41 miles in 4 daysHER STATEMENT, IT'S ONLY FAIR - "Honey, I want to go backpacking!" "We get to climb your mountains, now it's my turn." "I want to camp."
MY REPLY - You don't want to climb a mountain and camp near the summit?
HER REPLY - "I enjoy that, but I want to do some real backpacking. Into the backcountry, hiking several days, setting up camp one day, breaking it down the next and moving on. We never get to do that."
MY PROMISE - OK, no matter what we will go backpacking at least once this year.
In my quest to be on top of as many peaks as I could last year, I got very tunnel visioned. Not once did my wife and I go backpacking, mostly due to my addiction to being up high and looking out over the surrounding areas. We did however camp a couple of times, but that does not compare to getting away from civilization like you do when you go backpacking. So this year we made it a promise to each other to go backpacking. One trail we had heard a lot about since we moved down to this area was the Rogue River Trail. 41 miles of river and views, or so we thought.
I think we are just spoiled, we have been to quite a few neat places, so we unrealistically expected to see the river on all 41 miles of this trail. And we had gotten the impression that the trail was relatively flat. BOY WERE WE WRONG!!! Despite all of the UPS and DOWNS, we did enjoy ourselves.
The nice thing about our jobs is that we work three days in a row and have four off, so the way our schedules are we can get out on a four day outing without having to take a vacation, Very Nice!! There was one problem with this scenario though. We would have to hike approximately 8-10 miles after working 12 hours. Well, at least I would have to. Kenzie lucked out and got the last 8 hours of work off, so she was fully rested. Me on the other hand, I was already dragging butt after a very intense 12 hour shift. But I managed to pull it together to hike 9 miles the first day after being awake for nearly 30 hours. So the following is how it all played out.
We had finally decided that this was the week that we were going to hike the trail. The forecast looked very nice for the first couple of days with chances of rain for the next two. We did have a possible problem though. We would have to drive for almost 2 hours one way, just to shuttle our cars to the end of the trail unless we could find someone willing to pick us up. Meaning we would get a very late start on the trail. Fortunately, my good friend, brettwilli offered to pick our car up at the trailhead and to pick us up at the end of the four day trek. Little did we realize how long of a drive it would be for him and how far out of the way it was. Definately a great friend!! We actually felt pretty bad that it was so far out of the way, we had no idea.
So leading up to the hike, Kenzie had dehydrated some food and had done the majority of packing, bless her heart. I must say she couldn't have packed the food any more perfectly than she did. Our last meal was on the side of the road near the campground we were getting picked up at. Perfect amount of snacks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. To the T. Water was not an issue as there was quite a few streams along the trail, not to mention the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. So we were packed and ready to go.
Day 1: 0745 - Kenzie after her 8 hours of rest came and picked me up from work. We went out to breakfast and then headed home to make sure there was nothing we were forgetting before we headed out on the trail. There were just a couple of small things that we threw together and then we were set to go. We arrived at Graves Creek and actually started on the trail at about 1200, at this point with ~40 lbs on each of our backs we were wondering if we should still do this. Sensibility turned off and we thought to ourselves "of course we can do this." So we were maybe 1 mile or so into the trail and we ran into one of my coworkers. He had hiked from the opposite end of the trail to this point as that was the way his shuttle had worked out for him. We sat and chatted for maybe 20 minutes or so. Everytime I think of staying overnight in the wilderness, I think of one of his stories. This particular story just happened to be about the trail we were hiking. The Rogue River Trail is known to have a lot of bears and a few of which have lost their fear of humans due to improper food storage by other hikers. So, anyways, his story goes: He was lying down in his tent one night, when all of a sudden he felt this large animal lean up against the tent and then proceed to lay down. Right on top of him, no less. He said he could not breathe, because it was laying on him, therefore there was only one thing he could do. Self Preservation, he hit the bear, several times. In the meantime, his wife wakes up and says, "what the heck are you doing." "There's a bear laying on me, so I'm hitting it!" Shocked, she says, "don't hit it, you might piss it off." He says, "well I can't breathe, stupid bear." So everytime I lay down in my tent I have this image of a bear meandering up to our tent and using me as a pillow. Not a pretty thought. So after talking to him, we continued on the trail with some pretty good views of the river now and again. We played a little bit of leap frog with another hiker who was starting the same day as us, and would continue to see him ahead of us and subsequently catching up to us after we passed him. We eventually settled down at the 9.1 mile mark just beyond a bridge with a good water source. We set up camp, I filtered some water and we proceeded to eat some excellent dehydrated chili that Kenzie had packed up for us. Lights out around 2100 hours.
