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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Siskiyou Wilderness Days 3 & 4 – Raspberry Lake and Black Butte Trail 07/03-04/2022

After the long hike to Devil’s Punchbowl the day before (post) we were looking forward to a shorter hike on Sunday and having time in the afternoon to relax around camp before hiking out on the 4th. Our goal on this day was Raspberry Lake which sits below Preston Peak, the highest peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness. It had started to cloud up the day before but it hadn’t rained. A layer of fog however had settled over the meadow in Youngs Valley by early morning.
IMG_6035Fog at 5:30am

We hadn’t heard the bear overnight but we were still on high alert keeping an eye out for it. In fact I was so focused on looking for black fur that I didn’t notice a buck near where our food was hung and when he jumped it startled me half to death because I was less than 10 yards away from it.
IMG_6039After he jumped he started to run off but quickly stopped to eat just a few yards later.

The fog was burning off quickly as we ate breakfast and we did not see the bear again that morning.
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IMG_6042Deer in the meadow.

IMG_6043Snail near our breakfast spot. It’s amazing how quickly these guys can get from one place to the next.

After breakfast we secured our food and garbage and headed for the lake. We walked up the old road bed to the junction with the Raspberry Lake Trail and turned right.
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We followed the trail/old roadbed past the junction with the Poker Flat Trail which we had come down on our first day (post) and continued on the road for 2.5 miles to a fork near the former Cyclone Gap chrome mine.
IMG_6056Lupine and beargrass along the road.

IMG_6059Lupine

IMG_6060Beargrass

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IMG_6073Waterfall on cliffs below El Capitan.

IMG_6075Waterleaf

IMG_6078Stream crossing.

IMG_6080At times the old roadbed looked like you could drive on it but other times it looked like this.

IMG_6082Small meadow along the trail.

IMG_6089Western azalea

IMG_6091The clouds burned off quickly.

IMG_6100Penstemon

At the 1.5 mile mark we detoured slightly to a view point overlooking Youngs Valley near a ridge end.
IMG_6102Youngs Peak with the meadow barely visible to the right below.

IMG_6104Rocky Knob to the left.

As we rounded the ridge we got a good view up Clear Creek to Bear Mountain where we had been the day before visiting Devil’s Punchbowl.
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We ignored a side trail for Cyclone Gap shortly after rounding the ridge but when we reached the fork at the 2.5 mile mark we did detour to the right along a level roadbed to visit some of the mine ruins.
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IMG_6118Sign at the Cyclone Gap junction.

IMG_6124Back into the 2018 Natchez fire scar.

IMG_6127Preston Peak

IMG_6129Paintbrush along the trail.

IMG_6135Streambank bird’s-foot trefoil

IMG_6142Musk monkeyflower

IMG_6145Raspberry Lake Trail to the left.

IMG_6146Ruins from the chrome mine.

IMG_6147More mine ruins on the hillside below.

We returned to the trail and followed it uphill above the old mine where the roadbed ended. The trail became narrow and rocky as it rounded another ridge end. Here we ran into the couple that we had spoken with at Doe Creek the day before. They had hiked up the Rattlesnake Meadow Trail which they reported was quite overgrown and then followed a ridge cross-country up to Raspberry Lake which they did not recommend.
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IMG_6155Nuttall’s sandwort

IMG_6156Bear Mountain and Rocky Knob.

IMG_6157Chipmunk

IMG_6160Getting closer to Preston Peak.

IMG_6162Ragwort

IMG_6167Small stream crossing.

IMG_6169A short steep rocky section where cairns were helpful.

IMG_6170Rounding another ridge with Preston Peak on the left and Bear Mountain to the right.

IMG_6172First view of Raspberry Lake in the trees below to the right.

A series of steep switchbacks led down to the lake.
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There were a few tents set up around the lake so we didn’t do a lot of exploring. Our timing wasn’t great as the Sun was positioned slightly to the left behind the lake which still lay in the mountains shadow which made it very difficult to photograph.
IMG_6194Big rock along the shore.

It was a nice lake but not nearly as dramatic as Devil’s Punchbowl had been. After a short break here we headed back looking forward to some extra rest and relaxation at the less crowded meadow in Youngs Valley.
IMG_6200Bell catchfly

IMG_6205Douglas’ Dustymaidens

IMG_6225El Capitan on the right. To the left I think that is Bear Cub with Polar Bear Mountain behind.

IMG_6232Western azalea

IMG_6242This squirrel gave us a stern talking to.

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IMG_6214Western tanager pair

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IMG_6247Twin Peaks

IMG_6264We believe this is what Sullivan shows as Slow Echo Camp on his map. We wondered what the stones in the foreground had been a part of?

