Tale of a Trail… Gold Miners, Wild Life, Scenic Asides, and Strange Surveyors

Our property backs up to the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest which in turn shares a boundary with the Klamath National Forest. Together, they include well over a million acres of wilderness! We love it. As do the deer, bears, cougars, foxes, coyotes, etc. We even had a wolf pass through a couple of years ago. This sign marks the boundary between our property and the National Forest. It also marks the beginning of our trail. Surveyors came through a few months ago to check out the National Forest boundary. They moved signs and marked trees in red paint. Peggy thought that maybe they were having a little too much fun.
I wonder why.

For quite some time, we have been making a detour into the forest as part of our daily mailbox walk. It adds an extra mile to our exercise. Plus it is just plain fun. The problem is that the hike only works for late fall, winter and early spring. Otherwise, we are dealing with poison oak, ticks, and little burrs. No one wants poison oak, the ticks may carry Lyme disease, and the burrs are just plain nasty. We come home with dozens in our socks and they are very difficult to remove. Inevitably we miss a few and they end up in our laundry. For some reason, they are attracted to our underwear, mainly Peggy’s. But you can bet I feel the pain…

This spring, I decided to create a trail through the forest that would allow us year round access. It would be poison oak and burr free. Plus we would be much less likely to get ticks. They tend to hang out in bushes and brush off on innocent animals, people and maybe Big Foot, who, legend has it, likes to hang out in our neck of the woods.

I wouldn’t be starting the trail from scratch. Mainly I would be reclaiming and expanding on old miners’ trails and deer paths. My goal, as always, was to have minimum impact, which was pretty much guaranteed since my tools were a rake, mattock, and lopper. I call the lopper, Cindy. You may need to be of a certain age to get that. I tell Peggy that Cindy and I are going up on the mountain to have a little fun. She doesn’t worry; she just snorts. “Wear your gloves, honey.”

I was worried on my first day of trail making. It was two days after the cougar ran across our deck and the morning after our neighbor Bryan had his scary night-time encounter. There was a significant chance that it was still hanging around where I was working. The deer herd was out and came down to watch me work, however. They high-tail it when they are on the menu. Maybe they figured as long as I was there, the cougar wouldn’t be. I hoped they were right in their assumptions. If not, I would wish them good luck as I did my own high-tailing-it act. (Suggestion: Never take off running when you see a cougar. It confirms you are food and fun to chase. Stand tall, look the cougar in the eye, speak to it firmly, “Bad Kitty,” and slowly back away. I’m serious.)

In addition to being a pleasant stroll through the forest, the trail incorporates a bit of history. Miners came searching for gold during the 1920s and 30s. There are old sites for at least seven cabins, a cave, a wood stove, remnants of an old auto, and test holes that they dug following a quartz vein in hopes of striking it rich. They would dig down, find the quartz, shove a dynamite stick in, blow it up, and then check out the results. The test holes come down off the mountain and run right across our property. It could be we are sitting on a fortune. Ha.

Peggy and I have found seven flat spaces like this that were likely the sites of miners’ cabins. When they left, they must have taken the lumber and tin roof with them. We did find one section of tin roof and lots of old #10 cans.
This cave, dug by the miners is right off the trail.
A look inside the cave. We didn’t find any gold, but there were bats. Peggy and I call it the Bear Cave. It’s partly to entertain our grandkids but once, during the winter, Peggy and I found bear tracks leading toward it through the snow. I wanted to check it out. My buddy, not so much.
This is one of the test holes the miners dug that extend down onto our property. This one was surrounded by pieces of quartz that Peggy harvested for our yard.
This was one of the rocks that Peggy chose. The biggest. I swear it weighed at least 100 pounds. My back survived but my feet hurt the next day from being driven into the ground. I earned extra husband credits but no gold.

Wildlife has adopted the trail for their own use. We’ve found cougar, coyote and fox scat along it as well as deer. And I even found deer sleeping on it. Then there was the young buck who seemed to be having some problem…

I was hiking up the trail when a young buck started behaving strangely in front of me. This isn’t the most graceful pose. I am always amazed at how streamlined, almost fragile the legs look.
Uh-oh. Have you ever had one of those itches that is just impossible to scratch— at least in public?
Whoops.

In addition to miners’ history and wildlife, attractive trees and flowers are found along the trail as it winds its way through the forest.

