Hiking author will share his favorite trails

Hiking author will share his favorite trails

If you hike in Oregon you probably know Bill Sullivan's work. Sullivan has spent many years hiking the backwoods, mountains and deserts of Oregon and writing about them in books such as "100 Hikes in Southern Oregon," "Hiking Oregon's History" and "Trails of Crater Lake and Oregon Caves."

More than a quarter-million of Sullivan's books are in print.

Now you have a chance to hike with the man himself. Sullivan is coming to Southern Oregon, in part for a Saturday class sponsored by the Siskiyou Field Institute called "Hiking and Botanizing on the Illinois River." The outing will explore the Kerby Flat trail, take in a Darlingtonia fen and examine the region's geology and biology.

"It'll be a slow hike with lots of stops for sketching and photography," Sullivan says in a phone interview from Eugene, where his Navillus Press is based.

In addition to the field trip, Sullivan plans to give three slideshows on some of the destinations in his newest guidebook, "Oregon Favorites," Thursday through Saturday in Ashland, Selma and Grants Pass.

Adapted from the monthly outdoor column Sullivan writes for the Eugene Register-Guard, the book not only describes some favorite trails but organizes them by the best time of year to experience them, and it tells their stories, as well. The chapters come with color-coded headings for each destination's recommended month.

Thus, a chapter on skiing and snow camping Crater Lake's rim is listed for March. The chapter for July includes a trek to Mount Hood's McNeil Point, a hike into McCully Basin in the Wallowas and a wildflower-rich exploration of Coldwater Peak at volcano-blasted Mount St. Helen's.

"The reason I'm doing this," Sullivan says, "is in the winter there's skiing, and in the summer the mountain trails. But it's tough to do an outdoor column in March. That's when I send people to some historic state park. If you're thinking of May, you want to see waterfalls and flowers."

Sullivan says a new trail that descends to the Illinois River, where he'll lead a hike, grew out of half a dozen "scrabble paths" generations of kids and hikers had created to access the river.

"When it's hot in Southern Oregon you want to go jump in a green pool," Sullivan says. "Now they've (the U.S. Forest Service) made it official, with trailheads and parking."

The Kerby Flat trail goes to a nice beach, he says, in addition to taking in the confluence of Deer Creek and the river and a Darlingtonia bog. Darlingtonia, also known as the California pitcher plant, is an insect-eating oddity that grows on serpentine communities like those around Eight Dollar Mountain, where the high pH serpentine springs host rich microbial life.

"It's a big loop, maybe three miles," Sullivan says. "We're going to take it pretty slow and take time to look at the plants."

Sullivan is known for offering a free copy of whichever one of his books somebody finds an error in to sharp-eyed readers. He says he gives away books all the time.

"Usually it's because of changes in the trails," he says. "I don't mind at all. I can't re-hike every trail every year."

The trails in the new book range all over the state, month by month. New ones include little-known Sisters Rocks on the Oregon Coast between Port Orford and Gold Beach, which has as its destination three big rocks with sea caves, and the new Plaikni Falls trail at Crater Lake, which the National Park Service will open in July, the first new trail at Oregon's only national park in a very long time.

"It's part a push to get people away from the rim," Sullivan says. "It's a one-mile, wheelchair accessible trail to a waterfall."

Sullivan says he's suggested the Park Service create a Mount Mazama Trail, which would be a huge loop that would circle Crater Lake. He believes such a trail, like the trails around, say, Yosemite or Mount Rainier, would become a world-class destination. If it were to happen, you can bet it would also be the subject of a new book.

Reach freelance writer Bill Varble at

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