fishing holes, clearcuts that never grew back, miners’ tailings and rusty junk left in the forests. But you will also see good news. Trail maintenance work done by volunteers. Restoration projects in riparian zones. That landing strip built atop Lower Table Rock that instead became part of a trail (developers once wanted to build housing there). It’s been said we are loving the outdoors to death. An estimated 50,000 people visit the Table Rocks each year. Of course, they do. In addition to the interesting geology, there are more than 70 species of animals and 300 different kinds of wildflowers up there. When you visit a sensitive spot, follow the backpackers’ credo: Take only photos, leave only footprints. And remember that the outdoors comes with its perils. People die every year from drowning, falls and lightning. But there’s another kind of peril. The danger you’ll get hooked on fishing, hiking, rafting, paragliding, etc., and become one of those helpless outdoors junkies, your life ruined by sport, careening around the sober working folk with a dusty car, a sunburned face, fish guts on your clothes and a blissed-out grin. This can strike at any age. Mick Nash, a North Medford High graduate, became so addicted to wilderness through his work in the Kalmiopsis that he shifted to the outdoors (which he calls “more valuable experiences”) from video games. After a while you may take to naming your favorite places in our amazing region. And future anthropologists can puzzle over places like “Place Where Many Morels Grow,” “Kayaks Float With Rafts” and “Fish Gets Bigger With Every Telling.”
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Margaret Bradburn works on a plein air painting in the Jacksonville Cemetery.
Studio under sky Story by Ryan Pfeil Photos by Julia MooRe
Pat Blair works in one of her outdoor painting studios.
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at Blair’s art studio of choice lacks the floors, walls and typical freckles of crusted paint that usually dot both. Her go-to spot for painting is a bit more rustic, a cozy corner of the Jacksonville Historic Cemetery that overlooks the town, nearby vineyards and fields spreading out in green splendor beyond it. Blair sits there on a hot August day, unpacking her supplies and clicking her easel into place. “Look at this,” says Blair, assistant director for the Art Du Jour Gallery in Medford, pointing to a church steeple, building roofs, trees, vineyards and a smoky haze over Grizzly Peak, a reminder of fires burning in Northern California. “We all have favorite spots we return to often. This is my favorite spot.” This practice of tromping into nature, easel, brushes and paints slung over your shoulder, in lieu of a studio, has a name. It’s called “plein air,” a medium that practically conjures images of Walt Whitman or John Muir strolling through the scenery, hands behind their backs while they marveled. “Setting up in the studio, you just walk in there and start. Out here there’s a little bit more to it,” Blair says. “You have to walk up to a scene and say, ‘Now, what interests me here.’ You say to the viewer, ‘Let me show you what I saw today.’ ”
Blair opens up her easel to show her work in progress. It mirrors the scene almost identically, but for a few trees she hasn’t yet completed. It’s a familiar pastime for Blair, one she’s dabbled in since her high school years in New Mexico. She rode horseback through the area during her residency, completing pictures that showed scenes of open spaces, blue sky and desert. She captured the Red Rocks, shots of Monument Valley. “Love that area. The rocks stick up out of the desert,” Blair says. “There’s a spectrum of color.” Blair’s ride-and-find methodology hasn’t changed much since then. She’s traded her horse for a Subaru, New Mexico’s parched beauty for Southern Oregon’s greenery and rivers, but the endgame is the same: find a new scene and capture it. For plein air painters, the spontaneous scene changes and need to get the basics down before the light changes make it challenging — and even more satisfying — to craft the scenes on canvas. “It’s not predictable,” says artist Janis Ellison. “You have just a couple
hours to get it down.” Like Blair, Ellison’s first scenes depicted New Mexico. The state’s scenes prompted her to take pastel classes. “The lighting and colors and that high-desert air, everything is just so beautiful,” she says. “I couldn’t capture it in the studio.” Carolyn Roberts, who is four years into plein air painting, said the pastime is a challenge, but one she’s eagerly pursuing. “It forces you to look at the real thing instead of photographs,” Roberts says. The surprises nature offers drew painter Margaret Bradburn. She’s seen eagles, ospreys and pelicans on her jaunts into the wilderness. She also has company sometimes, passersby who stop to look at her works in progress. “I like that,” Bradburn says. Judy Richardson experienced some of the same magic on her own plein air outing when she caught a view of swans in flight. Moments like that while being outside in quiet splendor hooked her.
“It’s just being out, hearing the sounds, feeling the air,” Richardson says. As Blair continues, she For plein air points out that her work is painters, the not yet done. There are spontaneous more scenes scene changes she wants to paint, more chances to tell and need to get viewers what the basics down she saw that day, especially before the light where she changes make it lives. “I am in challenging — love with Southern and even more Oregon,” Blair satisfying — to says. Then, craft the scenes pastels in hand, she gets on canvas. back to work on finishing her snapshot, one careful stroke at a time.
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Photo by Larry Stauth
Freedom to ride Story by JOHN DARLING
here’s something meditative about motorcycle touring, the hours and miles going by, your whole body out there in nature, with the air rushing by at 60 mph — and you’re surrounded by your fellow bikers, good pals who josh around with you and do lunch at your destination. On a trip from Medford, past Mount McLoughlin and the Klamath marshland to the Kla-mo-ya Casino on Highway 97, half a dozen members of the Star Touring club thunder along, proclaiming that “loud pipes save lives” because people can hear you coming. They’re a jolly bunch, enjoy playing a few slots, catching some NFL plays on the big screen and discussing politics and the joys of getting out of the house, away from routines and being with the guys. Members of any
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age and gender are welcome, but it’s mainly guys and they’re mainly over 50. “It’s my break from the wife, who is in a wheelchair now,” says Floyd McKenney, 73, of White City. “It’s my release valve, a relaxing break from the regular routine.” There are a lot of great motorcycle routes to choose from in southwest Oregon, says retired Medford lawyer Ray Smith, who drives a Yamaha (the favorite make of bikers here) 1300cc. It has 150 horsepower and speeds that reach “well into three figures” on straight, outback highways. The favorite destination among this group is the “fish and chips run” to a restaurant on the wharf at Crescent City, says Smith, with lovely winding roads through the redwoods, then the scent of salt air filling your nostrils.
“We enjoy the freedom of movement, being close to nature, the smell of the new-mown hay and the companionship of these friends we ride with,” says Smith, adding that at their enjoyable lunches, there is no drinking. Safety is always number one, and they employ a couple dozen hand signals for turns, stops and to point out dead animals in the road or obstacles parked on the shoulder. They ride staggered left and right with two seconds of space from the one in front, giving them reaction time if needed. Bikes have very rapid acceleration and, because of high compression, equally rapid deceleration, which add to safety, says Smith. Another favorite ride is up to Crater Lake, with lunch at the lodge. McKenney likes any route through the mountains, such as going through
Trail and heading north to Seven Feathers Casino, near Canyonville, then using the same route home — never the freeway, if it can be avoided. Going over the Siskiyous from the Illinois Valley to Scotts Valley is good, too — and has less traffic than most routes. They plan long trips, to Montana and Colorado, and will attend national gatherings of Star Touring clubs. The road bikers emphasize they are the law-abiding sort, not the “one percent” riding in “outlaw clubs” and doing only that with their “The power lives, says David VanCurler, 55, of and feeling Medford. you have, it’s “This is our hobby. Everyone such a twohas a hobby, wheel thrill,” whether fishing or building says Howard. bird houses, “Getting in the and this is our hobby, getting back country out there with Mother Nature,” among the he says. “It’s ranches, farms calming.” There’s a and forests, certain amount that’s what I of risk in road biking, adds love.” VanCurler, noting, “there’s two kinds of riders, those who have been down (crashed) and those who are going to go down.” When this happens, it tends to be because four-wheeled vehicles don’t see bikes and pull out in front of them, as happened to Smith, breaking his leg. “You really have to worry about the other drivers,” says Dennis Barlesi, 66, of Medford. Riders often put on charity events, such as poker runs for Habitat for Humanity, the Star barbecue, which raises money for Scouts, and a Toy Run with up to 700 bikes going through most cities in the valley and that raises money for low-income families for Christmas. Age is no barrier to road bikers, as 86-year-old Harry Howard will tell you, with a smile. “The power and feeling you have, it’s such a two-wheel thrill,” says Howard. “Getting in the backcountry among the ranches, farms and forests, that’s what I love.”
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The Bear Creek Greenway is an 18-mile jewel for outdoors lovers of all stripes
The emerald necklace Story by BILL KETTLER
yclists and joggers know the Bear Creek Greenway as one of Southern Oregon’s best places to get some outdoor exercise without traveling too far from home. But you don’t have to be a diehard runner or a heart-pounding cyclist to enjoy an outing on the Greenway. There are plenty of things to see and do for those who opt for a slower pace. Anybody who can walk can stroll along the path. There are no major hills to climb, because the route hews closely to Bear Creek as it winds along the valley floor. And it’s paved, so stability underfoot isn’t an issue for most folks. Walking at a leisurely pace allows you to see things that runners and cyclists go right past — like spawning salmon. “Last fall we saw about four dozen,” says Molly Kreuzman, co-director of the Coyote Trails/Jefferson Nature Center, in Medford’s U.S. Cellular Community Park. The Greenway traverses the park about midway along its 18-mile course between Ashland and Central Point. Kreuzman says the nature center offers a range of two-hour workshops
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on Saturdays that teach traditional living skills such as making fire from friction, building survival shelters, primitive cooking and basket making. Many programs are open to kids as young as 8. “Parents could ride their bikes with their kids out there and do a class and then ride back home,” she says. There’s also a small natural history museum at the nature center, where birds’ nests, animal skins and other objects from the natural world are displayed. You won’t see salmon every day in Bear Creek, and you probably won’t catch a glimpse of the elk, deer and bear that occasionally blunder onto the Greenway, but you can’t help but notice the birds that make their homes near the stream. Avid bird watchers often visit the Greenway just to see how many species they might see. Every season there are familiar friends like great blue herons, crows and ravens, flickers and red-wing blackbirds. You never know when you might catch a
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Photos this page, clockwise from left: The skateboard park at Bear Creek Park in Medford is one of dozens of attractions along the Greenway. Dr. Kelly Cruser and Rondeau, a Portuguese water dog, walk along the Bear Creek Greenway near Ashland's dog park. Skaters are among the many exercisers who use the Bear Creek Greenway to stay in shape. Left page, top: Phil Gagnon rides along the Bear Creek Greenway near the Ashland dog park. Gagnon and the Siskiyou Velo bicycling club hold a series of free, guided rides each spring to introduce new or rusty cyclists to the ins and outs of group riding. LEFT PAGE, BOTTOM: A fall chinook salmon sits on a redd in Bear Creek behind the Rogue Valley Mall. Mail Tribune file photos
Learn more Greenway website: jacksoncounty. org/bearcreekgreenway Mail Tribune Greenway Guide: www.mailtribune.com/greenway
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Emerald from Page 16 glimpse of more unusual species such as the white-tailed kite or a sharp-shinned hawk. Carrying a field guide will help you identify the birds you don’t already know by sight or sound. North of Medford, there are ponds along the Greenway that attract birds, too. Jenna Stanke, Jackson County’s Greenway coordinator, says she’s seen green herons, kingfishers, egrets, and a variety of hawks and ducks on the ponds south of Central Point. A gazebo near one of the ponds offers shelter from rainy weather or summer’s blistering heat. Stanke encourages people who don’t consider themselves excellent cyclists to give the Greenway a test drive, because the gentle terrain makes for easy pedaling. “It’s all really flat,” she says. “I think people will surprise themselves with how far they can go. Even a novice can ride the whole thing.” She encourages people to plan a trip that will pass the time in a leisurely way. “You can head out from one community for another, have lunch and then ride back,” she says. Food is a great way to bribe kids into a Greenway ride with Mom and Dad, she says, noting there are lots of restaurants near the paved path that offer the kinds of food kids like. People who like to fish can travel the Greenway to reach the ponds north of the Expo. There’s plenty of bank access to try for bass and stocked trout with a youngster just learning to wet a line. Farther south, Phoenix’s Blue Heron Park makes a good stopping or resting place on a ride between Ashland and Medford. The city’s largest park offers a playground for kids, picnic areas, restrooms and a covered shelter to take refuge from a sudden shower or summer’s heat. “It’s a real family-friendly place,” says Kevin Caldwell, Phoenix’s public works superintendent. And with 20 acres of grass, there’s plenty of room for kids to frolic. A bit farther north, Bear Creek Park in Medford offers numerous activities, including free summer concerts and movies. The 100-acre park features Little League fields, an off-leash dog area, a BMX track, an outdoor performing amphitheater and a 25,000-square-foot skatepark, along with barbecue areas, four tennis courts and restrooms.
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Several annual running races use portions of the Bear Creek Greenway, including the Bridge the Gap Run, shown here, the Pioneer Run, the Shamrock Run, the Turkey Trot and the Rogue Run half marathon. Some attractions along the Greenway take a little time to find because they’re not directly alongside the path. Stanke says there’s a big boulder known as “the balanced rock” along the path near the access point at Eagle Mill Road, north of Ashland. Cyclists tend to blast right past it, she says. “You have to look pretty closely. If you don’t slow down, you’ll miss it. You can walk right down to it. It’s about 50 feet off the path.” Stanke encourages people to visit the Greenway website (jacksoncounty.
org/bearcreekgreenway) when organizing an outing to learn of any construction closures that might interfere with their plans. The website also has a map with information about places where you can get on the path. Next time you’re thinking about a bike ride or a hike, think about the Greenway. There’s probably a bikefriendly route near your home that will deliver you to one of the access points, and from there, you can go wherever your fancy takes you.
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Rock hunters Susan and Jay Newman show off the largest agate they’ve ever found, in the center.
Rockhounding can be a rewarding way to get down and dirty Story by MANDY VALENCIA • Photos by JULIA MOORE
littering treasures lie on the ground throughout Southern Oregon waiting for sharp-eyed rock hounds to gather them up. “Oregon has a lot of different rocks to collect. We have a lot of volcanic rocks like obsidian,” says Charles Rogers, a Rogue Community College geology instructor and curator for the Crater Rock Museum. Rock collecting is different from prospecting, says Rogers. “Prospecting is looking for mineral resources, such as gold or copper. Rock collecting is looking for nonprecious minerals, petrified wood and agates. It’s looking for semi-precious stones that can be cut, looking for the pretty qualities in the various layers,” says Rogers. When rock hound Susan Newman moved to Ashland six years ago from
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Scituate, Mass., she didn’t realize at first that her new neighborhood was a hot spot for rock collectors. “I lived here for like two years before I realized how much was here. I was looking at a book about all the gems to find here. I was like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m in heaven.’ I had no idea.” The most common finds for Rogue Valley rock hunters are petrified wood, agates and fossils, says Rogers. Eastern Oregon has opal mines and thunder eggs, as well as free Bureau of Land Management sites where people can dig for obsidian and sunstones. “There are copper deposits and jade deposits in parts of the Klamath mountains, and chrome minerals sometimes. Amethyst crystals have been found — not high quality, but usually there are clusters,” says Rogers.
In the Rogue Valley, rock hounds can find banded agates and fossils of clam impressions and turritella, which are ancient sea creatures about 30 million years old, according to Rogers. “We also find leaf fossils in old lake beds from volcanic lahar. There are a lot of leaves, bugs and flowers that we find in those lahar deposits at Lake Creek.” The Agate Desert is another popular place to look. The area — actually a prairie and not a true desert — is located in White City near where Camp White was located. While on a rock-hunting trip in the Agate Desert with her husband, Newman found the largest agate they have ever collected. “We posted a picture of it on Facebook after we found it. Everyone thought it was a giant potato,” says Newman. “It’s not worth anything, it’s
just cool to have a nice big piece that’s bigger than your hand.” Crater Rock Museum hosts field trips for members to special places known to have lots of good collecting potential. At the Siskiyou summit, Rogers likes to look for clam and snail fossils because it’s not private property. “It’s hard to find a place where you can just collect rocks without impinging on someone’s private property,” says Rogers. “We go up there because it’s part of the highway easement, so we’re able to pick up rocks there.” Rock hounds can collect stones on many public lands in Oregon, including Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land. On BLM lands, people can gather up to 250 pounds of rocks a year for free, according to the agency’s website. Commercial collecting is not allowed without special permission. Also, rock can’t be collected on public lands for construction or landscaping without a permit. Rock hunters may use hand tools such as shovels and picks, but no explosives or power equipment, BLM says at http://on.doi.gov/1bzm11P. Some areas, such as Glass Buttes obsidian area and a public sunstone area in the BLM Lakeview District, have been specifically set aside for rock hunters. On Forest Service lands, free or special fee permits might be required, depending on the forest and the type of rocks being gathered. Beaches are another place to find natural treasures, according to Rogers. “Lots of petrified wood washes down the rivers to the beach, where you’ll also find agates,” says Rogers. “Sometimes we find whale bones. The coast is an active erosion area.” Petrified wood can act like a sponge and soak up agate material in the ground water, says Rogers. As the wood slowly dissolves away, the agate replaces it cell by cell. Rock hounding won’t make you rich, but it brings joy from the thrill of finding something beautiful and unique just lying on the ground. “We love having them all over the yard, they are real garden enhancers,” says Newman. “It’s probably the least offensive pastime someone can have. We’re just surface collectors.”
Learn more To learn more about rockhounding in the Pacific Northwest, check out the Oregon Department of Geology website. www.oregongeology.org/sub/learnmore/ learnmore.htm April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 23
Capture the Crustacean Story by MARK FREEMAN Photos by NANCY MCCLAIN
A trap full of Dungeness and red rock crabs on the dock in Charleston.
Every Oregonian needs to spend at least one day catching crabs. Here’s how to do it.
ou don’t need fancy boats, good sea legs or a salty disposition to ply the bottoms of Oregon bays for the tastiest of all shelled critters, Dungeness crab. Dock crabbing is one of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to partake in one of Oregon’s unique outdoor resources while taking home some of the riches of the sea. And done right, anyone can catch a dozen keeper crabs in an afternoon for less than it costs to buy two in a market. Virtually anyone can spend a day playing capture the crustacean at any of several Oregon port towns that cater to first-time or occasional crabbers. For about $30, an Oregon adult can buy a resident shellfish license, rent three crab rings and buy bait, a bucket and a crab-measuring stick to get started at any of dozens of public
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crabbing docks along the coast. “Consider that crab is going for $8.99 a pound and a good-sized Dungeness is about two pounds, that’s a pretty good deal,” says Joe Cook at Bite’s On Bait and Tackle in Empire, a tiny burg along Coos Bay near Charleston. “We’ll rent you the rings, sell you the bait and give you some ideas how to use it,” Cook says. “Then we’ll point you down the street to a public dock. There’s a lot of happy people doing it right now.” The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2013 sold almost 150,000 resident annual shellfish licenses, which are required for in-state crabbers age 14 and older. Nonresidents bought about 33,000 annual or three-day licenses last year as well, so the docks are generally populated with a mix of experience. Many first-timers rent gear and choose either chicken pieces, fish heads or frozen shad as bait. Many use chicken pieces or turkey legs because seals and sea lions are more likely to raid rings or traps baited with fish than fowl, a quirk the perpetually foraging crab don’t seem to share.
Dropping baited rings off the dock during the incoming tide, then pulling them up after 10 or 15 minutes generally produces plenty of crabs. The pull has to be swift, steady and straight upward to give the Dungeness less of a chance to escape. When using traps, many crabbers will drop their baited cages off the dock at the start of the incoming tide, then return in a few hours to pull the traps at high tide. Once crabs get inside a trap, they can’t get out easily, so traps don’t have to be pulled up as often as rings. Once that ring or trap is flopped on the dock, the real fun begins. Grabbing, measuring and either keeping or releasing the crabs is a free-for-all. The only crabbers not wearing thick rubber gloves are the greenest of newcomers. First, pick out those obviously smaller than the 5¾-inch minimum length (measured across their shell) of a “keeper” crab. Those remaining are flipped to see whether they have the female’s telltale rounded flap on their underside. Those, too, are released.
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CRABBING BASICS Here are the basics for anyone who wants to take a shot at dock crabbing. Pick a port: Places like Bandon, Charleston and Winchester Bay offer good crabbing throughout the fall and winter, with good public dock access and plenty of places to rent equipment. Check the tides: Crabbing is best the hour before and after high tide. The hour before and after low tide also is good. That’s when the tidal surges are the slowest and the crabs are the most active. Buy a license: An annual shellfish license costs $7 and is required for any resident 14 and older. Nonresidents can buy a three-day license for $11.50 or an annual license for $20.50. Rent some rings: Rings usually rent from $4 to $6 a day. Get at least two rings per crabber to maximize your catch when the action’s heavy. Buy bait: Frozen shad and the heads of commercially caught fish attract crabs best. Chicken and turkey pieces work well, but their best selling point is that seals and sea lions are less likely to raid a poultry-baited ring. More tools: Bring a bucket, buy a $2 crab measuring stick, pick up a free Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations booklet — and a pair of work gloves. The booklet helps you identify females that must be released and shows how to measure the males. The stick will show which males have shells wider than the 5¾-inch limit. The bucket is where you’ll keep your limit of 12 crabs per day. The gloves make it a lot easier to get crabs out of the ring without getting pinched. Hit a public dock: Any bait and tackle shop that rents rings can point you to a public-access spot. Bait up: Use a bait pin, twine, wire, mesh bag, bait cages or other means of making sure your bait stays in place. Go fish: Toss the ring or trap and let it sink straight down, tying the loose end of the ring rope to the dock. After 10 minutes or so, pull the ring up briskly and steadily so the crabs can’t swim away. If you’re using a trap, leave it under water an hour or longer to give crabs a chance to find their way inside. Sort your haul: Keep the big Dungeness males; release the others. You can keep up to 24 red rock crabs of any size or sex. Cook ‘em up: The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission has lots of good crab recipes: www.oregondungeness.org
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Catch your own
Chowder Story by MARK FREEMAN
Razor clams, gapers, cockles and more ... nearby estuaries are brimming with variety Photos courtesy ODFW
Jackie Anzo, 23, of Eugene, shows off a gaper clam as her mother digs behind her.
ust outside of Bandon lies one of Southern Oregon’s most productive places to play in the mud. When the Coquille River estuary is at low tide, the walk onto the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge off Riverside Drive will take you across a platform and down some stairs, where your hip boots will touch the miraculous muck favored by soft-shelled clams. All it takes is a $30 clam gun, hip waders, a bucket and a shellfish fishing license for inlanders to parachute into the estuary for a round of Catch the Clam.