Low bridge, everybody down! This madrone crosses over our trail, low enough to bump your head on. Especially if you are wearing a hat that blocks its view and are looking down for poison oak to remove.
The culprit that caused me to bump my head: Poison oak. Its three leaf arrangement is the give away.
I rather like the limb, so it will continue to bump the heads of unwary trail users. Hopefully not mine again.
The madrone trees have bloomed along the trail, making them easy to spot in the surrounding forests
The madrones (Arbutus menziesii) are finishing up now, but they were still in full bloom when I took this photo. I might add that they have a sweet, attractive smell that greets us when we step out our door.
The trail wanders under an Oregon big leaf maple.
Among towering pines…
And past numerous white oaks with their wonderful gnarly limbs.
The trail also passes by buck brush, which was blooming this spring and also has a distinctive sweet smell.
I photograph manzanita as much for its dead limbs as I do its live ones. This trunk reminded me of the alligators found along the Gulf Coast!
The flowers start blooming in March. They are rarely in profusion except for shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia)which are one of the first flowers to bloom. About the time one flower ends its season, another pops up.
Last week, I showed you some of the gorgeous irises that Peggy grows. Wild irises, possibly not so glamorous but still pretty, grow along the trail. This is yellow leaf iris (Iris chrysophylla).
Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), a lovely flower that had our book club gigging over its name, have come out in the last month.

I thought that the latest addition to our flower family was pretty face Brodiaea, but now I think it may be a rare Triteleia crocea, a closely related species that only grows in our area.

I’ll wrap this blog up today with my favorite flower, Calochortus elegans. Its common name is elegant cat’s ear. If you have ever owned a kitty, I’m sure you can see why.

My blogging friend Crystal Trulove from Conscious Engagement and her buddy Pedro are visiting today and went out for a walk on the trail. Here are photos of them along the trail and in the Bear Cave taken by Peggy. 

MONDAY’S POST: I’ve promised to tell you who shot Pavy’s pig, and I will. But I also want to discuss our summer blogging schedule, which will be slim at best. Peggy and I are taking a break to pursue some other interests. We intend to be back with a regular schedule in the fall. And I will continue to check in on you occasionally over the summer. The friendships we have formed are valuable.

33 thoughts on “Tale of a Trail… Gold Miners, Wild Life, Scenic Asides, and Strange Surveyors

  1. Not a bad trail to have in your back yard! Poison ivy is something we’ve luckily never come into contact with but not knowing what it looked like, could easily have 😉 Forewarned now.

  2. I think you and Peggy have found the perfect spot for your adventurous spirits to live. I hope you can avoid all the summertime hazards and I appreciate your advice on what to do if you encounter a cougar. I’m pretty sure I would be so awed that I’d be frozen in place. I’m also pretty sure I’d never turn my back to it.

    • Laughing. Good idea, Juliann! Joggers sometimes get in trouble because they are running and don’t see the cougar. As a general rule, cougars stay far away from people and are rarely seen. –Curt

  3. That’s a fantastic trail to the mailbox, Curt. I immediately saw an alligator in that dried trunk before I even read that you saw the same. I’d take my time getting the mail too if I had property like that!

  4. Like “Browsing the Atlas” above, I think, you have the perfect place for the two of you to live.

    We will be driving around Washington and Oregon for the month of August. If we head your way, I will check to see if you are around and perhaps we can get together for a cup of coffee or a meal.

    • Peggy and I would love that, Ray. Please let us know. The challenge is always finding us at home but so far, the only time we will be gone is the first couple of weeks in July. We may also be wandering around Oregon and Washington in August. It would also be fun to meet up out on the road! –Curt

  5. So glad you share your life in the woods. I would be so afraid to go into that cave, to hike knowing that ticks might cling to my britches, and to be alone with nothing but silence. So, I guess that’s why we love blogs — to see how others live life differently. I will say, the beauty of your surroundings would get me out and about. It just might take a while.

    • Having grown up playing in the woods, Rusha, I’ve always been comfortable wandering in the wilderness, Rusha. In fact, I feel at home there. Like anything (avoiding pickpockets in Rome, for example), a certain level of knowledge and care are called for. 🙂 Thanks, Curt.
      You’ve probably picked up on the fact that I will be taking a break from blogging this summer. I been including it on posts this past week. But I will be posting occasionally and checking in on my blogging friends. I didn’t want folks to think I’d fallen off a cliff somewhere. 🙂 –Curt

  6. It just occurred to me that you and I are actually neighbors!!! Just a little way up the road from us is the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. We share many of the same flora and fauna. I think this spring was one of the worst of the tick infestations. I even read that they are now found along the coast as well. I was out making a valiant attempt at taming the weeds and got bit by a tick three (3!!!) occasions. Enough is enough. I’ve given up and have started to take precautions against the little buggers… which is annoying and a nuisance! I tend to allergic reactions to both mosquito, spider and tick bites… the first one created a red swelling at the site between my wrist and elbow. It created a bit of a stir when I went in for my first Covid shot!!! The doctor told me that I wouldn’t get Lyme if the tick hadn’t been attached for over 48 hours. Hope she’s right! Luckily both Eric and I are getting to be quite expert at pulling the little suckers out intact! 🥴
    We certainly live in interesting times. 🙄

