Month: April 2016

Fossil Hunting Near Gold Beach

Gold Beach is approximately three hours from the Rogue Valley and is an excellent choice for a day trip. This area is rich with easy to find marine fossils . . . if you know where to look!


My children love to dig through the silty soft sedimentary rock faces you can find among the road cuts along Bear Camp Rd. Although I am not an experienced geologist, the sedimentary rock faces are easy to distinguish.


With a simple rock pick, you can pull egg-like nodules from these sites. They were ranging from the size of robin’s eggs to a small fist size and they are much harder than the surrounding fossilized sea bed.


Once you loosen them them, you simply pluck them out. Use a rock hammer to pop them open. The organic material is encased in the harder sediment. We found crabs and a lobster and a lot of indistinguishable vegetation matter. After drying the open nodules, you can apply a polyurethane coating to preserve the exposed fossil.

Image result for fossil nodules

Our fossils are currently drying . . . more pictures to come. Check out this great family activity. It’s as simple and affordable as driving to a sedimentary rock face or road cut. They are prevalent in the Northwest!

Mary Jane Feetham

Smith River

A self-guided adventure on the Smith River that can be done in a day!


The Smith River is an amazing float to do in March. Just wear a wet suit! From the Rogue Valley, the popular put – ins on the Smith River are roughly two hours away. This makes a perfect day trip for those Rogue rafters that are looking for some new scenery. Hiochi, California hosts several experienced river guides and very inexpensive and reliable shuttle drivers.


I would not consider myself a expert rafter. I took on the Middle Fork of the Smith River this March (2016). I wore a wet suit, wet suit socks and boots, a long sleeve running shirt, and a wind breaker. I added a signal mirror and a knife to my life jacket. It rained a few times during the 3 hour float, and I was comfortable. I chose to float from Slant Bridge to Ruby Deventer State Park.


The color of the Smith at higher water in Spring is a spectacular emerald green. Water flows in from drainages throughout the float creating many picture perfect moments. As the water drops, the Smith River is the clearest navigable waterway in the Pacific Northwest.


This section of the Middle Fork of the Smith River offers Class II – III (-), which is quite thrilling when you are less experienced on white water. I did this mission as a self-guided trip, but the Smith River offers up to Class IV rapids in different sections, including the world class Oregon Hole Gorge!

To choose a Smith River float that is right for you, there is a very informational online article by Flow State about your options for Smith River trips. However, most helpful was the information and shuttle service offered by Brad “Bearfoot” Camden of Hiochi, California. He is the all around river guide that can give you the information you need to choose the perfect Smith River trip. Brad is very well known and his shuttle rates are extremely affordable. I paid $50 for a  shuttle and received invaluable information about the Smith River for free. Brad is also very involved in preserving the Smith River and involved tributaries that are under attack from a proposed Nickel mining operation.  Outside Magazine did an article on Bearfoot Brad and the importance of preserving these waters. Find Brad Camden on Facebook to sign a petition as soon as possible. And get out there . . . the Smith River is waiting!

Mary Jane Feetham

Morel Craze

Just an hour drive from Medford’s core lies a network of old logging roads plush with wild flowers and . . . morels. Head towards Prospect on Butte Falls-Prospect Hwy and take any number of the marked side roads for success!

Bring a map!

I like to hone in on young logging sites. The disruption of the soil combined with the spores being tracked around by heavy equipment leads to high yields in these areas. However, morels still come up in sites that are years older. Unless marked, I attempt to gauge the age of a logging site by the height of the planted trees. They are planted as seedlings and  grow 2-4″ a year.


The soil looks dry and unproductive from afar, but I was surprised when I stuck my finger into the dirt how moist it was right underneath the surface. Since this was an older logging I site, I was not expecting much but took a look around anyways.


Among the grass blades and dried plant debris were morels. The more I looked around, the more I found. It was intriguing how hidden these morels were. The children had a good time digging through the grass!

It never seizes to amaze me how elusive yet abundant morel mushrooms are here in Southern Oregon. It is an extension of Easter for my family. The hunt continues . . .

Mary Jane Feetham

Hunting Morels

Hunting Morels

If I had a dollar for every theory on how or why morel mushrooms grow when and where, I would be a multi-millionaire. What I know about morel mushroom hunting has been gained from experience looking for them in and around the Rogue Valley. I have researched and read a lot about finding edible fungi, but the most useful information I have gathered by walking through the woods.



Looking in burns is a popular and productive route, both in prescribed burns and large forest fire burns. I generally stick to burns that are one to three years old and hunt them a few weeks prior to when that elevation naturally blooms with morels.

The yellow cup fungi is a great indicator that the soil conditions are right for morels

When deciding on an elevation for the day’s adventure, I look at the elevation the snow is currently at and start  500 – 1000 ft in elevation below that. It always depends on the amount of rain we got that year and what the temperatures have been like in the past few weeks. If overnight temperatures have stayed above 45 degrees for three consecutive nights, it is a good sign the soil may be ready to produce.

An excellent way to find local burns and information on them is to check out the  Northwest Large Fire Map. Use this tool to find a burn near you and exactly how to access it. The topographic layer will give you detailed information on elevation, drainage, and distance from nearby roads. Northwest Large Fire Map


There are several excellent choices for burn hunting this year within a two hour drive of the Rogue Valley. It is an excellent time to pack up the kids, or the dogs, or both and head out on an adventure!

Mary Jane Feetham