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A razor clam is pulled from the sand along the Oregon Coast. Softshell clams are the easiest clams for beginners to tackle, and Bandon Marsh not only is loaded with them, it’s also the closest place to the Rogue Valley with good clam beds. “It’s not as busy as places like Coos Bay, but it’s certainly a place that’s
available and easy to get to,” says Bill Bridgeland, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who works at the refuge. Softshell clams are native to the East Coast, where they provide an important commercial fishery. East Coast investors introduced them to the Oregon Coast about the same time as they first infused oysters here. Now softshells inhabit most bays along the Oregon Coast and are one of the most sought-after clams, largely because of their abundance. They are readily identifiable by the concentric rings on their slightly oblong shells, which are slightly pointed at the neck end. They typically are 2 to 4 inches long and are most often cooked by steaming. First-time clammers who stick to the following steps can have an enjoyable time getting their feet wet at places like Bandon before extending their reach to other Oregon estuaries. Buy a license: Oregonians can buy a calendar-year license for $7, while
A young clammer tugs on his clam shovel. of-staters can get a three-day license for $11.50. Oregon law requires everyone in a clamming party to bring and carry his or her own container for clams. Watch the tides: The best clamming tides are called “minus” tides, when moon phases cause the low tide to drop a foot or so lower than normal, giving you access to more clam beds. During the spring and summer, minus tides that come in the morning will be best, because that time of day tends to be less windy. Websites such as www. saltwatertides.com can allow you to check tides based on specific bays, such as Coquille and Coos. Wader up and hit the flats: The mud flats of the old Bandon Marsh provide good first-time clamming spots. Get close to the water’s edge, where the mud is soupier and the clams usually more abundant. Find the show: The so-called “show” is the air hole that denotes a clam living under it. They’re often about the size of a pencil eraser and sometimes they even have bubbles coming out of them. Dig it: Put the hole at the end of your clam gun over the show and push down slowly but firmly. Clams can feel vibrations and will dig deeper to flee from you. Once the gun is submerged in the mud, put your thumb over the hole at the gun’s upper end or in the handle. That creates the pressure lock that allows you to suck up the mud as you lift the gun. Take your finger off the hole and the mud flops out.
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WHERE TO CRAB Most Oregon ports provide some public crabbing spots for productive dock-crabbing. Here is a sampling of where to try. BANDON: An excellent crabbing dock highlights one of Oregon’s most picturesque harbors, with an artsy boardwalk and lots of shops and restaurants within sight of the dock. COOS BAY: There are plenty of public-access spots and places to rent crab rings in Coos Bay, North Bend, Empire and Charleston. FLORENCE: Crab at the downtown dock or at the south jetty.
Crab gauges, available at bait stores, are used to measure Dungeness, which must be at least 5 ⁄4 inches across. Only males are kept.
Crabbing from Page 24 The remaining males get measured with the crab stick. Those big enough go into the bucket. Simple enough. But all the while, sharp red pinchers are snapping at those gloved fingers. If that’s not enough entertainment, there’s even more ways to capture crabs. For about $5, you can buy a crab snare, which is a trap that is cast for crabs off the beach or dock using a stout fishing rod. Just put a piece of squid or other bait in the trap, cast it out and wait for the crab to ensnare itself before reeling in. “It can be a real challenge getting them out of the snare,” laughs Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach. “It keeps the kids entertained. But a snare’s also great to have if you don’t have a boat or access to a dock. You can cast it off rocks into the open ocean when the
ocean is open (to crabbing).” The recreational season in the ocean opens Dec. 1 and runs through Aug. 14. Bays and estuaries are open year-round. The best crabbing months are those that end in “R.” Crabbing typically is best at high or low slack tides, and Dungeness are more plentiful in bays before storms instead of after storms, because they prefer the higher salinity of bay water that’s not inundated by rain runoff.
GARIBALDI: Though Tillamook Bay is best known for clamming, docks at the boat basin in Garibaldi often yield crabs. LINCOLN CITY: Crabbers at the mouth of the Siletz Bay often sit on the soft sand and toss their rings right off the beach behind Mo’s Seafood Restaurant, where there’s a steep drop straight off the sand. NETARTS BAY: Rings and rental boats are available at the Netarts Bay R.V. Park and Marina. NEWPORT: An excellent crabbing dock sits just below the U.S. 101 bridge. The South Beach Marina rents boats and rings. WALDPORT: The public docks in Alsea Bay provide some of the best crabbing in the state. WINCHESTER BAY: Good public-access points and ringrental facilities abound.
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Jackie Anzo and her mother dig for gaper clams during a minus tide west of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport.
Clamming from Page 27 If there’s no clam in the muck, reach down in the hole to feel for it. Keep going: The basic limit for bay clams — gaper, butter, littleneck, cockle and geoduck — is 20 per day, of which only 12 in aggregate may be gapers or geoducks. But each clammer can keep up to 36 softshell clams a day, while the limit for purple varnish clams is 72 a day. Watch the water: Many clammers can tell you stories about having to ford channels with water up to their chest or higher when they became so engrossed in pursuing clams that they forgot to watch the incoming tide. If you’re digging on the ocean beaches, never turn your back on the sea — sneaker waves got that name for a reason. Tips: Leave bracelets, watches and rings at home. They can easily be lost in the mud. Boots are
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recommended. Expect to kneel on wet mud and sand. Clam shells are sharp, so pry clams out carefully. Some diggers prefer gloves, but they can slip off and become lost in the mud. Clams that remain open when removed from their habitat are dead and should be discarded. If transporting clams, leave in their shells and store in a wet burlap bag, keeping cool on ice. Clams can be frozen cleaned or in the shell for about three months. Clean gapers and razors before freezing. Call the hotline: Clamming is closed from time to time because of the presence of naturally occurring toxins. Before you go clamming, call the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s shellfish safety hotline, which provides the most current information regarding shellfish safety closures: 1-800-4482474.
Oregon Coast clam species regon estuaries contain many O species of bay clams, although only a few species are commonly
harvested. Gaper, butter, cockle, littleneck and softshell are the most commonly harvested bay clams, while razor clams are harvested from ocean beaches. Gaper clams are known by a variety of names, including blue, empire, horse and horseneck clams. They are Oregon’s largest common clam. (Another Pacific Northwest clam, the geoduck, can grow much larger — as much as 10 pounds — but is rarely found in Oregon.) Gapers live deep, and digging them out requires some serious spade work. Butter clams are most often found in large estuarine systems, such as Coos, Tillamook and Yaquina bays, because of their preference for water with higher salinity.
Photo by Kenn Oberrecht
The big gaper clam on the right weighed more than 3 pounds, and the one on the left weighed about 2 pounds.
Cockles do not bury themselves as deep as other common bay clams. You can often spot a good cockle bed by looking for them on top of the sand or mud. Because cockles don’t bury themselves very deep, clam diggers often use rakes to expose them. Littlenecks are found in rock or gravel areas with high, stable salinity. These clams are often confused with Manila littleneck clams, a smaller, related (but non-native) clam that is farmed in mariculture operations and is available in local markets. Only Coos, Yaquina and Tillamook bays have populations of littlenecks. Softshell clams occur in almost all of Oregon’s estuaries, and their range can extend very high into the estuary. In Coos Bay, they are commonly found as far as 30 miles from the ocean. Native to the East Coast, they were introduced to Oregon in the late 1800s. This species is called softshell for a reason; shells are easily broken. A relative newcomer to Oregon, purple varnish clams are a non-native species from Asia that hitchhiked into British Columbia and Puget Sound in the early 1990s via ships’ ballast water. Populations of purple varnish clams are well established in several Oregon bays and estuaries, including Sand Lake, Siletz Bay, Alsea Bay, Siuslaw River estuary and Coos Bay. This small, tasty clam doesn’t burrow very deep. Razor clams are found throughout Oregon’s ocean beaches. About 90 percent of Oregon’s razor clam harvest comes from Clatsop County beaches (Columbia River to Seaside). Razor clams in Oregon can live five or six years and reach a size of 6 inches. The daily limit is the first 15 taken. Razor clams can dig fast — up to a foot a minute — and have been found 4 feet deep, too deep in the sand to be disturbed by diggers or the surf. April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 31
Southern Oregon is a world-class paragliding destination, with a variety of willing teachers
Freedom to Fly Story by John Darling
A paraglider floats over the Applegate.
f you’ve ever dreamed of flying like Superman, paragliding is about as close as you can get. It’s fairly easy to learn, and it’s like stepping into another world, one full of immense beauty and carefree euphoria. “It’s the total freedom you feel when you fly, the fact you are in the moment, like a meditation,” says retired nurse Rena Scott, 66, of Medford.
Tandem flights are one way to experience the sport of paragliding, and several local instructors operate in the area.
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Her husband, Ron Scott, got her into paragliding. Getting ready to launch at Woodrat Mountain, near Ruch, Ron notes that it’s not all a walk in the park. “It’s a challenging sport. You have to stay in good condition. You need to be mobile and quick on your feet,” he says. “It’s safe if you remember all the guidelines and pay attention to the weather,” says Rena. “Don’t fly if it’s too windy. You have to remember these are the world’s slowest aircraft,
Mail Tribune file photos
about 15 mph. So you don’t go in wind that’s faster than you can fly, otherwise you’ll be going backwards.” “You can’t get a cheaper form of aviation,” says instructor Christian Rossberg of Jacksonville, “and it’s happening right here in one of the best flying sites in the U.S. Every year, the safety increases exponentially and the training becomes more refined.” A “wing” will cost you $4,000 to $6,000 new, and add another $1,500 to $2,000 for lessons, says Rena. You shop for one that fits your weight and skill level. On a warm day in July, with good (but not too strong) thermals, about 15 paragliders pre-flight their “wings,” check the steadiness and speed of the upward moving air and begin to pull on their crafts, letting the air fill the baffles, setting up a good “wall” (firm, filled wing). When that happens, they sprint toward the edge of the launch area, forcing the wing into the air above them. Then their feet lift off the ground and they begin maneuvering lines to change the shape of the wing, steering it to left or right.
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Paragliding instructor Christian Rossberg of Jacksonville adjusts Eve Whittaker’s equipment.
FLY continued from Page 32 Paragliding, especially with scads of them on a lovely summer day, looks blissful, poetic and fun — and pilots say that’s exactly what it is. “Most people, on their first flights, say it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever done,” says instructor Nick Crane
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of Ashland. “One woman started crying up there in the sky. She was losing it, out of her mind with the experience.” Typical is Matt Whittaker, 28, of Grants Pass. After swooping in for a landing at Longsword Vineyard on his first flight — a tandem flight with an experienced instructor — he shouts, “That was so freeing, so cool. I loved
it. If you’ve dreamed about flying, hey, this is it!” Euphoria is not a universal response. He gave his mother, Eve Whittaker, a present of a tandem flight, and while she called it “pretty awesome,” she didn’t like the part of losing her lunch while up there. “My advice is don’t go on a full
“It’s not an adrenaline sport. It’s very soothing and calming a lot of the time. It’s similar to scuba diving. ... But here, you have the wind in your face and you control the craft. You’re doing the flying.” — paragliding instructor Nick Crane of Ashland stomach. I’m still dizzy.” There’s no obstacle of age or physical condition, Crane says, noting that his oldest passenger in his tandem glider was a 92-year-old rancher — who loved it. Asked for his most memorable moment up there, Rossberg says, “It would have to be the time in the Wallowas, about 13,000 feet, and this eagle pulls up beside me and looks over, right in my eye, as if to say, ‘OK, what do you think you’re doing here?’ ” Paragliding is sometimes lumped in with “extreme sports,” but Crane says, “It’s not an adrenaline sport. It’s very soothing and calming a lot of the time. It’s similar
to scuba diving. Awesome and you’re in a totally different environment, threedimensional, right, left, up, down. The closest you can get to that is in an airliner. But here, you have the wind in your face and you control the craft. You’re doing the flying.” The main requirement for paragliding is a desire to fly, says Crane. Only 20 percent of people have flying dreams (the kind you have while sleeping), he adds, but 90 percent of paragliders have them. Rossberg used to fly prone, like Superman, in his dreams, but since taking up paragliding, he says he’s always seated in his flying dreams, much to his disappointment.
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 37
Whale of a good time Story by TIM TROWER • Photos by CARRIE NEWELL
About 18,000 gray whales migrate along the Oregon Coast in the spring and winter, but many of the massive mammals spend the entire summer here.
Watching the mammoth creatures can be both moving and exhilarating
arrie Newell recently spent a winter weekend with her friends. Eight of them, to be exact. They were traveling south, and Newell met up with them — four miles out in the ocean. Her friends are gray whales, and on this day, she twice hooked up with the creatures migrating from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to their warm-water breeding and calving lagoons in Mexico. Newell, a marine biologist, is among the region’s authorities on whales. She teaches courses at Lane Community College in Eugene during the week and spends weekends operating out of Depoe Bay, running her sea life museum, providing whale-watching tours and studying the great mammals. When school’s out, she’s usually on the ocean, making as many as 12 excursions a day. In January, Newell conducted a training session at Harris Beach in Brookings for volunteers who work during two designated whale-watching weeks each year. The spring week, when the whales are heading north, is
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March 22-29. Volunteers provide sighting tips and facts about whales at 24 viewing sites along the Oregon Coast. During the winter week from Dec. 26-31, 10,872 people visited the two-dozen viewing sites and spotted 1,648 whales. “Here we have these creatures 40 to 45 feet long that are so mysterious,” said Newell, who once lent her expertise to a Jean-Michel Cousteau documentary. “They’re big and mysterious. This is not something you can go to a zoo or an aquarium to see.” Melinna Faw, a ranger with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, works out of the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. She doesn’t tire of seeing whales pass by. “From the first day of seeing one to just yesterday seeing one,” she said, “you get chills, and the hair stands up on the back of your neck. I almost get a little teary-eyed.” In the big picture, it’s a multi-billiondollar industry. On an individual level, it can be a moving experience. “Every time, it’s amazing,” said Faw,
Viewing areas (Coos Bay and south) u Shore Acres State Park, Charleston u Cape Arago State Park, Charleston u Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint, Bandon u Coquille Point, Bandon* u Battle Rock Wayside, Cape Blanco u Cape Ferrelo, Brookings u Harris Beach State Park, Brookings u Ninth Street Beach, Crescent City * Not part of Whale Watching Spoken Here program “like seeing it for the first time.” Whale watching first became an organized activity from the shores of San Diego in the early 1950s. In the middle of that decade, the first waterbased excursions began. It has since seen great growth. A study five years ago estimated that 13 million people went whale watching in 2008, generating $2.1 billion in tourism revenue worldwide.
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Scarback, one of the most famous whales on the Oregon Coast, has a large chunk of blubber missing from her back, and it’s filled with orange whale lice, making her quite distinctive.
WHALES continued from Page 38 Southern Oregonians interested in seeing whales need only jump in their cars and drive to the coast. Most of the roughly 20,000 migrating whales complete the 12,000-mile round trip back to Alaska. About 200 cut short their travel to take advantage of feeding grounds from Northern California to south Vancouver Island. Rachel Flescher, who works for Tidewind Sportfishing in Brookings, said some of these “resident” whales stay nearby. “We have a little family of whales hanging out all year,” she said, guessing there are four to five in the group near Lone Ranch Beach, north of Harris Beach. “They’re just out there playing.” Depoe Bay is the hub for whale watching in Oregon. The Whale Watching Center is one of 20 designated observation posts between the Chukchi Sea off Alaska and the southernmost lagoons on Mexico’s Baja California coast. From about mid-December to midFebruary, the whales can be seen migrating south. From late February to the end of May, the males and non-breeding females head back to Alaska. From the end of April to the end of May, and sometimes into June, the moms and calves trek north. “Sometimes they’re right next to the shore,” said Newell of the moms and babies, who aren’t weaned until they get to Alaska. “I’ve had them in 10 feet of water.”
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“I’ve seen her (Scarback) every year for 20 years. She’s had six calves since I’ve seen her, and what’s cool is, now her calves are also coming back.” — Whale researcher Carrie Newell Their pace varies. In December, when the goal is to get to the breeding grounds, “They’re booking,” said Faw. “They have tunnel vision and are trying to get down there as fast as they can.” Not all are in such a rush, and slow ones heading south cross paths with the northern migration. “These are the stragglers,” said Faw. “We joke around and call them the slacker teenagers, but in whale years.” Male and female whales reach sexual maturity at about age 8. The youngest ones “aren’t in much of a hurry,” she said. Depoe Bay has a group of resident whales that Newell has studied for 20 years. It is now 75 strong. She has names for all and has determined ages and genders while documenting their behavior. Scarback is the most famous of the residents. She has a large chunk of blubber missing from her back, and it’s filled with orange whale lice, making her quite distinctive. It’s believed the scar is the result of an exploding harpoon that hit her in the 1980s.
“I’ve seen her every year for 20 years,” said Newell. “She’s had six calves since I’ve seen her, and what’s cool is, now her calves are also coming back.” One is Milky Way. Newell saw the 8-year-old chasing a female for the first time this year. “Now I know he’s a male,” she said. Milky Way survived an attack by killer whales, she said, as evidenced by tooth rakes on his tail. Newell names the whales based on unique patterns on their dorsal humps. A favorite of hers is Eagle Eye, who has what looks like an eye on her left hump. The whales play with the boats and “feed on enthusiasm just like people do.” Newell relishes the opportunity, through her museum, to teach about their individualism and personalities. “They’re pretty amazing,” said Newell. “I do get sad when I see something happen. One of our whales, Shamrock, died a couple years ago and washed up on a beach in Southern Oregon.” The chance that shoreline whale watchers will see them depends largely on the conditions. Any rocky headland that juts into the ocean is a good vantage point. A clear day and calm seas provide the best opportunity. Whales are usually between one to five miles out. On a clear day, it’s 10 miles to the horizon, said Faw. “It’s good to be able to gauge the horizon to determine what five miles is,” she added. Once whales are spotted, it helps to know their patterns.
They will surface and powerfully force air through their blowholes — gray whales have two — creating a vapor as the warm, moist air in their lungs meets cooler surface air. When whales heading south surface, they blow three to five times, then dive deep for five minutes or longer. Those migrating north, and summer residents, make shorter dives and generally have a sequence of three blows. Faw has timed the spouts consistently in the 45-second range. “It’s hard waiting that three to five minutes,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like 20. The beauty is, they will keep that sequence and you can definitely track them — if you know whether they’re going north or south.” Whale watching in Oregon isn’t an exact science, particularly from land. The success rate is bound to be better on a boat. Many sportfishing outfits, such as Tidewind, offer whale watching in the afternoon once fishing is done. “They’re out there fishing every day,” said Flescher, “so they know when the whales are out there.” Tidewind owner Kyle Aubin “is pretty good about chasing them down,” she said. “He enjoys it.” And he’s probably made a few friends of his own.
Whale viewing tips u Dress appropriately. Conditions on the ocean can be far different than on land. A comfortable 70-degree day can feel much colder on the ocean. u Protect yourself from the sun, either with clothing or sunscreen. On a sunny day, you will be very exposed and can burn from both sunlight and the reflection of the sun off the water. u Polarized sunglasses, regardless of weather conditions, are helpful. u Hats keep the sun out of your eyes, but hang on when wind comes up.
Photography u On a smaller boat, find a dry place to store your camera in case of bad weather or rough seas. u An SLR camera is best. Whales are up for only a matter of seconds, and quick shutter response is important. u Telephoto lenses are ideal because you usually don’t get close enough to the whales to need a wideangle or regular lens.
u A polarizer filter helps cut through the glare of the ocean and makes colors richer with more contrast. u Point-and-shoot cameras should have strong zooming capabilities (10 times or greater) as whales don’t always approach boats and boats are prohibited from intentionally getting close to them.
Miscellaneous u If you’re prone to sea sickness, consider taking Bonine or another medication. u Whale watches vary in length. If you are unsure about how well you will do on the ocean, consider starting with a shorter trip to get accustomed to the sea. u Binoculars can help you spot far-off whales, but they can also lead to sea sickness when you repeatedly switch from your naked eye to using them while moving. — From thespout.org
Websites whalespoken.org; oregonwhales. com; thespout.org
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Oregon Caves Tips for planning your trip
Story by Daniel newberry
ne size does not fit all” — that’s the message coming from the Oregon Caves National Monument this year. The ranger-led walking tour at this unique marble cave system high in the Illinois Valley has long been popular with locals and visitors alike. This year, however, the National Park Service will offer two tours, each targeted to a different group. “What we found was that one-third of ticket sales were to kids, so presumably at least another third was to parents,” explains George Herring, the caves’ director of interpretation. “So we’ve created a family-friendly tour, with special kid activities. We want to give them the freedom to explore the caves at their own level.” Kid activities include learning about bats and a bat skeleton, and experiments with liquids and solids, including ice. The second tour, dubbed the “speleoscience tour,” is aimed at adults who are interested in the science behind the formation of the caves. The family tour will be shorter to better match the attention span and endurance of children, and will be guided by rangers with a talent for working with the wee ones.
