Rogue River Trail
June 6-8, 2003
On June 6th, four intrepid adventurers set out on the quest of a lifetime. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration. Let us say instead that four hikers set out to complete the 40-mile Rogue River trail in 3 days. Ken “Tom” Horton, Abe “The Kid” Mooney, Christine “Chris with a C” Stockdale, and Kristen “Kris with a K” Higgins successfully did just that. The trip started from Eugene Thursday evening. Ken, Abe, and Chris drove down to Grants Pass to spend the night closer to the trail. Local accommodations were excellent at “Papa Horton’s Bed, Breakfast, and Shuttle Service”. A special thanks goes out to Ken’s dad for the free lodging and for shuttling us back from the western end of the trail.
Friday morning dawned bright and early. We buttoned up our packs and drove to the Galice Resort where we met up with Kris. Kris had driven over the evening before from Coos Bay and spent the night at the resort. With the party now complete, we drove to the trailhead at Grave Creek, loaded up our packs, took the obligatory “before trip” pictures, and headed out. The first rest stop found us at the Whiskey Creek Cabin, which is a national historical site. We wandered about the grounds for a few minutes avoiding the prolific bumblebee population, then hoisted our packs and set out down the trail. Just beyond the cabin we saw our first deer of the trip. The first few miles of the trail is fairly exposed and rocky, but the sheer canyon walls rising above the river gave us an awesome view! There were still several varieties of wildflowers in bloom that provided us with some color to offset the dry grass and granite rocks. We also passed three vultures sitting next to the river, hopefully not a sign of things to come. Lunchtime found us at Bronco Creek where we rested and ate some of our provisions. At this point (11:30 a.m.), the temperature in the canyon was already close to 90 degrees. A second rest stop found us at Bunker Creek with the temperature above 90. Along about 2:30 we arrived at Meadow Creek where we planned on spending the night. The temperature was above 95! Needless to say, we spent some well-deserved time in the shade and by the creek cooling off and recuperating. A nearby sandy beach along the river provided a great swimming hole. We went to bed when the first stars appeared listening to the soothing rumble of the river.
Saturday morning we were on the trail around 7:00 and made excellent time to our first rest stop at Quail Creek. After a quick breather and an energy bar or two, we headed out towards our scheduled lunch break at the Rogue River Ranch. The ranch was an oasis in the middle of the desert as far as we were concerned. We spent nearly an hour resting in the shade on a lush green lawn and enjoyed the nearby museum devoted to the history of the ranch. Having bolstered ourselves for the last 5 miles or so to our campsite, we walked along Marial road past Marial lodge and the Mule Creek Guard Station to the Mule Creek Canyon section of the river. Mule Creek Canyon is advertised as being the most scenic section of the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue River, and all in all, we would have to agree. It was beastly hot on the exposed trail, and as such we didn't spend as much time in that section as we would have liked, but it was still some very impressive scenery. Another mile or so past the canyon found us at Blossom Bar, our campsite for the night. Again, we recuperated in the shade next to the nearby creek in order to escape the afternoon heat. Around dinnertime, we decided to walk 1.2 miles down the trail to Paradise Lodge for some “real” food. Once we arrived, we learned that they are no longer serving non-guests and so we had to turn around and walk back to camp to a disappointing meal of Ramen noodles or whatnot. Although it’s funny how almost anything tastes good out on the trail after 15 miles of hiking. We then spent another star-filled night listening to the lull of the river.
Sunday morning we awoke to what would be our last day on the trail. We packed up and headed out. Our first rest stop came at Tate Creek, a very pretty spot with a natural rock slide upstream. Lunchtime found us at Flora Dell Creek, which is home to a small (20 foot) waterfall. We ate and replenished our water bottles for the last few miles to the end of the trail. On the way out, we had to trudge up a couple of decent hills, but managed to make it out intact. At the end of the trail, Ken’s father met us with fried chicken and very welcome cold beverages. We toasted to the success of the trip and said goodbye to Kristen as she had her truck shuttled to the end of the trail for her drive back to the coast. The rest of us were chauffeured back to Grants Pass while stopping for well-deserved foot-long sub sandwiches on the way. After dinner, Abe, Ken, and Chris drove back to Eugene and to the conclusion of our adventure on the Rogue River trail.
photos by Chris Stockdale