Lower Table Rock - April 2, 2011
Coordinator Diane Rannow, narration and pictures by Diane Rannow

The weather is unpredictable and it was overcast as 11 of us headed south toward Medford and Lower Table Rock - the remnants of an old lava flow that snaked down the Rogue River Valley millions of years ago.  It was brisk at the trailhead and everyone was anxious to get moving.  After distributing the radios, we scattered into three groups... fast, medium and slow.  

Even though the cliffs are 2000 feet high, the trail to the top only gains 780 feet in 1.6 miles as it climbs though a dry forest of madrone and black oak.  Buttercups were blooming in the meadows near the trailhead.  Soon we started seeing masses of lovely pale lavender Henderson’s Fawn Lilies along with a few shooting stars and purple-eyed grass.  Hound’s Tongue were also starting to bloom.  Almost at the tabletop, clumps of Chickweed Monkeyflower were clinging to part of the exposed cliff.  By the time the photographers crested the plateau, the 4 fastest hikers had disappeared over the other side to explore the swale and the rest were headed down the old airstrip.

Since the weather has been so cold and wet this year, we didn’t find the masses of wildflowers in bloom on the top that we had hoped for.  A few Purple-eyed Grass were still around and whole areas were carpeted with Slender Goldfields.  Scattered across the plateau, vernal pools changed color as the light changed and sometimes reflected the clouds.  For weather we had everything... sun, wind, clouds, sprinkles and tiny hail.

A little over a mile later we caught up with the three middle hikers that had stopped for lunch at the southern end of the plateau.  We were delighted when they decided to continue on to the south viewpoint and joined us while we ate lunch.  Because of the cloudy weather, we didn’t have views of the distant mountains.  Below us the Rogue River wound lazily through a patchwork of ponds and fields.

After lunch we crossed the mesa to the eastern side to explore the cliff edge as we head back.  In one area bunches of Grassland Saxifrage were in bloom.  With searching, we found a few tiny Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary and Poverty Clover (we always called this Cow’s Udder Clover) hidden in the grass.  Boggy areas made us look like drunken sailors as we tried to keep our feet dry by stepping from stone to stone.  Two of our group had decided to just head back down the airstrip and didn’t have to hop around as much.  Almost the entire group ended up back at the trail down at about the same time.

Although the weather was so changeable and it was a little early for most of the flowers, it was a beautiful spring day and a delightful hike.


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