Rocky Rim - Fish Lake Loop - November 23, 2008
Richard and Ray Hike - Narration and Pictures by Richard O'Neill

Last week the club hiked on the Dellenbeck Dunes. The hike was pleasant enough, the day was sunny and relatively warm. But winter is coming, and with it, we have to surrender the mountains to the snow and come back again in about 8 months or so. I spent a lot of time looking at road cams at Diamond Lake the week prior and there really wasn't much snow there, maybe I could sneak in one last mountain hike. When Ray voiced the same thought while on the dunes hike, well, it was "hike on!" This hike was a case of having the cake and eating it too; it gave us indigestion while simultaneously being finger-lickin' good.

At the Beaver Swamp Trailhead, the temperature was in the high 30's but once we descended to the sunny shores of Fish Lake, it was a balmy high 60's. The warm sun brought out the critters and we startled two garter snakes engrossed in the business of making more garter snakes. We also startled a beaver who swam across the lake to get away from us. The lake was glassy and the ripples from the beaver expanded languidly across the lake's surface.

At the lake's inlet the trail got seriously steep and the whining and sniveling started so I told Ray to shut up and keep hiking. This would be a 3200 ft climb in just about 3 miles. About halfway up the whining and sniveling started anew and Ray told me to shut up and keep hiking. At mid-day we arrived, rubbery legged, at the large Highrock Meadows.

The meadows were brown and the vegetation had been flattened by the recent snows, some of still existed in shady patches. Highrock Mtn dominated the view and Jackass Mtn (there was some banter about which one of us the mountain was named for) marked the actual Rogue-Umpqua divide just above the meadow.

After a nice lazy lunch in the meadow we made the short climb up to the Rogue Umpqua Divide tral, and from there it was a short walk to Molasses Camp Meadow and the eastern terminus of the Rocky Ridge Trail. The trail descended on the ridge's east side and it was ironic that the further we descended, the more snow we encountered. Although it was a little over ankle deep, the snow slowed us up quite a bit, and that would have consequences for us later on in the hike.

By the time we reached the cliffs of Standoff Point, the shadows were getting quite long over the Rogue Umpqua Divide and we could see the late afternoon sun on Crater Lake, Union Peak, Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Scott, Mt. Bailey, and Diamond Peak. Closer to the trail were Fish Mtn, and Rattlesnake Mtn. The trail on Standoff Point is quite cliffy but we were able to safely and carefully pick our way through the snow patches.

We pretty much left all the snow behind us as we arrived at the spectacular hogback section above Fish Lake. There was a wonderful sunset going on. However, we didn't really appreciate the sunset as there is a phenomenon called "night" that follows sunset. Night's primary attribute is "dark" also known as "the inky blackness of doom" We had already hiked 8.5 miles but still had 4 miles to go!

From personal experience, night hiking is not all it's cracked up to be. Particularly on a trail where neither Ray nor I had ever been on. Particularly on a trail whose last 3 miles cross a burn area where the trail was faint and sketchy due to a vigourous regrowth of brambles and other assorted shrubbery. There was a moment of concern when the trail switchbacked and made a long cliffside traverse down towards Fish Lake's inlet, in totally the opposite direction of the trailhead. Fortunately, our concern eventually abated when the trail switchbacked in the correct direction before reaching the lake. Basically the last two hours consisted of a seemingly endless procession of brambles, branches, and rocks parading through the pool of light at our feet (we had headlamps). Large animals (who never were seen in the blackness) ran noisily just off trail. After what seemed like half the night, I saw a light twinkling through the woods and it turned out to be the taillight from Ray's truck and it was thankfully the end of another zany adventure for the Dynamic Duo.

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