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May hikes a maybe

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SAMS VALLEY — Leaders of the annual spring hikes on Upper and Lower Table Rocks have joined the sidelines like the rest of America, but they have contingency plans for salvaging the hike series atop the Rogue Valley’s signature mesas.

The Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy have canceled the hikes that were to start March 28 and run through April, but they expect to offer some hikes in May.

They hope the pandemic will ebb enough to hit the reset button beginning May 2. The annual hikes draw more than 50,000 visitors annually and have been a staple in the Rogue Valley for decades.

The events planned for May include a yoga/Pilates hike, as well as a ukulele jam-hike, and outings focusing on wildflowers, historical aspects of the mesas and the night denizens of the rocks.

“Pulling off hikes in May is 50-50 right now, but nobody really knows,” says Molly Morison, The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Oregon manager. “I’d say we’re hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see what the response to COVID-19 is.”

BLM and The Nature Conservancy plan a mid-April meeting to reassess whether the May hikes can go on.

Other possibilities include pushing the series into June, as long as weather allows, and even doubling down on last year’s experimental fall hikes to provide an August and September version of the spring hikes — provided wildfire smoke keeps its distance.

In the meantime, Morison is urging hikers to find their social distancing on either of the two trails, which will remain open regardless of whether the guided hike series is reconstituted in May.

“We’re encouraging people to get on the trails and into nature where they can get rejuvenation and calmness,” Morison says.

Here are the hikes planned for May. Registration will begin April 17.

Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m., Upper Table Rock: Herpetologist Emma Rose Parker will lead a hike to study the reptiles and amphibians that call the Table Rocks home. (https://herps-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m., Lower Table Rock: Archaeologist and historian Jeff LaLande will lead a hike discussing the role of the Table Rocks in the culture and legends of the Takelma Indians, as well as the history of the Table Rocks area during the “Rogue Indian Wars” of the 1850s. (https://legacy-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Sunday, May 3, 9 a.m., Upper Table Rock: BLM botanist Sasha Joachims will lead a hike highlighting the native flora and wildflowers at the Table Rocks. (https://wildflower-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m., Upper Table Rock: Naturalist/photographer Sam McNally will lead a photography hike on how to shoot wildflowers, insects and nature in general on your smartphone. Just show up fully charged. (https://photography-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m., Lower Table Rock: Entomologist Bill Schaupp and ornithologist Kate Halstead, will lead a hike that focuses on the complex relationships between bugs and birds on the Table Rocks. (https://bugs-birds-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Saturday, May 16, 9 a.m., Lower Table Rock: Yoga/Pilates instructor Emily Dean Warren will lead a hike that starts with some basic yoga postures at the trailhead to prepare their bodies for the hike to the top. Stops will be made along the trail and at the top for more breath, balance and moving meditation postures. No yoga experience is required. (https://yoga-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Saturday, May 16, 7:30 p.m., Lower Table Rock Loop:

BLM wildlife biologists Steve Godwin and Kim Thompson will guide a hike on the lower loop trail focusing on animals that come out at night. No guarantees, but they will attempt to lure pygmy, great horned and screech owls as well as other creatures of the night. Bring flashlights and wear good hiking shoes. (https://owls-bats-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Sunday, May 17, 10 a.m., Upper Table Rock: The Table Rocks Unplugged hike is BYOU affair, as in Bring Your Own Ukulele. Musicians Tish McFadden and Jeff Kloetzel will lead a sing-along and jam along the trail and at the top of Upper Table Rock. All skill levels and ages are invited to make music in nature. Music booklets will be provided. (https://ukulele-hike-2020.eventbrite.com)

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJeff Kloetzel and Trish McFadden play ukuleles and sing on top of Lower Table Rock.
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