CAVES continued on Page 44 Emily Moss, a physical sciences technician at Oregon Caves National Monument, descends into the bowels of the caves during an off-trail caving tour. Mail Tribune file photos
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CAVES from Page 42 On Fridays and Saturdays in the summer — and possibly on Sundays, as well — a special “off-caves” tour is available by advance sign-up for spelunkers and others who don’t mind crawling on their bellies with headlamps in tight passageways. Only one-half of 1 percent of the Caves’ 50,000 visitors each year opt for this demanding tour, but the results are worth it. The only way to see the vertical chert formation in the Snake Room, or the vast Whitfield Dome littered with auto-sized chunks of marble, is by crawling through the chilly caves in coveralls. The year-round temperature there is 44 degrees Fahrenheit. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure above ground at the Oregon Caves. Consider taking the cave tour in the morning and spending the afternoon hiking in the sun. Three short hikes begin either at the visitor center or main parking lot. The shortest of the three is the half-mile Old Growth Trail, which showcases several forest types in the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains, one of the most biologically diverse regions of North America. The one-mile Cliff Nature Trail offers panoramas of the Illinois Valley. The 1.3-mile No Name Trail follows both No Name and Cave Creeks. All three trails feature moderately steep climbs. If you’re after longer and more challenging hikes, consider the popular Big Trees hike, which features a 3.3-mile loop with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet. The average time for this hike is two to three hours, and the trailhead is located behind the visitor center. In addition to seeing the widest Douglas fir tree in Oregon, you’ll pass through wildflower-blanketed mountain meadows. For the dedicated hiker, the Bigelow Lake-Mount Elijah hike traverses a mountain top, meadows and the lily pad-strewn Bigelow Lake. This 9.2-mile hike follows half the Big Trees Trail before branching off on a lollipop-shaped trail. The average time for this journey is four to six hours. More than 100 species of wildflowers grow within the boundaries of the Oregon Caves National Monument. This summer, the caves will launch an online wildflower guide, destined to be a boon to hikers. Called “A Trailside Guide for Wildflowers,” this list of wildflowers, including those in bloom at any given time, can be
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The six-story, cedar-sheathed Oregon Caves Chateau was built in 1934. Room rates run from $109 ro $199.
downloaded and printed as a trailside ID guide. The resource will include identification tips for ferns and conifers, as well. Later on, the plan is to have the guide professionally printed and sold at the visitor center. Though wildflowers make for up-close viewing, don’t forget your binoculars. The Park Service has documented 86 bird species, 75 butterfly species and eight kinds of bats, all within the monument boundaries. With all the hiking available, many visitors choose to make the Oregon Caves a two-day excursion. And why not, with the historic Oregon Caves Chateau but a stone’s throw from the visitor center.
Reach out and touch The Oregon Caves National Monument recently received a $550,000 federal grant to build a new touch-screen exhibit to highlight the geological complexity and biological diversity of the Siskiyou Mountains. The interactive exhibit will be housed in a 46-inch diameter screen and is scheduled to be available in 2015. This six-story, cedar-sheathed lodge was built in 1934, and its interior is replete with a variety of wood, from huge exposed beams to the main staircase to the furniture. The
architecture is unique — a rustic lodge nestled into the hillside with a stream running through the dining room. The chateau is open from May through September. Room rates run from $109 to $199. There is no entrance fee to the Oregon Caves National Monument, but cave tours cost $8.50 for adults 17 and older, $6 for 16 and younger. Group rates are available. Call 541-592-2100 for details. For more information about the Oregon Caves National Monument, see www.nps.gov/orca/index.htm To visit the Oregon Caves, take Oregon Route 199 to the town of Cave Junction. Turn east at the gas station on Route 46 and follow for 20 miles up the winding road to the monument.
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 45
Niche Publication Schedule Southern Oregon Media Group presents its 2014 Niche Product line. With a focus on reaching the diverse community of the Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon Media Group has a comprehensive group of publications to reach the ever-growing population of Southern Oregon.
From Wedding Guides to Medical Directories we use themes that are attractive, fun and informative to Rogue Valley residents. Helping our local businesses thrive is a continuing mission for us here at Southern Oregon Media Group. Our publications are strategically designed to draw readers and increase revenue for you, the advertiser.
Talk to your local Southern Oregon Media Group Marketing Consultant today to find out what is the best fit for you and your business. We also offer great discounts for purchasing space in multiple niche publications. Call your Southern Oregon Media Gruoup Marketing Consultant or dial 541.776.4422
Vol. 7 — issue
Monthly Increase brand awareness with Oregon Healthy Living Living. Publishes the beginning of every month with information on physical, emotional, mental and financial well being. 15k copies distributed in Jackson and Josephine counties.
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Monthly UP MEDIA GRO RN OREGON Don Dixon SOUTHE 1.7036 TION OF tro • 541.62 A PUBLICA Pete Belcas Ashland
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off the Great Room and with Vaulted Tour home neighborhood is in a quiet living area, trails. near hiking
with over 1,850 built home s Beautiful custom ac.Three large bedroom Sq ft. in a cul-de-s s. bathroom and two full
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porch in one and wrap around e neighbor3 car garage most desirabl es, granite of Central Point’s applianc kitchen, ss hoods. Island bonus room, butler’s pantry. counters, Large sf. 4Bd/3Ba, 3226
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and window coverings.
Put your properties front and center! HomeFinder is a full color, tab sized section completely devoted to real estate and distributed through The Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings, Savvy Living & Ashland Savor for a total of 40,000 copies!
Moving Ahead is a publication of Oregon Department of Transportation containing information on driver safety and regional improvement projects. 39,800 copies are inserted in the three largest daily newspapers in Southern Oregon and available racks throughout Jackson Our Valley • Aprilfree 20,in2014 21 and Josephine counties. Oregon
Department of Transportation
A Mail Tribune Advertising Department publication
Shakespeare Festival Reach over 50k locals and visitors to your business. Published in the Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings and on sale for $3 in the Mail Tribune Lobby.
Pub. Date: Sunday, June 8 Deadline: Thursday, May 8
Fall Home Show
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Reach over 141k consumers! In the Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings and distributed at the Home Show.
Root for your favorite school! Reach over 50k readers. Published in the Mail Tribune and Daily Tidings.
Pub. Date: Friday, September 12 Deadline: Thursday, August 21
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Our Breast Cancer Awareness section with readership of over 50k. Published in the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings.
Be part of the car-buying decision of over 50k potential customers. Published in the Mail Tribune and Daily Tidings.
Don’t miss your chance to thank customers. Over 60k Jackson County readers! Published in the Mail Tribune & Savvy Living.
Pub. Date: Wed., Oct. 8 Deadline: Fri., Sept. 26
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Holidays in the Rogue Valley
Holiday Gift Guide
Your message front and center! Reach over 50k local consumers. Published in the Mail Tribune and Daily Tidings.
Showcase your holiday shopping specials! Reach over 70k consumers! Published in the Mail Tribune and Savvy Living.
Pub. Date: Friday, November 21 Deadline: Friday, November 7
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Image hunters Story by SARAH LEMON
Local photographers offer tips for capturing nature
Dustin Peters of Eagle Point won the People's Choice vote in the 2013 Oregon Outdoors outdoor photo contest with his photo of National Creek Falls near Union Creek.
rushes with wildlife in his native Lake County compelled Bart Elder to trade one kind of shot for another. “I saw the big buck, and I was reaching for my camera instead of my gun,” says the longtime amateur photographer. Winner of the wildlife category in the Mail Tribune’s inaugural Oregon Outdoors Photo Contest last summer, Elder likens his pastime to hunting game. Success requires patience, willingness to brave all kinds of conditions and no small amount of luck, he says. “I know where different animals hang out,” says Elder, explaining that he takes “any chance possible” to trek outdoors to shoot photos “as long as it’s not a blizzard.” Persistence paid off when Elder, 51, encountered nine bighorn sheep near Summer Lake in 2008. The grazers’ gaze from a rock-strewn ridge topped Elder’s competition in the newspaper contest.
A contest-worthy photo, says Elder, is in focus, depicts an animal’s behavior and makes eye contact. The Grants Pass resident also won first place in the 2007 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest with a bald eagle’s launch from a bare-branched tree toward Elder’s lens. The prizewinning moment came after several hours of waiting around Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge. “Get out and about and shoot lots of pictures,” he advises. Shooting numerous frames has become easier for outdoors photographers since digital technology replaced film, not to mention glass plates used in the medium’s earliest days. Modern-day equipment rewards photographers for experimenting with light and exploring all the angles. “Digital has completely changed how accessible photography is to the general public,” says Ashland photographer Sean Bagshaw. “There’s no cost penalty to taking lots of photos.
And you get instant feedback.” Feedback for fellow photographers is an important element of Bagshaw’s popular Outdoor Exposure Photography workshops. The multiday excursions take participants from the Oregon Coast to the state’s Cascade mountain peaks. “I visit places where I hope there will be good photographic opportunities, but many of my favorite images take me by surprise,” says Bagshaw. “You can always do something new, especially in landscape photography.” Even innovative photographers, however, should adhere to the art form’s fundamentals. Compose the frame so distracting elements around the edges aren’t visible, says Bagshaw. Include a single, strong foreground element or visual line leading into the scene, he adds. Because it’s common to include too much visual information in a landscape, photographers should strive for simplicity.
IMAGE continued on Page 49 April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 47
Our Valley â€˘ April 20, 2014
Bill Anders of Ashland created this composition at Crater Lake using 200 stacked, 20-second images to get the star trails.
Steve Whipple of Central Point won first place for his photo of Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.
10 tips for outdoors photography
Bart Elder of Grants Pass won first place in the wildlife category of the 2013 Oregon Outdoors Photo Contest for his photo of bighorn sheep in Summer Lake.
IMAGE from Page 47 Yet don’t simplify photos to the point of being mundane, says Ashland photographer Jim Kurtz. As a judge for photography competitions in Southern California, Kurtz rewarded the “rule of thirds,” a composition technique thought to create not only more visual interest but energy and tension. The viewer’s eyes “flow across” and “linger” on these images, says Kurtz, composed as if they could be divided into nine equal parts with two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Visual interest, says Bagshaw, also comes from unusual lighting and vibrant color. Just as hunters and
fishermen know which time of day and which conditions their quarry favors, seasoned photographers seek subject matter in the best possible lighting — twilight and the hour after sunrise and before sunset. “The quality of light is the most important element in landscape photography,” says Bagshaw. Cloudy days cast forests and wooded streams in intrigue, he adds. And amid unsettled weather — before, during and after a storm — any time of day can be dramatic. Shooting in low light with long exposure times requires a tripod, explains Bagshaw, adding that it’s the most important piece of equipment he owns other than his camera. A lens hood, says Kurtz, is essential when
u Try to find a vantage point or focal length that distills the image to a few main elements, hinting at the larger scene. u Make sure light is properly exposed; highlights shouldn’t be washed out or shadows muddy. u Include something unusual or out of place in the composition. u Change the viewer’s perspective by positioning the camera near the ground or in an elevated position. u When in doubt about the composition of a shot, always get closer. u Don’t place the subject in an image’s center. u Don’t split a photo in the center with the horizon line. u Tell a story with photography; for example, show an animal’s behavior. u When shooting wildlife, try to capture the subject’s eyes clearly with sharp focus. u Explore your surroundings. shooting a sunset. Photography, like any outdoors pursuit, has its gear. But a fancy camera doesn’t guarantee great photos, says Medford photographer Jim Craven. “Learn everything you can with whatever you already have and then think about buying new lenses or cameras,” says Craven. “Consider this: Nobody ever complimented a master chef by saying ... ‘You must have a great stove!’ ”
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 49
Dave Willis, chairman of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, rides his horse, Wiley, through Babbitt Gap in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area near Pilot Rock, followed by his dog, Mojo.
Mail Tribune file photos
Wilderness guide The Rogue Valley is surrounded by wilderness areas, and each offers unique features and experiences Story by JOHN DARLING
A view of Mount Shasta from the Soda Mountain Wilderness east of Ashland.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
f you want real experiences of wilderness, you don’t have to travel far. Southwest Oregon contains eight federally designated wilderness areas, with several others nearby in Oregon and Northern California. If you’re new to wilderness exploration, it’s possible to hike in with an experienced group, such as the Siskiyou Mountain Club, which is not just about hiking and sightseeing but gets volunteers to work rebuilding overgrown trails. “It was beautiful, and I’m going back and do it some more next summer,” says Ann Rossman of Ashland, who took a trip into the region’s newest wilderness area, the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area, with the mountain club. “It was really enjoyable with some beautiful,
long meadows going on and on ... and outstanding views of Mount Shasta and Black Butte.” The trek into Soda Mountain Wilderness, south of Highway 66, took the group across 20 miles of backcountry roads, then almost two miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, then a similar distance to Lone Pine Ridge, all with great views. Schlepping crosscut saws, clippers and other nonmotorized tools (motors are not allowed in wilderness), they go there to work, cutting rounds out of fallen trees and snipping back brush, which would bar many wilderness trekkers, says hike leader Gabriel Howe. “In the last 10 years, the D.C. budget squeeze has really marginalized the trail maintenance program in these hard-to-reach
April 20, 2014 â€˘ Our Valley 51
The Mount Thielsen Wilderness Area is one of the many gems backpackers can explore in Southern Oregon. places that don’t get used much,” says Howe. “Trails fill in with fallen trees and it becomes near impossible to use some of them.” Howe organizes day hikes in the Soda Mountain and Kalmiopsis wilderness areas for volunteers, as well as treks of up to two weeks, with lots of preparation for meals, camping and sleeping under the stars. “It is rugged. It’s what sets us apart,” he says. “The logistics are challenging. It’s 15 miles to get to a project site and takes two days in and two days to get out.” It’s great for teens, he notes, and can earn them credit toward scholarships. Micah Nash, a veteran of wilderness work in the Kalmiopsis and a recent graduate of North Medford High, says wilderness work brought such a change in his life that he shifted from video games to “more valuable experiences,” such as his writing and music. “It’s been a great experience. A lot of people should engage in it,” says Nash. “We forget the value of wilderness and the good feeling of physical exertion. A lot of people don’t want to do the hard work, but it’s a great challenge and builds character
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
and endurance. It’s inspiring and helps you think more clearly.” Hiking the wilderness is different than hikes near town with parking nearby, says Howe. “You feel like there’s still somewhere you can discover,” he says. “You can hike a lot of places, but when you get in a federal wilderness, it feels like you’re really finding something. It’s remote. You go, ‘Wow, I haven’t ever seen this, and very few other people have.’ If you go year after year, you develop a sense of ownership of it, like you discovered it. It’s like the Wild West frontier.” Even the names of wilderness areas summon a sense of mystery and seem to beckon — Sky Lakes, Red Buttes, Rogue-Umpqua Divide, Mountain Lakes, Wild Rogue, Mount Thielsen. In addition to hiking and camping, you can do cross-country skiing, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, but you can’t use motorized vehicles, says Joel Brumm, assistant manager of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which includes Soda Mountain. “The hiking is fantastic. You find a lot of amazing landscapes,” he says, “and there are a lot of what we call foot-worn paths. You have to be
careful; you can get lost. You should be equipped if you go off-trail, and know what you’re doing.” Some stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail go through wilderness, and they’ve created a new Lone Pilot Trail, south of Pilot Rock, near the California border, he notes. In addition, you can seek to get familiar with lots of old roadways that aren’t on maps. To participate in wilderness trail work, — Micah Nash contact Gabriel Howe, Siskiyou Mountain Club, at howegabe@gmail. com or call 541-708-2056.
“You can hike a lot of places, but when you get in a federal wilderness, it feels like you’re really finding something. It’s remote. You go, ‘Wow, I haven’t ever seen this, and very few other people have.’ ”
J.R. Weir drops through an upper Chetco River rapid while Andy Miller looks on. The pair were part of a four-man expedition into the remote upper Chetco drainage last summer.
Wilderness areas in southwest Oregon Soda Mountain: 24,123 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The area, noted for its biodiversity, occurs at a junction of several ecosystems and mountain ranges that encompass fir forests, oak groves, wildflower meadows and steep canyons. Sky Lakes: At 113,849 acres, the area includes Mount McLoughlin and three major lake basins between Highway 140 and Crater Lake National Park. The Pacific Crest Trail passes the entire length of Sky Lakes Wilderness north-south for about 35 miles. Kalmiopsis: 180,000 acres, which includes the headwaters of the Chetco and North Fork Smith rivers and a portion of the Illinois River canyon. The Kalmiopsis is part of the Klamath Mountains, with steep, rugged canyons and elevations that range from 500 to 5,098 feet. The nearly 500,000acre Biscuit fire of 2002 burned large parts of the wilderness area. Wild Rogue: The 35,806-acre Wild Rogue Wilderness provides watershed protection for the Wild portion of the Rogue River. The area is characterized by steep terrain of near vertical cliffs, razor-sharp ridges and cascading mountain creeks. Rogue-Umpqua Divide: 35,701 acres 10 miles west of Crater Lake. Elevations range from 3,000 to 6,800 feet along the divide between the Rogue and Umpqua rivers. About 100 miles of trails access the area, providing loop opportunities and ridgetop vistas. Mount ThIElsen: 54,914 acres
managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Carved by glaciers and rising 9,182 feet to a spireshaped summit known as the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades,” Mount Thielsen anchors the southern portion of the wilderness. To the south is Crater Lake National Park, and on the periphery is flat to moderately rolling country, which changes to very steep and sharply dissected ridges toward the crest of the Cascades. Mountain Lakes: 23,071 acres in the Winema National Forest. The area was a 12,000-foot mountain that erupted. Glaciation then carved up the caldera, leaving numerous small lakes instead of one enormous body of water, such as Crater Lake. The 8.2-mile Mountain Lakes Loop Trail winds along the southern rim of the caldera, connecting three trails in the interior of the wilderness: Clover Creek Trail (4 miles) from the south, Mountain Lakes Trail (6.5 miles) from the west, and Varney Creek Trail (4.5 miles) from the north. Diamond Peak Wilderness: 52,611 acres in the High Cascades. Diamond Peak Wilderness straddles the crest of the Cascades beneath a dense forest of mountain hemlock, lodgepole and western pine, and silver, noble and other true firs. Dozens of small lakes dot the high country, including one that covers 28 acres. About 14 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the area and near Diamond Peak, and another 38 miles of trails provide access to many lakeside campsites.
— Source: Wilderness.net
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 53
Families on Wheels Nathan and Katie Broom ride with their children on a section of the bike path that borders Jacksonville’s Bigham Knoll.
Mail Tribune file photos
Tips for places to go free-wheeling with the kids Story by TONY BOOM
Austin, 14, left, and his father, Russell Lancaster, of Central Point, ride their bikes through Medford’s Prescott Park.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
rom mountain parks to picturesque little towns and greenways, Southern Oregon offers all sorts of options for familyfriendly bike rides. Just about anywhere on the Bear Creek Greenway offers great riding for families with children, says Jenna Stanke, bicycle pedestrian manager for Jackson County Parks. “The whole greenway is family friendly,” with numerous access points and parking areas for those who can’t easily ride to the path, she notes. Stanke recommends planning other activities when riding with family along the nearly 18-mile path that stretches from Ashland to Central Point, because the path is dotted with other attractions, including ballfields, a nature center, parks and nearby places to eat. Blue Heron Park in Phoenix and Bear Creek and Hawthorne parks in Medford are along the path and offer playgrounds for children who might
want a break from cycling. U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford is another good area for stops, with ballfields and the Coyote Trails Nature Center. “What we like to do with our family is ride and bribe with food,” says Stanke. “It’s a great family outing to ride to Talent and have pizza or food and then ride back.” Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association secretary Derek Starr, a bike mechanic, says Jacksonville is another excellent place for rides with kids, because the streets are generally calm away from the main routes. “It’s a good spot for parks and places to eat,” says Starr. He notes the town offers historic attractions for times when riders are tired. Residential areas in Central Point and Medford can offer parents the chance to ride with kids to nearby playgrounds and schoolyards, say Starr and Stanke. Parents should scout low-traffic routes in advance. “In Central Point, you can ride on
Pine Street with a bike lane,” says Starr. “There’s the neighborhood by the elementary school. It’s flat. You don’t want to be pushing them up hills.” Another place to get away from cars in Medford is Prescott Park. The 1,740-acre park features numerous trails, and plans are underway to add multiple new hiking and biking trails. But be prepared to work. From the first gate in the park to the Roxy Ann picnic area, the road is composed of packed and loose gravel. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very steep, it is a consistent 3, according to the city’s website. Kids from 7 to 10 are now getting into mountain biking, says Starr. Woodland trails starting at the Britt Festival grounds in Jacksonville offer opportunities for families who want to experience the sport on gentle paths. “You don’t force kids into mountain biking,” says Starr. “If they like it, you kind of fulfill that and get them educated.” The Rogue River Greenway provides a nice ride along the river from Depot Street in Rogue River for two miles to Valley of the Rogue State Park, says Stanke. Another family-friendly area Stanke recommends is Stewart State Park at Lost Creek Reservoir, which has 6.1 miles of paved bike paths. There’s no day-use fee at the area located beyond Shady Cove on Highway 62. Lake of the Woods resort on Highway 140 offers compacted gravel trails that work for family rides, says resort manager George Gregory. There’s a $5 day-use fee. A family trail runs from the lake’s east side starting at Sunset Campground and heading north where it connects to the High Lakes Trail, which runs to Fish Lake. The High Lakes Trail, also compacted gravel, has more challenging sections that may not work for families. The trail connects the Aspen Campgrounds and Rainbow Bay day-use area to the resort area. Extensions run to the Great Meadow area. Gregory is working with the Forest Service to extend the trail around the lake, but that is probably a couple years away, he says.
