Friday, February 5, 2021

Rainie Falls

It's February already, yet this is only my second hike of 2021. At this rate, I'm on pace to wind up with 48 miles on 12 hikes this year. I'd hiked so little recently my knees were oxidizing and in sore need of some life-giving hiking oil. Accordingly, younger brother Don and I set up a hike at Takelma Gorge but snowy weather caused us to postpone that little venture for a later date. The Rogue River was nearby though, and situated below snowy weather elevation, thereby making the Rogue our impromptu Plan B. And because I felt as rusted over as the Tin Man, Rainie Falls was chosen simply because it was not as rigorous as the up-and-down Rogue River Trail on the opposite side of the river from the Rainie Falls Trail.
A cold day all around

Despite being shorter though, the Rainie Falls Trail is a lot more rugged. The trail is crudely chiseled into cliff faces above the river and the tread is rough and rocky in a lot of places, rendering both of our inner mountain goats ecstatic. Although we'd get neither snow nor rain on this day, it was frosty cold and was all that was needed for actual snowfall was just some precipitation. The surrounding mountains disappeared into a low cloud cover on a gray day and no doubt the mountains did have snow higher up.

Numerous seasonal creeks ran across the trail

It was readily made apparent that this hike would be all about water. Of course, the rain-swollen Rogue River coursed below the trail and was eminently visible for virtually the entire hike. But weeks of rain and snow created new creeks and runoffs while replenishing and rejuvenating old ones. Don likes to take videos and I like to photograph, so we basically hiked in same style, which consisted of frequent stops to take photos or videos or all of the above.

Not the smoothest trail in the world

There was a duality to this hike in that the time and miles were equally split between trail etched into exposed rocky cliffs and lush forest green and vibrant; one or the other with no in-between. The forest was that odd Siskiyou mix we know and love, being comprised of strange tree-fellows madrone, myrtlewood, cedar, oak, and fir. Don and I crumpled up myrtlewood leaves between our fingers, enjoying the sweet intoxicating aroma emanating from the bruised leaves.

Don hikes through the ferns and Oregon myrtle

A fellow Pacific Northwest nature geek once admonished me "Do NOT call it bay laurel, it is Oregon myrtle!" Yes sir, and I dutifully obeyed so as not to be unfriended or written out of the will. However, if you look up "Oregon myrtle", you will find it also called "California bay laurel" and please don't hit me. All this discussion of laurel vs. myrtlewood is because Don speculated myrtlewood is a true bay laurel endemic to northern California and southern Oregon. That sent me to some online research where I found out: a) it is not a true laurel although the fragrant leaves smell as such and b) the range is the entire California coast and about half of the Oregon coast and c) I am the smarter and better looking brother.

Some madrone orangery among all the greenery

We had a similar discussion about the range of madrone, he thought it was likewise limited to Oregon and northern California. Actually, madrone can be found the world over but our particular madrone species, the Pacific madrone, grows only on the west coast from San Diego to the Vancouver Island area in British Columbia. Good thing Don and I did not discuss any other species of flora or fauna because otherwise I'd still be immersed in this research project, but I spare no effort to prove to my readers that I am always right. 

Good thing the river gods aren't hungry

This time of year, the winter rains and snows fill up the Rogue River and naturally, the river was silty, fast, and wide. The extra water just overwhelms Rainie Falls, making it seem more like a watery speed bump for the rafting and kayaking crowd instead of the feared river obstacle it is. However, the strong and powerful current is still plenty capable of chewing up careless boaters and spitting out the husks like so many used-up sunflower seed hulls. The inherent danger didn't necessarily stop us from standing right at the edge but on the other hand, we both have cool photos and videos of the falls. Maybe neither one of us is the smarter brother.

It was cliffy and we liked it

After a nice little lollygag, it was back the way we came and we got to experience the awesome Rogue River Scenery all over again. The ponderous bulk of the greenish-brown river flowed in the bottom of its canyon and we observed many creeks waterfalling down the mountainsides before splashing into or onto the river. This was Don's first visit to the Rogue River and much like all newbies I have brought here in years past, he was reliably awed. Mission accomplished, especially since I didn't hurt any more body parts on the hike, which is something you say when you are the older brother.

Don saw the Rogue River, and
he smiled and said it was good

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

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