Rocky Ridge - July 14, 2007
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration by Richard O'Neill and pictures by Richard O'Neill and Nettie Apland

This is one of the most underrated hikes in the Umpqua National Forest. It is nothing but utterly spectacular and yet I have to see another hiker on this trail. I don't get it.

The fun starts early, less than a half mile from the trailhead we enter the meadows surrounding the Rocky Ridge Shelter. The meadows are purple as they are rife with small-flowered penstemons. Mixed in with all the purple are pink asters. Very colorful.

From the meadows the trail undulates up and down on Rocky Ridge, a forested ridge opposite the Rogue-Umpqua Divide with Castle Creek somewhere way down below. Meadows and ferny glades alternate with the forest. At a couple of points we bushwhack off trail to viewpoints of Castle Creek and Rattlesnake Mtn.

After a couple of miles, the trail heads out onto cliffy scree slopes. Highrock Mtn dominates the view, underneath Highrock is Fish Lake. Grasshopper Mtn is also readily visible as is the basin containing Buckeye and Cliff Lakes. On the scree is scarlet paintbrush, buckwheat, and lilies. Can't stare too much because the trail is cliffy and a misstep could be the last step.

And now for the piece de resistance: The trail spits us out onto Rocky Rim, a narrow hogback ridge that slopes down a thousand feet or so on either side. The rim is only several feet wide on top and the views are flat-out amazing. MT. Bailey, Mt. Theilsen, Crater Lake rim, Diamond Peak are all visible. We also have a bird's eye view of Fish Lake. Eons ago, Grasshopper Mtn slumped and the resulting landslide dammed Fish Lake Creek and created Fish Lake. Although forested, the slide is visible from Rocky Rim.

Most of us continued on past the Rim because a mile or so later the trail gets majorly cliffy, bring out the mountain goat in us. Wierd pinnacles, flutings, spires, minarets, and hoodos rise above the trail. It feels more like the southwest instead of the northwest. Lois spotted a lily and ordered me to take a picture. So I must crawl and slither under branches just to make Lois happy.

5 of us continue on past the cliffs and take the trail all the way to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide for an 11 mile hike. As usual, the divide is host to beautiful meadows rife with flowers of all ilk. 

On the way back the group stopped above a rocky chute on the cliffs. Gaoying took off her shoes to change socks and her shoe got away from her and ran on its own accord down the shute. Not a good thing, we had 4 miles to go and that is a long way on socks. Richard B had on his logging boots with the spikes and volunteered to go down on a shoe search. Amazingly, he found the shoe and Gaoying was most grateful. Lesson learned, she avowed never to take her shoes off at cliff's edge.

I was beat when we were done but it was another great hike.


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