My Adventure: Boundary Springs to Prospect along the upper Rogue trail
My husband, Al, and I share a passion for nature, and part of this love finds expression in the form of hiking. Since distant travel has not seemed wise or feasible in these limiting times of COVID-19, we have been exploring some of our favorite local trails.
Our timing has been coordinated with the seasonal heat cycle. We hiked lower-elevation trails closer to home this spring. In late July we started walking in the Cascades hoping mosquitoes would be less in this drought year. We took a friend to Boundary Springs, which is where the Rogue River springs from the ground, and it’s a place all lovers of Southern Oregon should visit.
The Boundary Springs Trail begins off of Highway 230 at the Crater Lake Rim viewing stop. The trail splits off to the left following the pumice bluffs that the Rogue River cuts and twists through. We saw how the 2018 fires had ravaged the small lodgepole pines, and how nature is making its slow comeback with new trees and vegetation such as the colorful fireweed.
In the canyon’s lower depths healthy trees have survived, especially as we approached the actual spring. What an amazing emergence of water bursts forth from the porous rock! And it is cold, just what the feet relish as we recovered from the three-mile trek.
Once back at our vehicle, we started thinking about the fork where we had turned. The other fork led south on the less-traveled Upper Rogue River Trail. We had a 2004 Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Rogue River Trail Guide and realized we could come back and follow the Rogue River Trail from there all the way to Prospect. Our explorer blood surged and we started trying to figure a way besides backpacking that we at ages 77 and 78 could do the entire trail.
What we did was stay at the Prospect Hotel for trail portions south of Big Bend trailhead, and at the Union Creek Resort for the trails north of Big Bend trailhead. We took two cars so that we could position a car at either end of the various trail segments. We made our breakfasts and carried our simple lunch in our daypacks. Evening meals were at the Prospect Hotel or Beckie’s.
We had a wonderful adventure and were thrilled by the beauty of this journey, but some sections of the trail above Natural Bridge are not easy and require endurance and an ability to at times intuit where the trail is. In the section between the Boundary Springs turnoff and Forest Road 6230, we lost track of the trail after Rough Rider Falls and had to bushwhack our way to the highway through brush, downed logs and steep terrain. In other sections there are streams such as Hurryon Creek and Flat Creek to ford or attempt to cross via logs. There are slippery hills and downed trees that one either must mount, crawl under or go around.
On the Big Bend to Natural Bridge section there is a tree we had to crawl through. It took nearly 20 minutes of adjusting body parts like a contortionist to finally pass. There was also some face-high brush that we pushed aside using our hiking poles that made trail identification tough. Yet we were never fully thwarted and came away proud of ourselves and the red scratches we garnered on our strong, tanned legs as we overcame the obstacles.
The entire trail covers about 50 miles. We broke it up into seven days of hiking — eight if you include the Boundary Springs section, which is a must. The sections range from 3.5 miles to 9.3 miles. But with detours at spots the distances are probably slightly longer. Speed varies. On the most challenging sections we were lucky to do a mile an hour, but on the easy, cleared portions south of Union Creek we could travel two or more miles an hour. We took lots of photos and breaks. The silence, the river melodies, the water movement in rapids or falling or placid pooling, the light of sunshine on meadows and tree needles, and the vistas from pumice bluffs high above the Rogue are deeply satisfying to the soul. That is what makes this challenging journey worthwhile.
We would urge our fellow hikers to write to our congressmen about channeling money for jobs for trail maintenance crews to clear downed trees and repair trail portions that are being eroded and lost. A couple of foot bridges would also help. The Upper Rogue River Trail is a treasure that deserves our care. Its protection will enable others beside ourselves to enjoy its phenomenal and unique beauty.
Annie Drager lives in Phoenix.
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