Sunday, April 28, 2013

Upper Table Rock

This was a short hike but that was because I had two short hikers with me: grandchildren Aiden and Coral Rae, aged 9 and 5 respectively. They were short on leg length but long on asking "Are we there yet?", "How much further?", and "When can we eat?".  over again and again like some endless tape loop. I think they take after my daughter (their mother).

View to Lower Table Rock
Eons ago, the Rogue River snaked its way through its valley when suddenly a lava flow oozed down like boogers from a runny nose, eventually filling the river's trough. Over time, the surrounding terrain was weathered away, leaving the hardened lava "river" snaking above the valley floor.  All that is left of this geologic plumbing venture are the two U-shaped Table Rocks, each an iconic landmark and a perfect (read "short") place to take little legs hiking.

Speaking of Disneyland
Summer had fired its first salvo of the year as the temperature was in the 80's when we disembarked from the car at the foot of  Upper Table Rock. This is a popular spot for Medfordians and the parking lot was full as we started out on a trail initially paved with flagstones.  I felt like I was hiking in Disneyland, all that was needed was an 8-foot Mickey Mouse greeting hikers.  

Elegant cat's ear
As stated, the trail sees a lot of use so the tread was wide and well-tamped out. That didn't stop the kids from walking along the edge, brushing by the thick stands of poison oak waving their fronds along the trail. In the grassy vales between oak and madrone trees, fuzzy elegant cat's ears and lavender camas lilies were in full bloom, further enticing off-trail kiddie excursions.

Are we there yet?
The trail was fairly steep, climbing 740 feet in just about a mile, it seemed steeper in the heat. Fortunately, the trail was well shaded most of the time. Lava rocks and formations showed up periodically and the kids climbed up them to enjoy the improving views of the Rogue Valley farmlands. Both of them were impressed by Mount McLaughlin, a perfectly symmetrical volcano looking like a snow cone. Not uncoincidentally, the kids demanded ice cream from their grandfather at this point.

Flat as a zombie's EKG
Just when there was about to be a rebellion, the uphill hiking ended and we strode out onto the top of Upper Table Rock.  No trees grow on top and the surface is flat as a...a...well, it's predictably flat as a table.  The vernal pools and ponds on top had all dried up but the camas lily had taken over, creating floral pools of purple flowers.  

This is why we hike
We walked to the edge of Table Rock and ate lunch.  Coral Rae was quite enthused about the views, the top of Table Rock, hiking, etc., and I uttered a silent "Yes!"  It's always gratifying to obtain a new recruit.  Aiden was gassed at this point, so he waited at a trail junction while Coral Rae and I walked to another viewpoint at the southern edge of the rim where we enjoyed further views of the Rogue Valley, Medford, Mount McLaughlin, and the imposing cliffs of neighboring Lower Table Rock.  The tree-lined Rogue River traced a weaving path through the valley with the snowy Siskiyous looming above.  

Mount McLaughlin, from Upper Table Rock
Coral Rae ran out of gas on the way down, complaining the trail was "too bumpy" for her feet while Aiden simply ran down all the way to the car.  After a series of protracted negotiations worthy of a multinational treaty, we settled on a place to eat that we all could agree on.  After I delivered on the promised ice cream, they decided they had a good time after all.

For more pictures of this hike, feel free to visit the Flickr album.


  1. Fabulous view Richard. Nice to see that Coral Rae has joined the hiking group. I see she also got the "Stance" a lil crooked...Looks like you taught her Karate! Cheers Robyn :)

  2. Glad to see you were down in our part of town again. Enjoyed the flower shots - we hike the table rocks all the time but have never seen so many flowers...must be a timing thing. Great that you have grand kids to hike with and that you can still hike with them. I look forward to that someday. Hope to see you on the Lower Table Rock hike or at least at Union Creek.