Pine Flat trail shows off natural and man-made wonders

Pine Flat trail shows off natural and man-made wonders

The hike into Pine Flat is one of the more popular backpacks in the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The trail is a moderate six miles and leads to a dreamy meadow adjacent to a remote section of the Wild & Scenic Illinois River. In the summer, Pine Flat is probably the only place in the Kalmiopsis interior where you might actually see a person, or even a group.

But with a high point of about 1,700 feet, Pine Flat can be all yours this winter or spring as the transient...

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5 winter trails to get you ready for summer trails

5 winter trails to get you ready for summer trails

If you want to cover ground next summer on the Pacific Crest Trail, or climb Mount McLoughlin, or explore any of the numerous high-elevation trails in Southern Oregon and Northern California, it's a good idea to go outside and get prepared.
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Hike among fragrant myrtles beside a world-class river

Hike among fragrant myrtles beside a world-class river

The Wild Rivers Coast is conifer country.

The towering firs and monumental redwoods define the Southern Oregon and Northern California coasts. But a very important tree to the area's history is often overlooked, and it's got a few names: Oregon myrtle, California laurel, bay.

Check out one of the only preserves of Umbellularia californica at Alfred Loeb State Park, spitting distance from Brookings.

This park in the deep southwest pocket of Oregon was originally purchased by....

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Hike to Thunder Rock Cove can crackle or calm

Hike to Thunder Rock Cove can crackle or calm

Samuel Boardman was Oregon's first parks superintendent, and he built a career on the vision of securing the future of public places.

A road engineer by trade, he went on to negotiate with private landowners to donate or sell their property below market value for the greater good.

The culmination of his career came with the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The park runs 12 miles along the Southern Oregon Coast between Brookings and Gold Beach and is one of the most...

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A moderate trail in a rugged wilderness

A moderate trail in a rugged wilderness

The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is known for its challenging trails. By default of topography, the routes are steep, winding, loose and rocky. And by default of economy, largely unmaintained.

Most people don't want spend the little time they can budget suffering, which is inevitable on the primitive routes that penetrate the Kalmiopsis's 180,000-acre core. But it's possible to get a big bite of Southern Oregon's largest federal wilderness area in just about five moderate miles on a section...

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Sweet little taste of the North Fork Smith River

Sweet little taste of the North Fork Smith River

The North Fork Smith River spills from the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness high country through a remote gorge defined by a geologic anomaly. Boaters come from all around to float the North Fork when the water level is just right. That's not easy.

Because of the area's volatile hydrology, they can't depend on USGS flow readings from lower down on the Smith. So the North Fork is suitable to run, for most, only when a homemade gauge near Gasquet, California, reads 9 to 12 feet.

Local.....

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Musings on a strange Kalmiopsis meadow

Musings on a strange Kalmiopsis meadow

The old backcountry trails of the remote and rugged south Kalmiopsis Wilderness are the stuff of legend. Tall tales of Bigfoot, strange mountain men, ill-fated mining ventures and carnivorous plants abound, and at least in the case of the carnivorous plants, some of the bizarre old-time stories are actually true.
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Hike of the Week: Black Butte Trail in the Siskiyou Wilderness

Hike of the Week: Black Butte Trail in the Siskiyou Wilderness

Spring is my favorite time in the mountains. The peaks are (hopefully) snowcapped, the nights are cold, the creeks are full and nature is just starting to shake off the winter doldrums.

Recently my trusty dog, Zola, and I pitched camp at an open serpentine knob with spectacular views near the Black Butte trailhead at the very northern end of the Siskiyou Wilderness Area. Both our camp and the trailhead were about 4,900 feet above sea level and offered sweeping vistas of the East Fork...

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View from above

View from above

Well maintained trails are still a novelty to me.

On the South Coast where I grew up, a seemingly endless wall of blackberry bushes made exploring much of the southern Coast Range a decidedly prickly proposition. Since moving to the Rogue Valley six months ago, I've made a point to tackle as many of the area's less-traveled trails as my work schedule will allow.

The other weekend, Mail Tribune digital copy editor Forrest Roth and I decided to make the trek up Wagner Butte, a...

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Hanging out at Hanging Rock

Hanging out at Hanging Rock

In 2005 I was caretaker at the Rogue River Ranch, a historic public property nestled on the Wild Rogue River. I quickly turned my back on the busy river corridor and started looking up into the 35,000-acre wilderness surrounding it for a little solitude from the hundreds of visitors we'd see during busy days.

It turns out I was a lousy caretaker who let the weeds get tall. I wasn't around a lot to field important visitor questions, and I got caught inner-tubing down Mule Creek Canyon...

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Tolowa Dunes trails lead to 'mosaic of habitats'

Tolowa Dunes trails lead to 'mosaic of habitats'

Near the end a recent hike in Tolowa Dunes State Park outside Crescent City, two ladies stopped us and asked if we had seen “anything interesting.”

My wife mentioned the flock of great egrets wading in the shallows of Lake Earl. There were, in fact, seven of the long-legged birds, looking as white as angels behind a thin curtain of fog.

I told of several harriers — sometimes called marsh hawks — cruising at hunting altitude above the grassy dunes of...

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Trophy trees on the Frog Pond trail

Trophy trees on the Frog Pond trail

Frog Pond is a north-facing cirque cradled in the 20,000-acre Red Buttes Wilderness Area. On the two-mile hike to its shallow shores, you will encounter some of the most majestic forests I've seen in southwest Oregon.

Trees that reach five feet in diameter are common. You'll find rare plants, including a very special conifer tree that grows only in the Klamath Mountains.

It will come at a price. You'll gain about 1,000 feet in elevation in the first three-quarters of a mile and...

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