From our Benchmark Atlas of Oregon we saw that there were a few interesting natural features on the Rogue River south of Crater Lake NP. Going to these would be on our way back to see some more redwoods in California and some of the southern Oregon Coast, but we both agreed that we could skip going back down south for those things. So our Rogue River adventures would be an in and out kind of thing.
The first stop was the Rogue Gorge, where the river cuts a deep canyon into the volcanic rock. There was a nice paved trail to see the pretty gorge but not much else. It reminded us of some of the river gorges in Glacier NP and in New Zealand.
The next road side adventure was the Natural Bridges of the Rogue River. In this area the river enters and exits a lava tube and thus for a brief time disappears from sight. It may not be the most picturesque thing to see, but it was interesting to see a river of water flowing where a river of lava once flowed.
The final Rogue River adventure was Mill Creek Falls and Avenue of the Boulders. This was a little more of a trail than the others. We ate lunch at the parking lot before heading out. We first went to Avenue of the Boulders. The Rogue River enters a section where it flows through, under, and past a lot of large boulders. In the process it makes some nice small swimming holes. Since we hadn’t showered in a day or more we felt the need to jump in. The water was cold but bearable.
We played around for a while. Hoggle took shelter in the shade where he could. The sun was really hot. That was the only thing that made the water temperature withstandable. Jay climbed around on some of the boulders and we both took turns dunking our heads in one of the small cascades.
When enough was enough we packed up and headed toward the waterfalls. The first was Mills falls, where Mills Creek falls over 160 feet into the Rogue River. The viewpoints are from the other side of the steep canyon of the Rogue. It was pretty awesome. We went a short distance and saw the second falls too. It might have been even higher, but the flow rate wasn’t quite as high as Mills. Nevertheless it was still awesome.
After all that we hiked back up to the parking lot. Hoggle did a good job of keeping up. We got back to the van and backtracked north. Eventually we headed about 75 miles north of crater lake until Jay realized one of the waterfalls he wanted to see, and a hot spring, were back the way we came. So we decided to turn around and go back the way we come. Oh well. But we were able to pay the health insurance bill when we had cell service on our detour, so it was not all for naught.
We finally got to Toketee Falls of of Oregon State Road 138. It was about six in the evening and the sun was beginning to fall out of the sky as we started our short three quarter mile trek to the falls. We were now in the lush Oregon forest, like what you think of when you think of Oregon. Here the North fork of the Umpqua River carves a gorge in the volcanic rock before plunging into a small pool situated 80 feet above an even larger pool. The pools are separated by columnar basalt rock, like at Devil’s Postpile. The columnar basalt forms a great gateway for the river, made even better by the evening sun illuminating it all. It’s one of Oregon’s most photographed falls and for good reason, it was beautiful.
Hoggle was not impressed as you can only see the falls (without going off trail down the steep canyon walls) from a viewing platform perched on the cliffside. Hoggle is more into places where he can roam in the bushes. As it was, he was bored while we looked at the falls and Jay took some pictures.
We finally left and headed back toward the parking lot. We were originally going to make dinner there and wait for the sun to fall a little more so Jay could take some different pictures of the falls, but the giant group of Oregon Hillbillies changed our minds. They arrived in a red Toyota pickup and a Jeep. They got out, along with a pack of dogs and a million kiddos and hung out in the parking lot smoking pot, cigarettes and drinking while the little kids and dogs ran amuck. They looked like something right out of Appalachian stereotypes. The patriarch of the group waltzed around with a big beer belly.
So we headed on to our final destination of the day: Umpqua Hot Springs. It’s a few miles up a dirt road from the falls. We made our way there to the well marked trailhead. There we found a dumpster overflowing with garbage and a toilet that reeked of poop. Not enticing.
So Jay headed up the steep quarter mile trail to check it out. He found a picturesque series of pools formed into the hillside overlooking the Umpqua River. When Jay got back we made some soup for dinner and then headed up. We passed the sign saying nudity was common and if uncomfortable with it, you shouldn’t go. We weren’t, so we went.
When we arrived we found an empty pool and got in. The water was really hot. Too hot to stay in for too long without a break. The warm humid air didn’t do anything to help. Despite that, it was relaxing to be there in the warm pools. It was pretty quiet even though there were six or so people there already. There were a lot of pools to choose from of different temperatures.
After about an hour the sun was well past down and a large group of kids arrived with guitars and beer. Jay was expecting this. Being as we are now old to these kids we decided it was time to leave. We were ready to go anyway, it was hot and we were running out of water. And Hoggle was tired of being tied to a root getting bitten by mosquitos.
So we made our way down the trail to the parking lot, showered off quickly with some of our fresh water, and headed up the dirt road to find a camping spot. The Oregon forest service roads are lacking in good sites to camp. We found a spot that looked unoccupied. There was one tent a little ways up in the woods, but it seemed to have it’s own parking spot further up the road. We decided to camp there.
So we bedded down and around midnight a truck showed up. A big group of folks spilled out. It must have been that group of kids that ran us out of the hot springs. As they got out Jay could hear “white van” among their conversation, along with “this looks like the beginning of some serial killer movie and I don’t want to be in it!” Then their flashlights started peering in through our windows on all sides. It was a bit disconcerting.
When the lights persisted Em called out, “Can we help you?” And a young girl spoke up and said they were there to party and were going to be loud. Em was confused, “Can you party somewhere else?” “No, we’ve got our camp set up here already. You can stay if you want, but just wanted to let you know we are going to be loud.” Ohhh, we were parked in their spot. Whoops! We thanked her for letting us know – she was the only one with the guts to talk to the people in the scary white van, and then we headed on our way after a few minutes, leaving them to their party. We backed the van out and after another ten minutes found another totally unoccupied site for the night. We got to bed late and slept poorly.
The next day we didn’t do a whole lot. We woke up late after going to bed so late. We agreed that since Jay hurt his leg the previous evening climbing around the hot tubs we would take it easy. The first thing we did was find some breakfast to eat because Em wanted a hot breakfast. We happened upon this small inn in the middle of the forest. They serve breakfast all day, which is good because it was noon by the time we got there. Jay thought it looked crappy, but Em insisted. Turned out they had delicious French toast, and rhubarb pancake roll-ups, and other great stuff. We feasted while sitting in their nice landscaped garden patio area. Hoggle even got his own seat from which to watch the kitties that live there roam around the yard.
After eating we drove to a random campground and took showers and cleaned up the van. Jay cut his hair, which was badly needed, with the clippers we brought along. Then we hit the road again.
As we were driving down the road Jay remarked how fun it would be to get back in the water. Since the hair cut wasn’t complete, Em saw something else she wanted to trim, we stopped at a boat launch, trimmed hair, and Jay got in the river. It was a little chilly, but the hot sun made it fine. It was warm enough that Em decided she wanted in on the action so when Jay got out she got in too.
Since we had so much fun at the boat launch, but it wasn’t exactly a swimming hole, we decided to drive back up the road and look for one of those. After much trial and error Em finally found a good spot for us. Still deep water forming a nice pool alongside the river. As we walked down everyone else cleared out so we had the spot to ourselves.
We took turns walking up stream and floating down the channel of swift moving water. Jay even crossed the river once. After a while we were getting cold and tired so we left to find a place to camp. This time, a completely empty place.
We found a dirt road and on the way up Jay almost ran over some people’s puppy who decided to run out in the middle of the road. We kept driving for miles and miles before finally finding a place way up on in the hills.