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Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Roxy Ann Peak – 05/30/2022

Memorial Day marked the end of our trip to the Medford area but before we headed home we had one final hike planned at Roxy Ann Peak. Located within Prescott Park the 3670′ Roxy Ann Peak offers multiple trails and great views (on clear days) of the surrounding area. The park has two gates that according to the park brochure are “typically” open from 8 to 8 in Spring and Summer (closed at 5pm in Fall/Winter). We wanted to get an early start to our drive back to Salem so we opted to park at the 1st gate and road walk to the start of the trail that Sullivan features in his guidebook.
IMG_1947Setting off at 5:20am from the 1st gate.

This was another hike that became a featured hike in his 4.2 edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” due to fire damage to several of the previously featured hikes. He suggests a 3.4 mile loop started by parking at the second gate. Like most of our other hikes this trip we’d originally planned on a longer hike utilizing more of the Park’s trails but had pulled back after the first day of our trip (post) but parking at the first, lower trailhead did add a little over 2 miles round trip. While the forecast was for a mostly sunny day the clouds from the weekend hadn’t moved on as we hiked up the road.
IMG_1959Roxy Ann Peak from the road.

We spotted three deer and a jack rabbit during the road walk but the low light conditions made for poor picture taking opportunities. Fortunately deer were the theme for the first half of the hike and we had several more photo ops with them.
IMG_1960Jack rabbit

IMG_1963Coming up on the 2nd gate.

IMG_1964Sunlight hitting the hillsides on the far side of Medford.

Our planned lollipop loop was to take the Madrone Trail to the Oak Trail then onto the Ponderosa Trail which would take us up to the Park Tower Road where we could visit the summit. Then we would descend via the Manzanita Trail back to the Madrone Trail to return to Roxy Ann Road and eventually our car.
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It was 0.2 miles along the road from the 2nd gate to the start of the Madrone Trail where we turned right and began climbing in earnest.
IMG_1969Roxy Ann’s shadow being cast over Medford.

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For the most part the trails in the park were nice and wide giving us the feeling of plenty of space from the abundant poison oak in the area. (We’re not sure how long it takes to get used to hiking in its presence but we haven’t gotten there yet.) There was a nice variety of wildflowers along the way and, as I already mentioned, a good deal of wildlife. We also appreciated the fact that most junctions were well marked with posts identifying the various trails.
IMG_1976Lots of purple vetch along the trails.

IMG_1977One of the posts used to identify trails.

IMG_1980Madrones along the Madrone Trail.

IMG_1982We turned left following the pointer for the Oak Trail.

IMG_1993Juvenile great horned owl along the Oak Trail. We didn’t get a good look at the second owl to the left but it looked to be an adult.

IMG_1995This segment of the Madrone Trail (MD3) ended at Roxy Ann Road with the Oak Trail picking up on the far side.

IMG_1996The Oak Trail

IMG_1997Lupine amid the vetch

IMG_1999Camas in front of poison oak.

20220530_060450Carrotleaf horkelia

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IMG_2005Death camas

IMG_2010Blue-eyed grass

IMG_2012Oak along the Oak Trail.

IMG_2015Roxy Ann Peak

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IMG_2023Blow wives

IMG_2025The Oak Trail appeared to be the least used of all the trails we would hike on this day.

IMG_2028Lower Table Rock (post)

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IMG_2044The only post we saw that wasn’t helpful.

IMG_2045Challenge Course just off the Oak Trail.

IMG_2048Parts of the Challenge Course

IMG_2049Trail junction near the Challenge Course with the Oak and Ponderosa Trails.

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IMG_2053Hopping onto the Ponderosa Trail.

IMG_2054Mariposa lily

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IMG_2061Lazuli bunting. We saw quite a few of these during our trip but they proved to be very difficult to photograph.

IMG_2063Medford from the Ponderosa Trail.

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IMG_2076Lower Table Rock again.

IMG_2083A bench and Ponderosa pines along the Ponderosa Trail.

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IMG_2092Two more deer above the trail.

IMG_2108Deer and balsamroot.

