Lightweight Backpacking After 60 in the Rogue Valley

Lower Rogue River: Mule Creek to Brushy Bar; May 15-17, 2012

Lower Rogue trail

Backpackers on this trip: Sunny A., Linden C., Maria G., Mike L., Gail P., Lois P., Steve W.

This was basically a repeat of last year’s round trip on the Lower Rogue River Trail 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)

On May 28-Jun 1, Steve & Maria — plus daughter Ellie — repeated the trip, but added another night upriver and a drive to the coast.

BLM info: Rogue River Trail map; trail Pagetrail Log (mile markers M0.0-41.0 with descriptions)
Driving info: driving orientation (Glendale – Marial)Google; shuttle routes (map p.1).
References: 100 Hikes in So. Oregon by William Sullivan; “Rogue River Trail West” (#85, pp. 197-199 in 2nd ed.)

Since most participants were returning to backpacking after many years, this trip provided good practice and a large campsite, and reduced need for gear:

  • the trail is relatively flat, with few people and with spectacular views; creeks every 2-3 miles;
  • for those without a Steripen or water filter for the creek, potable (tap) water is available at host cabin ~1/4 mi. from campsite
  • for those without a bear canister, there are a bear locker and cables
  • there’s even a clean pit toilet on site (thanks, Bev!)
  • downsides: long (~3 hr.) drive to/from TH; narrow cliff-side trail in sections; south-facing trail can get hot in canyons

In comparing last and this years’ trips:

  • we had better weather this year (warmer; no rain on middle day)
  • more poison oak encroaching on trail, esp. near Blossom Bar — another good reason for trekking (or budget ski) poles
  • maybe fewer wildflowers (drier?) — see last year’s post for flower photos
  • drive to TH was faster: we knew the way and there was no construction or snow
  • bears across from Brushy Bar CG: mother&cub last year; none on 1st trip this year; one on 2nd trip

Day 1: We left Ashland ~7:30am, with stop in Grants Pass on our way to Glendale. Cool weather for hiking but sunnier during day; arrived at Brushy Bar by mid-afternoon; Bev was CG host again — temporarily until early June; Mail Tribune article: Want to spend the summer in a cabin in the forest? Volunteer host sought for Brushy Bar Guard Station in Wild Rogue Wilderness. Some skinny dipping in river may have occurred.

Day 2: 10am leisurely start for day hiking. All (except Steve) hiked 2 mi. downriver to Clay Hill Lodge [M33.2], with some dips in creeks along the way. Steve explored the Devil’s Backbone Trail over the ridge between Brushy Bar and Half Moon Beach, then upriver to Paradise, with a hike up Deke’s Peak (w/ Adirondack chairs on top). Time at the beach for all. Mike and Lois fly-fished.

Day 3: Returned upriver, lunch at Blossom Bar to watch rafters, drove back to Grants Pass and Ashland.


Trip #2: May 28-Jun 1
Since high country backpacking options were still limited by snow, Maria and Steve (who love that stretch of river anyway) returned two weeks later with daughter Ellie.

Day 1: same, except for later start and warmer temps

Day 2: Just after Clay Hill [M33.2], a sliding ~3-car-garage-size boulder had carved gully across the trail. Steve and Ellie continued dayhiking to Flora Dell Falls [M34.8] — very nice; and then Dan’s Creek [M36.2] (not recommended: the additional 1+ mi. involves a lot of uphill and switchbacks away from the river to re-route around a much earlier damaged cliffside trail). On our return, Ellie saw a bear ahead on the trail, which quickly scampered away. We saw a (different) bear that evening across the river from our campsite.

Day 3: After returning to Mule Creek TH, we left trash and dirty clothes at our car, and added clean clothes, food and bear canister to packs, shuttled ~2 mi. to Rogue River Ranch [M33.0], hiked another 3.6 mi. upriver (almost ~10 mi. backpacking that day!) to Quail Creek [M19.4] to camp on beach.

Day 4: We day hiked upriver past Zane Grey’s Cabin [M17.5?]; due to the heat, we then decided to pack up and return to the car, rather than spend a 2nd night at our unshady Quail Creek campsite. Rather than carcamp at Tucker Flat CG [M33.4] or drive back immediately to Ashland, we continued toward the coast on Eden Valley Road, with a stop to fix dinner and camp along the way (Buck Creek CG).

Day 5: We continued driving to Agness, brunched in Gold Beach, hiked at Cape Sebastian, and returned to Ashland via Brookings (rather than Bear Camp Road, since we were tired of curvy single lane roads)

Photos below are mostly from Maria, with a few from Lois and Ellie; Gail’s photos.

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