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Margaret and I went to Ashland for Shakespeare as I wrote about earlier, but also to explore the local area a little bit. Sunday we went to Wildlife Safari, that I covered in my last blog post.

Wolf Creek Tavern in southern Oregon

Built in 1883 and continuously operating since then.

After Wildlife Safari, we stopped at The Historic Wolf Creek Inn for a cocktail. This stop was a delight because it’s in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t know anything about it other than having seen the highway signs for it for many years as I passed through on I-5. Henry Smith built his third hotel to be “the upscale one” along the stagecoach route. Built in 1883, Wolf Creek Inn is the oldest continuously operated hotel in the Pacific Northwest.

Famous guests include Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, and the bed they used is still in use today in the largest guest room. Mr. Gable liked to fish in the nearby Rogue River. The most famous guest was Jack London, whose room is considered so special it can’t be touched, and everything is maintained today as it was for Mr. London when he occupied it.

The Women’s Parlour

Jack London’s Room. Complete with Jack London’s chamber pot.

Our next stop was to find a covered bridge. Oregon has many, and I never tire of seeing them.

Grave Creek Bridge

Touring Wildlife Safari, then Wolf Creek Inn, then a covered bridge, was enough adventure for Sunday, and we dropped to sleep happy at our hotel in Ashland.

Monday morning we left to try to find a trail to the top of Table Rock. This is a volcanic mesa with a wide flat top that is easily seen from I-5. We found trail descriptions for Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock trails and made a wild guess that the one we wanted was “upper,” since we didn’t know there was another one, so the other one must be “lower.” We guessed wrong. But the trail was wonderful.

An interpretive sign at the beginning of the trail explains that these mesas were formed as the result of lava flow from a volcano 7 million years ago. Most of the flow eroded away, but the parts that remain are eye-catching plateau formations today. A website I found later claims that the volcanic flow was 9.6 million years ago. The website also explains that the Takelma Indians lived there when the area became overrun by miners and settlers in the gold rush. The Indians fortified themselves on Upper Table Rock and then launched an attack in 1853 to reclaim their lands. Apparently a reservation was assigned to them that included the Table Rocks area. (And there the website narrative ends…leading me to wonder if the Indians ever got to live there in peace, and at what point was the reservation dissolved, since there isn’t one there right now. And frustrated that anyone can say, “The Indians were given some land,” and can pretend with a straight face that it’s the end of the story. Ok, sorry. End of rant.) *

Up close look at the anthracite formations at the beginning of the trail.

Fabulous red trunks of madrone trees that are common along the Oregon coast.

The trail was super short and easy, but Margaret and I extended our time there by delighting in the beauty of the views and the lovely forest of black oaks and madrone.

At the top we headed directly for the edge of the mesa and were impressed with views of the Rogue River Valley.

Margaret looking toward Medford, Oregon.

We chatted with other hikers up there as well.

In the distance I spotted Lower Table Rock, the one I’ve seen a hundred times from the Interstate.

Canyon in the U-shaped mesa.

The top of Upper Table Rock is not as flat as I assumed it would be. As an unrepentant volcano-lover, I was excited to see these formations.

After our hike we went into the darling town of Jacksonville to wander shops and antique stores and enjoy the lovely weather. Next we went to the Rogue Creamery Cheese Shop and sampled some too-die-for blue cheeses. I confess, I purchased a couple pounds of it. Across from there is Lilliebelle Farms Handmade Chocolates, where we also sampled. I was tempted by the chili chocolates, but ended up purchasing the lavender sea salt caramels.

On Tuesday we decided to find another hike before our matinee show. This time we chose what looked like a loop, titled Toothpick Trail to Catwalk Trail Loop in our hiking app. It was a forest trail with a single view of something other than forest, very little interesting nature, and in the end, no loop. Turns out, there is a road the trail eventually intersects with, and you can return down the road, making a loop. Not what we had in mind.

The one and only viewpoint from Toothpick Trail was indeed lovely.

Intrepid hikers that we are, we found things of interest anyway, to keep our spirits up. As with the hike the day before, this trail was super short and easy, so once we realized it connected to other trails, we just kept going. There is a maze of trails on top of the ridge, and I was tickled to find their names all Alice In Wonderland themed, such as Caterpillar, Lewis, Jabberwocky and Bandersnatch.