Jenna Stanke, who oversees the Bear Creek Greenway as part of her job with Jackson County parks, rides on a section near Talent.
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 55
Touring wine country on wheels Story by JANET EASTMAN Photos by DENISE BARATTA
ary Noble and her friends think that riding their bikes to local wineries makes everything taste better: the varieties of red, white and rose wines as well as their packed snacks. “The Bear Creek wineries are really world class and our little secret for now,” says Noble, 46, who lives in Ashland and teaches seventh-grade at Hedrick Middle School in Medford. When she and her friends go wine tasting in good weather, they say they can combine the very best of the Rogue Valley by biking along the Bear Creek Greenway and the Tuscan-like back roads of Talent, Phoenix and Medford. In that small area, they can stop at about a dozen family-owned tasting rooms. “We hop off our bike, dance a joyful jig and then clink our glasses,” she says. At the end of the afternoon, she calculates they have pedaled about 25 miles. There are other advantages to wine tasting on wheels in the Bear Creek Valley. The terrain is mostly flat and the wineries are prepared to welcome bicyclists.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
Cyclists climb Rapp Lane in Talent on the way to Trium Winery.
Cyclists ride the hill to Trium Winery in Talent after biking from Phoenix. The group continued on to 2Hawks Winery in Medford after wine tasting and a light lunch at Trium. Patrick Flannery of Dana Campbell Vineyards in Ashland says he and his wife, Paula Brown, see bicyclists zipping among the Bear Creek Boutique Wineries because they are clustered together and comprise Oregon’s southernmost wine trail. They lure vacationers from Portland to Northern California, as well as locals. “The hills make it just enough of a workout to make the wine tasting a true reward,” says Flannery. The Silbowitz family that owns Grizzly Peak Winery in Ashland stocks special snacks and drinks for the children following behind their parents on the wine trail. Groups on special-event days, such as the spring and fall Grape Expectations Winery Tour, don’t come equipped to buy much wine, says Al Silbowitz, “but they loved the backroad routes, the mostly gentle rolling hills and gorgeous vistas, and
the way they can relax, snack, taste and rest at each location.” Pat Ellis of Pebblestone Cellars in Medford says that all the local tasting rooms have plenty of space for parking bikes, sitting in the shade and enjoying a glass of wine outside. “We welcome bicycle enthusiasts,” she says, standing in the shade of trees outside her century-old, ivycovered building that serves as the tasting room. When regular bicyclists are finished with their picnics and wine tasting, they ask Dick or Pat Ellis to allow them to take a shortcut through the vineyard to reach Pioneer Road. From here, they can visit Talent tasting rooms for StoneRiver Vineyard and open-by-appointment Aurora Vines. The Lange family of StoneRiver Vineyard often finds bicyclists taking a break by playing billiards inside their cool tasting room.
“These folks travel every year to a wine region and bike for days. They buy wine and are always looking for the best restaurants. They are the sort of customers that are a joy to serve.” — Trium owner Laura Lotspeich April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 57
From there, bike riders can head on to Trium Wines 4.4 miles away. Flat roads take them most all of the way, but then it’s uphill for the halfmile stretch that leads to the shady deck outside Trium Wines’ tasting room. “We do get bikers here, but most are gasping,” says Trium owner Laura Lotspeich. She says she likes to see them met by friends packing a picnic, so they can refuel over the vineyard views. “I make sure they have all the water they want and can catch their breath so they can enjoy the wine,” she says, “and get rested for the freewheeling back down the hill.” When tandem touringbike groups visit, she says, they’ll buy bottles of wine to be hauled away by the sag wagon. “These folks travel every year to a wine region and bike for days,” says Lotspeich. “They buy wine and are always looking for the best restaurants. They are the sort of customers that are a joy to serve.” For the most part, she adds, people on bikes are respectful and tidy. “They have a good time and include everyone around them in the party,” she says. “I love having them.”
Cyclists take a break for wine tasting and lunch at Trium Vineyard and Winery after riding to rural Talent from Fern Valley Road in Phoenix during a fall bike and wine tour.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
BEAR CREEK AREA TASTING ROOMS Medford u 2Hawk Winery, 2335 N. Phoenix Road, Medford, 541-779-9463, www.2HawkWinery.com u Dancin Vineyards, 4554 S. Stage Road, Medford, 541-245-1133, www. dancinvineyards.com u Pebblestone Cellars, 1642 Camp Baker Road, Medford, 541-512-1704, www.PebblestoneCellars.com u RoxyAnn Winery, 3285 Hillcrest Road, Medford, 541776-2315, www.roxyann.com
Talent u Aurora Vines, 2275 Pioneer Road, Talent, 541535-5287 u Paschal Winery, 1122 Suncrest Road, Talent, 541-535-7957, www. PaschalWinery.com u StoneRiver Vineyard, 2178 Pioneer Road, Talent, 541-535-4661, www. StoneRiverVineyard.com
u Trium Wines, 7112 Rapp Lane, Talent, 541-535-4015, www.TriumWines.com
Southern Oregon Wine Region
Map produced by the Southern Oreg on Winery Association; www.sorwa.org
Ashland u Belle Fiore Winery, Estate & Vineyard, 955 Dead Indian Memorial Road, Ashland, 541-488-9765, www. bellefiorewine.com u Dana Campbell Vineyards, 1320 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland, 541-482-3798, www.danacampbellvineyards. com u Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland, 541-482-5700, www. GrizzlyPeakWinery.com u Linda Donovan Wines at Valley View Orchard, 1800 N. Valley View Road, Ashland, 541-621-1589, www. ldonovanwines.com u Weisinger’s of Ashland, 3150 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, 541-488-5989, www. Weisingers.com
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 59
Spring break hikers check out Mount McLoughlin from the rim of Upper Table Rock.
Mail Tribune file photos
Tales of the Table Rocks The iconic mesas are a can’t-miss treat Story by Dan Jones
Fawn lilies dot the sides of the trail on Upper Table Rock.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
he Table Rocks aren’t just one of the most iconic places on the Rogue Valley skyline, they are a happening place, no matter the time of year. They are a place where family outings happen, athletic endeavors unfold and first dates happen. They are also close, free and full of beauty, says Bureau of Land Management park ranger Molly Allen.
The twin mesas, located just north of the Rogue River in Jackson County, offer trails that are accessible year round. Upper Table Rock is about 2.5 miles round-trip, and Lower Table Rock is about 2.8 miles. Both gain between 735 and 810 feet, with Lower Table Rock offering a slightly more gradual path. Allen has been a park ranger for eight years and has still not tired of the paths. “I am hiking them three or four times a week from April through the first part of June,” she says. “It’s a wonderful job. I love being able to show kids the uniqueness of the Table Rocks and how they can help take
care of them.” To say the mountains are extremely popular would be an understatement. Recreation planner Trish Lindaman says the rocks attract 40,000 to 50,000 people a year, and she once saw about 60 vehicles parked at the Upper Table Rock parking area. Each formation offers a spectacular view, although the twin, cliffedged mesas’ looks can change drastically depending on where you are standing and at what time of the year. The rocks are home to more than 70 species of animals and 340 species of plants, including 300 types of wildflowers. Red bells and hound’s-tongue are particularly eye-catching, Allen says. Keep your eyes open for snakes, lizards, coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbit, deer, bobcat and a variety of birds. Hiking can get a little muddy at times in the fall and winter, and it’s sometimes too hot in the summer. Spring offers the best of weather and rare wildflowers, which start to bloom around February and continue through June. Vernal pools on the plateaus fill up during rainy periods. The dwarf woolly meadowfoam — a small, white flower endemic to the rocks — grows near the pools, which also provide homes for a rare species known as the fairy shrimp — tiny, transparent crustaceans. After sweating it out to get to the top, hikers will be treated to views of the Siskiyous and Cascades, and bird lovers will find it a great place to watch swirling groups of turkey vultures taking advantage of the thermals. Just about anybody can take on the trails, Allen says, though it is best to be prepared with good shoes, proper clothing and water. Packing along some snacks will provide some energy for those running low on calories. “Take water, even though you think you will only be out there for a while,” Lindaman advises. The mountains have been around
The rocks are home to more than 70 species of animals and 340 species of plants, including 300 types of wildflowers.
Camas, which was a major food source for many American Indians, displays its colors on Upper Table Rock.
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Vernal pools like these on Lower Table Rock contain fairy shrimp.
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Paula Audley, left, and Rachel Riekeman take in a view of the Rogue Valley and beyond after climbing Lower Table Rock. The Eagle Point residents make the hike to the top nearly every day. for a while — a long while. They were formed by lava flows approximately 7 million years ago and shaped by erosion. The Native American Takelma tribe inhabited them for thousands of years. The tops of the rocks are so flat, an airstrip was built on Lower Table Rock in 1948. The landing spot is now part of a trail. “Upper” and “lower” refer to the mountains’ location along the Rogue River, not their height. Upper is located upstream, while Lower is farther downstream. The rocks are jointly managed by The Nature Conservancy and the
Bureau of Land Management. Those groups offer a series of educational hikes each spring led by botanists, biologists and others which draw nearly 5,000 people every year. Interpretive signs are placed at both trailheads and along the paths to provide information, and restrooms are available at both trailheads. Dogs, horses, fires, wildflower picking and camping are not allowed. Hikers should be aware of steep sides, watch for poison oak and snakes, and keep an eye out for runners who may be descending rapidly.
“It is land that belongs to everyone, and we are all responsible to take care of it,” Allen says. “It is important to stay on the trails and not be creating new trails to help prevent the spread of noxious weeds.” To get to Upper Table Rock, take Table Rock Road about 5 miles from Medford and turn right on Modoc Road for about a mile to the parking area on the left. To reach Lower Table Rock, drive north on Table Rock Road from Medford. Turn left on Wheeler Road. The trailhead is a half mile on the left.
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The mountains and valleys of Southern Oregon are a wildflower-hunter’s dream.
Story by BILL KETTLER
Trilliums are a common sight on woodland trails in Southern Oregon. Photo by Nancy McClain
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outhern Oregon is blessed with a wildflower season that lasts almost half the year — if you know where to go. The show starts on the valley floor as early as February, and finishes in the mountains in July and August. Blooming times vary with the weather. Cold wet winters that extend into March slow down the cycle. A warm, dry spring and a hot summer bring earlier flowers and a quicker end to the bloom. We’re blessed with many outstanding places to enjoy wildflowers. Some sites, such as the Table Rocks, are well known. Others, such as the meadows along the Siskiyou Crest, draw fewer visitors, and you can have a whole field of flowers to yourself.
The Table Rocks trails are perennial favorites for good reasons: they’re close to where people live; the trails are wide and well-maintained; the views are stirring; and the wildflowers are abundant and diverse. “They’re an iconic landmark that draws people in,” says Darren Borgias, program director for the Southern Oregon office of The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that has worked for decades to preserve and protect the Table Rocks. The Conservancy manages the rocks jointly with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. Borgias says the bloom can start on the Table Rocks as early as late January, when Piper’s lomatium (a member of the carrot family) sends up its tiny cream-colored flowers. As the days grow longer, there will be splashes of purple grass widows, followed by magenta shooting stars and the lovely lavender flowers of Henderson’s fawn lilies, blue-eyed Marys, white popcorn flower and blue lupine. “It’s quite showy,” Borgias says. Both Table Rocks have vernal pools — small, seasonal ponds where water collects during the winter and slowly evaporates as the seasons turn. Around the pools visitors can see dwarf woolly meadowfoam, a plant that exists only on the Table Rocks and nowhere else.
Tips for learning about wildflowers You don’t have to be a trained botanist to enjoy wildflowers. There are guide books, illustrated brochures and guided tours that will help you learn about what you see. “Wildflowers of Southern Oregon,” ($21.95) by John Kemper, was out of print for years, but was republished in 2013 by Northwest Nature Shop, 154 Oak St., Ashland. The book includes nearly 700 species and features almost 450 color photographs. Every spring, The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management sponsor a series of guided hikes on the Table Rocks. From early April through mid-May, experts lead hikers on walks that explain the Rocks’ significance. Geologists, botanists, historians, biologists and Native Americans share their knowledge to help build appreciation for the twin mesas that dominate the skyline north of Medford. The Native Plant Society of Oregon has published guides for the wildflowers of the Siskiyou Crest and Grizzly Peak. The guides include dozens of color
photos of commonly seen flowers, maps and descriptive text. They’re available for $1 at Northwest Nature Shop.
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Gentner’s fritillary grows along many of the trails in the Jacksonville Woodlands. As mountain snow recedes, flowers start to bloom in the high country. Midelevation trails like the one on Grizzly Peak offer a chance to see flowers that have finished blooming on the valley floor as well as those that thrive in a cooler, higher-altitude habitat. “All summer long you can find something blooming on Grizzly Peak,” says Jim Duncan, a member of the Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. “There’s a huge stand of delphiniums that bloom in late July and into August. They tower
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over your head.” “I’ve walked that trail many times from May to September,” Duncan says. “It’s a five-mile loop. A person like myself can spend all day dawdling along.” Duncan also likes to visit the open meadows along the Siskiyou Crest, west of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Just beyond the ski area parking lot, Forest Road 20 follows the crest through spectacular flower displays that usually bloom in July. If you follow the road west toward Jackson Gap and the
Mail Tribune file photos
Dutchman Peak fire lookout, and turn left (south) on a spur road that follows Cow Creek, there are meadows full of flowers in July and into August in cool, damp years. Sasha Joachims of the Native Plant Society says the flowers vary as the road follows the divide that separates the Klamath and Rogue watersheds. Near Mount Ashland, around Grouse Gap, there’s marsh marigold, meadow larkspur, scarlet gilia and seep monkeyflower, to name just a few. Farther west, toward Observation Gap,
Dwarf woolly meadowfoam brightens the Table Rocks. she looks for Columbian monkshood, Drummond’s anemone, broadleaf arnica and several different species of paintbrush, as well as the elegant Wiggin’s lily. “I really enjoy botanizing the Siskiyou Crest along the FS 20 Road in July,” she says. Crater Lake National Park provides a place to see spring flowers when the rest of the Rogue Valley is baking in summer heat. Several short, easy trails offer spectacular flower shows, says Marsha McCabe, the park’s chief of interpretation. “A lot of flowers come out as soon as the snow recedes,” McCabe says, but in many years the snow persists along the Rim Drive well into July. She often directs visitors to the Castle Crest Trail, a half-mile loop near the park headquarters, where they’ll see trumpet-shaped, lavender-to-purple blossoms of Lewis monkeyflower, white plumes of bog-orchids, lovely blue larkspurs and pink-to-white elephant heads, distinguished by their curving “trunks.” A trail that opened in 2011 takes hikers to Plaikni Falls, where wildflowers thrive in the cool, moist atmosphere. Plaikni, she explains, is the Klamath Indian word for “high country.” “It’s a very family-friendly trail,” McCabe says, and most of the 2.2-mile round trip is wheelchairaccessible. Duncan says the park’s highaltitude setting offers amateur botanizers a range of plants not found on the valley floor, such as pumice paintbrush, which thrives in the volcanic soils around the lake. “It’s not the same stuff at all that blooms down here,” he says.
April 20, 2014 • Our Valley 67
Great escape Story by TONY BOOM
There’s a reason 16,000 Jackson County residents own RVs — they’re fun
Freedom of the road: Find a beautiful spot, pull the RV over, whip up some snacks and relax.
ore than 16,000 Jackson County residents own recreational vehicles, and none of them are hurting for destinations close to home. “Within 100 miles you’ve just got a huge number of places to go,” says Chris Oman, vice president and wagon master for Rogue Valley Rovers, one of several local RV clubs. “There’s probably 40 parks within 100 miles.”
“It’s a perfect area for RVs and camping, because there are so many
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options,” agrees Sharon Weston, co-owner of Triple A RV Center in Medford. “You can have the snow, you can have the beach or somewhere in between.” Jackson County, with a population 202,000, had 6,868 travel trailers, 743 campers and 3,566 motor homes registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles in 2012. In Josephine County, with 83,000 residents, there were 3,048 travel trailers, 183 campers and 2,064 motor homes. Pat T. Randall, secretary of the Rogue Valley Rovers RV club, says she likes the Lone Mountain RV Resort in O’Brien. “There’s things to see and do around there, and the owners are very welcoming to RV groups,” says
Randall, pointing to the Siskiyou Smoke Jumpers Museum at the Illinois Valley Airport and the Oregon Caves National Monument. The park has a walking trail beside a small creek, she says. Several locations along the Rogue River attract RVers, as well. Valley of the Rogue State Park between Rogue River and Gold Hill is a good spot for RVs, as is Indian Mary Park, run by Josephine County, eight miles west of Merlin, says Randall. Chris Petersen of Mike’s RV in Medford also mentions Indian Mary as a popular spot, although he notes not all the campsites have hookups. Josephine County also operates Schroeder Park west of Grants Pass on the Rogue, says Oman. BridgeView RV
Oregon state parks offers numerous sites for RVers.
Park in Rogue River is another nice area located on the river, Oman adds. “Jackson County has several places that are great. Howard Prairie is a real nice park,” he says. “Fishermen really like it. It has some trailers you can rent.” Traveling Highway 62 toward Crater Lake yields several options. Joseph H. Stewart State Park at Lost Creek Reservoir has 151 sites with water and electricity that are open March 1 through Oct. 31. Prospect’s Crater Lake RV Park, just five years old, was designed by full-time RVers. It has barbecue pits and separation between the spaces so campers aren’t right next to one another, says Oman. Also near Crater Lake, Oman says, Diamond Lake is “incredible.” Weston mentions that the Union Creek and Farewell Bend campgrounds near Union Creek are popular with some of her employees who RV regularly. The campgrounds don’t have hookups, but with the upper Rogue River and many miles of hiking trails nearby, there are many things to do. In the Cascades on Highway 140, Fish Lake offers a 46-space park, while Lake of the Woods has sites in the Sunset and Aspen Point campgrounds. RVers who want to get out of town for short outings have almost unlimited options, whether they head down into Northern California, north on Interstate 5 or over to the coast.
Just an hour-and-a-half north of Medford, Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville has a popular RV park that offers a swimming pool, hot tub and shuttle to the casino and town. “It’s actually a spectacular park,” says Weston. “From there you can go golfing or to Wildlife Safari.” Bullard Beach State Park just north of Bandon has been a regular stop for more than 25 years for Stan Ehrenpfort, president of the Rogue Valley Rovers. He goes crabbing there in the fall and runs into a lot of other campers doing the same. Other coastal stops mentioned include Irelands in Gold Beach, the Port of Brookings-Harbor in Brookings, and the Oceanside RV Park and Port RV Park in Charleston. Several travelers attend a hot air balloon festival held in Montague, Calif., each September. There’s no park, but RVers camp in the same field where the balloons are launched. “It’s an all-around good way to have some fun without spending a lot of money, except for gas,” says Ehrenpfort. Your choice of a park depends a lot on what you like to do, says Weston. Some will choose locations for quiet and seclusion, while others might opt for a lake or river if they are into water sports. Wherever one goes, Ehrenpfort recommends that campers make reservations early, because the more popular campgrounds can fill up on holiday weekends and during the summer.
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Good to go Story by BILL VARBLE Photos by BOB PENNELL
Car camping is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of sleeping outdoors
Caleb Strong, left, and Josh Stickrod set up camp at Union Creek.
n 1933’s “Ah, Wilderness,” playwright Eugene O’Neill sketched a romantic vision of American family life. Google the terms “romantic vision” and “wilderness” today, and you’ll probably turn up a RV commercial and a backpacking website. Between these outdoor bookends is the cheap, easy, diverse, funky, freedom-loving middle ground of car camping. The cool thing is that almost anybody can do it. You don’t need to be an elite athlete. You don’t need a $250,000 rig. And it’s a great way to introduce kids to camping. Got a car? Got a sleeping bag? You’re good to go. Your style will depend on your outdoor interests, your vehicle and your comfort level. But there are a few tips that apply to almost anybody. Always carry extra food and (especially) water, blankets, flashlights, a knife, a compass, a first-aid kit and a map of the area you’ll be exploring. Our kit has deet-based insect repellent all year. Unless you’re sleeping in your vehicle, you’ll probably want a tent. They come in all sizes and price
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ranges. A rule of thumb is that what’s sold as a “four-person tent” will probably be comfortable for two. Be sure there’s a rain fly to keep moisture off the body of the tent. And set the tent up at least once at home before heading out. You don’t want to have to figure it out in the dark, with wind or rain lashing at it. One couple of our acquaintance carries a lightweight backpacking tent, a small ice chest and a small box or two of gear in a two-seater sports car and manages just fine. Another family can’t get everything into their full-size van. They tow a trailer for gear and outdoor toys. However you haul it, camping gear has a way of spreading out. Managing yours will make a big difference in your outing. It’s probably best to avoid cramming a lot of stuff into big duffle bags. Guaranteed you’ll forget what’s where. One good option is a number of those clear, plastic storage containers that you can see into. Most folks figure a stove is a necessity. Propane stoves are inexpensive, and propane canisters are available just about everywhere. Beyond that, customize. Some savvy
campers don’t go without earplugs — handy for those nights when somebody is running a generator, mornings when somebody turns the kids lose on dirt bikes or ATVs. Binoculars, hiking boots, hiking poles, fishing tackle, mp3 players and tablets all have their place. There’s cellphone reception in unlikely places these days — but don’t assume you can count on it. Now that you’re packed, let’s go. There are hundreds of beautiful campgrounds in Oregon, ranging from ones that become small cities in the summer to remote treasures. Camping is by no means limited to summer. West of the Cascades, Oregon winters often feature moderate temperatures and patches of lovely weather in between storms. Where to go? You already know about Valley of the Rogue State Park, Cantrall-Buckley County Park, Howard Prairie, Hyatt Lake, Diamond Lake and Stewart State Recreation Area at Lost Creek Lake. The campgrounds listed below are meant as a sampling. Sites range from uber-popular to hidden treasures. All are on public lands, most charge a modest fee, and reservations are sometimes needed.
