Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday in Southern Oregon

We took a short day trip today to Briggs Creek, which is in the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass and feeds into the Rogue River. Exiting I-5 north of Grants Pass, you pass through Merlin and then Galice. The road takes you along the Rogue Gorge...

...and past the Hellgate portion of the Rogue River, famous for its thrilling raft rides. It's also the setting for numerous movies and television shows, including Gunsmoke, Rooster Cogburn and The River Wild.

Eventually you turn off onto a single-lane road that snakes its way up a mountain and deep into the Rogue Forest. Many miles of winding road later, you come upon several popular recreation areas. Big Pine is home to the tallest known Ponderosa pine tree. There's a wonderful interpretive trail with a series of hiking loops, each one longer than the next but all of them suitable for kids and tired parents.

Someone put a lot of effort into the layout, evidenced by the beautiful wooden bridge, the well-kept paths and the interpretive signs. It was once a highly "accessible" area, with talking exhibits for the blind and other features. Much of that has deteriorated, but it's still a charming place for little ones.

Big Pine itself is truly awesome...

...and over 300 hundred years old.

Driving a bit further you come to the Sam Brown Horse Trails and Campground, named for a miner who had a habit of fooling around with other miners' wives and paid a hefty price for it. Apparently there's a grave site nearby but we didn't look for it. Briggs Creek trail is more rustic but still well-defined and maintained. I can't begin to describe how good it smelled here.

The trail is about 4 miles long, makes several fords across Briggs and Turkey Creeks and passes some abandoned mining camps and cabins. The swimming holes along the way are well-known and popular in the summer. Here's one surrounded by lush umbrella plants:

After a couple of fords we grew less adventurous and veered off onto a logging road that loops back to the campground. We spotted a garter snake sunning himself in the middle of the road. He was very sleepy and only slithered off when we tried to touch him.

It was a beautiful fall day, 70 degrees, with bright sun, clear blue sky and a light breeze. The air was filled with hints of pine, rotting leaves, campfire smoke and other autumn scents. Just heavenly.