The waterfall we had seen was near the camp and I set off into the brush to see if I could get a better view. It partially worked.
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Near the other small campsite we encountered a buck which may have been the same one that startled me back near our camp earlier based on how comfortable he was with us being there.
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When we arrived back at the meadow our neighbors had moved on but we did run into a grouse.
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The hike to the lake and back came in at 8 miles even with approximately 1750′ of elevation gain.

Day 3 Track in Green

After putting things away we set up our lightweight chairs near the meadow and watched the ever changing clouds. It wasn’t long before we noticed other hikers/backpackers across the meadow following the road down from the Youngs Valley Trailhead. We also spotted Buster (the name we’d given the bear) lumbering through the meadow again.
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In fact Buster passed through the meadow twice going in the same direction which led us to wonder if there was more than one Buster in the area (or a glitch in the Matrix). The bear didn’t seem to care that another group had set up a tent on the opposite side of the meadow and was similarly unimpressed when another couple arrived with their dog. We heard the dog bark and wondered if it was at Buster and when the couple passed by us on their way to finding a site they confirmed that the dog was barking at the bear and that it didn’t phase it one bit. They also mentioned that a friend of theirs had stayed there the week before and seen the bear around. Fortunately it appeared that everyone had proper bear proof systems in place, i.e. bear canisters, ursacks and/or bag hanging systems. Hopefully people continue to be responsible because it only takes one careless person leaving food out or in their tent for the bear to figure out that people have food. So far even though it wasn’t nearly as wary of people as most black bears are it didn’t show any signs of equating people with having food (not being food, those are grizzly bears lol). If that happens it typically means the bear will be put down.

IMG_6306This butterfly did discover people=salt.

IMG_6311Maybe a flycatcher of some sort near camp.

IMG_6319Common buckeye

IMG_6321Turkey vulture checking out the meadow.

We did do a little exploring in the area and found a few flowers nearby that we’d missed the day before.
20220703_153845White rush lily

IMG_6326Ginger

20220703_181554Snow plant

Both of the new groups of backpackers had dogs but aside from the initial barking at Buster we didn’t hear either of them again which we took to mean the bear kept its distance overnight. In the morning we got an extra early start for our hike out managing to have coffee and breakfast, pack up and still be on the trail by 6:15am.
IMG_6332Another low cloud morning.

IMG_6333Heading out

We followed the old road bed past the Raspberry Lake Trail junction half a mile to another trail junction, this one with the Black Butte Trail.
IMG_6337Passing around the meadow, we didn’t see Buster this morning.

IMG_6341Black Butte Trail junction.

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We turned right onto this trail which was also an old road bed and followed it a little over half a mile to the East Fork Illinois River.
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IMG_6350Bear Cub under the clouds.

IMG_6353Vanilla leaf along the trail.

IMG_6357Jessica sticktight

IMG_6358The headwaters of the East Fork Illinois River are just up from the trail so the river isn’t much more than a trickle at the trail crossing.

On the other side of the river we ignored the East Fork Illinois Trail to the left and continued on the old road bed.
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IMG_6371The edge of the clouds to the NW.

IMG_6377Passing below Bear Cub.

IMG_6382Being an old road bed in unburt forest made for easy hiking.

Going into the weekend there had been a chance of showers both Sunday and Monday. Sunday had remained dry but today a light mist was falling and there were a couple of brief showers which were enough to prompt us to put the rain covers on our packs but not enough to don our rain gear.
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When we had made it to the north side of Bear Cub (Sullivan refers to it as Polar Bear Cub) we were momentarily confused by the number of trails our GPS units were showing. Sullivan’s map only showed an unmaintained use trail heading right toward the mountain while our paper Forest Service map didn’t show any other trails, but the GPS topo showed Sullivan’s user trail and another trail heading slightly downhill to the left. What we were seeing was the old roadbed curing right toward Bear Cub and a trail with cairns on both sides heading straight.
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The existence of the third trail on the GPS had us questioning whether the trail marked by cairns was the Black Butte Trail or the left most trail showing on the Garmin. After some debate we decided that it must be the Black Butte Trail and passed between the cairns. This turned out to be the right choice and we soon found ourselves climbing through the 2020 Slater fire scar.
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IMG_6391Swtichbacking toward Bear Cub.

IMG_6396Black Butte

We were a bit disappointed when we realized that to reach the junction with the Black Butte Tie Trail below Black Butte we had to lose about 100′ of elevation first.
IMG_6399Heading downhill so we could go up.

IMG_6402Creek crossing in the basin below Black Butte.

