Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wagner Butte Trail

Since it was the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to storm the hill and take the castle.  In reality we plodded slowly uphill for 3 hours to the remains of a fire lookout.

We had heard about the Wagner Butte trail just outside the city of Talent, but never hiked it despite it's close proximity. Since we hiked 11+ miles on the John Dellenback loop trail at Diamond Lake last year and 11+ miles along the Upper Rogue Trail this year with our hiking friend Richard, we thought it was time to hike this beautiful 10.4 round-trip trail.  But there is something different about the Wagner Butte trail  -- it is UPHILL.

After navigating the roads to the trailhead, we set out and it didn't take long for the uphill portion of this hike to begin.  Almost the entire first mile is an uphill trek, but it took us through beautiful forested areas with an abundance of wildflowers like Woodland Strawberries, Oregon Anemone, Western Spring Beauty, Trilliums, Woodland Violets & Calypso Orchids to name a few.

Woodland Strawberry

Woodland Violet


Eventually we reached the first of many meadows and although there were many wildflowers not yet in bloom, we did get to see some Lupine opening, Marsh Marigolds and a few others smaller flowers in bloom.

View of the first meadow from the trail

Lupine just starting to bloom in the first of many meadows

One of the larger meadows we encountered was the Sheep Creek Slide area.  Back in 1983 a severe thundershower hit the area and sent 400,000 tons of soil, trees and granite from Wagner Butte sliding 4 miles to the Little Applegate River.  This area is now an open meadow with a few small streams and lots of wildflowers, not to mention the amazing views up and down the slide area.

Beginning of the Sheep Creek Slide meadow

The view from the Sheep Creek Slide area

We also hiked through many sunny sagebrush meadows where there were clumps of Indian Paintbrush, Iris, Creeping Phlox and a new flower to us, the Western Peony.

Western Peony
Trail through sunny sagebrush meadow
Indian Paintbrush

The wildflowers & varying landscapes made for a beautiful and enjoyable hike and often times kept us from thinking about the fact that we were heading uphill. It took us 3 hours to finally arrive at the Wagner Butte Fire Lookout area where we took some time to rest and take in all the views which included Mount Ashland.  We even saw some patches of snow on a few nearby hills.

View up to the fire lookout area
Can you read the sign?  We couldn't and we were there!

The view from Wagner Butte Fire Lookout

As the saying goes, "what goes up, must come down", so we too had to eventually leave Wagner Butte and begin the descent. By the time we reached the end of the trail and our car, we were very tired and our knees were a little upset with us.  Must be an age thing.

Although this was a tough hike, it was also awesome in that it provided us with beautiful views all along the trail & included so many varieties of wildflowers.  It also proved to us that we can hike a 10+ mile trail that includes long uphill portions.

Now we would like to encourage anyone in the area to get out and try this trail.  Click here for driving instructions.  If the entire 10.4 mile hike is a bit too long for you, try hiking just to the Sheep Creek Slide area (2 miles roundtrip) or to the Wagner Glade Gap (6.6 miles roundtrip) and enjoy views & wildflowers.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Elk Creek Trail

A few weeks ago our local paper had an article about an area of land that was now being opened up to the public for hiking and biking along Elk Creek.  In all it is 3,502 acres just outside the town of Shady Cove that originally was to have a dam built by the Army Corp of Engineers for flood-control and fisheries enhancement. That project ended and now efforts are under way to rebuild the stream channel and streamside riparian zone. With parking facilities, picnic tables and restrooms added at the two trailheads, the Army Corp of Engineers opened the trail and we just had to try it out.

Hiking bridge at beginning of trail

Along with my sister Karen, we started the hike at the Yellow Rock Trailhead and found that by 10:00 am there were already many cars in the parking area. The trail is actually an old paved road that parallels Elk Creek most of the time although it is out of view.  We did access the creek via a side trail once and were tempted to go in to cool off.

The Elk Creek Trail - currently a paved road

Elk Creek

At the start of our hike we came across a California Kingsnake who did not want to stop and pose for a picture. It quickly made it's way across the trail and off into the grass, but we did manage a picture or two.

California Kingsnake making a quick trail crossing
Throughout our hike there were meadows alongside the trail. The newpaper article stated that Roosevelt Elk, Black Bear and even Bobcats are seen in this area, but our wildlife viewing today was limited to the Kingsnake, lizards and hundreds of butterflies.  Glenn kept trying to take pictures of the various butterflies, but they would not cooperate.  After much patience and effort, he did get one to hold still for a quick photo op.
One of many meadows along the Elk Creek trail

The one butterfly that held still

The meadows, as well as alongside the trail, featured many varieties of wildflowers.  Some we have seen along other hikes this spring, but there were many new ones to view on this hike.  A few of those new ones include Field Morning Glory, Mountain Valerian, Yellow Salsify, Varileaf  Phacelia and Wormleaf Stonecrop.  Not necessary household common names. One thing we have learned this Spring is that there are so many different varieties of wildflowers and many look very similar.

Yellow Salsify

Field Morning Glory

Wormleaf Stonecrop

We did not hike the entire trail to the other trailhead but enjoyed hiking along for over an hour before turning around and heading back. The only drawback to today's hike was that the trail was very hot due to the trail being pavement - the reflective heat really wore us out!  However, if you are in the area of Shady Cove, we would highly recommend you get out and take a hike through this new park area.

Afterwards we headed down the road a few miles to McGregor Park and got to see the Blue Heron nesting area.  We saw 3 large nests which were occupied by 3 young herons and 1 adult.

Of course hiking and eating go hand-in-hand, so we made stops at Phil's Frosty (chocolate & vanilla malts) and Jeffros BBQ (tri-tip and bbq pulled pork sandwiches) in Shady Cove on the way home.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol

P.S. Mystery Wildflower -- do you know the name of this wildflower?  We don't.  If you do, let us know at tablerocktrekker@gmail