Southern Oregon is beautiful all the time, but it's gorgeous this time of year.
Biting cold mornings give way to warm-but-not-hot days. Hillsides ablaze with yellow, orange, red leaves. People enjoying the sun and warmth before La Niña steals it away.
Last Saturday, I took advantage with two coworkers, Sarah and Jessica. We hiked Lower Table Rock. What is Table Rock? Does "Lower" mean that there's an Upper? Was the hike awesome? How about the view?
Old lava. Yes. Very much so. Inspiring, empowering, and peaceful.
The hike to the top takes about 45 minutes of climbing switchbacks, under a tunnel of dying trees, and by dried creek beds and waterfalls. The path spits you out on top of the rock, but on the complete opposite side from the city. In order to get the views you've gotta walk. The flat land on top of Lower TR is 300 acres. It's not a short walk.
But it's a beautiful walk.
The flat top of the TR is a pretty special place geologically and biologically. The rock has not eroded because it's andesitic lava rock and is impermeable. Rain and snow collects in vernal pools, doesn't seep into the ground, eventually evaporating in the Spring. Those pools are home to some crazy flowers and tiny animals. In April and May, wild grasses and flowers bloom, but they dry and turn brown. It looks like an African savannah up there. You half expect to see antelope leaping in the distance. In other areas the lava rock prevails and looks like the surface of the moon (debatable, but I stand by my comparison).
At the far end of the TR is a vantage point of the Rogue Valley-- half a dozen cities, orchards and irrigation ponds, roads cutting through the anti-metropolis, and the meandering Rogue River lazily rolling on. Sublime.
We sat on the edge of the cliff-face and talked and marveled for well over an hour and a half. Talk of work, winter adventures to come, guesses at how the TRs were formed. There was a quiet buzz from the roads below us and the occasional series of cracks from the shooting range.
And there were quiet moments of reflection.
I felt on top of the world. I think we all did.