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IMG_6411Looking back into the clouds where we’d come from.

IMG_6412Steep climb up to the junction.

IMG_6413We made it back to the junction! Only 1.8 more miles to go.

We turned left at the junction, now following the route that we’d come in on from the Black Butte Trailhead on the first day. We had both convinced ourselves that this stretch would be mostly downhill, but we had been deceived.
IMG_6418Spirea

IMG_6419Pair of woodpeckers

IMG_6428Why is there more uphill?

IMG_6440Black Butte from the trailhead with Heather coming down the trail.

It was 5.6 miles from our camp to the trailhead but after some challenging hikes it felt harder than that. The nearly 1400′ of elevation gain didn’t help that, but it had been a great trip none the less.

Day 4 Track in blue

The most significant rain shower started as we were changing at the trailhead so the timing there was pretty good. The trip had been challenging but it was worth it to have the chance to experience a new area with such diverse plants and great scenery. The wildlife was a bonus although a little less bear would have been okay.

What wasn’t good was the low tire pressure light that came on almost immediately after starting our drive. We had the same light come on in June driving up to the Siskiyou Gap Trailhead (post) and taken the car to Les Schwab in Ashland for an air check. The two left side tires were just a little low then so they added some air and we were off. Today was the 4th though and the Les Schwab stores in Grants Pass (the closest to where we were) were closed for the holiday so we pulled into a gas station and checked the air at their self-serve station. The same two tires were again a little low so I topped them off and we drove home. The light was back Tuesday morning when I started my drive to work prompting a trip to Les Schwab in West Salem where they removed the tires and discovered a screw in the rear tire and a nail in the front. Luckily both were small leaks and repairable. Hopefully we’re done with that light for a long while now. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Raspberry Lake / Youngs Valley To Black Butte Trailhead

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Siskiyou Wilderness Day 2 – Devil’s Punchbowl 07/02/2022

Our first morning at Youngs Valley turned out to be rather exciting. Per usual I was up early (before 5am) and we were eating breakfast by 6am. We were sitting at the edge of the meadow away from camp enjoying our Mountain House biscuits and gravy when I spotted a black bear passing between some trees in the meadow. Heather had commented during our hike in the day before that we were due for a bear sighting and there it was. I think I said “that’s a bear” and then we watched as it entered a stand of trees around a large boulder in the meadow a little less than 100 yards from where we were.
IMG_5589There still wasn’t a lot of light in the valley but the bear was in with the tall tree in the middle of this picture.

We lost sight of it for a time and thought maybe it had continued on away from us behind the trees but then it reappeared as it scrounged for things to eat.
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We were downwind so I don’t think the bear realized we were there until it poked it’s head out of the trees and stared at us.
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We had stood up but hadn’t been making noise but now that we were spotted I let out a “HEY BEAR!” which in our past experience (12 bears on trail and 2 driving to trailheads) would have been enough to send the bear running, if it hadn’t already sped off when it first spotted us. This bear did head off but it was about as non-nonchalant as it could have been.
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IMG_5597Heather watching the bear leave through the gap in the trees.

We made sure that we really did have every bit of food that we weren’t taking with us for our day hike in our Ursack bear bags and secured them. Then we re-familiarized ourselves with our bear spray. I had been seeing alerts from the Forest Service about a rise in bear encounters due to a delay in the berry crop this year so we had at least come “Bear Aware“.

After the exciting breakfast we threw our packs for the day on and headed to the Clear Creek National Recreation Trail where we turned right off the old road bed at a small sign.
IMG_5600The sign for the Clear Creek Trail on a tree to the right.

From Youngs Valley it was 5.1 miles to the Doe Flat Trail then another 2.8 to our goal for the day, Devil’s Punchbowl, a lake in a granite bowl carved by glaciers. The Clear Creek Trail passed by a series of small meadows before entering a forest that had been spared by the recent fires.
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IMG_5613Clear Creek below the trail.

A little under a mile and half from Youngs Valley we found ourselves back inside the scar of the 2018 Natchez Fire though.
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While there wasn’t much blowdown on the trail to navigate it was faint in places and overgrown with thimbleberry, trailing berries, currant and roses (those last three all have thorns) in places which made for some slow going.
IMG_5620Anemone and star flowers

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IMG_5625

IMG_5627Honeysuckle

IMG_5629Rocky Knob

IMG_5630One of several creek crossings. This one was a bit tricky to stay dry on but we both managed to do so on the first pass. Heather wasn’t so lucky on the way back though.

IMG_5631Rayless arnica

Pacific ninebarkPacific ninebark

20220702_075859Streambank bird’s-foot trefoil

IMG_5637Sign for the Rattlesnake Meadows Trail which looked to be in much worse shape than the Clear Creek Trail.