These trails are popularized by mountain bikes. We were passed by multiple people on bikes, all of them polite and careful not to run us down. There were plastic ribbons strung between trees all over the place to keep the bikes on the best paths, lots and lots of warning signs and informational signs for the bikers. Probably helpful for them, but really ugly for us. We were intrigued by the trails built with humps and banked corners for bikes. This is trail construction we had not seen before.

Humps and banks built for mountain bikers (I cropped the photo to remove all the plastic tape strung between trees).

Trail marker for mountain bikers.

The other amusement we found on the trail was when we came across some experienced older male hikers. M and I must have looked dubious in our light, girly tourist clothing, carrying no pack whatsoever and a single water bottle between us. Makeup, jewelry… you get it. No one else knows that M and I both have over twenty years of backpacking experience. The reason we showed up looking completely unprepared for the forest is because we are *so* experienced that this truly was like going for a walk for us. None of these trails was more than a mile from a road, we were merely trying to kill time waiting for our Manahatta matinee down the hill in Ashland. We weren’t winded in the least, and did not consider the trails a challenging hike.

So. We spot some other hikers and we beeline for them, because we’re hoping to get some insider knowledge on how to make an actual loop out of all this hilltop wandering we’ve been doing. There are three men, 50-60 ish, in full Outdoor Gear, hiking poles, day packs, water bladders, specialty footgear, protctive hats – all of it. They tell us they are locals and hike up there all the time. They are immediately concerned for us, considering that our first question was “Is there a trail over on this side of the mountain that will link us back to Toothpick Trail?” which they interpret as us saying, “We don’t know where we are.” They ask us if we’re hungry, can they share their water with us, are we lost, are we ok? Oh good grief. I don’t think they ever really understood what we were doing up there. We kept saying we were fine, we weren’t worried or lost, we were only trying to make a more interesting hike. They assured us that there was no link back to Toothpick Trail and our best bet would be to return the way we came. “Can you find your way back?” they asked. We managed not to roll our eyes and waved goodbye and thanks. I hope none of them lost any sleep worrying that there would be two emaciated and terrified women trapped on the hill that night. I imagine that must happen around here, with the bazillion tourists who show up for plays like we did.

We got to the play on time and now the timeline goes back to my original post of this trip.

* Quick research on Wikipedia indicates that the Table Rock Reservation lasted a whopping three years. After which, fighting broke out again. Some Indians were marched Trail-of-Tears-like, on foot 300 miles to another reservation; others were put onto ships and moved, all of them that lived eventually ending up on reservations south of Portland.

My favourite camping partner.

My favourite camping partner.

Our traditional Mother’s Day is not likely similar to yours. Nonetheless, aren’t traditions sometimes the whole reason we look forward to a holiday? For Tara and me, it’s camping.

It all started because I am the outdoorsy one and Tara less so. And when the kid was little, I just laid down the law and said, “I’m the parent and I say we are going camping.” When Tara got to be a teenager and had a mobile phone, and friends, and a bedroom where a teen could close the door and avoid interaction all weekend long rather than go trudging into the woods…well…there was resistance.

One year I got a little desperate and pulled the Mom card on Mother’s Day. “I don’t want a gift, or for you to make me breakfast, or anything else. Your gift to me on Mother’s Day is that you are going camping with me.” Surprise! Tara seemed relieved to know what I wanted, and happy to give it. Maybe they were grateful to have the excuse for friends, “I’d love to cosplay at the park with you, but Mom is making me go camping.” Whatever their reason, I had my kiddo with me in the forest.

It’s our sixth year and Tara confessed to looking forward to it. “When you called and said, ‘Mother’s Day is coming up,’ I got excited because I knew it meant camping.”

Tara set up the tent while I got the fire started.

Tara set up the tent while I got the fire started.

View from our camp across the river.

View from our camp across the river.

I was delighted by this God's Eye woven by a previous camper and tucked into a tree beside the tent.

I was delighted by this God’s Eye woven by a previous camper and tucked into a tree beside the tent.

My Jeep Dragon-Wagon is a great camp car.

My Jeep Dragon-Wagon is a great camp car.

Tara is at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. It’s about 3 1/2 hours’ drive from home. It made more sense to find a place to camp closer to the university, so I wouldn’t have to do so much driving. I found a place we had camped at before, and I blogged about it for Mother’s Day 2014. I went onto campus Friday evening and picked up the kid.

