Timeline: September 19-24
We drove down out of Bend around the north side of Crater Lake and made way for the REI in Medford to pick up the Osprey pack I had ordered. We arrived in good time, completed the transaction and then drove a short distance to a nearby In-N-Out, our first stop of the trip at one of our favorite burger places. We s know we’ve hit the west coast when we tuck into our first Double/Double and Fries of the trip.
From Medford we rolled on into Grants Pass, the down Highway 199 to Selma where we made the turn towards Lake Selmac and Kamp Angst. As we’d just visited in the spring, and that visit was covered in the blog, I’ll focus more on the two nights and three hikes Tom, Joanna and I did out of Marial Lodge on the Rogue River. During our spring visit we hiked eight miles there from the Grave Creek Trailhead to Whiskey Creek and back. This time we’d stay two nights at Marial and hike up river one day and downriver the next.
Mileage wise it is a short drive into Marial, but long in time as you do so mostly on one lane paved and dirt roads that twist and turn.
We arrived at the lodge in the early afternoon, checked in, and then hiked about a mile up river to the Rogue River Ranch. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the site evolved into a small gold-mining community that at one time supported up to 100 residents. A few of the original structures remain today including the main ranch and a few out buildings.
The main building is being restored so we couldn’t stop in and instead settled at a picnic table to eat the sandwiches we’d brought with us, purchased at Babe’s Bakery in Grants Pass as we did the last time we visited.
We wandered down to the river, then back up to the road to walk back to the lodge. With an open afternoon in front of us we grabbed some drinks and sat on the patio overlooking the river, reading and talking the afternoon away.
The Rogue River begins near Crater Lake and flows 215 miles through the mountains and valleys of southwest Oregon emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the town of Gold Beach. It’s Wild and Scenic River section begins west of Grants Pass where the Applegate River flows into it, and from there flows north, then west through Hellgate Canyon, and remains pretty wild until it passes through the boulder-strewn Blossom Bar Rapids just above Paradise Lodge.
Soon two groups, one of raft supported hikers coming down river and the other fishermen began to drift into the lodge after their day and conversation began to flow as we waited for dinner. We’d considered doing a raft supported hike, but they can’t accommodate single travelers given the housing supplied (all double or bunk rooms), and so settled for our version.
For our lodging costs ($120 apiece) we received three meals and were curious to see what dinner would be like.
We sat at round tables of eight with a multi-level lazy Susan in the middle and when the food began to come out we were impressed with the quantity and variety. That first night it was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and a host of other items too numerous to mention.
As soon as a serving platter was emptied another took its place; you literally could eat all you wanted. We waddled from the table once done eating and finished the evening in conversation our fellow travelers, rich and varied subjects covered with a bit of subtle one-upmanship filtering in from folks whose egos were a bit bigger than the room.
Up and ready to hike the next morning, we sat down to another bountiful meal, breakfast with thick rashers of bacon, a baked egg scramble with red bell peppers onions, and cheddar cheese, potatoes, toast, muffins, etc. Normally lodgers make their own sandwiches for lunch, but this time around as there were just a few of us not supported by the rafting companies our hosts made ours for us; I opted for the pastrami on homemade bread, a delectable treat when I ate it some hours later.
We took off up river on what would turn out to be an eight-mile day, loaded with weight in the packs that would mimic what we would carry on the Camino. It was cool on the trail to start and we made good time on the fairly level path, ascending and descending short sections as we followed the river.
We had thought we’d try to make it to Zane Grey’s cabin, which would have made for 12 miles in total, but decided to shorten the distance and not kill ourselves.
We stopped at a quiet place on the river to eat our sandwiches and rest a bit before making the hike back. What you notice the most is the lack of noise that surrounds you, just the river rushing downstream, the sound of your own voice, your breathing. We grow used to how much of our lives are spent enveloped in clamor, we tune it out automatically and you don’t realize you do until you get to a place like this and get slapped in the face by the stillness.
We returned to Marial, tired and sore and I personally wondered if I’d feel good enough to hike the next day, dimming the thought that I could actually tackle the Camino next year. By the time evening rolled around, showered, a few beers in us and bottles of the Foris Fly Over Red opened that Tom had brought, I’d worked some of the kinks out and felt a bit better. An entirely new group of hikers showed up for dinner, this time none supported by a rafting company so our group was smaller and the conversation a bit more intimate.
Dinner was hearty again, this time boneless short ribs, corn on the cob, scalloped potatoes and much more than I can recall. We ate well, talked into the evening and retired early, sore, tired and ready for a good night’s sleep. What would I feel like the next day was the big question? Would tomorrow’s reality bring an end of my dream of hiking the Camino?
Rogue River Ranch: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/rogue/ranch.php
Babe’s Bakery: http://babesbkry.com/
Foris Winery: http://www.foriswine.com/