IMG_5649White-vein wintergreen

There were occasional pockets of green trees, typically near creeks.
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IMG_5652

IMG_5662Queens cup

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IMG_5665There was a small stream in the middle of the trees here.

About a mile and a half after entering the fire scar the trail left it again for a bit.
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20220702_090007A colorful pea.

The mornings second round of excitement came when we spotted the first of what turned out to be many California lady slippers.
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These beautiful orchids found only in the Siskiyou Mountains of SW Oregon and northern California are endangered in part due to thoughtless people who pick or attempt to transplant the fragile plants. We took many, many photos.

Just under three and a half miles from Youngs Valley the trail came to a beautiful pool along Clear Creek. The pool was so nice that we failed to notice that the trail continued on the far side.
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We took a break on the bank of the creek before continuing on and realizing that we needed to cross the creek. There was no way we were staying dry on this one so we forded the barely calf deep water. More excitement ensued when we came to the first of several patches of California pitcher plant – Darlingtonia californica.
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This carnivorous plant native to northern California, SW Oregon and the Oregon Coast is considered uncommon and one we don’t often see. Many more pictures followed. We continued south along the trail hoping for more exciting sightings.
20220702_092025The western azaleas smelled wonderful.

IMG_5710Another side creek.

IMG_5714Another fire scar, this time from the 2017 Young fire.

Silver-spotted skipperSilver-spotted skipper

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IMG_5752Chipmunk

IMG_5761White-stemmed frasera

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Bolander's lilyBolander’s lily, another exciting find for us and the first time we’ve seen them.

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IMG_5776Washington lily with a crab spider.

One and three quarters beyond the crossing we came to Trout Camp near the Doe Flat Trail junction where we saw the first signs of other humans since the people with the goats near the Black Butte Trailhead the day before. There was a hammock and a tent set up at a campsite there but we didn’t see any people.
IMG_5782Trail sign near Trout Camp.

Our original plan had been to move our tent here, hike up to Devil’s Punchbowl then take the Doe Flat Trail to Buck Lake before returning to the tent. Then in the morning we would pack up and move the tent back to Youngs Valley before hiking up to Raspberry Lake. After comparing Trout Camp to Youngs Valley we were happy that we’d changed our plan. It would have been fine but the scenery was a lot nicer at the meadow.

We left the Clear Creek Trail at Trout Camp and followed the Doe Flat Trail downhill to a crossing of Doe Creek where we once again got our feet wet.
IMG_5784Sign for the Doe Flat Trail at Trout Camp.

IMG_5793Doe Creek, we probably could have made it dry footed (I was able to on the way back.) but since we were already wet why bother.

We finally ran into people on the far side of Doe Creek. They were trying to get their bearings and we were able to point them in the direction of the Clear Creek Trail and Raspberry Lake where they were hoping to spend the night.

From Doe Creek the trail launched steeply uphill climbing via a series of switchbacks.
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IMG_5799Twin Peaks in the distance.

IMG_5800Pacific coralroot

IMG_5809Phantom orchid

After a mile and over 700′ of elevation gain the trail appeared to be leveling out but it was also the junction with the Devil’s Punchbowl Trail.
IMG_5813The Doe Flat Trail continuing on from the junction.

The only sign at this junction was a small pointer for the trailhead and clear creek.
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Opposite the little sign the Devil’s Punchbowl Trail climbed steeply uphill behind a log that someone had scratched the trail name into.
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Another half mile and 600′ plus of elevation brought us to a viewpoint at a ridge end where we got our first good look into the granite basin where we would find Devil’s Punchbowl.
IMG_5817The flat top of Black Butte in the distance.

IMG_5821Bear Mountain

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At the ridge end we were just under 200′ below the elevation of Devil’s Punchbowl but after rounding the ridge the trail descended almost 150′ to a crossing of the lakes outlet creek.
IMG_5832Blue-head gilia

IMG_5830Oregon sunshine

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There was a nice pool below the crossing where we planned to refill our water on our way back by.
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Beyond the creek the trail became more of a scramble over the granite following occasional cairns over the rocky landscape.
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IMG_5844Buckwheat

IMG_5845Siskiyou lewisia

IMG_5850Preston Peak

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Before reaching Devil’s Punchbowl the trail passed a smaller but scenic lake.
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It was pretty obvious why this is the most popular spot in the wilderness and draws crowds. We however were fortunate enough to be the only people here when we arrived.
IMG_5885_stitch

IMG_5894

IMG_5888Pussypaws

It wasn’t long before another couple arrived followed by a pair of backpackers but we appreciated the solitude nonetheless.
IMG_5905Beetle on a pussypaw

IMG_5911Swallowtail on azalea

IMG_5917Silver-spotted skipper on Siskiyou lewisia

IMG_5924Phlox

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After a nice long rest we headed back down stopping at the outlet creek for water.
IMG_5934There is a rock arch atop the ridge near the left hand side.