    • Neighbors, in deed, Gunta. So far, we have been lucky on the ticks here. I thought for sure that I might pick up a few in making the trail, but didn’t. Peggy, who gets down and dirty in her garden, is exposed to more danger. One thing I do religiously is spray my shoes and lower pants legs with insect repellent any time I go out. Constant vigilance is about all we have going for ourselves. And yes, it’s getting weirder. Is that even possible? 🙂 –Curt

  7. Nice to hear you and Cindy are getting the job done! My husband would be out there with the JD mower, I think… that is how he keeps the trails open on our property – after I went through and cleared them of fallen logs and pointy rocks. Of course, we only have four acres – sure wish we had a National Forest to roam!
    Love the flower photos. Seeing the wild flowers is the best reason for clearing a trail, I’ve found.

  8. That’s a seriously big backyard. I don’t know if it’s just the sections you showed, but it doesn’t look like an overgrown mass of brambles and bushes, which is even nicer for a meander. You’ve found a prime spot.

    • It’s relatively open forest land, typical of the country around here, Dave. And I love that it’s difficult to tell the difference between our backyard and the surrounding forest!

  9. Curt it’s a delight to find our faces on your blog. What an honor to be guests at your place, and of course I wanted to do the trail first thing. Now I’m looking through your post and can recognize everything. Except, of course, the wildflowers that are no longer in season. I’m pleased to have been able to spot the Blue Dick in its native habitat! In the photo by the Madrone, Pedro is standing with his forehead up against the tree, to simulate bonking his head. I love any kind of old ruins I discover in the forest, and evidence of mining is so interesting to me. I’m glad I got the chance to see all the signs of mining along your trail, and to find the quartz veins, and see the deer with antlers in velvet. Oh! And the stories about Leapus Buckus and the pregnant doe playing limbo in order to eat your honeysuckle… so many fun memories were created this weekend. Thanks you guys, so very much for feeding us and making us feel welcome.

    • Peggy and I loved the visit Crystal. Given that I was slightly under the weather, I’m glad Peggy was able to take you on the trail. What a delight Pedro is. It was fun meeting and talking with him. Thanks for adding to the story about his photo with the madrone. 🙂 Lots of laughs sharing tales. Thanks for the photos of the petroglyphs from Lava Beds National Monument.
      I came across my photos from Grimes Point. Remember how I thought your friends technique for enhancing pictographs, might also work with the ancient petroglyphs that have been covered with desert varnish. Looking at my photos, I am even more convinced of it.
      Stop by anytime. And bring your buddy with you. We are looking forward to visiting you in northern Oregon. –Curt

  10. Guess what I’m munching on while reading this, Curt — Ranier cherries! Some years they’re impossible to find here, but I found some tonight, and they’re the best I’ve ever had. I loved the trail walk, and I have to say your wildflowers are gorgeous. The iris caught my eye, of course, but that Triteleia crocea is a show stopper.

    You may know this, but I’ve found a combination of Permethrin (for clothes) and Picaridin 12-hour for skin to be a perfect combination. After spraying clothing (or tents, etc.) with Permethrin, you have to let it dry completely before wearing, but one spray is good through three or four washings. As for the Picaridin, it has the great advantage of not harming camera gear, etc. It’s the only thing I’ve found that keeps chiggers and ticks away, as well as mosquitoes.

    • Oooh, haven’t spotted the Rainier cherries yet. Always a premium price… and worth it! Wasn’t the Triteleia crocea a pretty little flower.
      Yeah, you certainly don’t want DEET near camera gear. Or compasses. I’ve lost a couple. One can only wonder what it does to us. But— it does keep the mosquitoes, ticks, etc away. I like your suggestions, Linda. –Curt

  11. 💖 Curt 💖
    love your comprehensive post full of detail and beauty. You’re pictures are amazing.
    oh those ticks ( had one today sitting inside writing ). one of the varmits no doubt. P.O. is the WORST and prickles in Peggy’s underwear…. on NO… lol.
    Cindy L… are you sure you don’t have your letters mixeed up. G comes before L.. 🤣🤣🤣
    This is so true… and scary
    “when you see a cougar. It confirms you are food and fun to chase. Stand tall, look the cougar in the eye, speak to it firmly, “Bad Kitty,” and slowly back away. I’m serious.)”
    Nice you have your blogging friends visiting for a hike and are looking forward to fun on the horizon with more stories to tell when you return.
    Have the BEST time❣️❣️❤️

  12. Pingback: Bloggers in Southern Oregon – Conscious Engagement

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