Isaiah Barella of Grants Pass whittles a stick while camping at Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area with Oregon’s Let’s Go Camping program. Harris Beach State Park. This wooded gem off Highway 101 just north of Brookings is a year-round favorite with its headlands, sandy beaches and Bird Island, the largest island off the Oregon Coast. It’s good for wildlife from tufted puffins to gray whales. It’s popular with pickup and van campers (electric hookups $21/$28), and there are more than 60 tenting sites, along with six yurts. Picnic tables, fire rings (don’t bring firewood, get it here), a hiker/ biker camp, playground and quick access to the beach. Flush toilets, hot showers and a laundromat. Tent sites are $16 and $20. Reserve a site two days to nine months ahead. Call 800-452-5687. Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site. The 17-acre park at the headwaters of the Wood River is open for camping April 12 to Oct. 31, $5 to $11. Ten primitive sites with vault toilets, no water. From the Fort Klamath Museum, drive 3.4 miles north on Sun Mountain Road. See oregonstateparks.org. Elk Prairie Campground at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Orick, Calif., south of Crescent City, is an
interesting option if you like redwoods and the coast. The big attractions at the 14,000-acre park are redwoods, wandering elk and hiking nearby Fern Canyon. Drinking water, restrooms with hot showers, tent sites but no hook-ups or dump stations. Cost is $35. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, you need to reserve a site by calling 800-444-7275 or going online to www.parks.ca.gov. Natural Bridge Campground near Prospect is open May 15 to Oct. 15, with 16 to 29 campsites in a heavily wooded spot that affords some privacy between campsites along the Rogue River. Fire rings, picnic tables, restrooms, $6/day. Take Highway 62 about 10 miles north of Prospect, turn left at the sign for .3 miles. Illahe Campground in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest six miles east of Agness is a remote, free, all-year campground with 14 sites that welcomes tenters. Best when Bear Camp Road is open from near Merlin to the coast. Whitehorse Falls is a primitive spot on the Clearwater, a cold stream in the Umpqua drainage 67 miles east of Roseburg on Highway 138. Tables,
grills, vault toilets, five tent sites, no potable water. It’s a laid-back, fishing and hiking kind of place. Clearwater Falls is just a few miles east, with nine sites for tents or small RVs with picnic tables, grills and vault toilets. Both Whitehorse and Clearwater cost $6. Signs are on Highway 138. Call 541-4982351. Fourmile Lake campground is the only place on the shores of this lake near the base of Mount McLoughlin. The Pacific Crest Trail is just two miles away. There are 25 sites for tents, trailers or small (22 feet or less) RVs. Vault toilets, tables, garbage bins, drinking water. $9 a night, no reservations. Camp here and hike into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Go east on Highway 140 to Forest Road 3661 and drive six miles north. There are free sno-parks just outside both the south and west entrances to Crater Lake National Park. Heavy use in winter, but not so much in summer. Pit toilets, tables, proximity to hiking trails. These aren’t destinations so much as fall-back options if you’re having so much fun at Oregon’s only national park that you’d like to spend an extra day.
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Float trip Story by BILL KETTLER
Mail Tribune file photos
From halfday floats to multiday excursions, the key is to pick the trip that’s right for your group 72
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
loating the Rogue River can be a halfday outing to cool off on a hot day or a multiday excursion through remote canyons far from city life. You can paddle your own boat or row your own raft — if you have the skill — or pay someone to do the work for you.
Choosing where to float depends on how much time you have, your skill level and your comfort zone. Day trips on the upper river, from Lost Creek Dam to Shady Cove, are popular for beginners and anyone who wants
a brief taste of fun on the water. Multiday trips on the lower Rogue, downstream from Grave Creek, pass through challenging whitewater in the federally protected Wild and Scenic stretch, where you need plenty of skill and experience, as well as a permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Permits are awarded every spring by lottery, so if you want to float that stretch of water, you have to plan way ahead, or sign up with a commercial outfitter who has a permit. In between, there are plenty of choices for day trips. You organize your trip by determining which boat ramp you want to “put in” and where you want to “take out” and the difficulty of the rapids you’ll encounter along the way. Popular day trips include the run from Shady Cove to Dodge Bridge or from Dodge Bridge
down to Touvelle State Park, or from “We’ve had people as young as 3 Gold Hill down to the city and as old as 90” on that of Rogue River. stretch of the river, says Day trips on the upper Shelly Tauriainen, owner river are easy to organize. of Raft Rite, a Shady Cove A number of outfitters in outfitter. Shady Cove rent inflatable Tauriainen says this kayaks (still often called stretch of the river is “Tahitis,” from the name of extremely popular, so the original popular boat), it’s wise to show up early as well as life jackets, on hot days, or make a paddles and anything else reservation. Paddle rafts you need for an afternoon are available for larger on the water. Most will parties that want to share haul you upstream to Lost a single boat. Steering Creek Dam as part of your those boats requires some rental fee. You float down teamwork, and attention to Shady Cove, (about 10 to balancing the crew’s river miles) in three or four weight equally on both hours, and take your boat sides to keep the boat Shelly Tauriainen, stable and avoid tipping in out of the water at the park just downstream from the owner of Raft Rite rapids. Highway 62 bridge. OneFarther downstream, in Shady Cove and two-person inflatables around Merlin, there rent for $20 to $30, which is more challenging usually includes transportation to the whitewater for day trips, but novices put-in. can still enjoy the ride. Outfitters rent
We’ve had people as young as 3 and as old as 90 on that stretch of the river.
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River guide Kylie McElheran sets out from Galice in what her clients called a “woman-powered” raft.
Rental fees for rafts with rowing frames (“oar boats”) start around $100 per day, and go up from there, depending on how much additional gear you rent. 74
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
one- and two-person inflatables for day trips, as well as paddle rafts for larger parties. Shuttle services aren’t necessarily included in daily rental fees, which range from $30 to $45 for one- or two-person boats to $100 and up for six- and eight-person rafts, but transportation can usually be arranged for a fee. Outfitters on the lower river also rent gear to “self-guided” rafters who want to float the lower Rogue, but don’t own their gear. “We can outfit you with everything from toilet paper to oars to wet suits,” says Brad Niva, owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures. “We will pack and do everything for you. All you do is show up.” Rental fees for rafts with rowing frames (“oar boats”) start around $100 per day, and go up from there, depending on how much additional gear you rent. Anyone who rents gear
to float the lower river needs to have real experience rowing through Class 3 and 4 rapids. “On the lower river, you need to be able to stand up and pull on those oars,” Niva says. If you’re not the rowing type, you can pay a guide to steer your raft through the rapids, set up camp, cook meals and clean up, but that level of luxury can be spendy. Three- and four-day guided trips start around $1,000 per person, depending on what options you choose. Some include overnight stays in rustic lodges along the river; on others you’ll pitch a tent or sleep out under the stars. Wherever you float, several unwritten river rules should be observed. Everyone should wear a life jacket, and adult beverages shouldn’t be consumed on the water. “Alcohol and rafting really don’t mix,” Tauriainen says.
What to bring when you go Whether you’re out for a day trip or a multiday excursion, you’ll have a better time if you bring the right gear. “We always suggest river sandals,” says Cathy Whitehouse, a reservation taker for Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge, located between Merlin and Galice. River rocks are slippery and sometimes sharp, and there could always be broken glass. “No flip-flops,” she cautions, “and leather’s not a good choice.” Sun protection is a must for most people. That means sun screen and lip balm, sunglasses and a hat with a generous brim to shade cheeks and nose. Summer sun is intense, and light reflecting off the water means more rays on skin. She says many boaters forget to apply sunscreen to their legs and end up with sunburned knees after a day of sitting in a raft. Lightweight fabrics that dry quickly are the best choice for clothes. Straps that keep hats, sunglasses or prescription lenses where they belong are solid investments. Loose eyewear is easily lost during an unanticipated swim.
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Chase Ganim of Ashland practices on a kayak slalom course in the Rogue River near Gold Hill.
Mail Tribune file photos
Tips for learning to kayak the Rogue River safely Story by BILL KETTLER
ou’ve watched kayakers on the Rogue, flitting across the river like water striders, laughing and having a good time. One hot summer day, you say to yourself, “I want to do that, too.” So how do you get started, and more importantly, how do you stay safe on the water? The easiest way to learn about kayaking is to rent an inflatable kayak, find a reasonably calm stretch of river and get in. Inflatable kayaks (or “IKs”) are much more forgiving in the water than the rigid plastic “hard-shell” boats that are favored by expert paddlers
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
who want maximum control. Hardshell boaters must learn to roll to get themselves upright when the river dumps them upside down. Learning to roll takes time that could be spent on the water learning how to paddle and navigate waves and rapids. In an IK, you can be on the water on Day One. “I think the inflatable is an awesome way for people to start,” says Matt Dopp, an owner of Kokopelli River Guides in Ashland. “It’s easy for people to get started.” Dopp says IKs are typically longer, wider and a lot more stable than hardshell kayaks, which make them ideal for novice boaters. They’re also much easier to get into and out of, and they rarely go completely upside down.
That said, IKs do tip over, and when they do, a paddler will likely find herself in cold, swift water. Dopp says beginning boaters should recognize that the river will dump them out of their boat (“swimming,” as kayakers say) and get comfortable with that reality by practicing. “I absolutely believe you should be absolutely comfortable swimming,” he says. “You should spend a ton of time swimming, because it’s gonna happen. You need to be prepared for the unexpected, because it’s gonna happen.” Swimming practice, maybe on a calm lake or a quiet stretch of river, will help a boater learn how she floats while wearing a life jacket — it should
A kayaker enjoys an afternoon on the Rogue River. go without saying that paddlers always wear a personal flotation device (PFD). Carrying one without wearing it is folly — there’s never time to put it on if the going gets rough. Swimming through a rapid isn’t really swimming. A paddler in the water should float chest up, feet downstream, through the fast water until the current slows and he can stand up safely. The feet-first position makes it easier to avoid hitting your head on rocks. “You want your feet to bounce off the rocks,” says Sue Orris, an owner of Ferron’s Fun Trips, a Merlin-based outfitter. Never try to stand up in fast-moving water, even when it’s shallow. If your foot gets stuck between two rocks, the current could knock you down and hold you under water. Let the current float you downstream to quieter water where it’s safe to stand up. Beginners would do well to make their first outing with someone who has some experience, even if it’s just
a couple of day trips. If you can’t find a friend willing to take you along, a number of guide services offer basic instruction and rent boats for half-day or multiday trips. There are several relatively calm stretches of the Rogue River where novices can get a feel for how their boat balances, and how to steer it. The run from the bridge in Gold Hill to Valley of the Rogue State Park or the city of Rogue River is a good first outing. After the riffle just below the Gold Hill city park, the river is nearly flat for the rest of the trip, although the current is fast and the water is cold. The stretch from Dodge Bridge, in Sams Valley, down to Touvelle State Park is also gentle enough for beginners, Dopp says. Dopp also recommends the trip from just below Lost Creek Dam upstream from Shady Cove, one of the most popular stretches of the river. A number of outfitters in Shady Cove rent inflatable boats and shuttle paddlers up to the base of the dam.
The Klamath River also provides some good beginner runs, including the stretch downstream from the “Tree of Heaven” campground. Orris says appropriate gear makes for a safer and more pleasant day on the water. Sturdy river shoes protect tender feet from sharp rocks and broken glass and provide traction on slippery surfaces. She says water shoes should attach securely so they won’t slip off if you find yourself swimming. Orris also recommends security straps for prescription eyeglasses or expensive sunglasses, which can easily come loose if you’re in the water. Hats are a good choice for most people, especially in summer, when the sun beats down on the water and there’s lots of reflected light. She says most accidents happen on the river banks when people are getting into or out of their boats. If a hat or a shoe or a camera gets loose and floats downstream, “think about your safety first and then your equipment.”
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Tips for ice-fishing on Southern Oregon’s high-mountain lakes Story by MARK FREEMAN
Trout anglers work through the ice at Diamond Lake, where the limit is eight trout per day.
Mail Tribune file photos
ince Diamond Lake’s fishing season turned year-round in 2013, Rick Rockholt has become a quick study in the nuances of icefishing. In addition to reading about techniques from Midwestern anglers, he’s been learning more about what’s happening under the ice in winter so he can help school new winter anglers who venture to the Diamond Lake Resort with a notion to try ice-fishing. “We’ve kind of been inventing this as we go,” says Rockholt, the resort’s events coordinator and spokesman. Though the trout beneath the ice are the same as the fatties people catch all summer long, fishing for them is distinctly different in winter. “The biggest problem I’ve seen from folks is that they’re coming up here
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and fishing just like they do in the summer, with a sliding weight and PowerBait,” Rockholt says. “There’s so much slack line down there that by the time they try to set the hook on a bite, the fish is gone.” Rockholt says anglers are taking a page from Southern bass fishermen and using what’s called a drop-shot set-up — having a weight two feet or so below the baited hook. Dropped and set vertically, this helps telegraph a trout bite for the angler to set the hook, he says. “The bites are really soft in the cold water, so they’re missing a lot more of them than they’re used to in the summer,” Rockholt says. Just dangling a worm a few feet under the ice works too, in part because the water closer to the ice is
more oxygenated than the water at the bottom. “We’re still learning, but we’re getting there,” Rockholt says.
Here are some basic tips for trying ice-fishing at Diamond Lake — and at two other High Cascades lakes where ice fishing is legal and effective: Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods: u Make sure the ice is good. Check with the Fish Lake Resort (541949-8500), Lake of the Woods Resort (541-949-8300) or Diamond Lake Resort (541-793-3333) for an update on ice conditions. Two inches of solid ice is typically safe for one person on foot, 3 inches for a group in single file. A snowmobile is safe on 3 inches. A single-passenger automobile
Jeff Sebastian, of Roseburg, watches his son, Gavin Weaver, 23, pull a rainbow trout through the ice at Diamond Lake. needs 7 inches, according to www. surviveoutdoors.com. However, most Cascade ice-fishers wait for at least 5 inches of ice before trekking onto local lakes. u Dress warmly. Layered clothing and Gore-Tex rain gear work well. Don’t forget a hat and bring extra gloves in case your regular pair get wet. u Bring a buddy. It’s better to fish with someone because negotiating a big trout through a small hole can become a two-person job. u Bring a short, light rod. You need a sensitive tip to feel light winter bites. u Bring something to sit on. Standing and staring at a hole in the ice gets old fast. Bring a stool, camp chair, bucket. u Vary your baits. Worms and PowerBait work well, though floating
baits can tangle in the line. Small jigs with a piece of worm or scent are good alternatives. Single salmon eggs, a small ball of Velveeta cheese and maggots work, too. u Move around. If you don’t get a bite in 15 or 20 minutes, go cut another hole. Trout don’t move fast or far under the ice. u Bring a ladle. You’ll have to clean your fishing hole of ice build-up occasionally, and a large ladle works best. u Watch out for holes that were drilled by fishermen before you got there. It’s easy to step into a hole that has started to refreeze. Especially watch out for big holes. Even though it’s illegal, some people use chainsaws to cut big holes, which is extremely dangerous for people who come later. Use a ski pole or walking stick as a probe to be safe.
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Beacon on the horizon Story by JOHN DARLING Photos by JAmIe LuScH
Tips for exploring one of Southern Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks — Pilot Rock Torrey Johnson appears as a silhouette during a climb of Pilot Rock.
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Julian Sherr, left, David Chambers,Torrey Johnson and Sophia Borgias check out the view from the top of Pilot Rock.
ilot Rock offers a unique combination of a nearby hike and a strenuous workout that pushes almost, but not quite, into the realm of technical rock climbing. You will sweat. You will have to really focus to find trustworthy hand and foot holds. You will have to think it out as you ascend the steep part of this volcanic neck. You will be challenged to the edge but — if you are reasonably fit — not past the limits of your strength and ability to clamber upward on rock. Then, at the top of this 5,910-foot prominence (only an 800-foot gain in elevation), you will want to sit on the flat places, take in amazing views of
Mount McLoughlin, Mount Ashland and Mount Shasta, eat your lunch — and talk with your friends about life and how small humanity feels up here. “We’re a tiny speck on the landscape, and this rock feels huge,” says Sophia Borgias, one of a group of four recent Ashland High School grads who clambered joyfully up to the top, took a lot of pictures, did headstands, told jokes and saw how fast they could run over the many uneven flat spots atop a bunch of columnar jointed basalt. Climb leader David Chambers, who works at the Outdoor Store in Ashland (and has climbed the nearly sheer south face), says, “It’s a good place to
“It’s a good place to test and push yourself. It’s where a family can come — and if someone isn’t comfortable going up the hard parts, they can stay below and enjoy the view.” Climber David Chambers
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If you go To get there, follow Interstate 5 south to the Mount Ashland exit at milepost 6. Follow Route 99 south for approximately 2.4 miles. Turn left at the BLM sign that reads “Pilot Rock Road 40-2E-33.0.” Stay left at the first intersection and turn right at the second intersection. After 2.1 miles on this bumpy road, you’ll reach a former quarry that now serves as the trailhead parking lot, elevation 4,909 feet. At the far end of the parking lot is the trailhead sign. Hike on the old road for about three-quarters of a mile until you see a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pilot Rock trail follows the PCT for about 300 yards. At the next junction, follow the BLM sign for Pilot Rock. The trail now climbs quite steeply. You’ll hike about a half-mile through conifers on slippery, gradually steeper dirt and scree. Then suddenly you’ll be on rock and have to really start looking for footholds. It gets harder as you edge up through a near-vertical crevice, the challenging part. Then you emerge into a more gradual rocky slope and the large, flat summit area with smashing views. David Chambers, left, and Sophia Borgias trail Torrey Johnson, far left, and Julian Sherr to the base of Pilot Rock. test and push yourself. It’s where a family can come — and if someone isn’t comfortable going up the hard parts, they can stay below and enjoy the view.” “When I see something like that lone pine growing out of solid rock, the only living thing up here, well, it’s a pretty cool entity,” says Torrey Johnson. “And this is a pretty cool spot. Being here is conducive to your well-being.” “Just getting out in nature up here does it for me,” Julian Sherr concurs.
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The climb will give you the feel of rock climbing, but without the need for technical knowledge or exposure to falls, says Chambers. “It’s really accessible for people who don’t do technical climbing,” he says. “It gives people the thrill of pushing yourself to get to the top of something steeper than your casual hike.” “It’s not a walk in the park,” Borgias adds. “It’s a scramble. You get your heart rate way up and that makes it better to be up here on the top. You
feel you accomplished something when you get up here — and it’s about the most spectacular view you can get in the valley with this short a hike.” The hike offers maximum enjoyment and fun with friends without having to worry about ropes and helmets, says Chambers, adding that the scramble up the iconic Rogue Valley landmark often leads people to start lessons at places like Rogue Rock Gym and start tackling some of the steeper rock climbs in the area.
Pilot Rock geology lesson By Daniel newBerry for the Mail Tribune
Julian Sherr, left, David Chambers,Torrey Johnson and Sophia Borgias take a breather during a climb of Pilot Rock.
As you step from your vehicle at the Pilot Rock parking area, look at your feet. You’ll notice two main rock types, both volcanic in origin. The light, white rocks are tuff, formed from the debris flowing down the sides of a former volcano. Look closely and you’ll see black specks. These are fragments of wood, indicating that this was a hot debris flow that incinerated wood and brush in its path. The other rock type is basalt: dark red or brown and lighter on the inside. The darker coating is due to the oxidation of iron, a form of rust. The tuff is lighter, in part, because it lacks iron. Basalt is formed from flowing molten rock rather than from a debris flow. At the far end of the parking lot is the trailhead sign. Notice the nearby boulders the BLM has used to block vehicles from entering this old road to Pilot Rock. The boulder on the right has large black streaks embedded in it. Look closely and you’ll see that these streaks are burnt, fossilized wood. Pilot Rock stands at the intersection of three important regions: the Cascades to the north, the Siskiyous to the south and west, and the Great Basin to the east. You’ll find traces of all three in the trees along this trail, from Douglas fir to Ponderosa pine and incense cedar to juniper.
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Trails are for running A distance runner follows the Pacific Crest Trail south of Mount Ashland.
