Six Rivers National Forest Camping

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With the Siskiyou Field Institute event behind us (and refreshed by a cool swim in Buck Lake following our difficult hike to the Devil’s Punchbowl), we parked our camper at Bear Basin, the site of our first morning’s botanizing. Wendell, our instructor, had sighted the resident bear many times during frequent visits here and, even though our group wasn’t as fortunate, we thought camping there overnight would ensure us of at least a glimpse of the basin’s namesake. No luck. We did see several deer but that was anticlimactic considering how those annoying critters have practically taken residence in our backyard in Ashland.

The blissful silence of Bear Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Bear Basin Lookout, was interrupted only by the song of birds, chirp of crickets, and bellow of frogs. After a lovely night and leisurely morning of birding, we headed for new adventures in the Six Rivers National Forest. Our truck behaved wonderfully on the rough forest roads, and having a detailed map of the area made the going relaxing.

En route, we spotted some pitcher plants (darlingtonia californica) that continue to thrive in a isolated seepage spot miles from nowhere adjacent to the remote mountain road. Amazing specimens and some great photos to record our brief visit.

Still miles from Hwy. 199, the major thoroughfare between Grants Pass, OR, and Crescent City, CA, we lunched at Big Flat, a beautiful creekside campground shaded by huge (what Californians don’t like to call them) Oregon Myrtles. Reminded of the lurking mosquitoes at lower elevations, we decided to seek higher ground for a campsite. A road sign indicated a possible location 5 miles up Hurdygurdy Creek (yet another of many drainages feeding the South Fork of the Smith river system), so we set off for Dry Lake.

Unlike its name, Dry Lake consisted of an acre or so of water lilies that, on the surface, were compelling. Wary of standing water, we set up our folding chairs, poured cocktails, and I fired up my laptop while Sooney continued weaving her lavender wands. Alas, the ubiquitous mosquitoes took the upper hand and we returned the way we’d arrived, examining several NRA (National Recreation Area) campsites along the way. There’s a reason these areas permit 7 days camping for free: few, if any, amenities and LOTS of poison oak.

Our third stop was at Oro Grande that, on the surface, appeared to be characterized by more of the same elements we’d rejected at other campsites. There was, however, a gnarly dirt road leading down to the creek that we scoped out on foot and determined worthy of a shot. We had purchased a four-wheel drive pickup for just this situation and eased our way down the steep, bumpy path to a gorgeous campsite where we’ve lived now for a couple days. Mere yards from lovely Hurdygurdy Creek, and the sole occupants of an expansive campsite, we relish in the nearby sound of a healthy creek, a site teeming with luscious blackberries, wind through the alder keeping the insects in abeyance, and the peace of mind that we could stay here forever if we wanted. Well, maybe only 7 days. But that alone has a such a nice sound to it.

Photographs of our 2-day diversion on Hurdygurdy Creek may be viewed at www.villaviani.com/pix/orogrande