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IMG_5938Mountain heather

IMG_5941Green beetle

IMG_5953Ground squirrel

IMG_5960Clouds gathering around Preston Peak.

IMG_5963Fleabane near the pool.

IMG_5964Waterfall along the outlet creek.

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IMG_5973Clouds over Devil’s Punchbowl.

IMG_5978A duskywing

IMG_5979More clouds to the north.

We returned the way we’d come passing a number of groups heading up to Devil’s Punchbowl. We felt even more fortunate about having had the lake to ourselves for a bit. After recrossing Clear Creek we cooked our dinner at a small camp site before continuing on.
IMG_5992Bee in bindweed with a little ant observing.

IMG_6003Back at the ford.

IMG_6010Ouzel at the Clear Creek ford.

IMG_6022Doe in the forest.

IMG_6024This little guy had a pretty song.

IMG_6029Arriving back at Youngs Valley.

It was after 7:30pm and there was another couple setting up camp near ours and I stopped briefly to chat with them. When I started to continue down the road bed to our site I spotted what was probably the same bear from the morning standing on its hind legs watching us from the brush.
IMG_6030The bear in the middle of the photo behind a small leaning tree.

I gave another “HEY BEAR!” yell and he again moved on but a short while later when I was heading to re-secure the bear bags I ran into it again. This encounter was quite a bit closer but this time the bear hustled back into the brush. After securing the bags we put the rain fly up due to the increased presence of clouds. A little while later we heard our neighbor yell at the bear to run it off yet again. The bear hadn’t bothered our camp and there was no evidence that it had tried to get to our food and it was too late and we were too tired to move camp. We kept the bear spray and a whistle close at hand and turned in for the night.

With some side trips and wandering the GPS registered a 16.5 mile day with just over 4000′ of cumulative elevation gain.

Day 2 track in Magenta

It was an exciting day for sure but also another tough one. We were looking forward to a shorter day on Sunday followed by a 5.5 mile hike back to the trailhead on the 4th. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Punchbowl

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Siskiyou Wilderness Day 1 – Polar Bear Gap 07/01/2022

For the Fourth of July weekend we took an extra day off and headed to the Siskiyou Wilderness in California for our first backpacking trip of the year. This would be our first visit to the 179,847 acre wilderness after having had to cancel planned trips several years in a row due to weather, fire, and smoke. All of the previously planned trips had been on the schedule for late Summer and since that didn’t seem to be working out we decided to try an earlier time of the year. Sullivan features three hikes in the wilderness: Polar Bear Gap, Raspberry Lake, and Devil’s Punchbowl and our plan was to check them all off our to-do list on this trip.

Friday morning we made the long drive back into California to the Black Butte Trailhead near the northern end of the wilderness area. The 2020 Slater Fire burned over the road to this trailhead and into the wilderness.
IMG_5047Black Butte from the Black Butte Trailhead.

There was one other vehicle at the trailhead and it had a small animal trailer with hay attached to it. Heather guessed goat and was proved correct when we ran into a couple and their three goats not a quarter mile up the trail. Those would be the only people we encountered on this first day. As for the Black Butte Trail it was in pretty good shape to start considering the fire as it led uphill toward the shoulder of Black Butte.
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IMG_5053Penstemon

narrowleaf blue eyed MaryNarrowleaf blue eyed Mary

IMG_5063Siskiyou mountain ragwort

IMG_5068Wedgeleaf violet

IMG_5069Sanger Peak

IMG_5079More penstemon

IMG_5080Phlox

After cresting below Black Butte the trail made a slight descent to a junction with the Black Butte Tie Trail 1.8 miles from the trailhead.
IMG_5085Youngs Peak

IMG_5096It turned out to be a beargrass year, at least in the northern part of the wilderness.

IMG_5099Clustered broomrape

IMG_5101Paintbrush

IMG_5103Lizard

IMG_5105El Capitan with the snow behind Bear Cub. Bear Mountain is the high point in the center distance with Rocky Knob to the right front of it. Youngs Peak is the high point to the far right of the frame at the end of the ridge.

IMG_5110Looking up at Black Butte.

IMG_5113Rayless arnica

IMG_5118Big deervetch

IMG_5121The junction with the tie trail.