IMG_2093Young deer

IMG_2095Momma deer

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IMG_2120Nearing Park Tower Road.

When we hit the road we headed uphill then took a short rocky trail to a picnic table on the summit. Unfortunately the low clouds hadn’t burned off nearly enough yet for us to get the big views of either the Cascade Mountains or the Sisikyous but it was a nice view none the less.
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IMG_2130Serenading lazuli bunting.

IMG_2131A lot darker clouds toward the Cascades.

With no real views today we took a brief break then headed over to the tower on the other side of the peak just for the heck of it before heading down the road to pick up the Manzanita Trail.
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IMG_2136Sign for the Manzanita Trail

We followed this trail back down to Roxy Ann Road and the Madrone Trail.
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IMG_2140The lower flank of Grizzly Peak (post) to the left. Mt. Ashland (post) is hiding behind the clouds almost straight ahead.

IMG_2143Looking NE from the trail, still a lot of clouds.

IMG_2156Another bunting, we were on a roll.

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IMG_2163The clouds were really starting to break up as we descended.

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IMG_2168Arrow-leaf buckwheat on the hillside.

IMG_2170Roxy Ann Road

IMG_2172Back on the Madrone Trail.

IMG_2175Back on the road walk. The trail post here is for the Greenhorn Trail.

IMG_2181Spotted towhee.

The lower gate was still closed when we got back to our car around 8:20am but we’d passed a steady stream of hikers and trail runners heading up the road regardless. In the end our hike came to 5.4 miles with approximately 1475′ of elevation gain.

It had been a nice short hike to end the trip on. It was only about 15 minutes from our room so we had left our things there instead of having to leave it in the car and now had time to go back to the room, shower and then drive home. We stopped in Eugene to have lunch with our son Dominique and his friend Russell and then continued home to unpack and start getting ready for our next adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Roxy Ann Peak

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, & Donner Und Blitzen River – 08/16/2021

Monday was mostly a travel day as we left Bend and headed for the Steens Mountain Resort where we would be staying for the next three nights. We did however manage to get a few short hikes in along the way beginning with a trail that had intrigued us since the first time we’d stopped at the Sagehen Rest Area on Highway 20 eighteen miles west of Burns. A highway rest stop seemed like a bit of an odd place for a trail but that’s part of what piqued our interest. The Sagehen Hill Nature Trial is a short (just over half a mile) interpretive loop with 11 numbered stops.
IMG_1968Trailhead sign at the south end of the rest stop. Brochures were located in the small box under the sign.

IMG_1969Map on the trailhead sign.

Smoke from fires near Lakeview, OR made for a smoke filled horizon and unlike our hike on Mt. Bachelor the previous day (post) here we could smell it in the air.
IMG_1972Red Sun through the smoke.

Despite the lack of views (on a clear day Steens Mountain would have been visible) it was a nice hike and the interpretive stops were interesting. We didn’t see any sage grouse here but we spotted some other wildlife along the route.
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IMG_1991The Harney Valley to the east.

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IMG_1998This stop was for a juniper that was blown apart by a lightning strike.

IMG_2000The rest area from the loop.

IMG_2001The last stop was to discuss the relationship between the junipers and the Idaho fescue that grows underneath.

This was a neat little trail and a nice leg stretcher. After completing the loop we drove into Burns, filled up our gas tank and then headed for our next stop at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. This was the one place we had previously visited (post) but we hadn’t driven the entire auto tour route that time and there were some other trails in the complex that we could check out. We started with a stop at the headquarters where we once again were treated to a variety of wildlife as we toured the complex.
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DSCN0516Deer in the nearly dry Marshall Pond

DSCN0539Yellow headed blackbird

DSCN0557California quail

IMG_2045Owl

DSCN0614Chipmunk

IMG_2065More quail

DSCN0617The early bird

IMG_2077Hummingbird

IMG_2081Little bird on a feeder

We skipped the Overlook Trail this time due to the smoke filled horizon and started the auto tour route. Again there was plenty of wildlife to pause for along the drive and we also stopped at Benson Pond to hike the Benson Pond Trail (a short half mile out and back) where we were treated to a large number of ducks and other birds on the pond.
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DSCN0654Shrike

