Saturday, January 25, 2014

Horseshoe Bend

It's like an unwritten commandment in hiking:  Thou shalt not hiketh uphill to the car. Given that, there is probable cause for serving Edwin an indictment for breaking the aforementioned law, seeing as how we had to gain 1,840 feet over the last three miles just to get back to the car.  Edwin will be hearing from my attorney on this.

Tan oak leaf, working on the tan
The route, and I use the term loosely, was divined by reading an older map while wearing the happy glasses.  It followed a logging road dropping down the ridge way above the Rogue River and eventually would hook up with a trail that would finish off the descent to the river. Those hikers who are familiar with the Rogue River area are aware that the ridge culminates nearly 4,000 above the river and the topography is impossibly rugged.  So, naturally we (Edwin, his friend Richard, and myself, or ERR as we like to call ourselves) went hiking there!

Hiking on the logging road
Fortunately for us, the rickety logging road lost some elevation on the drive down, thereby sparing us some of that prodigious elevation gain on the return leg. The actual hike began at a locked gate well below the ridge crest. The forest here was absolutely gorgeous, consisting of a grove of stately firs with sunlight slanting through the branches. Periodic openings in the forest provided views of the very deep Rogue River Canyon with Mount Bolivar looming above it all,

Summer home and trespasser Edwin
The road dropped quickly through the forest before arriving at a very unexpected sight: another locked gate with signs stating "Private Property", "Keep Out", and "No Trespassing". After some debate and deliberation, we pretended we didn't see the signs or the gate and continued on down the road. 

Richard checks out a walnut orchard
After a short hike further downhill, the road arrived at a couple of summer cabins. Fortunately, this was not summer and it was readily apparent that the homes were not currently occupied so we tiptoed by as surreptitiously as possible considering we were totally exposed on a broad meadow/lawn in front of the homes. Deer were hanging about the homes so if anything is missing, I'm blaming the deer.

Trail down to the Rogue River
The good news was that just past the homes, there was a trail just inside the Rogue River - Siskiyou National Forest boundary. If anything, the trail lost elevation quicker than the road did and we dropped rapidly down the river canyon like snakes on a water slide. Any joy felt about walking downhill was tempered by the knowledge there'd be a whole lot of uphill hiking on the return. On the descent, the firs gave way to a forest of the largest madrone trees I've ever seen with tan oak and cedar mixed in. Poison oak, a Rogue River staple, also made an appearance and we made sure to look but not touch on the descent to the river.

Bridge crossing at a Meadow Creek fork
Despite this being an unofficial trail, there was evidence it had been maintained and brushed out.  A well constructed and sturdy bridge provided a safe crossing at Meadow Creek, "safe" meaning we got to keep our feet dry. After three miles of dropping through a lush Siskiyou forest with its odd little mix of conifer, cedar, oak, madone, and laurel the path spit us into what was obviously a man-made pasture. While the sun felt nice, the trail tread disappeared entirely, much to our consternation. While wandering aimlessly in the meadow, sharp-eyed Edwin espied the Rogue River Trail, passing below us about 20 yards away.

Our lunchtime view of Horseshoe Bend
We had arrived at Horseshoe Bend, although the campsites and gravel bar were a mile further east on the trail. It was as good a place as any for lunch, what with sunshine and a partial view of the bend and mountains above the trail. As much as we were putting off the big climb out, it was eventually time to go because the Rogue River was pretty much all in shadow as the sun got lower and lower in the sky.

Rickety barn at a homestead
So, it was up, up, up for the next 3-plus miles, past Meadow Creek, past the homesteads, past the two gates, past the beautiful forest as the shadows lengthened in the trees. It was pretty much sunset when we arrived at the car followed by the long drive to Mexican food, a warm shower, and lawyers.


For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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