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Annual hikes will add WWII exploration

For part of this weekend, the annual Table Rocks hikes will look a lot less like climbing a mesa and much more like storming the beaches at Normandy.

Sunday's version of the popular Table Rocks weekend spring hike series actually will be a guided hike through a piece of the nearby Agate Desert to a series of concrete pillboxes that once helped turn the former Camp White landscape into intensive combat-training ranges.

Camp instructors used live fire while training soldiers how to attack German pillboxes.

"They tried to make it as much like the beaches of France," says George Kramer, an Ashland historian who will lead Sunday's hike. "There are 10 or 15 of these scattered around the oak savanna, and they're not normally accessible.

"This will be a change for the public to see this facility," Kramer says.

The hike, which will be open to the first 15 people who sign up, is one of the series put on jointly by the federal Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy.

But if you can't join the pillbox hike; there are plenty of others of the more traditional variety. Along with the requisite floral and geological-based hikes, this year's series includes three family and kid-centered hikes as well as evening hikes for star-gazers and owl-o-philes.

"The hike series changes every year, and it depends upon who they get to lead them," BLM spokeswoman Chamise Kramer says.

Kramer says the BLM approached him to lead the interpretive hike into Camp White's old Beagle Range.

"I told them leading a hike about the range is no problem," he says. "But if someone wants to ask about the flora or fauna, I'm not their man."

Reservations are required on all the hikes and space is limited to 20 people per group unless otherwise noted.

The rest of the hikes typically are 3 to 5 miles round trip, mainly on moderate-grade trails and typically last three to five hours.

Participants should dress for the weather and bring lunch, snacks and plenty of drinking water because there is no water source available. Restrooms are available at both trail heads. Dogs, mountain bikes and and Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) are not allowed on the trails at any time.

To register, call the BLM at 541-618-2200 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Registrations close at 4 p.m. on the Friday before hikes scheduled for that weekend.

Here is a run-down of this year's hike series.

Saturday, March 28, 9 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: Lichen Hikin’ with Two Fungi: Jason Wilson, fungi extraordinaire and graduate of the Southern Oregon University Environmental Education Master’s program, will join certified lichenologist John Villella, a botanist with Siskiyou Bio Survey and member of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society, for an exploration hike where participants will learn about and locate many of the unique variety of nonvascular plants, lichens, liverworts and the fungus on the Table Rocks. Hand lenses and field guides are encouraged, but not required.

 Sunday, March 29, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Camp White: “The Alcatraz of Boot Camps.” Travel back in time with George Kramer, local author and historian, to the WWII era when Southern Oregon was a major training center for the U.S. military. George will lead participants on a guided exploration of the remains of the Camp White artillery range, which includes pillboxes designed to practice infantry drills. Because there is no trail, wear sturdy shoes and long pants. This hike is limited to 15 people.

Saturday, April 4, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Spring in Bloom: BLM botanist Chamise Kramer and BLM environmental educator Molly Allen will explore the valley's native flora, wildflowers and natural history of the Table Rocks.

Saturday, April 11, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Layers of Time: Join Jad D'Allura, emeritus professor of geology at Southern Oregon University, and Joni Brazier, soil scientist for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, to discuss the formation of the Table Rocks and the unique geological features and soils along a hike to the top of this ancient lava flow.

 Sunday, April 12, 10 a.m. at Lower Table Rock Loop: Family Fun Day: Take a walk on the wild side in celebration of early learning, young children, their teachers and families for “The Week of the Young Child.” Four guided hikes on the half-mile loop trail through the oak savanna will take place on the hour of each hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for registered participants only. Music and a puppet show will also be part of the festivities.

Saturday, April 18, 9 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: Wildflowers Abound: Barbara Mumblo, botanist with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and a member of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, will lead a hike to discover the array of wildflowers found on the Table Rocks.