There was no cell phone service and so we had nothing to do but be together and talk and explore. Tara told me about their classes, the food, possible changes in majors. Right now they are most excited about the History of American Film classes, so we talked about those most often.

Tara's still having fun with hair colour. This year it has been the Cruella de Vil look.

Tara’s still having fun with hair colour. This year it has been the Cruella de Vil look.

Tara brushing their teeth at the creek Saturday morning.

Tara brushing their teeth at the creek Saturday morning.

The place is called House Rock Campground. Across the river is an enormous slab of rock that seems to lean against the ridge, forming a large protected space beneath. From the outside it’s hard to tell, but beneath it there is room for 20 or 30 people. You can stand up under there! The rock is along an old wagon road, and got a reputation as a good place to stop for shelter. Thus it was named “House Rock.”

Look carefully and you can see the long horizontal mouth of House Rock above the ferns.

Look carefully and you can see the long horizontal mouth of House Rock above the ferns.

That's me, inside the huge space.

That’s me, inside the huge space.

Trail between House Rock and House Rock Falls.

Trail between House Rock and House Rock Falls.

Saturday we walked across the wooden foot bridge to the trails on the other side of the South Santiam River (pronounced like “Auntie Em” – Santi Am). I was captivated by everything, as usual: the beautiful trail, the jungle plants, the bugs, the birds. I can’t help myself. We played under House Rock for awhile, then hiked up to the falls, which is simply gorgeous. From that trail, we could connect to the old wagon road, and hike a loop on that. Isn’t it exciting to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors? I love that it was a wagon road originally.

Information board out on the highway.

Information board out on the highway. Click to enlarge.

Footbridge from the campground to the trails. If you click the link to my 2014 post, you'll see the original ballet pose. We decided to recreate it.

Footbridge from the campground to the trails. If you click the link to my 2014 post, you’ll see the original ballet pose. We decided to recreate it.

Jungly plant with jungly flower

Jungly plant with jungly flower

slug

slug

milipede

milipede

Harlequin Ducks along the river

Harlequin Ducks on the river

South Santiam River

South Santiam River

At House Rock Falls. Tara said, "Pose!" So I did.

At House Rock Falls. Tara said, “Pose!” So I did.

less of a pose, but a better smile.

less of a pose, but a better smile.

On a rock ledge down by the water.

Rock ledge down by the water.

Sunday morning it was time to head out. I packed up the tent still soaked with dew, said goodbye to the families on either side of our camp. On both sides of us were young parents with small, active, vocal children who discovered each other immediately. Since our camp was in the middle, it became something of a connecting route, to the chagrin of the frequently apologizing parents. Luckily they were decent children, not being hoodlums, and I was able to easily forgive their shrieks and their bikes because they were doing exactly what I think kids should do: run around in forests and climb trees and get dirty and fall in the river and get wet.

I drove out of the Willamette National Forest early Sunday morning, intending to get home with enough time to get a few chores done before my 4:30 am alarm Monday morning. It seems like weekends just get shorter and shorter, and my enthusiasm for waking up at that obscene hour is fading over the years. I look forward to retirement and being free to go camping whenever, and for as long as, I choose.

A covered bridge near the campground.

A covered bridge near the campground.

Weddle Bridge now sits in a place of honor in Sweet Home, Oregon. It was originally built near Crabtree, Oregon.

Weddle Bridge now sits in a place of honor in Sweet Home, Oregon. It was originally built near Crabtree, Oregon.

When the rain let up and the sun came out, the glow was irresistible.

When the rain let up and the sun came out, the glow was irresistible.

Arno and I had the idea to leave Friday after work and drive wherever our fancy took us. The weather was a factor, and we went south and east in an attempt to escape the rain. We left I-5 and went due East till we reached Sweet Home, Oregon. My deepest apologies to my aunts and uncles who live in the area, and did not receive a visit. Next time, you guys!

In the morning before we left town, we asked someone to tell us how to find the Weddle covered bridge. When it was replaced by a concrete bridge at its original location, the town of Sweet Home bought it and rebuilt it here in town. Most of the covered bridges in Oregon were built between 1905 and 1925, numbering as many as 450. Fifty of the historic bridges remain. I’d like to do a covered bridges trip one day.

