A Pond on Upper Table Rock (Oregon) 11-Jan-2019

The Upper and Lower Table Rocks (near Medford, Oregon) are ecologically famous for the seasonal vernal pool habitat that exists on their tops; habitat that is home to some endemic (and rare) plant and animal species. But other types of water bodies, particularly natural ones, are scarce on these mesas. While using aerial photos to scout our recent tour of the Camp White pillboxes, I spotted what looked like a small pond on Upper Table’s northeast slope. Judging from its position on the slope and the lack of disturbance around it, this pond looked to be the only natural one on either Rock. So, of course, we had to go see it for ourselves.

The day started out cloudy and pretty much stayed that way, but we were entertained by the huge and varying cloud formations. We went up the main trail and then followed the remains of Pumice Lane (the other end of which is still in use as the service road to the VORTAC station) north to where we’d spotted a break in the rim on Google Earth. It was a short scramble on some mossy basalt rocks down to a surprisingly open madrone forest below the rim. A short walk through this easy terrain brought us to the pond. Because of ticks, rattlesnakes, and poison oak, off-trail travel on Upper (and Lower) Table is best done in the winter, when these natural “features” are a little less active (but there were some ticks on the prowl today). That is also when an intermittent pond like this one is most likely to have some water in it (which it did).

Aside from an old tire (thrown off the mesa?), the pond and the area around it looked natural. The muddy rim of the pond was massively trampled with deer tracks – not surprising since this looks to be the only open water source on Upper’s slopes. Judging from a crude deer hunter’s blind up in a near-by tree, this is also a good place to hunt deer. After circling the pond, we took a different way back, through a different break in the rim. Along the way we acquired an old 5-gallon bucket that may also have been tossed off the mesa. We were, sadly, 😥 able to fill this bucket with trash 😡 we picked-up from along the trail on our way back to the car. But “douchebag trash” aside, this was still a good hike (5.5 miles return; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) to yet another one of the amazing natural features hidden away on the Table Rocks. 🙂

Ominous, but dry, cloud formations hovered over the valley
Peach and robin’s egg blue colored the western horizon
A vernal pool reflects the strange sky
Mount McLoughlin over a sea of grass
Descending from the rim on a ramp of mossy basalt rocks
The surprisingly open madrone forest at the base of the rim
The pond sits at the end of an elongated meadow below the rim
The remains of the pond
Shallow and muddy and well trampled
Hummocks
Heading back through the forest
Back up the mossy rocks (now with our soon to be trash-filled bucket)
The rim sports some huge basalt formations, liberally coated with moss
Back along the wet remains of Pumice Lane
Leaving Upper Table
Our track to the pond on Upper Table Rock
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4 comments

    1. Yes! The north side of the mesa is a cool microclimate that favors these intricate moss gardens. We tried to avoid stepping on the moss as much as possible because they are so pretty (and very slippery when wet).

    1. They’re are favorites too. What’s neat about this hike is you can’t see this unique madrone forest from either the rim or from below. It’s a little hidden world you have to hike to see. 🙂

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