EXPLORING WET, WILD & WONDERFUL SOUTHWESTERN OREGON
By Linda Ballou
The famous 40-mile run through the scenic Rogue River corridor begins at Rainey Falls (a Class IV rapid) in Galice near Grants Pass. There are many great camps and miles of fun Class II and III rapids before Mule Creek Canyon, a narrow gorge where cascading side streams join the rush to the sea. Soon after Mule Creek Canyon is Blossom Bar, a boulder jumble that blocks jet boats loaded with tourists coming up from Gold Beach to have lunch at one of the shoreline lodges. The trip ends at Foster Bar which is about an hour from the Oregon coast.
Momentum River Expeditions takes pride in letting travelers be part of the adventure. You can row as much as you choose, or not. It is your holiday. You can float in the rubber ducky, an inflatable kayak, if you want to man your own boat; jump into the clean, clear water to cool off and swim beside the boat during calm glides; or sit back, do a little birding, and watch the world go by. At the end of a rafting day you will be greeted by your camp guide with tents popped, latrine installed, and cool lemonade. While you settle into your home for the night, your guides, like elves in the forest, prepare tasty, creative appetizers, and ply you with fine Oregon wines. Dinners are delicious creations, from chicken with ginger sauce to steak spiked with chimichurri. Fresh vegetables from farm to table magically appear. Leave room for dessert.
Each bend in the river brings something new. All your comforts are taken care of and all that is required of you is to enjoy the river corridor chock full of wildlife with a rich history of gold miners, fishermen, Native Americans, and river rats of all stripes.
The Rogue River Trail overlooks the river and traces the path of the rafters. In the spring, Momentum offers a raft-hike option for the hardier. They set up camp and prepare the meals for hikers who can enjoy the trek with a daypack and have the comforts at the end of their hiking day. There is also the option of a lodge-to-lodge rafting trip that runs simultaneously with the camp trip, so those who prefer the conveniences of the lodge can have the same rafting experience as the rest of the people in their party. There are options for all levels of physical condition and desire for adventure. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to share company. Children are welcome with a parent or guardian. The trip promises to make kids braver and adults kids again. For more details on this adventure go to my article “Sinking into River Time” on NABBW.com.
After cooling your jets on the river, take the Redwood Hwy (199) out of Grants Pass to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the northern-most redwood forest in California. It traces the rugged Smith River Corridor sheathed in towering sugar pines.
Hot Tip #1: If you can snag a room at the budget Hiouchi Motel, next to the Hiouchi Café, you will be in the perfect position to explore the ancient redwood groves. The Visitor Center for the park is a block away. Go there to check on possible road or trail closures before heading out for the day. Simpson Reed Grove is an easy mile loop through a fern-laden forest of the giants, but the star attraction is the enchanting Stout Grove. Majestic giants have slumbered here for hundreds of years shading frilly ferns that line the paths and mosses that blanket the forest floor. Sunbeams stream through the canopy, lighting up the moist, cool, soothing forest. I took a moment to breathe in the strength and life-giving oxygen these trees provide. Tree hugging is allowed. The trail leads to a beach park on the Smith River where you can take a dip. If you have time for a five-mile hike, the Boy Scout trailhead is on Howland Hill Drive, the same unpaved track that takes you to the Stout Grove.
Head out on Highway 197 to Brookings and enjoy a lovely drive through the forest where a few lucky folks live on the Smith River. Brookings is a splash on Hwy 101 with several lodging choices and eateries and a boat harbor. It is a good springboard for further explorations in the redwoods and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. This 12-mile stretch of rugged coastline dotted with sea stacks can be viewed from several viewpoints and trailheads. At Cape Ferrelo, I took the path framed in shoulder-high shrubs spiked with red blooms to a bench waiting for me in the sun overlooking Lone Ranch Beach. Delightful. The stop at Rock Point, an easy amble through windswept pines shading picnic areas, garnered stunning views of aquamarine waters crashing through sea stacks to sun-splashed shores. Just north of Brookings you will find Harris Beach Park, a scenic, swimmable, sandy beach with facilities.
Hot Tip #2: With Americans hitting the roads this summer, it can get busy. The Oregon Redwood Trailhead, at the end of a four-mile unpaved road, is less popular than the California redwoods. If tranquility and the chance to absorb the beauty of the last remaining stands of redwoods in peace appeals, it is worth the effort. You will see the sign as you near Brookings on Hwy 101.
Hot Tip #3: Mornings tend to be overcast in Brookings. Drive seven miles inland to the Loeb River Walk and leave the gloom behind. The walk is an easy amble shaded by ash, manzanita, and redwood tracing an emerald-green river lined by mounds of four-leaf clover and fanning ferns.
Indeed, I did feel lucky to have had the chance to explore wet, wild, and wonderful southern Oregon. There is so much more to see along this dramatic coastline that rivals the majesty of Big Sur.
Linda Ballou is a Southern California-based travel writer, and author of the books, “Lost Angel Walkabout,” “ Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawaii,” and “The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon.” Her latest effort “Lost Angel in Paradise” take readers to her favorite day trips on the Coast of California. This book is Linda’s way of giving back to all those friends who have said they would like to hike with her. From her roots in Alaska she received strength, centeredness, and respect for the awful power of nature that carried her forward into an adventure travel writing career. You will find a host of travel articles on her site www.LostAngelAdventures.com. For more about her novels and travel books go to www.LindaBallouAuthor.com.