One day into his summer vacation, Joshua Godfrey was woken up at 5 a.m. to get ready.
It wasn’t exactly what he hoped to do this summer, but nonetheless he got ready. By seven o’clock he stood at the Grave Creek boat ramp outside Grants Pass ready to take on the Rogue River Trail.
For the past few months we’d bought tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and all the other gear needed to take on a backpacking trip.
The original plan was to hike the North Umpqua Trail, from Swiftwater Park to Lemolo Lake, but the damage from last year’s fires means that several parts of the trail were still closed so we looked a little further south.
According to the forest service, the Rogue River Trail is a 40.5-mile hike from Grave Creek to Foster Bar Campground. The Fitbit said it was a bit longer than that.
We planned to do the backpacking trip in four days, bringing the dog along for protection.
After a few U-turns while trying to find the boat ramp at Grave Creek we embarked on our journey. The trail immediately took us on the side of a cliff next to the Rogue River.
We decided to hike about 10 miles everyday, but when we got to Horseshoe Bend it was a steep trail down to the campground and according to the map the next campground would be just a mile away.
However, when we got to the area where the campground was supposed to be we found fallen trees and no place to sleep. So we walked a little further.
Eventually, we found a great place to sleep 13.4 miles in at Meadow Creek.
The result was that we were very tired, but ahead of schedule.
After dinner, we were so exhausted we went straight to bed and woke up around 8 a.m. the next morning to start all over.
The second day was by far the toughest as the trail was often made of loose rock on steep cliffs.
When the trail wasn’t on a cliff, it would often be overgrown and washed away. Making it hard to see and harder to walk.
Trying to find out footing wasn’t always easy and Joshua took a tumble with his heavy pack on just a few miles in.
But the trail also took us back to civilization for a little bit.
The Rogue River Ranch was at mile 22.7 and the nearby campground at Tucker Flat was our camp for the night.
No other hikers were at the campground, but several other campers came by truck.
It was also there that Joshua encountered a bear. He was getting water from Mule Creek when a bear on the other side of the creek had the same idea.
Rattlesnakes were the highlight of the third day.
Approximately seven miles into the day’s hike we heard the distinct rattle and Joshua started running, with the dog following quickly behind him.
All-in-all we saw two, but heard three, rattlers that day.
We also saw the breathtaking Stair Creek Falls from the trail, azaleas growing near the river, a lodge in the middle of the wilderness and enormous pinecones — a beautiful day with gorgeous views.
Plus, we were getting used to the hiking at had it almost down to a science — hike an hour, take a 15 minute break, repeat.
Eager to get home we woke up early, ate our oatmeal and headed to the end of the trail.
The last few miles were tough, switchbacks would finally lead us to a big grass field and the Big Bend Trailhead.
From there Foster Bar Campground was just a mile up the road, an actual road not a trail.
We got there before the rest of the family and laid down in the grass for a rest. The camp host then came by and offered us a drink and a chair while we waited for the family.
There we listened to his stories of the people living on the river, the rafters, the hikers and gave him our report of the bear sighting — the first of the summer.
An hour later the family came to pick us up and our dog-tired dog gathered some energy to get up and greet them with a wagging tail.
For Joshua this may not have been the way he wanted to start his summer, but it provided him with some great memories and an easy summer ahead.