Day 2: We woke up around 0500, had some cereal and cinnamon nut cous cous, packed up and were on our way at about 0700. Less than an hour into the trail we came across the other hiker whom we would see several more times on this trip, he was cooling his blisters in a stream. We gave him some mole skin from our first aid kit and continued onward. This would end up being our longest day. We hiked 14.4 miles in all this day. By nights end we would both have some decent blisters to work with. We would also have our coolest spot to pitch our tent on this day as well. So 7.4 miles into the hike we came across a spot by the name of Battle Bar. It is a great spot by the river with some very open meadows off to our right. I mentioned to Kenzie. "This would be a great spot for a bear to hang out." We never saw one, however, Jacob, the guy who would be ahead of us, then behind us came across one less than a half mile back and less than 30 minutes before he caught up with us. Thankfully for him, it was only interested in going to the river. We continued on, resting at Quail Creek, another bridge with meadows all around. Located at the 19.4 mile mark, I decided we should continue onward until we hit the 23.5 mile point where there were some good campsites right by the river. Let me tell you, that last 4.1 miles got really long. We were ready at that point to call it a day for sure. I hiked down by the riverside and found the best camping spot of the trip. It was a flat spot on a rock that sat about 30-50 feet above the water. Perfect for pitching our tent. We had since passed Jacob, only to find out later that he ended up camping in almost the same exact area that night. By the days end I had a pretty bad blister on the ball of my left foot, while Kenzie had a horrendous blister on the top of her left great toe. This would also be the end of the nice weather for us. We slept well this night.
Day 3: We were dragging butt this morning, badly. We woke up at 0500 only to keep resting until about 0730. We didn't actually hit the trail until about 0900. A late start for what we were hoping, but it would have to do. For the next two miles we were unimpressed as the trail follows roads. But after that two miles, it turned into some of the most beautiful backcountry/views I have ever seen. At this point of the trail the river enters a canyon, and a very beautiful one I might add. Here, the views are rugged and absolutely gorgeous. And here is where we saw the most wildlife, albeit not much, along the trail. Amongst the wildlife, we saw, deer, including a doe with a fawn that must not have been more than a day or two old (tiny, very tiny). Momma was giving us looks like she was going to charge us, her body language was very direct. We also saw a couple of ringed neck snakes, and a rattlesnake (our first ever that we had seen in the wild). No bear, no mountain lion, not much else, but the views at this point were enough to keep us excited. So we continued on for a total of 9.5 miles this day and were going to set up camp at the base of a waterfall right by the intersection of the river and a creek but as we had arrived, so did some river rafters who set up ate dinner and left. At this point, it was also raining and our spot was in the sand. It was a very miserable feeling, not to mention that with all of the bears around, I didn't want to be camped right next a spot where dinner had been made. We packed up and went about 0.1 miles down the trail and set up camp there. Here, we just happened to run into Jacob for the last time. Apparently he had decided to camp at this spot as well. We set up camp, relaxed our feet and went to bed. I did not sleep well this night, I woke up every other hour but amazingly felt well rested in the morning. Nicely enough, though it rained through the day, we didn't receive much rain throughout the night.
Day 4: We were up at 0500 and out on the trail by 0630. Only 8 more miles to go to complete this hike. I must say the last 8 miles was definately not the most scenic, although some of the spots that we hiked through the woods were pretty for that type of scenery. A lot more ups and switchbacks even. We were looking forward to being done. There were some interesting parts on this stretch of trail with some pretty good exposure. 50-100 foot drops, where the trail was only wide enough for one foot at a time, with a 40 lb pack to boot and the trail was dirt and mud at this point because of the rain that decided to pick up again this day. We successfully navigated these portions enjoying some of the beautiful waterfalls that presented themselves to us along the rest of the way. We eventually made it out to realize that the BLM directions failed to mention that the last two miles would be on blacktop without a view. So we trudged our last two miles uphill to our meeting point and cast off our packs. Tired and sore, we were glad to be done. To make things even better for us Brett showed up 1 1/2 hours ahead of schedule, so we hardly had to wait at all. We had enough time to kick back relax, eat and then it was time to go home.
Although, we were sore and had expected more river along this trail we would not give it up for anything, it was a fun experience for both of us. The first time either of us had ever gone on a backpacking trip quite that long, and all done within our normal days off.