The Upper Table Rock Sketching Hike on May 18 did not go quite as expected. This free hike was jointly sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management, with a maximum number of 12 sign-ups. Upper and Lower Table Rocks are about 20 miles north of my place, not quite visible from my house in the canyon due to intervening mountains. (be sure to click on photos for larger images!)
The week previous we had record hot temperatures for May ~ I believe it got to 105° in Medford, on Wednesday or Thursday, and was up to 100° Friday and Saturday, so when Sunday dawned warm and sunny, with the hike scheduled to begin its ascent at 10am (and 84°), only a fool would have showed up to hike. So only one did. Me.
Of course, since every one of the sign-ups might have arrived on schedule, I didn't really have a choice; so despite the fact that I KNEW participation would be W.A.Y down, I was there waiting when they didn't come.
I wasn't alone, however, because a freelance photographer, Jerry Clarkson, and Sarah Lemon, a reporter from the Medford Mail Tribune, arrived unexpectedly to catch the last hike of the spring season. They took pictures of me sketching a lupine and interviewed me quite thoroughly, and we talked about previous hikes (they didn't look too much askance at my poor turnout), after all, the hikes are generally quite popular and a wonderful way to get to know the natural beauties of our Rogue Valley. And since they're free, there's no reason to show up if you don't want to.
Now, though, since I was there, I wasn't about to slink back home just because of a few hot rays, so I strapped on my binoculars, camera, water bottle and sketching gear and headed up the trail all by myself.
It was gorgeous. Hot, yes, but it was a wonderful hike with incredible wildflowers on every side ~ camas, indian paintbrush, lupine, kitten-ears, vetch, Oregon geranium, mules ears, goldfields (or Oregon sunshine?), desert parsley (or nineleaf-biscuitroot?), larkspur, brodeia, blue-eyed grass, and lots of other neat plants amidst the oaks, manzanita, buckbrush, and up top, the ponderosa pines .
And the views all the way up were spectacular: down into the slough; the shining silver Rogue River snaking below; and across the verdant green valley, my dark blue-green home canyon promised a cool reward.
I stopped in some shade to sketch a fallen acorn woodpecker stash tree. Acorn woodpeckers select a tree, usually a standing dead snag, and peck acorn-sized holes all over it which they fill with acorns. This one was heavily cratered, with ¾" holes every inch or so. But all the acorns were gone, having been retrieved by hungry woodpeckers over the winter.
On the top of both Table Rocks are vernal pools wherein dwell fairy shrimp, in season. The ponds had dried up, as always by this time of year, and the shrimps had long ago buried themselves in the mud at their bottoms. But where the pools had been there were rings of fuzzy pink "belly flowers" (those are flowers best admired from flat on one's stomach, nostril-to-stamen) .
Approaching the vertical dropoff of the edge (Table Rock, remember?) I watched turkey vultures cruising past below me on the rising air thermals ~ air heated by the dark rocks and thrust skyward when it meets the face of the rock. We think of vultures as being pretty much black, but seen from above their backs and wing feathers are a lovely auburn. They were graceful and beautiful, their heads brilliant red in the sunshine.
I ate lunch in a grove of trees while I sketched the western arm of Upper Table Rock (it forms a horse-shoe shape, and I was on the eastern tip). A man with two small boys shared the shade with me, and we talked about nature and lizards and how lucky they were to have a dad to take them hiking.
Admittedly, I didn't do a lot of sketching on the way up. It was far too hot to sit in the sunshine for even a few minutes, even though I did have on my bilious green hat with the neck shade. But I took a WHOLE bunch of photos which I may sketch from any time I want. And I had a wonderful time.
It was about three pm by the time I descended. Those poor people who opted to not take the hike, sitting instead on their patios with an iced tea and the Sunday paper, missed a lovely time.
Next blog will be about my latest journaling class. I had some great participants, and we partied the whole time (well, it SEEMED like it....).
I just noticed I didn't get this final picture labeled ~ it's a blue-eyed grass.