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MailTribune.com
  • Up from the ashes

    Hike through Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area shows devastation from fire, but renewal, too
  • With wildfires still smoldering in Southern Oregon, a hike through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness provides an interesting look at how a landscape can be both scarred and renewed by fire.
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  • With wildfires still smoldering in Southern Oregon, a hike through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness provides an interesting look at how a landscape can be both scarred and renewed by fire.
    The Biscuit fire burned nearly 500,000 acres in 2002, including large swaths of the 180,095-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, located between Cave Junction and the Oregon Coast.
    Our family recently took the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail to scenic Whetstone Butte, a large outcropping of reddish rock that provides panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness area.
    To get there, travel 24 miles south of Grants Pass on Highway 199, also known as the Redwood Highway.
    Near milepost 24, turn right at a sign for Eight Dollar Mountain Boardwalk Trail. Continue 12 miles over dirt and gravel on Eight Dollar Road, which travels through vast stretches of burned forest, plus intact green pockets that provide a window into what the area looked like before the Biscuit fire.
    Turn right on Road 142 to reach the Kalmiopsis Rim trailhead, which is marked with a parking lot and outhouse.
    Ignore a highly visible trail that appears to be pointing to Whetstone Butte in the distance, because it dead-ends.
    Instead, look for a less-visible trail marked by a weathered wood sign that reads "Kalmiopsis Rim Trail 1124," "Whetstone Butte 1 mile" and "Chetco Pass 4 miles."
    Brush that sprouted back after the fire is trying to take over the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail, which winds underneath towering, burned trees that have been bleached a pale gray after more than a decade of sun exposure.
    Fallen trees across the trail are a reminder not to linger in this section, where the burned trees can blow over.
    The trail opens out onto an exposed ridge line that is almost bare of trees, except for the skeletal remains of scattered, burned, high-alpine conifers. When they were alive, these trees were obviously blasted by strong winds that feel as if they are blowing straight in, uninterrupted, off the distant Oregon Coast.
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