IMG_2099Hawk and a magpie

DSCN0663Osprey

DSCN0667Turkey vultures

IMG_2125Coyote

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IMG_2138Mourning doves

IMG_2143Egrets and ducks at Benson Pond

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51393871889_968777c132_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2153">American kestral

IMG_2156Old cabin at Benson Pond

IMG_2177Another owl

DSCN0725Another turkey vulture

IMG_2189Grasshopper

DSCN0733White faced ibis

DSCN0736Great blue heron amid the ducks.

IMG_2195A couple types of egrets it appears.

DSCN0763Deer that were in the Blitzen River

DSCN0764Bounding fawn

DSCN0769Ducks and coots at Knox Pond

The auto tour route ends at the Steens Mountain Loop Road just a mile and a half from the Steens Mountain Resort. We were a bit too early to check in though so we drove past the resort another tenth of a mile to the entrance of the Page Springs Campground. We turned into the campground and parked at the day use area at its far end where two trails start. The one mile Wilderness Nature Trail and the 3.7 mile long Donner und Blitzen River Trail.
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We decided to take the Donner und Blitzen Trail since the nature trail looped back into the campground and ended near one of the campsites leaving a short road walk back to the trailhead. The Donner und Blitzen Trail entered the Steens Mountain Wilderness a short distance from the trailhead and followed the river fairly closely for the first 1.2 miles which is as far as we went on this day. It was a little smokey and it was hot and enough time had passed that we would be able to check into the resort by the time we made it back to our car. The trail was a little brushy at times but a nice surprise was finding a loop option not shown on the map but clearly marked starting 0.4 miles from the trailhead and rejoining the river trail at the 0.7 mile mark. We took this route on the way back climbing up through the cliffs above the river providing some nice views despite the haze.
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IMG_2224Bee and a butterfly

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IMG_2235A brushy section.

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IMG_2256A bee and a skipper

20210816_131717Praying mantis

IMG_2261The “other” trail on the hillside at the 0.7 mile mark.

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IMG_2275A wren?

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IMG_2280Fence crossing

IMG_2281Rejoining the Donner und Blitzen Trail at the 0.4 mile mark.

2.9 mile hike on the Donner und Blitzen trail

We got a total of 5.4 miles of hiking in between Sagehen Hill, the refuge headquarters, Benson Pond, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The abundant wildlife was the highlight of the day. We checked into the resort and got settled in our modular unit which had a full kitchen, shower, couch and most importantly A/C. We were hoping that the smoke would move out overnight or at least over the next day or two when the temperature was also set to drop to more reasonable levels. We spent the evening listening to the osprey that had a nest below the resort. Happy Trails!
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Flickr: Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and Donner und Blitzen River

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Jordan Craters and Leslie Gulch – SE Oregon Vacation Day 3

