- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

TALENT, Ore. (AP) - Well-maintained trails are still a novelty to me.

On the South Coast where I grew up, a seemingly endless wall of blackberry bushes made exploring much of the southern Coast Range a decidedly prickly proposition. Since moving to the Rogue Valley six months ago, I’ve made a point to tackle as many of the area’s less-traveled trails as my work schedule will allow.

The other weekend, Mail Tribune digital copy editor Forrest Roth and I decided to make the trek up 7,140-foot Wagner Butte, a five-mile, point-to-point trail south of Talent that ends on the foundations of a former U.S. Forest Service fire lookout.

According to the sign at the summit, the Forest Service burned down the lookout in the 1970s when it became obsolete. A few concrete blocks and rebar are all that’s left, along with an old military ammo can containing a ledger for visitors to sign, but it’s the spectacular views of the valley below that make the trip worthwhile.

To get there from Medford, take Highway 99 to Talent and turn right onto East Rapp Road. Follow Rapp Road to Wagner Creek Road and continue for about six miles after the road turns to gravel, staying to the left at every fork. The large dirt parking area for the trailhead will be on your right, and though unmarked, is hard to miss.

The sign for the trailhead is now missing, but its post is still there, marking the entrance just across the roadway from the parking area. The first mile of the hike, which has an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet, is a fairly steep climb with few switchbacks, although it quickly levels out as it loops around a small meadow.

By the second mile, the trail crosses the Sheep Creek Slide, a vast expanse of debris from a 1983 landslide, now overgrown with thick grass creating a landscape out of a Tolkien novel.

The remainder of the hike is a relatively gentle climb around the side of the mountain, with increasingly panoramic views of the Siskiyous as the tree line falls away beneath the trail. Fresh snow had fallen only days before we hit the trail, leaving a faint record of the day’s earlier travelers.

Getting to the top of the butte required a little bit of leapfrogging up a pile of boulders, and probably shouldn’t be attempted by those with wobbly footing.

The bluff gives 360-degree views of the Rogue Valley and perspective that makes the distant summit of Mount McLoughlin, nearly 2,300 feet higher, seem like no big deal. The elevation also compresses the appearance of office and industrial buildings in Medford and Central Point, making the urban landscape appear almost painted on the valley floor.

As my hiking partner quipped, some things look better the farther away you are.


The original story can be found on the Mail Tribune’s website: https://bit.ly/1Gz2fz5


Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/

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