This multi-day Bucket/Travelogue covers a trip to southern Oregon that included a four-day lodge-to-lodge raft-supported hiking trip down the Rogue River.
Day 1 was the drive from Seattle to Grants Pass and the stops between. Day 1 here:
The Daily Bucket: South to Oregon the Long Way - Day 1 Travelogue
Day 2: We arrived safely into Grants Pass the night before (Day 1), checking into the Riverside Inn. Our second story balcony had a commanding view (slight exaggeration) of the Rogue River and the venerable old highway bridge that crosses it.
Conde B. McCullough was the notable State Bridge Engineer for the Oregon State Highway Department who was the bridge engineer for all those beautiful bridges along the Oregon Coast Highway.
Out paddling on the Rogue we spotted Canada Geese, Mallards, and Common Mergansers. Swallows were zooming all around the bridge. The birds were all too far away for good photos. I tried, folks. There will be a few birds coming up on later trip days.
We had the whole day to kill before our next destination, Morrisons Rogue Wilderness Lodge, where would check in later in the evening for the pre-trip meeting. So, my wife says: “How about Oregon Caves?” Me: “Why not?” Stoked with the hotel breakfast, we were off to the caves.
Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve is about an hour from Grants Pass on US 199, the Redwood Highway. We stopped at the visitor center at the appropriately named town of Cave Junction where we purchased our cave tour tickets. From the junction at Cave Junction the road to the caves (Oregon Route 46) begins nicely but becomes quite winding as it climbs into the Siskiyou Mountains. Two beautiful old buildings are at the end of the road, one the official visitor center built in 1924 as a chalet and the other a chateau (temporarily closed for repairs) built from1932 to 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
At the appointed time, we assembled with a group of people for a ranger-led tour. The tour followed some narrow, twisting passages with sometimes low ceilings, but then opened up into large rooms. There is life in these caves including bats, cave crickets, harvestman, and springtails. We passed a few bats hanging from the walls.
The caves have formed in marble, which is metamorphosed limestone. Limestone and marble are chemically and mineralogically the same: calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or calcite. Calcite slowly dissolves in mildly acidic groundwater. The mildly acidic groundwater is created by the mixing of water with carbon dioxide in forest soils. That water percolates downward into the marble bedrock. Over time, this dissolution of the marble (calcite) has created the caves. When the water loses carbon dioxide it becomes less acidic and the calcite precipitates forming the amazing cave features like stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and draperies. Let’s go into the caves and see some of these.
Okay, so where did the marble come from you ask? Remember I mentioned that marble was originally limestone. The limestone was likely a coral reef back in the Triassic Period (252-201 million years ago). Just a couple buzzwords to ponder: accretion and terrane. The western margin of North America is a plate boundary where the oceanic plate continuously crunches up against the continental plate (North America). The oceanic plate being denser than the continental plate dips (subducts) under the continental plate, usually. Like a big conveyor belt, the oceanic plate carries with it islands, oceanic sediments, submarine lava flows, mini continents, and a coral reef or two or three like the marble of the Oregon Caves. All these things get scraped off or smashed up against North America, technically accreted, forming various terranes of similar origin and timeframe. All this crunching created pressure, heat, faulting, along with other usual processes like erosion and mountain building. The heat and pressure crystallized the limestone into marble, and along with that any fossil record in the limestone was essentially erased. The marble is now an isolated block jumbled up with other rock types as part of what is known as the Rattlesnake Creek terrane. This is a way simplified explanation. For a deeper dive, I highly recommend Roadside Geology of Oregon - 2nd ed. and watching YouTube with Nick Zentner.
After the cave tour we were hungry, so the wife went to work finding us a place to eat in Cave Junction. We ended up at Wild River Brewing & Pizza Co. Good food and beer. There was a young family there and wouldn’t you know, mama was packing heat in a hip holster. Yep, small town Oregon because you never know what can happen on the mean streets of Cave Junction. Maybe a loud muffler.
After lunch it was time to check in at Morrison’s, which is downriver from Grants Pass at a small enclave called Galice, right on the Rogue River. It was quiet and pleasant there, a nice old lodge and a wide expanse of green lawn. We attended the mandatory evening meeting with our guides and the other folks we’d be traveling with down the river, 14 travelers in all. And they all turned out to be wonderful, accomplished, interesting people that by the end of the trip we were sad it was over for the friends we had made.
Dinner that evening and an overnight stay at the lodge was part of the trip package. The dinner was excellent, some kind of sole filet rolled up in rice. Sorry, no picture. During dinner, I felt something crawling on my hand. I looked down at my hand and it was a freaking tick! During the hike on subsequent days, we had several tick encounters along with poison oak, which grows everywhere in southern Oregon. But these were trivial issues compared to the beautiful scenery and experiences we had.
Upcoming on subsequent days:
Day 3 — Wildflower endemics in the Klamath/Siskiyous, and where we’re actually hiking down the Rogue River
Day 4 — Maybe some more ?
What is happening nature-wise and weather-wise in your part of the world? Show and share. We want to see. Please comment, converse, and raise questions.
THE DAILY BUCKET IS A NATURE REFUGE. WE AMICABLY DISCUSS ANIMALS, WEATHER, CLIMATE, SOIL, PLANTS, WATERS AND NOTE LIFE’S PATTERNS.
WE INVITE YOU TO NOTE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING AROUND YOU IN YOUR OWN PART OF THE WORLD, AND TO SHARE YOUR OBSERVATIONS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
Thanks for reading the Daily Bucket.
Phenology is how we take earth’s pulse.
We discuss what we see in each Bucket.
We value all observations, as we ponder life’s cycles.
Now it’s your turn.
Please comment about your own natural area, and include photos if possible. We love photos!
To have the Daily Bucket in your Activity Stream, visit Backyard Science’s profile page and click on Follow, and join to write a Bucket of your own observations.