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Rogue River Lodges Food Diary, Part II


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Day two is a 15-mile day -- our longest of the trip. That's a pretty significant hiking day for those of you who don't have a good feel for hiking distances. Ideally, all the days would be evenly spaced, but that's not how the geography plays out.

Our morning starts out with a row across the river and a very steep climb uphill to reach the trail. It is at this point each year that I question my decision of snarfing down that one last fried egg at breakfast.

8 miles into the day, we take our lunch break at Zane Gray's cabin -- packs off for one hour. Not that the packs are terribly heavy (we're carrying maybe 10-20 pounds each, just a couple of changes of clothes, cameras, and basic necessities), but on a long day like this everyone is happy for the break. We've lucked out with a lull in the rain for our longest day on the trail (by the standards of the Pacific Northwest, the weather tends to be cooperative) so everyone relaxes and we all warm ourselves along the stone wall facing the cabin. Next to the cabin (which is private property owned and maintained by the family that owns Levi-Strauss) is a residence that has been unoccupied each year we've come through. The caretaker was around so we didn't get to peek in the windows or sit on the porch, but he was kind enough to let us enjoy our lunch on the property.

During the remaining 7 miles, pockets of discussion develop. Some folks are flagging so I distract those around me with the perennial favorite topic: "What's your favorite meal?" The discussion of meatloaf and bread-pudding carries us for about two hours at which point we're interrupted by our arrival at Marial Lodge. Marial, which is in the old post office building, has by my taste buds the best food on the trail. Whatever we're served, it's always an excellent representative of its kind.

Pat is the proprietor of Marial. He runs a great kitchen and has a wry sense of humor. As soon as he releases the food on the lazy-Susans (dinner is served at round tables for 7-8 with double decker lazy-Susans on top) he chide, "Hurry up and eat so I can get rid of ya already." Later, after we've been through the first round and he or one of his staff is generously refilling baskets and bowls (always before anyone can ask) he adds, "Looks as if ya haven't eaten for days -- Winter's over, what are ya stockin' up for now?" If I hadn't been here before I'd have guessed he uses this material repeatedly, but he's got unique banter every year.

Tonight's dinner is the definitive homestyle crunchy fried chicken, home-baked bread with thick blackberry jam -- the berries picked and the jam made on the property (best on the river) -- salad, mashed potatoes, and green beans, followed by hot fudge sundaes with or without nuts.

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Breakfast includes homemade blueberry muffins, piles of extra-crispy thick-cut bacon, an egg-and-cheese casserole with herbs (for lack of a better description), more jam, and home fried potatoes (with lots of crispy edges, the way I like them).

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Pat's lunch spread is a groaning board, and as we descend upon the lunch table he resumes his schtick: "You'd think ya hadn't just eaten a lumberjack breakfast the way you folks are swarmin' around that table."

Watching an independent group of four female hikers he narrates, to nobody in particular, "Would ya look at 'em? I'd stay out of their way until they're through. Hopefully they'll leave ya something to nibble on." Not only were there the usual lunch meats and garnishes but he also includes fresh-baked cookies, hard-boiled eggs, Pringles (a trail favorite), apples, oranges, bananas, and whatever anyone wants to steal off the table from breakfast (can you say BLT?). There isn't a muffin left in the place by the time we're through.

Pat's lodge is accessible by a dirt road so some people drive into Marial, leave their cars, and hike the river. As a result, Pat, who gets to town regularly enough, stocks some necessities for anyone who might be in need: candy bars, soda, and less critical items like razors and toothpaste. The evolution along the trail is 1) Black Bar Lodge, which seems the most remote and rustic, 2) Marial Lodge, which is a bit more connected (we always see a car or two along the dirt road; often those of local residents), and 3) Paradise Lodge, which will be our next stop and which is quite remote but is nonetheless the most commercial-feeling due to the jet-boats that power up the river (recently Paradise discontinued its lunch-service-for-the-jet-boater package -- too many people tromping through their pristine environment -- but Paradise still has a gift shop as well as booze available for purchase).

Because our next stop, Paradise Lodge, is only going to be 4 spectacular miles from Marial, we spend the morning exploring the area around Marial -- we'll hike to Paradise in the afternoon, to arrive in time for dinner. Options around Marial include a walk back about a mile or so to the Rogue River Ranch (RRR), which is now owned by the Bureau of Land Management and has a museum on the grounds; a hike up to an old miner's camp with sluice and cabin (falling down but still standing); or the sit-around-on-the-deck-and-read option. After our 15 mile day, one would think that everyone would want to sit around and read on Pat's porch, but without exception everyone always opts at a minimum for a visit to the RRR. The hummingbird feeders are a great source of interest, especially to those with cameras.

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The miner's cabin usually gets about 25% attendance. A couple of years ago I saw -- actually, I heard, then saw -- a coiled rattler in our path en route to the cabin. Maybe that's why no one ever wants to join me on my walk up there. Maybe I should stop telling people that story.

Following our exploration most everyone settles on Pat's deck to enjoy our picnic lunch. Candy bars, sodas, razors, and toothpaste are optional.

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<< Click here for Part I -- Click here for Part III >>

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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