The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are well known (and well used) hiking and wildflower venues just north of Medford, Oregon. They present different, but always attractive, short- and long-distance vistas throughout the year. By Fall, the expansive wildflower meadows that graced the plateaus in Spring have gone fallow. Any surface water has been supplanted by hardened soil and the color palette has shifted from multiple colors to various muted hues of yellow and gold. Reasons enough for a return visit (one of many to date) to Upper Table Rock. This Rock is horseshoe shaped, with the legs of the “shoe” pointing south. Popular guides to this area usually mention only the short hike (3 or so miles round-trip) to the tip of the eastern leg. But you can craft a longer (8 or more miles roundtrip) and more varied hike by venturing over the top of the shoe and out to the tip of its western leg. So, on a day with near perfect weather for hiking, I (today being one of the LovedOne’s library volunteer days) set out to enjoy the colors of a different season, and a longer hike, on Upper Table.
After 1.1 miles, the “official” trail ends at a small wooden fence from where I had an expansive view to the southwest on this absolutely clear day. The haze on the far horizon is actually smoke from the still burning Abney Fire (part of the Miller Complex Fire) along the Siskiyou Crest. We’ve had some rain and snow but not enough yet to fully terminate this burning beast.
From here, use trails (clearly visible on Google Earth) fan out in all directions but I hunted up the end of the old road that used to swing around the entire horseshoe (it’s still in operation on the western side as the VORTAC station’s service road). Following this road – which shrinks to just a trail in a few places – takes you directly toward the top of the shoe and also (and more importantly) minimizes trampling of what will be wildflowers come Spring.
The old road becomes a working road (Pumice Lane) at the VORTAC station and I followed this working road south past what was a large pond in May but is now just an expanse of rumpled dried mud.
Just before Pumice Lane starts down off the plateau, a very old, nearly invisible, two-track road juts off to the east. It becomes easier to see the further east you go and it’s big advantage is in providing a way through the flesh-ripping buckbrush.
From the spot elvation (Point 2062) on the western leg, I got a good view of a popular use trail on the eastern arm and of Mount McLoughlin on the horizon.
I was meeting the LovedOne for lunch, so, after a few snapshots, I headed back. Mounts Bailey and Diamond, and the rim of Crater Rim – all some 60 or more miles away – were visible as snow-specks of the far horizon.
A longer (8.6 miles round-trip; 800 feet of elevation gain) and more varied leg-stretch than the usual one in the guidebooks, with (thanks to the wonderful weather) views in all directions, along with a different perspective on the eastern leg of the horseshoe. Onward to winter!