Running off-road has become a popular activity nationwide, and Southern Oregon trails are ideal for the pursuit Story by DANIEL NEWBERRY
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n the summer of 1978, 11 athletes ran from the Plaza in downtown Ashland to the summit of Mount Ashland on a course that followed a series of roads and trails. The Mt. Ashland Hill Climb, as it is called, will have its 37th running this year, but it is now only one of nearly twodozen trail races in the Rogue Valley that — combined — will attract well over 1,000 runners. Ashland is the local trail-running hub, and it’s not only because of the approximately 40 miles of trails just above the city in and around the Ashland watershed and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Several trailheads lie within the city limits, making these trails accessible
Mail Tribune file photos
from downtown. This trail network — including the Creek to Crest Trail — connects to the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada. Because many of the Ashland trails were built by and for mountain bikers, you might expect plenty of conflicts, but the two communities of athletes coexist harmoniously for the most part. Runners, bikers, hikers and equestrians in the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association came together recently to develop a trails master plan for the U.S. Forest Service to guide future use and expansion of the trails system. A fundamental part of this plan was to create several bikeonly and several pedestrian-only trails to improve safety as the number of
Maggie Donoman ascends to the top of Roxy Ann Peak during the 2008 Tough As Nails 10-mile run.
trail users continues to rise. Volunteer trail maintenance is part of the trail-user ethic in Southern Oregon. The AWTA’s volunteers annually log thousands of hours repairing — and even building new — trails. Thanks to their efforts, this trail system remains in much better condition than is found in many other regions. The epicenter of the trail-running scene is Rogue Valley Runners, the specialty shoe store on Ashland’s main street. Opened in 2006, the store is owned by Hal Koerner, a nationally ranked ultramarathoner for the past decade and two-time winner of the prestigious Western States Endurance Run 100-mile race. Koerner has attracted other elite ultramarathoners to Ashland, many have worked at his store, and all have benefitted from the challenging terrain and competition. For non-elite runners, Koerner has opened many local trail runners to the idea that it is possible to run for as many hours as you can hike. The Rogue Valley boasts its own ultramarathon competitions that attract competitors from around the country and even internationally. The Siskiyou Out Back — S.O.B. —
Many of the local trails are runnable throughout the year. With the incredible scenery, variety of forested and ridgetop trails, it should come as no surprise that Trail Runner magazine chose Ashland as one of the best trail running locations in the U.S. 50-kilometer race began in 1999 and now sells out months before its July start. In 2012, a 50-mile edition of the S.O.B. was added to meet the demand. The 100-mile Pine to Palm race in September traverses a gnarly mountainous course that sports more than 20,000 feet each of climbing and
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Want to test your mettle? A weekly afternoon trail run leaves Rogue Valley Runners, 161 E. Main, Ashland, every Wednesday at 5:30. A ladies-only run heads out on Thursdays, also at 5:30. For details, see www. roguevalleyrunners.com
Hal Koerner, owner of Rogue Valley Runners, runs in Lithia Park. He was named one of the Top 10 ultramarathoners in North America and has run more than 100 ultramarathons.
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descent as it winds from Williams to Ashland. Many more runners start than finish the race. Farther north in the Rogue Valley are several other wellused trail systems. In the past 20 years, the Jacksonville Woodlands Association has preserved 320 acres in and around historic downtown Jacksonville and built 15 miles of connecting trails. If you run, walk or ride a horse on these trails at the right time in April, you’ll be treated to a display of bright orange fritillaria flowers (aka Gentner’s fritillary). Fifteen new trail miles were recently added to the adjacent 1,100-acre Forest Park. Farther up Route 238 from Jacksonville is the Applegate Valley, home to many well established Bureau of Land Management and national forest trails that are popular with trail runners, especially the 18mile loop trail around the Applegate Reservoir and the 5-mile Collings Mountain Trail, home of the only Bigfoot trap in the region. Most trails in the region are hilly, so if you’re after something flat, consider running the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, which parallels 17 miles of a 19th-century ditch that fed a placer gold mining operation. Near the north end of Route 238, on the outskirts of Grants Pass, is the Cathedral Hills trails system. This 10mile urban trail system ranges from flat to steep, so there’s something for all levels of hiker, runner, mountain biker or horseback rider. Because of the Southern Oregon climate, many of the local trails are runnable throughout the year. With the incredible scenery, variety of forested and ridgetop trails, it should come as no surprise that Trail Runner magazine chose Ashland as one of the best trail running locations in the U.S. Outside magazine chose Ashland as one of its “Best Towns” in both 2010 and 2011. The trail system was mentioned as leading to that decision. Trail runners, after all, need trails.
Thundering waters Umpqua River waterfall loop is a treat at any time of year Story by SARAH LEMON
series of “thundering” waterfalls along the North Umpqua River exerts a powerful pull on enthusiasts visiting and residing in Southern Oregon. Forming a loop through the Umpqua National Forest and Bureau of Land Management’s Roseburg District, the system of hiking trails ranks third among Oregon’s must-see cascades, says Bill Sullivan, author of “100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.” Iconic Multnomah Falls is the main attraction in Oregon’s premier waterfall region — the Columbia River Gorge — while the Willamette Valley’s Silver Falls State Park boasts easy hiking to 10 waterfalls, including some that visitors can walk behind, says Sullivan. More rugged is the route to 24 Cascade Range waterfalls, detailed in the “Thundering Waters” guide, a cooperative project between the national forest and BLM (download a brochure for that trail at http:// on.doi.gov/1grSWUA). Among them are falls that bubble from underground springs, a “vision quest” site sacred to Native Americans and an all-but-hidden hot springs, says Sullivan.
WATERS continued on Page 90 Toketee Falls plunges over a sheer wall of volcanic basalt. Photo by Julia Moore
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Download the interactive “Thundering Waters” map at http://on.doi. gov/1hCf0em. Download a map and brochure for the North Umpqua Trail at http://on.doi. gov/1gAFASN
Whitehorse Falls is a 15-foot cascade on the Clearwater River.
WATERS from Page 87 “Don’t expect to find it unless you know where it is,” he says of Toketee Hot Springs. Also known as Umpqua Hot Springs, the soaking pool is accessed from forest roads 34 and 3401 off Highway 138, aka “waterfall highway.” To pinpoint the spot, see a brochure of the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail produced by the national forest and BLM and available at http://on.doi. gov/1gAFASN. “People tear down all the signs because they don’t want you there — swimsuits are rare,” says Sullivan. “It’s free and natural, and there’s not a lot of people there.” “Toketee” also is the name of the area’s most celebrated falls, meaning “pretty” or “graceful” in the Chinook language. This is one of Oregon’s most-
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photographed cascades, adorning countless calendars and postcards. “Toketee Falls has a huge amount of water,” says Sullivan. The tiered falls drops an initial 40 feet into a shadowy pool before rolling 80 more feet over a sheer wall of volcanic basalt etched with columnar patterns created by the eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. The .4-mile trail to Toketee, consisting of catwalks and bridges in a narrow chasm, is an attraction unto itself, says Sullivan. The route reopened a few years ago after a 2007 windstorm destroyed most of it, he adds. “It’s not just a hike; it’s kind of an engineering marvel.” Hikers also can marvel at the appropriately named Surprise Falls, which “blasts out of the ground like a dozen fire hydrants,” says Sullivan. Surprise’s source is underground springs that also feed Columnar Falls,
Photo by Julia Moore
which has no stream above it or below, says Sullivan. Both falls are located near the hot springs. Touring these falls makes for a long day trip from the Rogue Valley (the minimum driving time is five to seven hours). But some overnight accommodations put guests right at the head of the North Umpqua Trail. “When they come hike the trail, it’s not a busy, crowded place,” says Bill Blodgett, owner of North Umpqua Outfitters and Oregon Ridge & River Excursions. Deadline Falls can be seen — along with salmon and steelhead attempting to leap it — directly across the river from Blodgett’s guesthouse, studio apartments and yurt. In addition to viewing the falls, visitors typically raft the Umpqua, mountain-bike along its banks and fish for steelhead, he says. “A lot of our guests are coming through from Crater Lake,” says
Martin Stiles of Medford checks out Watson Falls, the highest waterfall in southwestern Oregon at 272 feet.
Blodgett. “You could make a day and a half of just seeing waterfalls.” About 15 miles from Deadline Falls on the trail’s Tioga Segment is Susan Creek Falls with its “Indian mounds” that experts say were tied to native tribes’ rites of passage. A vibrant landscape of old-growth Douglas firs is the setting for this 50-foot falls reached via the 0.8-mile trail off Highway 138. “If you come in the spring ... the waterfalls are bigger and more bountiful,” says Blodgett. While Toketee’s volume constitutes the area’s most “spectacular” falls, says Sullivan, the highest waterfall in southwestern Oregon is 272-foot Watson Falls. Hikers on the easy, .4-mile trail can feel the cascade’s spray over basalt formed from an ancient lava low. The entire plunge can be seen from the trail’s lower end. “All the little trails are short and sweet,” says Blodgett. Also reached in just brief hikes from main roads or campgrounds along the North Umpqua are the tiered Fall Creek Falls — just east along the highway from Susan Creek — and Whitehorse and Clearwater falls, both adjacent to campgrounds east along the highway from Watson Falls. Download the interactive “Thundering Waters” map at http://on.doi.gov/1hCf0em. For more information or to receive a map by mail, call the national forest’s North Umpqua Ranger District at 541-496-3532. Photo courtesy of Martin Stiles
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Winter on the Rim
A ski tour around Oregon’s iconic Crater Lake is a lifetime experience
Story by EILEEN GARVIN Photos by TYLER ROEMER
t’s generally not cool to wake up your tent mate, especially on a winter camping trip when it’s really cold and very early. But the stunning sunrise over Crater Lake isn’t something you see every day, so I shook my husband, Brendan, awake. From the door of our tent, we had a perfect view of North America’s deepest lake, set in the sunken caldera of an ancient volcano. As the sun eased over the eastern rim, the snow around our campsite blushed pink, and Wizard Island, the tree-studded cinder cone in the lake, glowed a bluish white. Not a bad way to begin our second day of cross-country skiing. This was our first trip to Crater Lake. And while its exquisite beauty lands it on many must-see lists, I’ve always imagined a winter visit, when an average 44 feet of snow covers the rim road, closes the north entrance and thins the crowds. We plotted a three-day clockwise course around the 30mile Rim Drive, hoping for an extreme experience of this national icon.
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the steep, snow-covered cliffs of the caldera, then exploded into view — a deep navy-blue against the snow. Wind-sculpted trees, bent double and weathered gray, provided a windbreak for lunch at North Junction (mile 6.5). We saw no one and nothing but a bold crow that stalked up during lunch, cocked his shiny head at us and leaped into the air to somersault off into the wind. At Steel Bay (mile 8.5), we found the basalt wall at the overlook exposed. Packs off, stretched out in the sun, we gazed at the backside of Wizard Island and listened to the sound of the wind in the trees. For the rest of the day, we skied along corridors lined with trees worried into Dr. Seuss-like shapes by the wind. Along the way, we watched great undulating waves surging across the water.
Moonlight and sunshine
Through wind and snow “Well, I got what I came for,” I thought later that morning as I struggled over an avalanche bypass in a chilly headwind with my skis strapped to my pack. To visit Crater Lake on skis is, unmistakably, a backcountry trip and not a leisurely cross-country ski. The route contains four avalanche areas that must be bypassed or climbed over. A careless moment can mean a lost glove or ski. The day we set out, another group was forced to turn back when its sled full of gear fell into the caldera. Weather is another concern. Ranger Dave Grimes told us only about half of the 200 snowshoers and skiers who attempt the route each year make it. The others are forced to turn back when conditions make route finding
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difficult on the unmarked trail. “The trip totally depends on the weather. It can be a moderately strenuous trip if the snowpack is good and weather is nice,” he said. Whiteout conditions, heavy snowfall and avalanches can make it impossible. Grimes said mid-March to May is the best window. “If folks have any flexibility in their schedules, that is ideal.” Luck was with us on this day. Though the wind kept up, the sky remained cloudless, and the sun cut through the chill as we headed out from our first campsite near Wizard Island Overlook toward the north side of the lake. We sped along the trail with Diamond Peak and Mount Thielsen rising up in the north. The lake disappeared from view for miles at a time behind
While Brendan dug out a tent spot near the Palisades (mile 13) and fashioned a kitchen out of snow, I cooked a quick dinner, hopping from foot to foot, confirming that I’d brought the wrong camp shoes. I was tucked into my sleeping bag to watch the sun set and the water blacken when we heard the sound of approaching skis. A headlamp appeared, followed by the cheerful greeting of a lone skier moving very fast. “Hello!” he called. We were camped on pavement where snow had melted, and he paused long enough to remove his skis, cross the pavement back to the snow and put his skis back on, all the while chattering about his trip: He was skiing around the lake in one night. By himself. It would take him 10 hours. He did it every year on the full moon. We should try it! And he called goodbye over his shoulder as he raced off into the moonlit shadows. “Don’t get any crazy ideas,” I said to Brendan, inching deeper into the warmth of my bag. The next day our route climbed up to about 7,800 feet, and we passed several scenic overlooks on the east side of the lake — Pumice Castle, Castle Rock and Sentinel Rock. At Kerr Notch, we gazed down on the wild rock formation of the island called Phantom Ship. The wind dropped off, and as the sun climbed in the sky, we were soon stripped down to shirtsleeves. As the trail wound away from the rim and out of sight of the water for miles at a time, we found open snowfields and pristine angles that made us wish for telemark skis and skins. We passed two more avalanche areas and arrived at Sun Notch (mile 26) in late afternoon, electing to camp one last night on the rim.
If you go Season: Skiers circle the lake from November through May, when the road gets plowed for summer visitors. For the best weather, the best time to go is late spring. No lodging, food or services are available at Crater Lake from October through May. The Steel Visitor Center is open year-round. For a mellower winter option, contact the visitor center about ranger-guided snowshoe trips. Route and safety: Most people ski counterclockwise from the Rim Village. Three days and three nights is a good time frame for an experienced skier in good shape. Because of unpredictable weather, skiers should have route-finding experience and tools with them. The park is not patrolled in the winter, so you are on your own. Parking: Drop off your gear at the Rim Village, and shuttle your car back to the visitor center to avoid having to ski the very steep Raven Trail at the end of the tour. Camping and permits: Off-season, you can camp along the rim road following leave-notrace practices. You must stop in at the visitor center to get a backcountry permit (there’s no cost) and drop it off when you return.
I collapsed on my sleeping pad, just above the sloping curve down to the lake, enjoying the afternoon sun on my face. I mocked Brendan as he dug the most elaborate snow camp yet: snow blocks forming a wall against the wind, a deep trench in front of the tent with a sheltered kitchen area. “You are obsessed,” I said. “I am so not helping you.” We settled in for the night, watching another glorious sunset, this time with an encore as it slid behind Eagle Point, then popped out again for a brief time before dipping into the black waters.
Fast track home Our trip was destined to end as it began: with the wind. It came up from the east at 1 a.m. and flattened our tent. By dawn we’d spent several sleepless hours with the tent flattened down on us by incredible gusts. I started counting their duration to pass the time — 43, 44, 45 … At first light we agreed to bail fast. It seemed like a concession to skip coffee, but it was soon clear that we had no option. When Brendan got out, the tent, now lightened of his weight, slid forward in the wind and landed —
with me — in the deep kitchen trench I’d mocked him for digging. We fought the wind, shoving our gear into our packs at record speed, wary of the now icy slope at our feet. The wind pushed us along the final four miles of our trip in just an hour. Back at the Steel Visitor Center, we brewed coffee in the parking lot and enjoyed the warming temperature and bright blue skies. Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s seasonal features, e-newsletters and annual visitor guide. See more at traveloregon.com.
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Beyond the Rim Story by DANIEL NEWBERRY • Photos by ROBERT MUTCH
A tour boat cruises past Phantom Ship on Crater Lake.
10 things to do in Crater Lake National Park, if you’re willing to leave your car
he view from the rim is iconic, the clarity of its water is known worldwide. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and Oregon’s only national park. Yet for all of its 286 square miles, the park is seen by many visitors only from Rim Drive, that 33-mile road that encircles the volcanic caldera formed when the former Mount Mazama erupted more than 5,500 years ago.
Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, and many of its memorable adventures are available even during the eight
The trail to Vidae Falls provides one of the park's best wildflower shows.
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or so months every year when it snows. And snow it does: 44 feet a year, on average. If you’re willing to leave your car and venture beyond Rim Drive, here are 10 things to do to experience the real park. 1. Hike to the Mount Scott fire tower. Grab your hiking poles, because this 2.5-mile walk gains 1,500 feet in elevation. At 8,929 feet, the Mount Scott summit is the park’s highest point. On a clear day, you can see more than 100 miles, including several Cascades volcanoes. A small fire tower at the summit still operates and provides a great place to lunch and rest. 2. Hike to the Pinnacles. One of the park’s geological wonders requires a mere 0.6-mile walk along a wheelchair-accessible trail. This flat trail brings you close to needle-
like rock formations, known to scientists as fossil fumaroles. The Pinnacles were formed by escaping hot gases that cemented the surrounding pumice and ash. The softer surrounding material eroded more quickly. To reach the trailhead, drive to the end of the Pinnacles Spur Road, located seven miles southeast of the Phantom Ship Overlook off of Rim Drive. 3. Ride a boat to Wizard Island and hike the Wizard Island Summit Trail. Though private boats are not allowed in Crater Lake, a commercial boat tour is available from the Cleetwood Cove Landing to Wizard Island. Six two-hour “standard” trips travel around the lake daily and cost $35 per person. If you’d like to get off the boat and explore the island for three hours, the “Wizard Island Tour” costs $45. Tickets are sold at a kiosk in the main lodge and sell out quickly. On the island, hike to the rim of this volcano-within-a-volcano for a 0.9-mile, 700-foot workout. The trip to get to Cleetwood Landing requires a steep, 1.1-mile, 665-foot descent from the Rim Drive. This adventure can easily be a full-day trip. 4. Fish on Wizard Island. If you’re taking the boat trip to Wizard Island, why not take your fishing rod along and kick back until the boat returns to pick you up? Although the stocking of Crater Lake ended in the 1960s, remnant rainbow trout and kokanee may still bite your lures. Leave your live bait behind, as that’s illegal here, but catch as many fish as you want, and of any size. No need for a permit to fish here. 5 & 6. Waterfalls and wildflowers. Snowmelt brings on waterfall season, and waterfalls provide a high diversity of micro climates and wildflower diversity. With a 200-foot cascading drop, Vidae Falls is the park’s most celebrated — and accessible — waterfall in the park. Though you can see it from Rim Drive a mere three miles from Government Headquarters, consider leaving the car and walking the short trail to get up close and personal. The wildflowers here are unparalleled within the park. If you walk downhill from your car while you’re at Vidae Falls, you’ll find two smaller, little-known falls on Sun Creek a quarter mile away. The 1.1-mile Plaikni
It’s an uphill, 2.5-mile walk to the Mount Scott fire lookout.
The landing at Cleetwood Cove.
Skiers on the West Rim ski route.
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Falls trail takes you to a secret waterfall. Built in 2011, this trail is too new for many guidebooks. 7. Snowshoe the rim. Park rangers lead guided snowshoe hikes near the rim on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Thanksgiving through late April. Hikes last two hours and snowshoe rental is free. Hikes fill early, so call 541-594-3100 for reservations. 8. Birding. Crater Lake is home or a travel corridor for avians in a broad diversity of forest types. Whether you’re intent on adding the gray-crowned rosy finch to your life list in winter or can be satisfied with seeing a Clark’s nutcracker in the Rim Drive pullouts, pick up a copy of the 158-bird checklist or identification guide at the visitor center — and don’t forget your binoculars. 9. Photography. Since Peter Britt first photographed Crater Lake in 1874, amateur and professional shutterbugs alike have descended on this photogenic spot. For great closeups looking down on the lake, hike to the top of either the Garfield or Watchman trails. On your boat trip, snap a few shots up at the rim. The Annie Springs Trail offers great views into a steep canyon. The Boundary Springs Trail offers great views of the moss-covered headwaters of the Rogue River. 10. Ski in from the north entrance. The park offers more than 50 miles of marked, ungroomed crosscountry ski trails. From the north entrance, ski south and reach the Pumice Desert after 3 miles. For the more advanced skiers, a ninemile ski gets you to the north rim, a view that few see in the winter. Snowmobiles are permitted on paved roads, so expect to share the north-rim-to-lake road.
With a 200-foot cascading drop, Vidae Falls is the most celebrated — and accessible — waterfall in the park.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
Packing in Tips for backpacking your way into the Southern Oregon backcountry — and beyond Story by BILL VARBLE
cott Keith has been backpacking the woods of Southern Oregon and Northern California for 30 years and he still sounds like a kid in a candy store. “It’s like a big circle,” he says. “The Rogue Valley is the center. Within a couple hours or so you can get to the Marbles (mountain range) and the Klamaths and the Trinity Alps in California, the redwoods at the coast, the Cascades, some of the most
beautiful rivers in the world ... You couldn’t pick a better place.” Just look at the map. The southern Cascades, a geographically young string of volcanoes, rise just east of the Bear Creek Valley. The wild Siskiyous lie to the west, the mysterious Klamaths to the south, and Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, is to the north. With such an embarrassment of riches, especially if you’re new to the
area, or new to backpacking, how do you know where to even begin? “Talk to somebody who’s been there before,” Keith says. “Get a hands-on report.” There’s a good chance that such reports will lead you to one of the region’s designated wilderness areas. The last remaining wild lands in the nation, these are defined as places of “primeval character” where you enter as “a visitor who does not remain.”
