Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Rogue River Trail 2/2020

The Rogue River Trail is like an old friend that I visit several times a year to reminisce and share stories with, but without the all the drinking of whiskey and spitting of tobacco from the front porch. I've long ago lost count of how many times I've hiked this trail but each and every time out, the same old scenery is different in some way, shape, or form, never failing to provide a day's worth of enjoyment. That's why I hike this trail over and over again so it should come as no surprise that on a chill February day, four old hikers (some older than others) set out on the Rogue River Trail to visit our perennial friend for alt least the 3,072nd time, but who's counting?

Crystal clear pool on a seasonal creek
Despite the comfortable familiarity of the route, the hike is different every time out (I know, I'm repeating myself, aren't I?). Today's exercise in differentness was the sun and shade. The planet and earth had aligned just so, leaving the river canyon in deep and dark shade despite it being a sunny day in general. Every time the high ridges and mountains prevented the sun from reaching the river flowing in its deep canyon, the temperature dropped, chilling noses, ears, fingers, and any other unprotected body parts. 

From light unto dark

The river zigs and zags on its quest to become one with the ocean and every time the trail rounded a bend, the sun emerged from its blocked-by-mountains purgatory to bathe us in unseasonably warm sunlight. Eventually, I gave up trying to put on or remove layers to get warmer, colder, or just righter, settling instead on hiking in short sleeves and just putting up with shivering in the shade until the sun came out from behind the high ridges.

Saxifrage graced moist cliffs
The Rogue River Trail puts on a vibrant wildflower show each spring and we were ahead of the floral fireworks. However, there were some early blossomers commencing the blooming festivities, notably those being saxifrage, Hall's desert parsley, snow queen, with occasional specimens of Oregon sunshine and oaks toothwort. (Grammatical question: shouldn't the plural of toothwort be teethwort?) I can't quite say much photography ensued because there weren't that many wildflowers to take photos of...yet.

The leaves of laurel are more fragrant than the flowers
One of my favorite things about the Rogue River Trail is the forest comprised of laurel, tan oak, and madrone treees. The laurels were sporting umbels of yet unopened flower buds and as always, the fragrance of the leaves entranced passing hikers. The madrones reached up to the blue sky overhead, their wiggly smooth orange-colored trunks providing a pleasing visual contrast to all the blue and green above and around the trail. A cousin to madrone, manzanita shrubs contributed their blue-gray leaves and smooth burgundy-colored limbs and trunks to the shrubbery rainbow flanking the trail. And as always, the mottled light filtering through the trees created a pleasant ambiance to hike in.

A small spring runoff trickles across the trail
If you've ever hiked the Rogue River Trail in the summer, then you are well aware that it can get blazing hot, arid, and dry, with the rocky cliffs well populated by buzzing rattlesnakes, ex-wives, and other scaly reptiles. However, in spring and early summer, small creeks run across the trail, the tinkling waters providing a musical backdrop to the all the usual sounds of the forest mixed in with some huffing and puffing from old out-of-shape hikers (present company included). Today was no different and I was only too happy to get boots wet as I splashed across the burbling creeks.

Snow queen, blooming on the forest floor
Our party of four had gotten spread out as John and Jennifer had left me in their dust as is their usual wont, and I had left Dianne in my dust as is my usual wont. Mostly, I just hiked by myself, accompanied by my own idle thoughts on a gorgeous day. We had talked about lunching at Whiskey Creek Cabin, a backwoods museum and historical site but when I arrived, I had the whole place to myself. Obviously, John and Jennifer had continued on further up the trail. Nonetheless, I enjoyed lazing on the grass, eating lunch amid the rusting mining relics strewn about in front of the rustic cabin. 

Sun and shade on the trail
I did run into John and Jennifer lunching on a sun-exposed beach where Whiskey Creek met the Rogue River and we called out greetings to each other as I continued hiking back to the trailhead at Graves Creek. Wanting to prove my mettle somewhat, I pushed my pace in what I presumed would be a vain attempt to keep from being overtaken by my speedy comrades. Actually, I managed to pull off the feat, arriving at the trailhead mere minutes in front of the two uber-hikers.

Thanks old friend, I needed that!
As always, it was nice to fraternize with our old friend the Rogue River Trail, and I certainly look forward to my next visit there. For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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