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Hiking the Rogue River
Part One

In the Spring of 2000, Ed & Helen Bodington, and three friends, (Don, Carol, and Laura), walked about 40 miles along the Rogue River in southern Oregon.

By Ed Bodington

Hiking trips like this start at the Grave Creek Bridge on Galice Road, which winds 27 miles north of Grant's Pass via Merlin. The trail then contours along the north side of the river ending at Foster Bar, which is 35 miles from Gold Beach on the Pacific Ocean. We stayed at five out of the seven lodges along the way, so we didn't have to carry food, (except lunch), or sleeping equipment. It was wonderful to get to a lodge, take a hot shower, enjoy a happy hour, a good dinner, and then have a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed.

To make our trip even more enjoyable, we stayed at Morrison's Lodge on the Rogue River for two nights before beginning our trek. Morrison's is on Galice Road, not far from the trailhead. Meals at the lodge were marvelous, and served outside on a deck with an expansive view of the river. A serene and relaxing experience.

On the intervening day we visited the Foris Winery, where we tasted and purchased some excellent Pinot Noir to take home. Then it was off to a wild animal rehabilitation center, where we saw the only bears, and mountain lions of the trip. The center only takes wild animals, and if possible returns them to the wild after they have recovered from whatever trauma brought them there. They have many birds as well as mammals, such as bobcats, lynx and fox in addition to numerous bear and a few mountain lions.

Day 1: Grave Creek Bridge to Black Bar Lodge
(10 miles, 6 hours)

In the morning, we drove to Rogue Wilderness's office in Merlin, Oregon. Merlin is a small town just a few miles north of Grant's Pass. We were greeted by Bob and several other members of the company, who gave us our bag lunch for the day, and then last minute instructions about avoiding or shooing off bears and mountain lions. We bought some pepper spray cartridges to be used as a last resort on a bear or lion that wasn't scared off by noise, and two whistles to be used to announce our presence. We didn't see any bear or mountain lion at any time during the trip, but it's good to be prepared.

Starting on the trailWe boarded the Rogue Wilderness van after our light packs were fastened on top, and were transported to the trailhead at the Grave Creek Bridge. The river, which had been heading generally north from Grant's Pass, makes a sharp left turn here and heads west. This trailhead is also a rafter's put-in spot, and many parties were loading rafts with supplies, and pushing off into the current.

We shouldered our light packs, and started on the trail at about 10:20 a.m. The river canyon in this area is narrow and steep sided, with cliffs dropping to the water, so our trail climbed up to the top of the cliff on the north side. The trail then goes sometimes up and sometimes down, following the contours of the rock strata. The trail here is in very good condition, and three or four feet wide, so we felt at ease even though we were walking right along a ledge carved out of the cliff.

Our views of the river were excellent, and it was fun to watch rafters go through several rapids, screaming, yelling and then laughing with relief after a successfull transit. We didn't see anyone attempting Rainie Falls, which is one of the few class five rapids on the river. Rafters usually walk around, and float the boat down a fish ladder on the north side, keeping it under control with lines to shore.

This section of the trail has very few trees, so it was hot. The temperature was already in the 80s when we started out, and was climbing. After a few miles, the trail entered sparse woods, which gave us some shade, but it was still a very
hot walk. In addition to the lodges, the river has numerous camps set up by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), which administers the area. The camps even have outhouses, but no fireplaces. Fires within 400 feet of the river must be built in a fire box, and all the ashes carried out. We stopped at the Whiskey Creek camp for lunch and a short rest.

After lunch, we went a short distance up a side trail to the Whiskey Creek cabin, built in the gold rush days. The cabin is in remarkably good shape: the roof and walls are intact, glass is still in the windows, and many of the old tools are still lying around. The cabin could be used as a shelter in bad weather. We turned back to continue on the river trail, and noticed that it was getting hotter all the time. The thermometer on my pack read 87 degrees. I was perspiring so much that sweat was
dripping onto my glasses, and my tee shirt was soaked. You can never tell what the weather is going to do in Oregon. The previous week, it had been rainy and cold.

Our cabin Black Bar LodgeAt about 4:30 p.m. we reached the junction with the trail down to Black Bar Lodge, our first destination. The trail down was steep and narrow, but we made it all the way with no difficulties. Our trail is on the north side of the river; Black Bar Lodge is on the south side. To get across the river, you have to attract the attention of someone at the lodge, and they have to row one of their rafts across to get you. About half way down the slope, I stopped at a small clearing where I would be visible,and blew my whistle and waved. Someone down by the rafts waved back, pushed an inflatable raft out into the stream, and was waiting for us by the time we got to the waters edge.

Once at the lodge, we were greeted with large pitchers of lemonade and iced tea, with lots of ice cubes. We all felt re-hydrated after several glassfuls, and then were directed to our rooms by our hostess. We took three of the rustic cabins for the five of us, each with comfortable single beds, a small bathroom, and stall shower. We met about 5:30 in our cabin for a glass of wine, and then went to dinner about 6:00 p.m.

The dining room was crowded, with four more hikers and a large rafting party of about 14, including two boatmen. Dinner was served family style, with many bowls to be passed around containing turkey, beef enchiladas, potatoes, vegetables, salads, and home-made rolls. All well cooked and delicious. After dessert, we made arrangements with one of the boatmen to take us across the river at about 8 a.m. the next day, and toddled off to bed. We were all tired enough after our 10 mile day, that we didn't even try to read in bed.

Electricity at the lodge is provided by a diesel generator that is turned off at 10 p.m., so there was no noise during the night except wind rustling the leaves of the trees, and the distant water falls and rapids on the river. Black Bar has dirt road access, but it takes a four-wheel-drive vehicle and is 50 miles from Grant's Pass.

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