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Photo by Nancy McClain
The Sky Lakes Basin, part of the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area, can be reached off the Cold Springs Trail and provides numerous camping and hiking opportunities for beginning backpackers. In other words, no dirt bikes, no ATVs, no snowmobiles. No restaurants or restrooms. No pizza delivery. But plenty of bears, snakes, bugs, weather. And the best thing about that would be? “It’s gotta be the views,” Keith says. “You get up on a ridge, or a peak, and you can see ridge beyond ridge beyond ridge off in the faint distance. If you get atop Mount Shasta, you can actually see the curvature of the Earth.” Again, the map. This is a mountainous part of the planet. Each wilderness has its unique character, but most (although not all) are associated with high country. The Sky Lakes Wilderness stretches from Mount McLoughlin north to Crater Lake National Park. Nearby are the Mount Thielsen, Mountain Lakes and Rogue-Umpqua Divide wildernesses. The Mountain Lakes Wilderness lies to the east toward Klamath Falls, the Soda Mountain Wilderness just to the south of Ashland. The sprawling Kalmiopsis Wilderness is to the west, flanked by the Wild Rogue Wilderness to the north, and the Red Buttes and Siskiyou
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
wildernesses to the south. Also south but nearby are the Marble Mountain, Russian and Trinity Alps wildernesses and the wilderness areas at Mount Shasta and Castle Crags. Each has its personality. The Sky Lakes Wilderness is known for its 200 lakes and its 200 gazillion mosquitoes. The Siskiyous are carved by wild rivers. The Soda Mountain Wilderness, in the heart of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, lies at the intersection of three distinct biological regions. Here, the fir forests of the Cascades meet the cedars of the Siskiyous and the sagebrush of the high desert in one of the most biologically diverse spots in the United States. If you’re just starting out, Keith recommends a one- or two-night stay in a beautiful area with a short, wellmarked trail. “You can head up to Mount Eddy,” he says, “if you only want a short hike to a couple of beautiful lakes. Or hike into Sky Lakes on the Cold Springs Trail.” At 9,025 feet, Mount Eddy is the highest peak in the Klamaths. When you see Mount Shasta on your left
driving south on Interstate 5, Eddy is the big mountain to your right. The alpine lakes below Eddy are known for their seasonal profusion of wildflowers. It’s an easy 6-mile hike (round trip) to Middle Lake from the Parks Creek Trailhead off Stewart Springs Road. If you’re ambitious, you can add a rather strenuous hike up the mountain on a well-marked trail. This doubles the distance and adds almost 2,000 feet of climbing but rewards hikers with a knock-your-socks-off view of Mount Shasta from the summit. Expect lots of people in the summer. The mile-high, 113,000-acre Sky Lakes Wilderness is almost a glaciercreated world of its own, with many ways in and out, and a network of trails that intersect here and there. Drive east on Highway 140 over the Cascade summit to milepost 41. Turn left on Forest Road 3651 and watch for signs for the Cold Springs trailhead. The hike is only about three miles to the Sky Lakes Basin. The area is so popular it may bring to mind an old Yogi Berra-ism: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. Actually,
A pair of backpackers carry overnight gear along the Rogue River Trail between Grave Creek and Whisky Creek. it’s usually only crowded in August and September, when the legendary mosquitoes have died down somewhat. Of course, what constitutes a crowd is relative. In a wilderness of many thousands of acres, running into a dozen people in a day may feel crowded. But aside from uber-popular areas such as Mount Eddy and Sky Lakes, you’re likely to have lots of elbow room. There’s a demographic twist to thank for that. Backpacking surged when thousands of young people took to the wild in the wake of the turbulent ’60s. But backpacking numbers haven’t kept pace with the growing population since then, even though there’s been a revolution in hi-tech, lightweight, userfriendly equipment. “I think the pendulum swings,” Keith says. “The ’70s was the heyday. In the ’80s and ’90s, I think people collected a lot of toys. “Now, a lot of people are starting to realize how many good places there are. But you can still come back from a backpacking vacation completely relaxed.” Who backpacks today?
“A whole cross-section,” says Keith, who when he isn’t out in the woods owns and runs the Northwest Outdoor Store next to the Medford Bi-Mart. “It’s people out of college looking for adventure, older guys looking for rejuvenation. Tons of couples are going out together. Lots of the time a few buddies getting together.” Keith estimates 40 percent of the backpackers he sees are women. In a welcome development for a hobby in which you essentially carry your home around on your back, gear has gotten much lighter over the years. “A 60-pound pack used to be the norm,” Keith says. “Now it’s 40. For ultra-lites and Pacific Crest Trail through hikers, it’s 20.” Keith advises desk jockeys not to suddenly throw 30 or 40 pounds on their backs and strike off into the mountains. “Take some day hikes,” he says. “Hike Table Rocks with a pack on a couple times a week. Going up and down a mountain is different from a sidewalk.” Keith says the list of common beginner mistakes includes carrying
Mail Tribune file photo
too much stuff, not getting an earlyenough start to reach your destination with plenty of daylight left, and making camp too near lakes and streams. There are more mosquitoes near the water. Besides, today’s backpacking etiquette calls for pitching tents away from trails and no nearer to the water than 200 feet. Outdoors-oriented stores stock excellent guidebooks to local trails by William Sullivan, Art Bernstein and others. Read the trail descriptions carefully, noting the details of use, seasonality, distances, restrictions, dangers and the like. Bring rain gear, water (and/or a good water filter), food, a knife, waterproof matches, fire starter (Vaseline-soaked cottonballs work well), a first-aid kit, flashlight, compass and map. A GPS is no substitute for a topographic map (available at ranger stations). Campfires are frowned upon — and illegal during summer fire season — as is taking dogs into the wilderness. Once you’ve gone all primeval, take only pictures, leave only footprints.
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Mail Tribune file photos
Summit-bound Mount McLoughlin seems to beckon from the horizon, and many residents answer the call Story by GREG STILES
f you’re reaching for that top-of-theworld feeling in Southern Oregon, Mount McLoughlin is your ticket. While the 9.36-mile trek with a gain of 4,000 feet to the 9,495-foot summit is relatively difficult, energetic youngsters and well conditioned 70-year-olds are capable of making the trip. But even experienced hikers who fail to pay attention have been known to spend long, cold nights in the woods in the Sky Lakes Wilderness beneath the mountain. Rick Brewster made his first journey
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in low-cut tennis shoes in 1970, along with his older brother, Kent, and parents. “It was a family hike, so we went ahead of Mom and Dad,” Brewster recalled. “But they had all the food and water. We went after church, so we started about 1 o’clock, which wasn’t a good idea. It was August, and it was very hot.” Since then, Brewster has ascended the region’s signature peak 30 times, primarily in late summer or early autumn to avoid pesky mosquitoes. Brewster has made it to the top from the trailhead in two hours, but more
often the fast-paced hiker takes about twice that time, depending on the company. “I just go the pace of the group,” he said. Over the years, Brewster has developed a couple of approaches to the climb, sometimes dividing it into a two-part trip in order to view the sunrise. On those outings he overnights along Freye Lake and then clambers to the summit without the gear. More typically, Brewster hits the trailhead off of Forest Service Road 3650 around 6 a.m., providing plenty of time to view Mount Shasta, the Rogue Valley,
U.S. Forest Service ranger Jackie Holm guides Daniel Newberry, front, Andrew Eckerson and Lee Juillerat through a boulder field beneath the summit of Mount McLoughlin. Klamath Basin and the Cascade Range to the north. He packs plenty of food, a Camelbak hydration pack, bug spray, binoculars, sunglasses, moleskin for blisters, an extra pair of socks, a poncho and a lighter — just in case. Often he will stash a gallon of water somewhere below the treeline for the return trip, and he brings gloves to help scale boulders on the way up. “People are usually over-prepared or under-prepared,” Brewster said. “They will want to bring too much stuff and that becomes excess weight they don’t want to carry 4,000 feet up the mountain.” Although Brewster carries a camera, most hikers rely on their cellphones these days. On the way down, whether surfing the rocks that carry hikers away from the trail or descending the spine,
Brewster always bears to the left before hitting the treeline. The big mistake hikers can make is forgetting simple geometry. The farther they descend from the top of the cone, the longer the distance to the spine connecting to the trail. “The need to angle east to Klamath Lake and keep going left,” Brewster said. “When they’re taking those giant moon steps, they sometimes forget.” Dan and Melanie Rosetta made the mistake of drifting the wrong direction in 1985. We took the easiest route down, skiing (over loose rocks) down the south side,” Dan Rosetta said. “I pretty much knew we had to head counterclockwise, but it was way farther back to the trail than I figured.” Two hours later, he had stomach cramps and she had knee pain, and the
going got slow. “We were back on the trail and reached close to the Pacific Crest Trail (crossing) before we lost light completely about 10 o’clock,” he said. “There was no moon at all that evening to give us light, and the forest seemed to mask the sky completely. The next mile or so on the trail we literally walked blind just using my sense of the concavity of the trail — always going down keeps you on the trail because to go sideways on the trail is walking up. “Since we had crossed the Pacific Crest Trail, my memory told me we only had about a mile to go, but it was a long one in the dark. Eventually I recognized a small meadow and knew we were on the trail, we heard the water of the creek and were relieved.”
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Centershot Mike Blaschka, owner of Dewclaw Archery, takes aim at the indoor range at his shop in Medford.
C Archery has been booming in popularity since the “Hunger Games,” and options abound in Southern Oregon Story by KRIS HENRY
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
amping, hunting, fishing … the memories of a childhood spent outdoors with his family come rushing back to Mike Blaschka. Strolling through Dewclaw Archery in Medford, which he owns with his wife, Kelly, Blaschka can’t help but recall one special day as a 16-year-old when a friend invited him to go bowhunting. As someone who had grown up hunting with a rifle, Blaschka welcomed the opportunity — and that experience made a lasting impression. “I just went, ‘You’re kidding me, this is awesome,’ ” Blaschka, now 48, says of his first venture into archery. “I was sold, it was that quick.” On that trip, Blaschka went from being the first person in his family to pick up a bow to someone who couldn’t dream of hunting any other way. “The appeal to me was the intimacy of the experience,” he says. “With a rifle, I’m looking through a scope
Photo by Jamie Lusch
and I could take game at 200 yards. ... I’m not even a part of their universe. But I’ve shot an elk from me to you, literally, so just that interaction and the challenge of getting inside their protective envelope is a lot more of a challenge. When you are able to get close enough for a shot with archery tackle, you’ve accomplished something, because a deer or an elk … they are 24/7 survivors. They’ve got bears and cougars and wolves and everything trying to get them, so they are always on their alert.” It’s that challenge, that ability to get close enough for a shot that ultimately proves satisfying for an archer, Blaschka says. “Regardless of whether you get the shot or take the animal, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “Archers as a general rule are people where even our failures are something that we talk about, like, ‘I got so close and I shot right over it, but I was 15 yards away.’ “Whether I take an animal or
whether I get a shot, just the whole part of the interaction out there is incredible,” adds Blaschka. “We get out there, and we call them and talk to them, and when you have an 800-pound bull elk that’s bugling back at you and you’re close enough that you feel it in your chest as it kind of reverberates “... You don’t through you, I can’t have to be compare it to anything athletic, you else. It’s just incredible adrenaline.” don’t have to be Blaschka strong. A lot of turned that passion into a successful ladies are better business at Dewclaw shooters than Archery, established guys, because in 1978 at 2722 W. Main they’re a little St., Medford. His sons more detailMichael and Matt are among the oriented and staff. “They don’t have the didn’t have to wait until big macho chip they were 16 to get on their shoulder involved in archery,” of, ‘Oh, I know Blaschka says. A great how to do this.’ ” thing about — Mike Blaschka, archery is that anyone owner of Dewclaw Archery can do it, he adds. Getting kids started around 5 years old is not uncommon, and he knows active shooters in their 70s. “That’s one of the appealing things ... you don’t have to be athletic, you
Kenn Biando practices on an archery skills trail at Beekman Ridge Archery near Butte Falls.
Mail Tribune file photo
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Justin Goslin shows his winning form at the Jackson County Sports Park archery range. Mail Tribune file photos
A shot of some gear at Dewclaw Archery.
Local archery options Supplies, lessons, archery leagues Dewclaw Archery, 541-772-1896, dewclawarchery.com, in Medford Southern Oregon Archery, 541-6643310, www.southernoregonarchery.com, in Central Point Skookum Ridge Bowhunting Supply, 541-560-4118, in Prospect
Clubs Rogue Valley Archers, 541-890-3394, 106
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Ranges Beekman Ridge Archery, 541-951-5581, beekmanridgearchery.com, 15580 Butte Falls Highway, Eagle Point Josephine County Sportsman Association gun range, 541-476-2040, jcsa-gunrange.com, 7407 Highland Avenue, Grants Pass Jackson County Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road, White City.
don’t have to be strong,” he says. “A lot of ladies are better shooters than guys, because they’re a little more detail-oriented and don’t have the big macho chip on their shoulder of, ‘Oh, I know how to do this.’ ” While the majority of archers he sees in Southern Oregon are bowhunters, there’s a growing contingent of recreational archers who enjoy the meditative benefits of shooting, he says. “We’ve seen the recreational segment of our customer base increase over the last eight years,” he says. “It’s satisfying in a lot of ways to shoot an arrow and have it strike your target, and there’s people who go out and they shoot every day just for the act of shooting and never with any intention that they’re going to go in the field and pursue game.” Equipment ranges from the traditional long bow or recurve bow to state-of-the-art compound bows, which have more range and accuracy. As with any endeavor, people can go in for a penny or in for a pound when it comes to equipment, but Blaschka says an average spender can be fully equipped with a traditional bow setup for about $200 and on the compound side for about $500. That includes the bow, arrows, targets, arm guard and shooting glove and the proper fitting and training. “The average person would be
Justin Goslin lines up a shot at the Jackson County Sports Park’s archery range. proficient enough to go out and could start shooting one and keep enjoy the sport on their own after shooting it until they’re 20 or even two lessons. The bows may look 50. They don’t have to ever change intimidating, but it’s still a bow if they don’t want a fairly simple process to, whereas 10 years ago “Bows are where you’re drawing that wasn’t the case.” a string, lining it up Lessons can be made to be very arranged and letting go,” says through Blaschka. the city of Medford adjustable so a and at local stores, “Where most people struggle, especially if including Southern they try to pick it up on 5-year-old could Oregon Archery, 226 E. their own, is that archery Pine St., Central Point, is all about being and Skookum Ridge start shooting physically consistent,” Bowhunting Supply, he explains. “That’s 43043 Highway 62, one and keep how we instruct from Prospect. the outset. This is about Indoor ranges at shooting it until Dewclaw being consistent. It’s not Archery about strength or being a and Southern Oregon they’re 20 or good shot. If you can be Archery offer indoor consistent and physically league competitions, train your body to even 50. They as well as individual perform the same thing lessons and equipment each time you draw the repair services. don’t have to string, your arrows are Outdoor shooting going to end up right in options include Beekman ever change a Ridge Archery near the bull’s-eye.” Archery has grown Falls, while the bow if they don’t Butte in recent years, thanks Ashland Archers club in part to the popular uses a range at the want to.” “Hunger Games” books Ashland Gun Club, 555 and movies, and the Emigrant Creek Road. equipment has improved The Rogue Valley —Mike Blaschka greatly to provide a more Archers club uses a satisfying experience. range at the Josephine “Equipment, at least on the County Sports Park, 7407 Highland compound side, has changed Ave., Grants Pass, and there’s an dramatically in the last 10 years,” archery range at the Jackson County says Blaschka. “Bows are made to Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road, be very adjustable so a 5-year-old White City.
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on the fly Story by MARK FREEMAN Mail Tribune file photos
Six spots to try your fly-fishing skill on the upper Rogue River
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or fly-fishers, a huge benefit of living in — or visiting — the Rogue Valley is the ability to test your mettle on the river Zane Grey made famous. From early July through the Christmas holidays, fly-fishing for summer steelhead along the upper Rogue River is something easily pulled off between Shakespeare plays, wine tasting and holiday feasts — if you know where to go. Here’s a look at the upper Rogue’s Sweet Six steelheading spots, which offer a chance at success for flyfishers who otherwise wouldn’t know where to cast for a summer steelhead. With an Oregon fishing license, a box full of streamers and nymphs, as well as a wad of dollar bills to pay for parking, these spots — from TouVelle State Park off Table Rock Road all the way upstream to Cole Rivers Hatchery’s aptly named Hatchery Hole — are the ones to sample for summer
steelhead migrating in the upper Rogue. These easy-access spots start at the lowest point on the upper Rogue and work their way upstream.
The Sewer Hole Downstream from the lower portion of TouVelle State Park, off Table Rock Road in White City, the Sewer Hole is where the discharge tube dumps water from Medford’s water-treatment plant. The waters upstream of it are a steelheaders’ gold mine. The water regularly holds migrating steelhead. Also, recycled hatchery steelhead occasionally are released at the TouVelle boat ramp, and they almost always drop into the Sewer Hole for a few days before heading back upstream. From Medford, take Table Rock Road north. After crossing the Rogue, take a left into the parking lot. Drive down to the end. Access is by walking down the boat ramp and wading downstream. Fishing is best from the top of the riffle all the way around the
corner to the tailout immediately across from the actual release location for treated effluent from the adjacent water-treatment plant. Swing streamers or fish weighted nymphs like hair’s ears, Ugly Bugs or single salmon egg patterns.
Upper TouVelle Above the upstream portion of TouVelle State Park, which is bisected by Table Rock Road near White City, this stretch starts on the island just upstream of Bybee Bridge, where Table Rock Road spans the Rogue. Spey-rod anglers like to park at the upper parking lot and hike upstream to cast while wading in the mouth of Little Butte Creek. Also, the riffle between the parking lot and the creek mouth fishes well with streamers or nymphs. Still others will bypass the park altogether and park on the river’s north bank, then climb down and wade across a short side-channel before heading upstream to fish the riffle from the north bank. Swinging streamers is best here, such as red ants or large articulated leeches (black and purple have been upper Rogue favorites for decades). From Medford, take Table Rock Road north and turn right into the park just before the bridge.
A fly-fisherman casts for winter steelhead above TouVelle State Park.
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Givan Park This Jackson County park is undeveloped but it does provide access to a ledgy riffle that regularly holds steelhead. It is easy enough to cast to that you don’t even need waders (if you don’t mind wet knees). These ledges and rocks provide oxygenated water that steelhead love, as well as enough cover to keep them comfortable throughout this short but productive run. It’s a swinger’s delight, with streamer flies fished with sinktip lines a perfect M.O. for success, especially when the sun’s off the water. One of the only drawbacks is that there’s room for only a couple casters, and you better be friends. Access is by the road to the former Elk’s Picnic Grounds. There’s room for a few pickups to park near the gate. To get there, take Highway 62 north to Antelope Road. Go left on Antelope, then right onto Agate Road. Between Nick Young Road and Old Linn Road is a dirt driveway for several properties on the left. Take that driveway down to the small parking area, then walk down the path to the river.
Rogue Elk Park Steelhead that already have finned 152 river miles obviously need a rest, and they often take it at Rogue Elk Park along Highway 62 north of Shady Cove and near Trail. The best spot is the first riffle upstream from the top end of the campground upstream of the boat ramp.
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This stretch is good for swinging flies, as well as free-drifting nymphs. The streamer crowd, however, seems to get more action. The stretch is small, so it’s like the water downstream of Givan Park in that you’ll only fish it with others if they’re with you. Park at the boat ramp lot and hike upstream through the largely unused campsites to find the riffle just around the upstream bend. To get there, take Highway 62 north past Shady Cove. Entrance to the campground and boat ramp are along a sweeping curve just past Elk Creek Road.
McGregor Park Along Takelma Drive off Highway 62 near Trail, this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park is so under the radar that even vandals haven’t discovered it. But smart steelheaders have. This stretch has a series of places to cast flies for steelhead. And its proximity to Cole Rivers Hatchery improves the odds of the steelhead you catch sporting a clipped adipose fin, which allows you to keep it guilt-free. The best place to swing flies is just upstream of the Highway 62 bridge. Nymphers likewise can do well. You’ll have to contend with the occasional passing driftboat or the orange armada of rafters during hot summer days, but it produces enough fish for wading anglers that it’s worth a try. To get there, take Highway 62 north past Shady Cove. Turn left onto Takelma Drive across from Casey State Park.
Hatchery Hole At Cole Rivers Hatchery, off Takelma Drive, just upstream of McGregor Park, the Hatchery Hole is not the prettiest place to fish, and casting flies from the concrete dike sure feels like fishing inside the hatchery itself. But more and more fly-casters are learning to live with it, deciding they’d rather catch fish and pose their pictures so the dike’s not visible. Most of the bait fishing is done from the dike, where there’s little backcasting room and chances of hooking another angler’s ear make it a rather hostile location for traditional flyfishers. During the Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 flies-only season, the dike denizens will be armed with spinning rods legally casting flies and bubbles as if they were nymphing. But traditional fly-fishers tend to hit the side of the hold opposite of the dike and near the hole’s boat ramp. It’s almost exclusively a nymphing show to avoid conflicts with other anglers. However, if the participation is sparse, swing away those streamers. Just make sure you have studded shoes and your insurance copay, because the currents can be troublesome depending upon the outflow from Lost Creek dam and how far down the hole you go. Take Highway 62 north past Shady Cove. Turn left onto Takelma Drive across from Casey State Park. Follow the signs for Cole Rivers Hatchery.
Members of the Southern Oregon Nordic Club ski along the dog-friendly portion of the Buck Prairie trail network off Dead Indian Memorial Road.
Mail Tribune file photos
From Buck Prairie to Crater Lake, cross-country skiers have options Story by BILL KETTLER
pring might seem an unlikely time to think about cross-country skiing, but veteran skiers know April and May often bring fine days in the snowy high country.