We would be coming up the tie trail on Monday on the way back to our car but for now we forked left sticking to the Black Butte Trail. Our Forest Service Map indicated that the next 2.5 miles of trail was “infrequently maintained” but the first three quarters of a mile to Polar Bear Gap were fine.

IMG_5127Polar Bear Mountain ahead.

IMG_5129Azalea

IMG_5133A sulphur butterfly

IMG_5140Thimbleberry blossoms

IMG_5152A tortoiseshell on thimbleberry.

IMG_5155Wallflower

IMG_5156The trail steepened considerably as it made the final climb to the gap.

IMG_5158Lupine

IMG_5163Lewis flax

IMG_5169Lookout Mountain

IMG_5173Paintbrush

IMG_5177A carpet of narrowleaf blue eyed Mary at Polar Bear Gap

IMG_5180Nuttall’s sandwort surrounded by blue eyed Mary.

IMG_5181Serpentine phacelia

IMG_5182Polar Bear Gap

Polar Bear Gap sits between Lookout Mountain to the north and Polar Bear Mountain to the south and provided us our best view eastward of the entire trip.
IMG_5190Lookout Mountain

IMG_5188Polar Bear Mountain

IMG_5183Looking east toward Mt. Shasta.

IMG_5185Mt. Shasta

IMG_5193Looking west toward Sanger Peak.

Sickle-leaved OnionSickle-leaved Onion

IMG_5200There were lots of lizards in the area.

After a much needed rest at the gap (we aren’t used to carrying full backpacks) we headed down the opposite side of the gap toward Twin Valley.
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On this side of the gap we traded the 2020 Slater fire scar for the 2018 Natchez fire.
IMG_5205Heading down into Twin Valley

IMG_5218Paintbrush and penstemon along the trail.

IMG_5220Queen’s cup

IMG_5227Frog

As we neared the first of two meadows in the valley the infrequent maintenance became obvious. The good news was that there were a good number of cairns set up but it was slow going at times trying to locate the next one.
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IMG_5235Larkspur

IMG_5239The yellow is a cinquefoil I believe but I don’t know what the other dark flower is.

IMG_5241Meadow in Twin Valley.

The trail passed between the smaller upper and larger lower meadows and continued a slight descent along the lower meadow where we began looking for a junction with the Poker Flat Trail.
IMG_5245Heading down to a stream crossing between the two meadows.

IMG_5259Scarlet gilia

IMG_5264Beargrass

IMG_5271Creek crossing.

IMG_5277Shooting star and marsh marigold.

IMG_5289A hairstreak butterfly

IMG_5295Columbine and cinquefoil

With the trails being faint we were also keeping an eye on our GPS units which both showed that we had gotten below and past the trail junction. Heather decided to strike off cross country first to see if she could find the trail and I soon followed. We lost sight of each other for just a moment and wound up crossing paths without realizing it. She wound up finding the trail junction and turned up the Poker Flat Trail before getting my attention. I made my way over to her and we were back on track.
IMG_5298Cut logs helped identify where the trail was supposed to be.

Wolley-head cloverWolley-head clover

IMG_5305Oregon violet

IMG_5306Polar Bear Gap from the Poker Flat Trail.

Sullivan describes the climb out of Twin Valley as being “as graceless as a bobsled run in a quarry”. That was an apt description and making the climb with full packs didn’t help. We were very relieved when the trail crested a ridge end after three quarters of a mile.
IMG_5316Looking up toward the ridge end.

IMG_5317Iris at the ridge end.

IMG_5319Red Buttes (post) to the NE.

IMG_5320Red Buttes

IMG_5322Lookout Mountain from the ridge end.

IMG_5329Bee visiting penstemon.

After another break at the ridge end we sallied forth. The trail descended for approximately a mile before climbing fairly steeply again for half a mile to Private Lake. We took a short side trail down to the small lake where we again rested.
IMG_5336The Lieutenants and El Capitain

IMG_5343Clustered broomrape

20220701_131140We were starting to see a lot of bear sign.

IMG_5354An as-of-yet unidentified flower.

IMG_5360This may be sticky blue eyed Mary.

IMG_5378Mariposa lily

IMG_5385More faint trail.

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IMG_5395Time to climb.

IMG_5400Anemone

IMG_5405Meadow along the Poker Flat Trail.

IMG_5413Approaching Private Lake.

IMG_5418Siskiyou lewisia

IMG_5423Private Lake below The Lieutenants.

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After we’d eaten and rested we resumed our trek and climbed steeply for a half mile to a pass between The Lieutenants and Bear Cub.
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IMG_5450Scarlet gilia and penstemon

IMG_5459Heather heading for the pass.