 Sunday, April 19, 8 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: For the Early Birds: Join local bird experts Bob Quaccia, with the Rogue Valley Audubon Society, and Frank Lospalluto, with Klamath Bird Observatory, to view the spring birds of Table Rocks. Learn birding identification tips and conservation information. Bring binoculars and I.D. books if you desire. This hike is limited to 15 people.

Sunday, April 19, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Grand Ronde Tribes, Past to Present: Join Michael Karnosh, ceded lands program manager at the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, to learn about traditional and culturally important plants of the tribes whose ancestors include the original residents of the Table Rocks area. He will also discuss modern day tribal management of conservation properties and partnerships with government agencies, land trusts and other groups.

 Saturday, April 25, 9 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: Mighty Oaks!: Join Keith Perchemlides, field ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, to explore a remarkable diversity of oak habitats including savannas, woodlands and shrublands, and see examples of recent restoration work. Oaks of all shapes and sizes are vital to the lives of wildlife, other plants and people. Research and conservation partners on the work include the Conservancy, BLM, Lomakatsi Restoration Project and Klamath Bird Observatory.

 Sunday, April 26, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Plants and People: BLM botanist Bridgette Cuffe will lead a hike exploring the ethnobotany of the Table Rocks. She will identify plants along the trail and discuss their traditional and present day uses as food, medicine and more. This bilingual hike will be presented in both Spanish and English.

Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: Legacy of a Landmark: Jeff LaLande, retired archaeologist and historian for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, will discuss 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 “Indian Wars” of the 1850s.

 Saturday, May 2, 8:30 p.m. at Upper Table Rock: Last of the Milky Way: Join Shaina Niehans, seasonal park ranger at the National Park Service’s Redwood National Park, on a night hike to explore the shrinking frontier of the Milky Way. Spot stars 40 times the size of the sun, stars that could explode at any time and stars that even orbit other stars. Bring a flashlight and binoculars, if possible, and wear sturdy but comfortable shoes.

 Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Lizards, Snakes, and Frogs — Oh My!: The Table Rocks have attracted those who study reptiles and amphibians for decades. Their topography and available habitat allows a large diversity of "herps" to live on their flanks and summits. Join Peter Kleinhenz, a SOU environmental education graduate student, and Colin Guiley, a biology student at SOU, as they search for as many examples of native herpetofauna as possible.

 Saturday, May 9, 7:30 p.m. at Lower Table Rock Loop: Whooo Comes Out at Night?: Join BLM wildlife biologists Tony Kerwin, Steve Godwin and Ernie Fliegel to look for creatures and listen to sounds of the night from dusk ‘til dark on a jaunt around the Lower Table Rock Loop Trail (half-mile accessible trail). Steve will attempt to lure pygmy, great horned and screech owls. A short presentation of the common bats, owls and other animals active at night in this area and their unique characteristics and adaptations will precede the hike. Bring your flashlights and good hiking shoes.

Sunday, May 10, 9 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Mother’s Day — Family Hike: Spend Mother’s Day with a BLM environmental interpretation specialist on a family hike to the top of the rock. This is a general information hike suitable for the whole family. Topics will include wildflower identification, ethnobotany, geology, wildlife, ecology and cultural history.

 Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m. at Lower Table Rock: Beautiful Butterflies and Incredible Insects: Peter Schroeder, entomologist and affiliate professor of biology at SOU, will lead a hike to observe and discuss the butterflies and other insects that live on or flutter by the Table Rocks.

 Sunday, May 17, 10 a.m. at Upper Table Rock: Powerful Pollinators: Find out what all the “buzz” is about by joining Sarah Red-Laird, a.k.a. Bee Girl, who will explain why pollination is essential for human survival. On this family-friendly hike, learn about the birds and the bees and their relationship with the wildflowers and trees that produce a rainbow of colors on the Table Rocks. This hike is limited to 15 individuals.

From left, Amanda Strong, Jennifer Pray, Phillip Butz, Nicole Robinson, Donna Robinson and Rachael Robinson take in the view from Lower Table Rock. Mail Tribune / file photo