And if you’re looking for a new way to get out and enjoy Southern Oregon outdoors next winter, those “skinny skis” might be worth looking into. Many popular cross-country ski trails follow forest roads, so as long as
there’s a few inches of snow to cover the gravel or the pavement, skiers can actually ski. Logging roads that crisscross the Cascades provide miles and miles of routes for cross-country skiers to explore, says Michael Dawkins, who teaches cross-country skiing for the Southern Oregon Nordic Club. “We have terrain equal to any in the country,” says Dawkins, and he should know. He spent years working in the ski industry in Vail, Colo., before returning to Ashland, his childhood home. Many of those forest roads are groomed — smoothed and compacted to produce a uniformly dense
skiing surface with shallow grooves (“corduroy”) just like an alpine ski run. The consistent surface enhances the ski experience for everyone, but it’s especially helpful for beginners who are still getting the feel for being on skis. “They are awesome roads and littleused,” Dawkins says. “They’re totally groomed out, and that makes skiing easier.” The nordic club grooms trails that are reserved for skiers only at the popular Buck Prairie area, 13 miles east of Ashland on Dead Indian Memorial Road. Rogue Snowmobilers, the local enthusiasts’ club, grooms roads that are also open to skiers who
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Bob Plummer drives the Southern Oregon Nordic Club's groomer near Hyatt Lake. The club bought the used groomer a few years ago to improve cross-country skiing options in the area.
Members of the Southern Oregon Nordic Club ski at Buck Prairie. don’t mind an occasional encounter with snow machines. Dawkins recommends newcomers take one of the classes offered by the nordic club to get off on the right foot. The nordic club also grooms several areas at Hyatt Lake, where the flat terrain helps new skiers focus on learning to ski, says Bob Plummer, one of the nordic club volunteers who drives the grooming machine. “There are some nice little loops in there,” Plummer says. When conditions
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allow, the nordic club generally offers lessons every Saturday at Hyatt Lake. When novices feel comfortable on the snow, they can join a nordic club outing or set off on their own. Many start at Buck Prairie, where several trails offer a range of terrain. Skiers can choose from several short loops that cover 3 to 5 miles. (There’s a convenient forest toilet just 1 mile from the parking area.) Those who have basic skills can stay on the easier routes such as Natasha’s Web and
Bullwinkle’s Run, where there are several scenic viewpoints that cry out for a camera. It won’t take long before you realize cross-country skiing comes in several different flavors. “Skate” skiers use narrow skis and long poles on groomed surfaces, pushing off the sides of their skis and pushing with the poles There are in a motion that recalls enough routes ice skating. “Classic” skiers for skiers wear wider skis, using the “kick and glide” to choose motion that most people associate a different with crosscountry skiing. one for every Backcountry skiers like to get weekend off the groomed surfaces in outing. pursuit a more isolated, wilderness experience, but they generally go slower because they often have to make their own trails, pushing each ski slowly ahead of the other. Telemark skiers enjoy skiing down steep slopes and use heavier skis and boots to maintain control. There are enough routes for skiers
Ashland resident Andy Dungan enjoys a three-day tour around the Crater Rim in 2008 with fellow members of the Crater Lake Ski Patrol.
to choose a different one for every weekend outing. A number of trails around Highway 140 at Lake of the Woods follow forest roads that go as far as Fourmile Lake. Groomed roads such as Forest Road 37, which connects Highway 140 and Dead Indian Memorial Road, offer more opportunities for exploring. Other routes follow sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. “We have so many places,” says Stefanie Ferrara, a longtime nordic club member. Maps of winter recreation sites are available for $6 from the U.S. Forest Service, and at the nordic club’s regular meetings. (For more information about the nordic club, see its website at southernonc.tripod.com or search for Southern Oregon Nordic Club on the Web.) Skiers soon learn that weather plays a huge role in their experience. Some routes, such as the trails on the south side of Mount Ashland, are spectacular in good weather but miserable on many days. The Grouse Gap Trail, for example, with its picture postcard views of Mount Shasta, “is the best place in the world on a spring day with a good snow surface,” Plummer says, but it can turn icy after several days of sunshine and clear, cold nights. The trail is nearly impassable when storm winds blow out of the southwest and visibility shrinks to just a few feet. Even veteran skiers have become disoriented in whiteout conditions just a half-hour’s ski from the parking lot. Some have had to spend a night in the snow waiting for clear skies. Once you’ve got your skiing legs, you might think about entering the John Day Citizen’s Cross Country Ski Race at Diamond Lake Resort. The race, open to all ages and abilities, happens every February, weather permitting, and includes 20K, 10K and 5K freestyle (skating allowed) events and 10K and 5K classic (diagonal stride only) events. Entry forms can be downloaded from http:// southernonc.tripod.com/id6.html.
Dan Bulkley, a founder of the Southern Oregon Nordic Club, teaches beginners how to do a snowplow.
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Nancy McClain of Medford shows off her morel harvest.
From spring morels to fall chanterelles, wild mushrooms abound in regional forests Story by DANIEL NEWBERRY
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
he Pacific Northwest is a mecca for amateur and commercial mushroom hunters alike. With our abundant forested landscapes and spring and fall moisture, there are easily hundreds of edible species to choose from, though perhaps a dozen species account for most of these fungi that end up on the plate. Morels and chanterelles are the most popular mushrooms collected in forests surrounding the Rogue Valley, says Mike Potts, a Talentbased photographer who has been collecting mushrooms and leading
Photo by David Smigelski
fungi hikes for many years. The equipment needed to get started is minimal and inexpensive. “Bring a basket or a paper bag to collect mushrooms — not plastic bags, because the mushrooms will rot,” Potts explains. “It’s easy to get lost while mushroom hunting — you’re always looking at the ground — so bring a compass and know where you are. Also, use a knife to cut the mushrooms and maybe a brush to brush off the debris … it might be nice to have an ice chest if you’re out there all day.”
A cluster of yellow chanterelles breaks through the duff. In our more rural areas in the spring, it’s common to see a table set up on the side of the road with a handdrawn sign that reads “Mushroom buyer.” In the spring, you can bet they’re looking for morels, distinctive mushrooms with a honeycombed cap that come in colors ranging from blond, yellow and brown to gray and almost black. Morels have a wonderfully buttery taste. In the fall, many mushroom hunters turn their attention to chanterelles. There’s more than one variety in the forests of Southern Oregon, but the most prized and abundant is the yellow chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). This is a fairly easy mushroom to identify, with its trumpet shape and a faint scent of apricots. The only real wrinkle when it comes to picking chanterelles is to steer clear of a relative that can give some people a bellyache. “Scaly vase chanterelle is the common name, it’s a different genus — Gomphus floccosus,” says Potts. “It looks just like a chanterelle but with holes on the top with scales. The chanterelles don’t have the holes,” says Potts. Morels and chanterelles rise from
Though morels and chanterelles can generally be identified with a guidebook, it’s worth tagging along with an experienced forager your first few times out, or take one of the many mushroom hikes or classes offered locally. the soil in different seasons. Morels begin to appear soon after the snow melts in the spring and will
Photo by Nancy McClain
often seem to be chasing the retreating front of the snowpack. People start finding them on the Rogue Valley floor as early as February and March. In April they’re typically popping up in the foothills at 2,500 to 4,000 feet elevation, and by May the morels will be fruiting above 5,000 feet. Chanterelles, on the other hand, start at higher elevations in late summer and early fall, and as the weather cools they’ll fruit at lower elevations. Depending on snow levels and other factors, they’ll continue fruiting into the early winter. “Chanterelles like a certain elevation. Here in the Cascades, you can’t really find them below 3,000 feet,” says Potts. “A range of 5,000 to 6,000 feet is a good elevation in late September and October. It’s also true for the Siskiyous, but it’s rare to find the abundance there you do in the Cascades. They grow in abundance near the coast … down close to the shoreline, in older, established forests with big trees.” Veteran ‘shroomers often develop a passion for other edibles that are less common in Southern Oregon, such as matsutake and porcini, which is also known as boletes. Once
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you’ve mastered the identification of morels and the golden chanterelle, Potts has three suggestions for you. “Oyster mushrooms grow along creeks down in the valley; those are excellent mushrooms and abundant here in this area,” he says. “Shaggy manes are pretty easy ones, usually in the spring and fall when it’s cool. Along mountain roads they grow in big clusters, people eat them, and they’re pretty safe to identify. … Another good mushroom in the fall is the bear’s head — it’s a really beautiful, coral-like mushroom that grows in the fall on logs up in the Cascades. ... That one’s really easy to identify, and it’s really tasty.” Though morels and chanterelles can generally be identified with a guidebook, it’s worth tagging along with an experienced forager your first few times out, or take one of the many mushroom hikes or classes offered locally. Northwest Nature Shop, 154 Oak St., Ashland, holds a mushroom fair every spring and fall, and local mushroom experts who attend are always happy to identify mushrooms for beginners. Call 541-482-3241 for details. The Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma will offer three mushroom courses this year in October and November: Edible Mushrooms of the Southern Cascades, Edible Mushrooms of the Siskiyous, and Forest Mushrooms of Southwest Oregon/ Northwest California. Find details at www.thesfi.org or call 541-597-8530. Mushroom hunting can be a satisfying way to explore the forests of Southern Oregon, but be careful out there. One of the deadliest mushrooms anywhere on the planet can be found in Southern Oregon: death cap amanita. Though you can find a different, edible amanita species here, it’s best to stay away from all of them. Mushroom hunting is so popular locally, it’s best to practice responsible mushroom harvesting. “Never pick 100 percent of the mushrooms in one patch,” says Potts. “Leave a few to keep dispersing spores. Tread lightly, pick (only) what you’ll eat.”
Bear’s head, which grows on decaying logs, has a taste and texture reminiscent of lobster.
Photos by Nancy McClain
Shaggy manes are very light, delicate mushrooms that must be eaten soon after picking because they degrade quickly.
FYI: Picking mushrooms on public land If you want to pick mushrooms for personal use on the BLM or U.S. Forest Service land around the Rogue Valley, you do not need a permit, but you’re limited to picking a gallon per day and a total of five gallons per year.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
Personal-use collectors may not harvest matsutake mushrooms on USFS land. On BLM land, you must cut your mushrooms in half on site, to prove you won’t be selling them. If you sell your bounty, you’re considered
a commercial picker and will need a permit. The cost is $10 a day, $35 a week or $100 for six months on BLM land. The price is $20 for 10 days or $150 for six months on Forest Service land.
Snow busting Robin Blanks of Medford blasts through new snow, catching some air on his new snowmobile.
Hundreds of miles of trails draw snowmobilers to Southern Oregon’s high country Story by DAMIAN MANN
lindfolding a snowmobile driver seems insanely dangerous, but actually, it’s just a hoot. “It’s really funny to watch some of the husband-and-wife teams,” said David Jordan, president of Rogue Snowmobilers. The blindfold race is just one of many activities snowmobile enthusiasts participate in as they chase their passion over miles of mountains and forests. Goggles are covered with duck tape, and the rider has to rely on the passenger to guide them, making for sometimes comical results.
Mail Tribune file photos
Jordan’s own passion is climbing hills with his snowmobile, often getting airborne as his machine thrusts him over the top. The 34-year-old Eagle Point resident isn’t shy about his style of riding. “I’m a very competitive snowmobiler,” he said. “I don’t like being the last one up the hill.” Other snowmobile riders prefer the thrill of drag racing, bringing along radar guns to check their top speed. For those who like to explore the backcountry, an abundance of trails await.
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Richard Harker of Medford rides his snowmobile at the Great Meadow area near Lake of the Woods. Hundreds of miles of trails await around Diamond Lake, Union Creek and other high-elevation locations in the Southern Oregon Cascades. Diamond Lake Resort grooms the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park, and the 20-mile trip to the North Rim Overlook is an easy trail that offers spectacular views. Snowmobiles and other all-terrain vehicles aren’t allowed inside the park, except for the North Entrance Road between the Diamond Lake resort area (off Highway 138) and North Junction. Many of the trails are groomed by volunteers from Rogue Snowmobilers to create a better riding experience. Some snowmobilers venture across the ice at such places as Lake of the Woods, but Jordan said he’s not a big fan of the practice. “How do you know how deep the ice has to be to support a snowmobile?” he wonders. Snowmobiling isn’t a cheap sport. Renting one can set you back more
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
than $100 for a couple of hours of fun. Mountain Adventures LLC at Lake of the Woods offers snowmobile rentals for $225 a day, which includes 20 minutes of instruction. Mountain Adventures rents the machines in Medford and can transport them by trailer to your destination. Dave Norris, owner of Mountain Adventures, said the trailer, snowmobile and helmets are included in the package. He suggests people call him directly at 541-941-3206. Diamond Lake Resort rents snowmobiles for $325 a day, with instruction beforehand. Call 541-7933333. Linda Mattos, manager of the Hilltop Shop at the resort, said a two-hour snowmobile rental, at a cost of $110 plus gas, would allow enough time to go from Diamond Lake to Crater Lake and back. “It’s clearly marked,” she said. “That’s often the first place people
want to go is up to Crater Lake.” To rent a snowmobile, you need a driver’s license. Children can get special instructions and are required to take a test before they can drive a snowmobile. Mattos said it’s best to check with the resort about a week in advance to make sure the instructor would be available. The resort offers a package deal in the winter, with a motel room and two snowmobiles for three hours. Last winter the cost was $205, she said. If you get hooked, a new snowmobile will cost $10,000 to $12,000 or more, depending on how it’s tricked out. If you’re thinking that riding a snowmobile sounds like a chilly idea on a frosty day, you’re wrong. Most snowmobiles have heated grips, heated seats, and you’re generally bundled up with an outer, waterproof layer. Cotton fabrics are not recommended. By the end of your journey, you might work up a bit of a sweat.
Sam Butler makes fresh turns on his snowmobile outside his friend’s cabin at Lake of the Woods. Jordan said Rogue Snowmobilers is the largest snowmobile club in the state, though participation dropped off last winter (to 147 families) because of the lack of snow. “This year was discouraging,” he said. “Usually we have 200 families.” Joining a club and participating in scheduled rides is a safer way to snowmobile than venturing out by yourself, Jordan said. “The biggest thing is going with someone who knows where they’re going,” he said. Compared to the old days, snowmobiles are generally safer and more comfortable now. Before the 1990s, snowmobiles could tip relatively easily, but now they are more stable, Jordan said. Prior to being a snowmobile enthusiast, Jordan was an avid skier, but he got tired of the crowds and waiting in line to catch a lift. “Snowmobiling is a way to get into the backcountry where there is not as
many people,” he said. For those who prefer the challenge of hill climbing, a snowmobile can log up to 30 miles a day. For trail riding, a snowmobile can cover about 60 miles a day. Kim Greenwaldt, treasurer of the club, said she started snowmobiling in 2006 when she moved to Oregon from California. The 52-year-old Eagle Point resident intended to have horses when she moved here, but then she tried a snowmobile. “Once you’ve tried it, then you’re hooked,” Greenwaldt said. “For a lot of people, that’s all it takes.” She said she bought a used Arctic Cat but has progressed to a bigger SkiDoo. “You can buy used snowmobiles and used clothing,” Greenwaldt said. “You don’t need the most expensive gear. I started, and still wear, used ski clothes.” Some riders buy new snowmobiles
each year, she said. Greenwaldt became a club member, but at first she stayed clear of group activities. Greenwaldt said she would look at the club’s calendar and purposely avoid areas where an event was taking place, preferring to go somewhere with a few friends. “It’s not safe to ride by yourself,” she said. “If you do, you better be trained in backcountry survival. Snowmobiles can break down.” After her earlier quest for solitude, Greenwaldt now participates in club rides, saying she appreciates the camaraderie and the charity events. Her favorite style of riding is “boondocking,” where you carefully maneuver through trees and essentially make your own trail. Her favorite places are Diamond Lake and Thousand Springs near Crater Lake. “I joined the club because the money goes to good things,” Greenwaldt said. “It’s really a fun club.”
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A birding group watches a red-tailed hawk soar over the Bear Creek Greenway in Ashland.
Mail Tribune file photos
The Bear Creek Greenway is a riparian strip dotted with ponds, woods and brush, which draws birds — and birders Story by BILL VARBLE
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
irds have wings,” goes an old saying. “They can turn up anywhere.” But they are most likely to turn up in their preferred habitat. If you’re an eagle, you hang out around bodies of water where there are fish to eat. If you’re a hummingbird, you’re going to visit hillsides where wildflowers grow. Some areas offer a variety of habitats, attracting a rich variety of birds. One such place is the Bear Creek Greenway. From Ashland to Central Point and beyond, the greenway follows Bear Creek in a riparian strip dotted with ponds, woodlands, brushy areas and open fields. “It’s a great place for beginning birders,” says Gwyneth Ragosine of Ashland. “It’s easy to get to, and there are lots of great birds that are easy to see. I love to go in the spring, because I love watching people to see the brightly colored ones, gasping at a tree full of orioles.
“And it’s accessible for people in wheelchairs, or for families with little kids in strollers.” There are park benches on the Talent stretch of the greenway and a gazebo at Mingus Pond. One of the most popular segments to bird is the stretch from Lynn Newbry Park near the Talent Interstate 5 exchange (Exit 21) a half-mile south to a large pond. If you don’t have binoculars and a field guide to the birds of the western United States, you might borrow them from a friend, or better yet join your friends on the greenway. The Audubon Society of Jackson County offers free bird walks and provides binoculars. Check with Wild Birds Unlimited in Medford (wbu.com, 541-770-1104) or Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland (northwestnature. shop.com, 541-482-3241) for dates and details. Visiting the greenway, you may hear birds before you see them.
Ponds along the greenway can yield such birds as green herons, night herons, wood ducks, pied-bill grebes and even kingfishers.
“The first thing to do is to start listening,” says Ragosine, who has long led groups of wannabe birdwatchers here. In fact, Ragosine suggests preparing yourself and your kids by listening to recordings of some of the distinctive bird calls you’re likely to hear. That distinctive kon-ka-reeeee call, for example, is coming from male red-winged blackbirds staking out territories around ponds and wetlands. Others to listen to ahead of time might include such distinctive vocalizers as wrentit, northern flicker and various wrens and sparrows. “It’s so much fun to see people light up when they recognize the call,” Ragosine says. Before you get going south at Lynn Newbry, take a good look around the parking area, including the bushes and trees and grassy areas. You may see and/or hear various sparrows, spotted towhees, solitary wrentits or flocks of buzzing little bushtits. Lovely, bright Bullock’s orioles and black-headed grosbeaks usually show up here by April, and western tanagers visit before they move up to the high country with warmer weather. Your best chance of seeing yellow warblers, yellow-throated warblers and yellow-rumped warblers is near the water. “And if you get lucky, you might see a yellow-breasted chat,” Ragosine says. “But they can be heard more easily than seen.” The secretive birds — by far our largest warblers — are often identified only by their song, which is extremely varied. If you’re having trouble identifying LBJs (little brown jobs) flitting through dense vegetation, take heart. You’ll soon come to a large pond with ducks, which are much easier to see. Look for ring-necked ducks, American widgeon, beautiful wood ducks and the ubiquitous Canada geese. “In spring, the geese will have goslings,” Ragosine says. Easy-to-spot birds such as great blue herons and smaller green herons may be hunting around the
A bushtit nest woven with audio tape and baling twine was built in a tree next to the greenway in Ashland.
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A group from the Rogue Valley Audubon Society leads a bird walk along the greenway.
edges of the ponds. Look overhead for red-tailed hawks soaring on thermals and turkey vultures rocking side-to-side in the air on their huge wings. Sparrows in this area include white-crowned, golden-crowned and white-throated. Farther south along the trail, where a footbridge crosses the creek, you may see a dipper, a unique, nondescript little bird that actually walks along the bottom of the creek to hunt its food. Another great spot to bird on the greenway is Mingus Pond. Take Exit 33 from I-5, turn east on Pine Street and then left at the first light to park in the dirt and gravel lot opposite the Pilot station. Look for acrobatic swallows snapping bugs in mid-air near the bridge over the creek. Your destination is a covered viewing area a half-mile or so south at a pond known for black-crowned night herons and green herons. As you walk, you may see Brewer’s blackbirds, hawks, osprey, Anna’s hummingbird, ruby-crowned kinglets and the inevitable pigeons around the bridge. A rather scummy, littered pond between the greenway and I-5 often yields wood ducks and even a kingfisher. Ragosine suggests listening to a belted kingfisher’s unique, rattling call on a recording online before visiting the site. “It’s so exciting to hear a call you recognize,” she says. At Mingus Pond, the male blackcrowned night herons have their breeding plumes in April. Look for ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks and usually a pied-billed grebe paddling around and diving for its dinner. With help from the national Audubon and local bird photos from veteran birder Jim Livaudais, Ragosine put together a pamphlet called “Birding Hotspots of Jackson County” that details Lynn Newbry Park, Mingus Pond and 13 other bird-rich sites in our region. It’s available at Wild Birds Unlimited, Northwest Nature Shop and all Jackson County libraries. “We’re lucky to live in a place that has all these wonderful birds,” she says.
Gwyneth Ragosine of Ashland often leads bird walks on the Bear Creek Greenway for the Rogue Valley Audubon Society.
Our Valley • April 20, 2014
With help from the national Audubon and local bird photos from veteran birder Jim Livaudais, Gwyneth Ragosine put together a pamphlet called “Birding Hotspots of Jackson County” that details Lynn Newbry Park, Mingus Pond and 13 other bird-rich sites in our region.
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