IMG_5467Arnica

IMG_5470Nearing the pass.

IMG_5475Bear Cub

IMG_5478Youngs Peak just to the left of the snag.

The trail descended to a small snow melt tarn then continued down a rocky ridge.
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IMG_5509Bear Cub on the right.

IMG_5530Youngs Peak behind the tree.

Approximately 1.4 miles from the pass we arrived at an old road bed that is now the Raspberry Lake Trail.
IMG_5534Finally out of the fire scars.

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We should have turned right here for two tenths of a mile then taken a left onto another old road bed but after the long drive and challenging hike we weren’t thinking all that clearly and mistook this junction for the next and turned left. We realized our mistake after a little more than 100 yards and backtracked past the junction to the correct left hand turn onto the road bed that doubles as the Clear Creek National Recreation Trail near a large meadow in Youngs Valley.
IMG_5549Sign for Raspberry Lake at the Raspberry Lake Trail/Clear Creek National Recreation Trail junction where we correctly turned left.

At the southern end of the meadow the Clear Creek Trail leaves the road bed and continues south following Clear Creek ending almost 20 miles later at No Mans Trailhead. We stayed on the road bed as it continued around the meadow. After crossing a branch of Clear Creek we started looking for a campsite.
IMG_5552Footbridge over the creek.

IMG_5553Bear Cub from Youngs Valley.

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There were plenty of open sites as we appeared to be the only people around. There were other creatures about though.
IMG_5559Dragon fly

IMG_5567El Capitan

IMG_5570Bucks in the meadow.

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IMG_5584Caterpillar

We did a little exploring to check out the wildflowers in and around the meadow.
IMG_5562Spotted coralroot

IMG_5566Wedgeleaf violets

20220701_195317Maybe a cinquefoil

20220701_195608Bistort

20220701_195653Shooting star

IMG_5581Monkeyflower

IMG_5565There were quite a few of these tiny flowers. I haven’t been able to identify this one yet.

After getting water, eating dinner, and setting up the tent we were plenty tired so we turned in early. The hike had been a little over 9 miles with approximately 3000′ of elevation gain spread out over several steep climbs.

Day 1 Track in light blue

It had been a great start from a scenery standpoint but we were not used to carrying the larger packs so before bed we decided that we were going to tweak our plans just a bit and instead of packing up camp in the morning and moving 5+ miles to the south just to pack up again and come back to Youngs Valley for the last night this would be our base for the entire trip. We were looking forward to seeing what else this wilderness had in store over the next three days. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Polar Bear Gap

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 4 – Azalea Lake and beyond.

We woke up early on the final day of our trip and began packing up under a full moon.
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We had been having a great time backpacking but we were also looking forward to our reservations for that night at the Chateau at the Oregon Caves. We said goodbye to Azalea Lake and climbed back up to the saddle between Figurehead Mountain and Buck Peak watching the sun color the clouds as it rose.
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Preston Peak
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It was a beautiful morning as we retraced our route from Monday in reverse. We skipped the .1 mile side trip to Cirque Lake and paused at Sucker Gap for a snack.
Swan Mountain from Sucker Gap
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A little over half a mile beyond Sucker Gap we spotted another pair of hikers making their way up the trail. I don’t know who was more surprised, but we all had shocked looks on our faces. They hadn’t expected to see anyone else on the trails. They were from Medford and on their way up to Sucker Gap and then going to head off-trail up either Swan Mountain or Pyramid Peak. We informed them that they had broken a tie between humans seen and bears making the final 5 to 3 in favor of people. They let us know that they had seen our car at the lower trailhead so we knew it was still waiting for us. We arrived at our car close to 1pm and headed for the Oregon Caves National Monument which was only about 20 miles away.

We arrived before check-in (3pm) so we wandered around the gift shop and had a wonderful lunch in the cafe before picking up our room keys. The Chateau was amazing. Considered one of the “Great Lodges” the six story building was originally built in 1934.
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Lobby
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Our room
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It really felt like we’d gone back in time in the rustic building and immediately felt at home. The Chateau would be closing for the season after the weekend but the staff was very friendly and helpful and dinner in the Chateau Dining Room was excellent. Oh, and Cave Creek flows right through the building which was the icing on the cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660616631445/with/22658987801/

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 3 – Echo Lake back to Azalea Lake

