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An easy hike into the past

A sign marks the entrance to the Frances Schrader Old Growth Trail. The Pilot/Bill Schlichting
GOLD BEACH – Douglas fir trees towering more than 200 feet, along with 21 other species of trees, plants and shrubs, can be found along an easy 1.5 mile loop trail 1,100 feet above the Rogue River.

The trail, known as the Frances Schrader Old Growth Trail, is dedicated to Schrader, a longtime employee of the U.S. Forest Service.

According to the trail guide, Schrader “possessed a heartfelt understanding of the Forest Service mission – caring for the land and serving people – and was instrumental in developing plans for this trail.”

The trail was designed to be an outdoor learning experience. Some of the Northwest’s largest hardwoods and stately old growth Douglas fir trees are found on this well-marked gravel trail.

According to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest website, “The virgin forest here is dense, lush and green. Several of the old trees show fire scars from flames which burned the area many years ago, but the trees’ thick bark protected them from serious harm.”

The trail has a gentle slope suitable for all ages with several benches and a picnic table halfway along its length. The trail is suitable for foot traffic only and is not barrier free, but after hiking it once, a person may notice it’s one of the best maintained trails in the forest.

To reach the trail from Gold Beach, drive 10 miles east on Jerry’s Flat Road to Lobster Creek Campground. Only about 200 feet before reaching the turnoff to Lobster Creek Bridge, turn right on spur road 090, which has a sign directing traffic to the trailhead.

The first mile, which is the steepest part of the road, is paved. The remainder of the road is well-maintained gravel. A sign marks the trailhead. Parking and a restroom is available on the left side of the road. The restroom is hidden at the end of a trail off the parking lot. The Schrader trail is on the opposite side of the road.

Shortly after hiking onto the trail is a trail-guide dispenser. The guide outlines in detail the natural attractions. Numbered posts are along the trail that correspond with information on the guide. In many cases, the posts are either hidden or missing. There are five footbridges along the trail, all of which are marked on the guide and can be used as reference points.

Further along, the trail splits. Follow the trail to the left to correspond with the guide. At the fork, a huge Douglas fir tree can be seen. However, continue along the trail and more fir trees, many reaching 8-feet in diameter, will be seen.

The trail descends through the forest, over creeks and into open areas. After passing a side trail leading to a picnic table, the trail makes a 180-degree turn, continuing through the diverse forest.

Everything about the trail is kept as natural as possible. Windfalls are cleared away and the wood removed is left alongside the trail.

Following the fifth bridge are signs that the area had been a hunting ground for the Tututni Indians who once lived in the area. One tree shows an ancient Indian trail marking, indicating that hikers have explored the area for centuries.

Near the top, the trail splits in order to provide access to all sides of the same huge Douglas fir tree spotted earlier. This is the Laddie Gale Tall Fir.

Lauren “Laddie” Gale, born in 1917, was a member of the University of Oregon basketball team in 1939. That same year, the team won the first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship.

After leaving Oregon, Gale continued his professional basketball career playing for the Detroit Eagles. He retired from basketball in 1949 and was inducted  into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. He died in 1996 after living in Gold Beach.

The tree stands 220 feet tall and is more than 10-feet in diameter at the base.

Shortly after passing the tree, the trail completes its loop.

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