I loved every bit of Oregon. The whole state has this wonderful backcountry feel to it. Even some of the places near downtown Portland are a bit like being out in the wilderness. I found the area around the Rogue River particularly special though. I’m probably slightly biased because I got to visit some wonderful family friends there which made it extra memorable, but it really is a stunning place to get lost in. Ashland is a beautiful little town and there are some wonderfully wild places to go hiking within a day’s drive. The government shutdown was still keeping the National Parks closed, so Crater Lake was a no go unfortunately, but there are plenty of other gorgeous places to explore.
To experience the Lower Rogue River we went on a day hike to Rainie Falls. The wide river ambles down between sheer rocky hills, luckily there’s a nice easy path cut into them for us. Nothing too challenging, it’s an easy stroll over rocks and up the river. There are some beautiful fall colors starting to peek out in the trees. The locals aren’t overly impressed and I’m told the colors aren’t at their best yet, but I’m used to New Zealand’s evergreens so the little splashes of color are a real treat for me.
In between the bigger trees the track squiggles through pretty gullies with delicate mosses and ferns and lazy little waterfalls to add a bit of variety to the river walk. All this and the cute little boats out on the river make a very quaint scene indeed.
At the end of the track is Rainie Falls, a set of bigger waterfalls that’s popular with rafters. There’s no daredevils today, but there are salmon jumping through the falls which adds a bit of excitement to the day. The falls aren’t huge, but they’re big enough for the jumps the salmon make to be pretty impressive. We sit around watching them attempt their massive leaps up the river for a while, and then it’s back the way we came to the trailhead.
Our second wilderness adventure is at the Upper Rogue River on a trail I like to think of as the enchanted forest. Apparently there is another walk in the area that’s actually named the enchanted forest. It’s not that one, but I don’t see how the other forest could possibly be more enchanted than this one. I thought the fall colors in Ashland and lower down the river were cool, but the ones here are absolutely stunning. There’s less of the flaming reds around but the bright golds are everywhere I look, which is almost better than a combination of colors. It’s like the whole world has turned golden for the day. Our visit is in the late afternoon and the drooping sun streams in low, backlighting the golden leaves so that they glow intensely as we walk past.
The evergreens rear up above the smaller trees. Their monstrous trunks look almost black and contrast wonderfully with the glowing leaves, lending different shades to the little world of gold. We have a wonderful lazy amble along the riverside, stopping frequently to try and capture the beautiful scene on camera or just smile and breathe it all in.
The trail takes us to a gorge upstream, where the peaceful river transforms into a rage as it bottlenecks in the narrow ravine. The golden trees are behind us, it’s all monster pines and rocky traps for the racing river here.
The wild waters are an interesting contrast to the pretty colors on the way up, but I’m still all wrapped up in a happy little forest haze and I’m happy when we turn around to go back into the golden trees again. The light is lower in the sky now, changing the landscape in subtle but beautiful ways for the return journey.
To top it all off we stop at Beckie’s Cafe for a taste of the best Blackberry Pie I’ve ever had. Another little piece of magic for the day.
Listening to: Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac