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MailTribune.com
  • Blossom by boot

    The hike to Blossom Bar is one of the most scenic in Southern Oregon
  • Blossom Bar is a Class IV rapid on the Wild and Scenic stretch of the lower Rogue River that has taken the lives of numerous boaters over the years.
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  • Blossom Bar is a Class IV rapid on the Wild and Scenic stretch of the lower Rogue River that has taken the lives of numerous boaters over the years.
    The rapid was an impassable jumble of boulders until the 1950s, when Rogue River legend Glen Wooldridge blasted a passage with dynamite. To run the rapid successfully now, boaters at its entrance must make a quick turn into an eddy, and missing the correct passage can pin rafts against a rock jumble known as the picket fence.
    But you don't have to float the river to see Blossom Bar. You can hike there in about four miles, and they're some of the most beautiful hiking miles you'll find in Southern Oregon.
    To start with, pick up the Medford District Bureau of Land Management road map and use the U.S. Forest Service Powers and Gold Beach Ranger District map for hiking in this area.
    From the Grave Creek Bridge outside Galice, head uphill and downriver on BLM 3481. In about seven miles, you'll reach Sawmill Gap. Head left and continue on the Marial Scenic Byway.
    Around 20 miles from the Grave Creek Bridge, you'll reach Ninemile Spring. Stay left. At 24 miles, stay left at the junction and continue on BLM Road 32914.2. At 31 miles, stay left on 32914.2 at the junction.
    Around 35 miles, you'll see Rogue River Ranch. Continue on around the corner and follow the signs to Tucker Flat Campground.
    Ditch the car there, cross the bridge over Mule Creek, and continue on the road. After about a mile you'll pass Marial Lodge, as well as the Mule Creek Guard Station, which is slated for demolition.
    If you look around, you will see an old cemetery on the road's west, uphill side, and after about 1.5 miles from Tucker Flat, you'll reach a trailhead with an outhouse.
    From the trailhead, start hiking downriver. This is the site of the pioneer school where Marial residents once sent their children, back when there were permanent dwellers in this area. But now you're in the 35,000-acre Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, and you'll know it as soon as you break out into Mule Creek Canyon, revered by many as the most beautiful section of the river's wild stretch.
    Rock cliffs shoot straight up from raging hydraulics caused by a sudden narrowing of the river. Rapids with names like "coffee pot" boil and suck at the bottom of boats, wooing rafters. The trail here was blasted by dynamite into sheer cliff, and was used for mule trains that carried supplies and mail to Marial, where the historic post office still stands.
    Before long you'll catch the roar of another feature from across the river, and from Inspiration Point you'll have a magnificent view of Stair Creek Falls, two waterfalls bisected by a deep, emerald pool. Late in the summer when the river is warm, you may see salmon schooled up at the waterfall, enjoying the delivery of cool, oxygen-rich water from Stair Creek.
    Traverse around a ridge that is constantly coming loose and crumbling, running landslides into the trail. As the river opens up, wind your way through some scrubby hardwood forests and reach Blossom Bar about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.
    The trail crosses two horsetails of Blossom Creek, whose waters are more inviting than the Rogue's.
    Blossom Creek's cooler, clearer water builds deep pools underneath the cover of shade. It's a great spot to cool off, rest and camp. There's an electric bear fence and wonderful tent sites, as well as a nearby outhouse.
    From the campsite, a spur trail leads straight to the banks of Blossom Bar rapid. On busy river days you can watch boaters line up and make their way through the rapid. Once in a while you may see them get stuck on the infamous picket fence. And while Blossom Bar has built itself a reputation, dying there is actually very rare.
    From Blossom you can hike back to Marial, or continue on down the Rogue River Trail. It's just another two miles to Paradise Lodge, another 15 to Foster Bar, the trail's terminus.
    Call the BLM in advance to check road conditions. Fill up on gas before leaving, and remember there are no services available beyond Galice. Consider this hike during cooler weather, as it can get very hot in the exposed, southern slopes of the Rogue River canyon.
    Camp at Blossom Bar or Tucker Flat, or make reservations in advance for Marial Lodge (541-474-2057).
    To view a hiking map, see http://goo.gl/z4SrhG
    Pick up the maps from BLM-Forest Service Interagency Office at 3040 Biddle Road in Medford.
    Freelance writer Gabriel Howe is executive director and field coordinator for the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Contact him at howegabe@gmail.com.
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