After winding up in Caldwell, ID the at the end of day 2 of our vacation we had a bit of a longer drive for our two planned hikes for day 3. The drive to the turnoff for Jordan Craters would have been just over 8 miles but from Caldwell it was a little over 55 miles. Either way that still left 27 miles of gravel and dirt roads from Highway 95 to reach the craters. The first 24 of those miles were on decent gravel roads but then the route to the craters forked left onto a rough dirt road which we followed for a mile and a half to another fork. Here we were met with a sign warning recommending 4 wheel drive vehicles only.
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We decided we’d had enough of the rough roads and chose to hike the rest of the way down to the trailhead. There hadn’t been any rain in the forecast but it looked like there were some showers passing through the area.
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From the road we had a good view of the 27 square mile lava flow as well as the trailhead next to Coffee Pot Crater.
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As we made our way down the road we spotted a chukar and a rabbit.
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When we reached the trailhead we followed a path to the right of Coffee Pot Crater.
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The path led around the crater first passing a rounded cinder hill then more rugged lava rocks.
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The lava flow extended south from the crater in various patterns.
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As we made our way around we were soon able to see inside the 150 foot crater which was much larger than either of us had expected.
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Swallows and blue birds flew in and out of the crater occasionally landing on its rim.
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As we continued around we passed a smaller pit and several openings in the lava.
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After just .3 miles we arrived at a scramble trail down a red cinder slope into Coffee Pot Crater.
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The path was fairly steep with loose rock but we made our way down carefully and explored the inside of the crater.
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After wandering around inside the crater we climbed back out and headed cross country toward a visible channel in the lava.
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We followed this crack across the lava to its end near a pit where an owl startled us by suddenly appearing out of the pit and flying off further down the lava.
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Heather spotted a marmot that was not able to fly off.
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Just a bit further away was a second pit which we headed for. I got there first and started taking pictures.
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As Heather neared the owl reappeared only this time flying in my general direction. I was able to take a few pictures as it flew by to parts unknown.
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After admiring the second pit we headed back for the trail. More marmots watched us from the edge of the lava.
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We were briefly back on the rim of the crater but then left the trail again to get an up close look at a row of splatter cones that extended uphill toward the road.
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We had decided that after visiting the splatter cones we would just continue cross country uphill back to the road eliminating a little distance. In all there were seven cones varying in size and shape.
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We followed the road back to our car and returned to Highway 95 where we headed north toward our next stops for the day at Leslie Gulch.

The hike at Jordan Craters had only been 3.8 miles even with the road walk so we had plenty of energy left for additional hikes and Leslie Gulch offered numerous opportunities. For our visit we planned on hiking into at least four of the explorable gulches. We decided to start at the western most gulch and work our way back east toward the highway. The gravel road to Leslie Gulch was easily the best of the roads we would take to trailheads while in the area and the scenery along the route was spectacular making this a worthwhile visit even if you aren’t planning on hiking.
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We drove to the end of Leslie Gulch Road and parked near Slocum Campground near the boat ramp for the Owyhee Reservoir.
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The trail into Slocum Gulch is not an official trail but it was easily identifiable at first.
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Wildlife and wildflowers accentuated the views but it was the rock formations that were the stars.
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The trail grew fainter the further we went but we managed to go a little over 1.25 miles before turning around and heading for our next stop at Timber Gulch. This was another gulch with no official trail but there was a small pullout 2.35 miles from the Slocum Campground where we parked. From the pullout we followed another clear trail into Timber Gulch.
Trail into Timber Gulch

Despite the proximity to Slocum Gulch the scenery here was quite different with more “honeycomb” rocks and even some different flowers.
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The trail ended in an amphitheater of rocks with sweeping views.
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The hike up Timber Gulch was only 1.3 miles round trip but it was packed with scenery. After Timber Gulch we drove just 1.25 miles further back up Leslie Gulch Road to the signed Juniper Gulch Trail.
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This wound up being a 1.8 mile hike with a little loop in the middle when we forked right where we should have stayed straight. Some minor scrambling up some rocks got us back on course though. This trail featured rock overhangs that we passed under and was also the only trail that we encountered other hikers on the entire trip after being at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.
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Beyond the overhangs (and once we were back on the correct path) the trail led up to a knoll with some impressive views.
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Our last stop in Leslie Gulch was at Dago Gulch, a mile from Juniper Gulch.
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Here we followed an old roadbed for a mile to private land.
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Although this gulch didn’t have quite as many impressive rock formations as the other gulches it had its share and it also had a lot of butterflies and cicadas.
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We had considered also hiking into Upper Leslie Gulch on a .3 mile trail there but it had gotten really warm and after five hikes we were ready to head back to Caldwell to get cleaned up and cool off. On the way back to the highway we spotted a burrowing owl atop some sagebrush along McBride Road. It flew up on some rocks when we stopped but I was able to get a somewhat blurry photo of the little guy before we drove on.
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It was a long day with just under six hours of hiking and almost seven and a half hours of driving but the sights had been worth it. We grabbed a fast food dinner back in Caldwell and turned in for the evening looking forward to what the next day had in store. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Jordan Craters and Leslie Gulch