Palmer Bear here. It has been a fun-filled summer in southern Oregon and I’ve been spending more time enjoying it than writing about it. I have to tell you about my holiday adventure though. If you are looking for the perfect holiday field trip to celebrate the fourth of July, you will want to climb Table Rock.
This is Upper Table Rock, a mountain located in Sams Valley near Medford, Oregon. There are two table rock mesas perched 800 feet above the Rogue Valley. They formed some 9.6 million years ago from a lava flow which snaked down the valley from vents east of Prospect. Since then, erosion wore away the softer surrounding rock, leaving the hard andesite rock capping the U-shaped mesas.
In 1850, a gold strike in Jacksonville attracted miners and settlers to the area. The local Takelma Indians were not tickled by that idea, so they launched an attack in 1853 to get their homeland back. The U.S. Army fought back, forcing the Indians to escape to the top of Upper Table Rock to get away. The Army sent Joe Lane up to have a chat with them. He promised to give them a reservation that included the Table Rocks and a fort nearby to protect them from armed vigilantes. Since he was a good dude and kept his word, he became a hero among the whites and Indians. He even had an Oregon county named after him.
In modern times, more than 10,000 visitors hike this trail every year. In the spring, hikers enjoy the different wildflowers and migratory birds. On July 4th, visitors and local folks pack up picnic lunches and hike up just before dark to enjoy firework displays from all over the Rogue Valley at the same time.
Of course, I had to see it for myself. We packed up and hit the trail which is 1.25 miles to the top. The hike is an easy to moderate walk which gets a little steep in sections. If you want to make the journey, be sure you wear good shoes and bring plenty of water. Also tie a jacket around your waist because as soon as the sun goes down, the air can get a little chilly.
Since I have little short legs, I caught a ride with one of my fellow hikers, Trinity. Is she cute or what? She was full of energy and smiles all the way up the hill, and she even learned to stay on the trail to avoid poison oak and not disturb any nature. She is definitely the perfect human-uber (is that a word?)
We paused now and then just to rest or to say hello to a wandering caterpiller or snake. Fortunately, we did not run into any rattlers but we were on the lookout just in case. One fella caught a blue belly lizard and tried to set it on his shoulder but it took off down his back and leg to the ground and kept on running.
The trail is well maintained and the scenery along the way is stunning. There are 70 different types of animals and 340 different kinds of plants, including 200 wildflowers. This is a beautiful place to explore, but I was happy for the ride instead of having to climb on my own. The signs along the trail said not to bring dogs, but I did not see any mention about bears so I was good to go.
Since it was July, the weather was pretty hot heading up the hill. Lots of water is definitely recommended to drink or even pour over hot fur (I mean hair). Most of the trail is gravel with some loose rocks.
We reached the top of the mesa just as the sun was starting to set. I was even more amazed up close at how flat this mountain truly is. It really was like walking across a tabletop.
As the sun started to go down, the temperatures went down quickly as well. We were glad we thought to bring jackets and blankets even if they weren’t needed during the hot hike up. Dark time was definitely snuggle time.
The view from the top was FANTASTIC! You could see all over the Rogue Valley: Medford, Central Point, White City, Eagle Point and maybe even Ashland in the distance. We walked to the side of the mountain that faces Medford and found a spot set against the hillside a little out of the wind. Then we set up our camp for the evening’s festivities.
As soon as the blankets were set down, the drinks uncapped and the snacks were broken into we had a few visitors who asked to join our little party as well.
These little creatures enjoyed stealing crumbs from our potato chips while we stole the opportunity to get some great pictures. Were these party animals?
As the sun set on the surface of the mesa, we snuggled into blankets and watched fireworks shows all over the valley happening at once. Pictures would not do it justice, but that is a show I definitely recommend seeing. I only posted a few of the pictures here, but look me up on Facebook where I will be posting the rest.
Once the show was over, we hiked back down the trail by flashlight. Trinity got a ride on her uncle’s shoulders and I tucked into Driver’s backpack. I don’t think he noticed but I had a nice snooze. A hike out in the beautiful outdoors, a yummy picnic and not just a fireworks show but all the shows at once. Now that was an Independence Day to remember!!