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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rogue backpacking

So the family packed up for a week long camping trip (August, 19th) and hit the road. We had our backpacks and regular camping gear all loaded up and on the way to Grants Pass, Oregon (well pretty close anyway).

We ended up at the "Grave Creek" trailhead at about 4:00ish on Thursday; temperature 85ish; family hot-ish; parking packed. It turns out that there is no overnight parking in the official parking area, and that the parking area is for rafters (mostly). So we headed out to find the campground called "Tucker Flat". Maybe it was because it took us almost three hours to find our way there on windy gravel and dirt roads, or maybe because 50 feet past the campground the road was closed due to a rotting bridge, but strangely enough we were the only ones there. It could have been any one of those reasons, but I vote for the reason nobody was there being the 1,000,000:1 ratio of mosquitoes to humans. Just a guess though.

The best part of that drive (seeing the bobcat cross the road in front of us is probably a tie actually) was the part right at the end where the trees on the left side of the road gave way to the entrance to the "Rogue River Ranch". Alliteration aside, ample agrarian allure attracts attention.

Sorry.

I digress. We weathered the skeeters in the tent and headed out the next morning back to the ranch to see if we could park there during our backpacking portion. The caretaker at the ranch said we could park there and gave us some recommendations for hiking direction out of there. We parked (30 feet from the old ranch smithy, which was a strange signal that I should take up the art of blacksmithing, more on this later), filled up our water-bottles and headed out.

We got about a mile or so into the hike and saw our first wildlife. Now it is hard to describe what a black bear sounds like when it is tearing ass down a hill, but let me tell you it is akin trees falling and boulders rolling. Black bear are small, and nobody in the family had ever really seen one until now, so first impression was "where is mama bear", followed by the thought, "oh $h}t!!!" Then we realized she was the mama when her cub climbed the tree next to her. Relieved we were not between a bear and her cub we moved forward still weary of the danger, but with a more casual stride. The hike was interesting, along a cliff-face for a portion, sneaking between patches of poison-oak in another, and jumping over huge bear-scat in another. All-in-all it was a cool hike. We ended up stopping just before "Paradise Lodge" about 6-7miles in.

There is a little creek there that is really pretty and has a nice swimming hole with a rock the girls jumped off of into the creek. We ended up moving the next night down into a sandy area on top of the rocks along the river after a day hiking up the trail (spotted a rattlesnake) getting a beer and some ice-cream at the lodge (the family was just not into hiking with packs in the heat again).

We packed up and headed out after one last dip. The trip back was considerably shorter as we were packing less food and we were excited about our traditional after-hike meal: big fat burgers from a regionally-local burger joint. I don't remember the name of the place, but I remember the burger.......... Ham, Cheese, Egg, Burger, Tomato............ I'm hungry now. We were shocked to find the black bear and cub in the same spot two days later on our way back out. We took pictures and finished out at the ranch again. We loaded up the van but walked down to the creek near the ranch for one last dip before we headed back out to "civilization" and our traditional burger-stop.

The rest of the trip was less glamorous, with being mostly in campgrounds (one with a blacksmithing demonstration on the weekend) and touristy places. Crater Lake is beautiful, but you can't do anything there except take pictures. We drove through some wildfire smoke on the way back through Oregon, and camped our last night on Mt. Hood (which is always a pleasure).

We got home a day earlier than we expected, but that was just fine by the kids who were just exhausted. We had been camping for 12 out of the last 21 days. It had taken its toll.

Rogue Canyon, go if you like hiking interesting terrain, don't if you can't handle a little heat.

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