While Arno drove, I flipped through the book Bend, Overall (by Scott Cook) and picked our next stop. It was a trail to House Rock, following the old Santiam Wagon Road.

House Rock Falls lights up when the sun hits

House Rock Falls lights up when the sun hits

Wildlife!

Wildlife!

The trail was easy to find and to follow. The day had sun mixed with showers, but it remained relatively warm so our hiking was enjoyable. It was neat to think that we were walking along a road built for wagons and horses. Before we reached the rock, however, we were distracted by a side trail to a falls, which turned out to be really beautiful.

House Rock purportedly got its name for being a place of shelter for travelers along the wagon road. It was apparently large enough to cover multiple pioneer families. Soon we came upon it. The rock is indeed huge, and leaves a generous space beneath. However, there was a healthy-sized brook running through the sheltered area, fanning out across the small rocks beneath House Rock to wet as much ground as possible. I decided that if I had to shelter there, the first thing I would do is build a trench to keep the brook in one place, and free up the rest of the area for me and my family to try and stay dry.

Arno stands on the trail and looks up at House Rock

Arno stands on the trail and looks up at House Rock

This is me beneath House Rock, contemplating how I would use this space if I was a pioneer traveling through Oregon by wagon.

This is me beneath House Rock, contemplating how I would use this space if I was a pioneer traveling through Oregon by wagon.

This campsite was across the river from the House Rock trail. I decided to stay there the following weekend with Tara.

This campsite was across the river from the House Rock trail. I decided to stay there the following weekend with Tara.

Harlequin duck

Harlequin duck

Chipmunk at the Metolius

Chipmunk at the Metolius

Next we went seeking the Headwaters of the Metolius River, at Metolius Springs. This is a fascinating thing to see: the river simple bubbles out from beneath Black Butte, river-sized and immediately flowing freely. The theory is that when volcanic eruption caused Black Butte to form, it blocked an old river. The water now spreads out over a wide marshy area, and percolates through the porous volcanic rocks through the base of the butte, and presto! Instant river on the other side.

Metolius River bubbles up, instantly formed, from beneath Black Butte.

Metolius River bubbles up, instantly formed, from beneath Black Butte.

We moseyed on to the little town of Sisters after that. Outside of town we found a gravel road that followed a creek, and we picnicked while seated on an old log and watching Whychus Creek flow by. The clouds cleared and the sun warmed us, and we stayed for a couple hours after we ate, just soaking it up and talking.

By the time we got on the road again and reached Bend, we were ready to eat a real meal. Lucky for us, Bend has some really awesome places to eat. It’s a walkable town, and as we walked to find a restaurant, I found Wabi Sabi, a store packed full of fun Japanese stuff. Of course I had to go in. I bought a pendant necklace inspired by the manga Attack on Titan, that Tara is currently reading. I picked out a Totoro decal for me.

We decided to camp that night instead of find a hotel. Arno thought of a campground at McKay Crossing, and off we went. It’s only about 25 minutes south of Bend, but we got a late start after dinner and had to set up the tent in the dark.

McKay Crossing Falls on Highway 21 south of Bend.

McKay Crossing Falls on Highway 21 south of Bend.

The next morning we explored around the campsite, which included the lovely and unexpected McKay Crossing Falls.  We walked to McKay Crossing, named for an old creek crossing (which is now a bridge – much easier). On the other side is a pretty good trail that follows Paulina Creek and gave us a new perspective of the falls.

Soon we had to head home. I wanted to get back in time to help Tara prepare for her AP test for Environmental Science scheduled first thing next morning (update: she thinks she did well on it, yay!), and we had many miles to travel in order to be home in time for studying and a good, healthy pre-test dinner.

Stretching the weekend as long as possible, I found one more adventure to try from Cook’s book, and we found a rutty, dirt road to climb, outside of Redmond. The view from the top of Cline Buttes was really worth the trouble, and we got a pretty spectacular view of Black Butte, despite the clouds obscuring its top.

View of Black Butte from Cline Buttes. From here you can tell it was formed by a volcanic eruption.

View of Black Butte from Cline Buttes. From here you can tell it was formed by a volcanic eruption.

We made a picnic lunch up here and gazed out across this amazing view while we ate and sampled some Hood River microbrews.

We made a picnic lunch up here and gazed out across this amazing view while we ate and sampled some Hood River microbrews.

 

 

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