Lightweight Backpacking After 60 in the Rogue Valley

Rogue River – Graves Creek to Whiskey Creek

Three days and two night followed an easy 3.4 mile walk from the trail head at Graves Creek, 15 miles down the Rogue River from the small town of Merlin, the five senior backpackers made our way along the  trail bordering the river. Bad weather had postponed the group two weeks before but we were finally on the trail knocking off the winter’s rustiness.

Steep Walled Rogue River

Two new backpackers, Ruth and Bill D. joined Chiyemi D., Mary E. and Terry D. – all Ashlanders. This was a shakeout hike for Bill with his new knee and Ruth who hadn’t been packing in a while. At the trailhead we weighed our packs, ranging from 22 to 35+ pounds for the two nights and three days. We were prepared for more rain and cool weather, the conditions that had caused the first trip cancellation.

What we found were blue skies, 70 degrees and a delightful beginning. We started off at 10:30 more or less and two hours later after and easy stroll up and down the sometimes narrow trail cut into the granite along the river but usually 50 to 100 feet above the river – a good place to watch several rafters on the class 3 to 5 rapids in the first few miles of a trail that runs over 30 miles toward Gold Beach.

The hike is on the north side of the river with no way to cross although another trail followed much of the other side. Osprey, vultures, Canada geese, a merganser duck or two and many songbirds kept us company. We reached the Whiskey Creek campsite in time for lunch and took a hike to the well preserved and maintained cabin just above the bar where we camped.

We set up our four tents wide spread locations on the two or three acre campsite which included a bathroom (no running water except the lively Whiskey Creek). Chiyemi and I picked a cul de sac location along the creek. Ruth chose a place near the mouth of the creek. Bill and Mary set up their tents on a small bluff overlooking the Rogue.

That evening with a wee dram of the Turkey we told stories until dark – no fire Monday night. Early to bed and I can report that Chiyemi and I  slept well to the rush of water 20′ from our tent.

Next morning, after a nice snooze, was gray and cloudy but enlivened by two otter on the far bank, rollicking and playing on their way downstream. The birds paid close attention to them in case there was spare fish bits to eat. We saw plenty of large fish jumping and roiling the surface.

Young rafters offered us a nice veggie and steak dinner that they couldn’t finish and the next morning pancakes. We might have followed them just for their food, real food, but there was no room in the rafts.

We hiked downstream to the next campsite, perhaps half a mile below Whiskey Creek. Chiyemi, Bill and Mary went back to camp while Ruth and I stayed to watch the river from a new perspective, photographing a nice lizard posing on a rock for us.

Tuesday night Chiyemi gathered cones and sticks for the fire and the storytellers from the night before resumed or started anew. The winds blew and after the fire died down all went to bed. Rain started lightly after 10:30pm but all kept dry in their tents.

Tuesday Night Campfire

Wednesday morning we packed and hiked back in around two hours. Lunch (decidedly mediocre but tasty after dried food) at Galice was followed by a hour plus drive back to Ashland. All agreed that it was a great trip.

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