Day 4: July 2, 2002
The plan for this day was to take it easy and visit the Oregon Caves. So, after packing up camp in early morning we headed up the Illinois Valley to Cave Junction. While packing up, a rather unusual migrant pair of Caspian Terns flew over Lake Selmac.
One place I missed yesterday was a marsh on White School House Road, just out of Cave Junction on the Oregon Caves Highway (DeLorme Atlas, page 18, C4). New birds here included Red-winged Blackbird and Virginia Rail. Other typical marsh birds included Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Song Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee. There were several Red-breasted Sapsuckers and Mourning Doves here.
We drove up the Oregon Caves Highway, following Sucker Creek. We checked out the Country Hills Resort, which has cabins and a campground. After we checked it out we opted for the cabins at $55, which included a kitchen. We were more interested in the refreshing showers, though.
I left Marlene relaxing at the cabin and went to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon birding. I'd come back later and we'd go visit the Oregon Caves together. I didn't spend much time birding around the cabin, but some birds here were Pine Siskin, Ath-throated Flycatcher, Pileated Woodpecker, Western Tanager, Cassin's Vireo, American Robin, and Steller's Jay.
I birded my way up the river valley into higher elevations. Near Cave Creek Campground the birds included Pacific-slope and Hammond's Flycatchers, Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, Hutton's, Cassin's, and Warbling Vireos, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Dark-eyed Junco.
I arrived at the Oregon Caves National Monument about noon. I took the 3/4 mile Cliff Trail up in back of the main complex. Typical forest birds included Red-breasted Nuthatch, Steller's Jay, Hermit Warbler, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Wilson's Warbler, Common Raven, and Varied Thrush. Also interestingly, an Acorn Woodpecker was up here in the pines and firs, away from the oak valley below.
Just inside the Monument boundary (DeLorme Atlas, page 19, D5) a forest service road takes off to the north. It really looks like a private access road, but is NFD 960 (dashed line in DeLorme Atlas). Take this road about 2 miles to the intersection with NFD 070 at Pepper Camp. Then turn right and go 1/4 mile and then right again, staying on NFD 070. This will take you about a mile down the road to the trail to Bigelow Lake (unnamed on DeLorme Atlas, but Lake Creek originates at the lake and is shown).
The road (NFD 070) was washed out not far from the trail up to Bigelow Lake. Unfortunately, as it was so hot, I opted not to carry the camcorder on the hike. The trail goes moderately steeply up through a true fir forest. Then the trail comes out in a large meadow around 5000 feet elevation. Two species were abundant in the meadow: White-crowned Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow. In fact, I counted about 15 Lincoln's Sparrows here. A Rock Wren was singing up in the bowl created by the cliffs over the lake. I didn't recognize the lake at first, it was totally covered in red lily pads that blended in with the flower-covered meadow. There are supposed to be two lakes here. I don't really know which one I found, but I think the lower, southward one. A Northern Goshawk flew over the rim, and another was back down on the road later. Four Gray Jays returned my Pygmy Owl-call imitations as I was attracting Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Nashville, Hermit, MacGillivray's, and Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warblers. Other birds included Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Blue Grouse, Western Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Band-tailed Pigeon, Rufous Hummingbird, and Varied Thrush.
Marlene and I ate dinner and arrived at the Oregon Caves barely in time for the final tour of the day. These marble caves are fantastic. They were the highlight of our trip.