The whole crew is on the road, and this time Ralph is toting the full-size mountain bikes. Secretly, Ralph wants to be as tall as Howie, but even with the suspension lift and the mountain bikes, he’s still a shrimp at 10 feet compared to Howie’s towering 12 feet.
All pose for a snapshot at a gas stop in Medford.
This is first full day on this gorgeous stretch of Creation, the upper Rogue River. Karin and I were here two years ago, and it is every bit as beautiful as we remembered.
We had absolutely no trouble or adventures traveling up here, or meeting with Siegy and Linda, who arrived several hours ahead of us and saved us some camp sites. We are once again 50 yards from a feisty rustling river, coursing across millennia-old lava flows as it winds its way down the mountain.
The campsites at Farewell Bend are very widely spaced, maybe 200 feet or so between campers. The forest is tall and open, with soft pine duff in between the trees. There are picnic tables, BBQ grills, fire-rings, running water, and flush toilets. A totally civilized place to “camp” and enjoy the serenity of the 120-foot tall trees. The sighing of the wind in the canopy and the distant rush of white water create a gentle background shush-ing sound that blankets the occasional passing truck or noisy camper. It’s quite peaceful here, and I sit at a picnic table typing away on my laptop (no more Droid experiments, thank you).
In the supposedly warm afternoon, the manly troupes (aka boys under 50) decided to brave the river water for an afternoon bath.
Since the water varies between 44F and 52F, the rest of us considered this very brave, indeed.
The white water was barely able to mask the screams of delight, shock, and anguish as multiple body parts began a descent into the deep freeze.
Brandon and Bryce were supposedly going to 1-2-3-GO together, but Brandon got (bad pun) cold feet. He paid for it later with an independent scrubbing from Roger. Getting the kids in once was challenging them; getting them back under again to rinse the soap out of their hair – – everybody will remember that experience.
Today, we take a couple of short exploratory trips, down to the Gorge, and the store and lodge across the highway from it. The Gorge is quite striking, being composed of an old lava tube found by the wandering river, and then having had its roof collapse. The end result is a striking, rocky but forested vertical-wall channel into which the river abruptly drops 45 feet before churning and twisting down the lava chute. Dark and almost hidden, couldn’t get a decent photograph.
But such a remarkable formation is eclipsed by the “natural bridge” area, three miles further downstream. Here, the river actually descends underground for 200 feet inside an old lava tube, to emerge from the opposite side of the channel in a torrential gush. The flow in high season, even on this upper stretch of the river, is 335,000 gallons a minute (10,000 bathtubs full).
Left: the Rogue plunges straight down into the lava bed, directly underfoot from the observation platform.
Right: Beginning the dry above-river section of the lava tube.
As the river crossed underground beneath the upper channel (in which water flows during flood season), the tube-constrained flow spurts up through cracks in the roof, creating a small stream above. Then, at the far side of the channel, the hidden river leaps back into view, looking like the flood from a burst dam.
Left: the lava tube roof, looking downstream
Right: the river emerges from the tube at hundreds of thousands of gallons per minute.
It’s hard to see all of it from any one vantage point, but the observation trail is nicely designed to provide strategic views.
This shot is from downstream, looking up at the river flowing toward the camera. The river-plunge can’t be seen, but it is right under the observation deck in the far background.
On the same walk that explores the natural bridge, there are several adjacent forest hiking trails, and we take one back into the woods a little ways.
These are peaceful, semi-flat trails with beautiful surrounding evergreen woodlands.
An ancient pine tree that’s probably 8 feet in diameter.
Tomorrow, we’re all off to Crater Lake for a look-see. Should be fun.