Sorry Hike, Nice Flowers (Selma, Oregon) 11-Mar-2018

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon

We awoke under an overcast sky to find an hour missing from our lives (actually just borrowed – it would be returned in the Fall). All of the electronics in the house already knew this and had pro-actively deducted that hour for us. Something erie about this – a wisp of the Singularity? But at least we didn’t have to remember how to reset our few remaining digital clocks (…push the left button twice, while simultaneously holding the middle button down, then push…). Anyway, we responded to this sleep deprivation from the onset of Daylight Savings Time by picking a new (to us) hike right out of a guidebook. The hike’s write-up did warn us that it would be along a road that gets really rough, but we’d be going along the scenic Illinois River, so how bad could it be?

We made our way to the Illinois Valley and along paved Eight Dollar Road (Forest Road (FR) 4201) to a rest stop just before where the road crosses the river on a bridge. In the mid-2000s, this was the site of protests over proposed salvage logging of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness following the 2002 Biscuit Fire. Today it was just us, an overcast sky, the river, and a paperless pit toilet.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
The Illinois River from the bridge

We started hiking north on FR 016, which is a wet, muddy, and severely pot-holed disaster of a “road” – images of a World War I battlefield came to mind.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
FR 016 in all its ravaged glory
Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
“The Sky Above, the Mud Below”

For its first mile or so north of the bridge, the road is away from the river, separated from it by massive piles of dredge spoils heaped-up during the mining boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, after this first mile, the road dried out a lot, passed through some trees,

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Along the “better” part of FR 016

and got back in sight of the river, which was running reasonably high despite the below-average water year we’re currently having.  The overcast was, however, unrelenting.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
The Illinois River at River Mile 47

Soon we passed the remains of an old forestry building,

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Old foundations

and shortly thereafter came to Deer Creek, also running high at this time of year.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Deer Creek

We’ve been told that, come summer and low water, you can ford Deer Creek here. Today, however, it was running fast and 6 to 8 feet deep in mid-channel and fording wasn’t an option (not that we’d wanted such an option).

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Deer Creek enters the Illinois River

So we turned back along FR 016, not at all impressed with it as a “hike” unless you’re a pot-hole affectionado. But on the return, we started noticing some early season wildflowers. Later we would learn that Eight Dollar Mountain (FR 016 runs along its western flank) is one of the most significant botanical sites in Oregon, representing a major area of species endemism in the state (details). No surprise then that we spotted a few species some of whom we’ve never seen before.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Brook Trillium / Brook Wake-Robin (Trillium rivale)
Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Howell Saxifrage (S. howelli)
Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Spring Gold / Gold-Star (Crocidium multicaule)

And one of our favorites, particularly since The LovedOne is a big fan of the Alien movies.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
A patch of Cobra Lilys growing in a tiny bog beside the road
Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Cobra Lily / California Pitcher-Plant (Darlingtonia californica)

If it weren’t for the wildflowers, this outing would have totally sucked as a “hike” (4.1 miles round-trip; 500 feet of elevation gain). One shudders at what FR 016 is like in summer when it’s alive with high clearance and 4×4 vehicles driving to camping spots along the river.  The persistent overcast didn’t help our mood either and we had to retreat to Climate City Brewing in Grants Pass to help lift the gloom. So, not every “hike” is a winner, but we wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t given it a go. BUT, if you love wildflowers, the nearby Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area is well worth a visit, as is the T.J. Howell Botanical Drive.

Illinois River Deer Creek Selma Oregon
Along FR 016 to Deer Creek

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