Lower Rogue River: Mule Creek to Brushy Bar; May 10-12, 2011
Backpackers on this trip: Mary E., Maria G., Steve W.
Route: Lower Rogue River Trail section from Mule Creek TH (R arrow on topo; M25.0) to Brushy Bar CG (L arrow; M31.2)
(TH=Trail Head; CG=Camp Ground; M# = mi. downriver from Graves Creek TH)
References: 100 Hikes in So. Oregon by William Sullivan; “Rogue River Trail West” (#85, pp. 197-199 in 2nd ed.); Wildflowers of Southern Oregon by John Kemper; Steve&Maria photos from 4-day hike (staying at 3 lodges) Jul 2008.
Just getting to the start of the hike (in the middle of Rogue River Trail) was an exciting adventure. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Ashland, via Glendale (exit 80 on I-5); the final 40 miles can take almost 2 hours; driving info: driving orientation (Glendale – Marial); Google; shuttle routes (map p.1); Marial Back Country Byway. Keep a sharp lookout at intersections for BLM road #s: 33-7 2; 32-7 19 3; 32-8 31; 32-9-14 2 ! This early in the season, lots of downed branches and debris were on road. Our Subaru plowed thru snow in several places — up to ~8″. Then, about 15 miles from our destination, we saw a “Road Closed” sign…
Fearlessly, we decided to see how far we could go on the now, single-lane dirt road, with turnouts far apart. Then, we encountered a large dump truck rumbling up the hill toward us…
Fortunately, we (or the truck) backed up to a wide spot on the shoulder without much of a steep dropoff. After several more close encounters of the truck kind, we ended up with an escort (truck behind us) that caused oncoming trucks to pull over. We finally saw Rogue River Ranch, waited to pass road graders, rollers and more trucks, passed Marial Lodge, and after another mile, on an even narrower “road”, reached the Mule Creek Trailhead before noon (we had left Ashland at 8am). It’s unclear if the “Road Closed” sign was leftover from earlier bridge work, or left up to discourage traffic.
Tue: backpacked 6.2 mi. downriver from Mule Creek TH (M25.0) to Brushy Bar CG (M31.2). After lunch and obligatory photos, we were hiking by 12:20. Sunny clear weather. Spectacular scenery. Poison oak visible (and even dangling into trail in a few places) but easily avoidable. One (safe) snake. Along the way, we stopped at Paradise Lodge (M28.3) and Brushy Bar cabin (M31.0) to meet volunteer host ‘Bev’.
Wed: day hiked 4.0 mi. RT between Brushy Bar (M31.2) and Clay Hill Lodge (M33.2). Cloudy skies when we left CG; rain clouds and blustery wind when we arrived at Clay Hill. We ate a quick lunch and visited with Martin, but as a few rain drops started to fall, we headed quickly back to Brushy Bar; fortunately, we arrived at camp just before the rain intensified (it continued until ~9pm); we stayed in our tents the rest of the day.
Thu: backpacked 6.2 mi. upriver from Brushy Bar CG (M31.2) to Mule Creek TH (M25.0), with thanks to Bev (for those clean outhouses!) and lunch stop at Blossom Bar (M27.1). Morning clouds dissipated, giving us a glorious beautiful day. On the drive back, we stopped at Marial Lodge (M24.3) for water & a quick tour by Pat (a great place for friends/family who prefer less hiking/roughing-it), passed more road equipment, passed Tucker Flat CG (M23.4 — where we might car-camp on a future trip), and started up the road, aware from road workers that just one more dump truck was heading downhill…
Rather than wait for the truck at the bottom of the hill, we decided we needed an adrenaline fix, so zoomed around corners while beeping our horn. Fortunately, we saw the truck in time, and backed up into a nearby turnout. The rest of the drive back home was uneventful and quick.
Gallery below (click to enlarge any photo) [K-# after wildflowers refers to page in Kemper’s book]
(we also saw (but didn’t photograph): Camas [K-138]; CA Poppy [K-70]; Choke-Cherry? [K-39]; False Solomon Seal [K-27]; Ground-Cone [K-149]; Larkspur [K-142]; Lupine [K-133]; Paintbrush [K-116]; Pussy Ears/Or. Mariposa Lily [K-24]; Shooting Star [K-112]; Vetch [K-92]; …)