It was still raining when we awoke Wednesday morning and we began packing everything we could into our dry sacks. While we were figuring out our strategy on exiting the tent and taking it down, the rain stopped. God had been good and just as the rain began after we had gotten into the tent, it ended just as we were preparing to exit.
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We packed up our wet tent and cooked breakfast then headed away from the lake on the Horse Camp Trail downhill toward the Applegate River. It was the steepest trail of the hike but it was well maintained and easy to follow.
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We were following a ridge down Echo Canyon until the trail veered away to the right to go around the Butte Slide.
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As we passed the slide we descended a series of switchbacks with views of the leftover clouds drifting over the valleys.
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We stopped to watch a hawk who seemed to be just as curious about us as we were of him.
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The vegetation changed as we lost elevation and we began seeing some different trees including Madrones.
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Before reaching the river we arrived at the junction with the Butte Fork Trail which we would take back up to Azalea Lake where we had stayed on our first night. Not surprisingly the trail sign was lying on the ground.
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Now is a good time to mention that we had been using the USFS Red Buttes Wilderness topographic map during the trip. It was the only map I could find covering the area and we had it and our compasses as well as our Gamrin 62s GPS unit. The Garmin was of limited use though due to the fact that we were in California and we do not own the California Map so all it could show us was our elevation and where we were in relation to our earlier tracks and waypoints. We were checking the map often so that we were familiar with our route and any markers to expect along the way. Our markers for the first part of the Butte Fork Trail were a small side creek, passing beneath the Butte Slide, crossing the river near Echo Canyon, and then reentering the Red Buttes Wilderness.

The first side creek was a pleasant surprise as the trail passed between a series of small falls.
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Things began to get interesting soon after the falls as we arrived at Echo Creek. The trail led us straight to the creek instead of down and across the river.
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The trail was hard to see on the other side of the creek but we hopped across the rocks and found it covered in leaves.
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We left Echo creek behind and continued on looking for the river crossing we had been expecting, but instead we came to a wilderness sign.
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We had entered the wilderness on the opposite side of the river from what the map showed. We double and triple checked the map but we were clearly not where the trail on the map was. The trail crossed another side creek which we deemed to be Hello Creek and kept heading up the canyon on the south side of the river.
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As we continued on the trail condition deteriorated. Sections were overgrown and large trees had come down across the trail along the steep canyon hillsides. We climbed over some and under others. A couple of times we had to detour up the steep hillside and crash through a mass of broken limbs to continue on. At one point the trail forked and we headed downhill finally reaching the river near what appeared to be an old campsite. We were hoping that this was the river crossing, but there was no obvious sign of the trail on the far bank nor any way to cross save fording. We returned to the fork and took the left hand fork continuing to encounter numerous downed trees. We hadn’t gotten too far from the campsite when we decided to go back and do a little more searching to see if we couldn’t find away across and possible pick up the trail shown on the map on the north side of the river. As we walked up the river bank a log lying along the hillside on the far bank caught my eye. Looking the area over we could see that it had once been lining a trail but that trail was now washed out leaving a hole on the other side where the trail had been. We now suspected that the trail had been rerouted at some point and that the map had never been updated. We decided to press ahead on the south side of the river hoping that things would improve and we at least would not encounter any obstacles that would make it impossible for us to continue. We could now see sections of the trail on the far hillside lending credence to our reroute theory.

The next marker we would have been looking for after reentering the wilderness was a junction with a trail coming from the Shoofly Trailhead to the north. We had been watching the elevation on our Garmin to give us an idea of where we might be by comparing it to the topo map and we could see we were still at a lower elevation than the trail junction so we were hoping conditions might improve once we made it that far. As we got close to the correct elevation the trail suddenly arrived at a nice bridge spanning the Butte Fork Applegate River.
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We happily crossed the river and were finally on the side we had expected to be on. We noticed a trail that had been blocked off with branches coming from the direction that we would have been coming from had we been on the north side of the river which all but sold us on the reroute theory.

Not far from the bridge we arrived at another trail junction marked only by a small stake with “2 1/4” and an arrow pointing uphill written on it. We initially headed up this path thinking that the other trail was just going to lead down to the river, but Heather had a feeling this was incorrect and her gut instincts are usually right so we turned around and took the left hand fork which turned out to be correct. The other trail must have led up to the Shoofly Trailhead.

We were now on a nice trail that clearly saw more traffic than the section we had just come from. Signs of recent horse travel were evident on the trail and there was a nice little shelter along the way.
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We had been gradually climbing up the valley and were passing Fruit Mountain when we heard some noise ahead and to our right. A mama bear and a cub were racing back up the hillside and disappeared into the forest. We had now seen as many bears (3) as people on the trip.
Fruit Mountain
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Beyond Fruit Mountain our next marker was the one that had most interested us. On the map was the word “Graves” next to the trail at approximately the 4320′ elevation mark. We weren’t sure what we were looking for but it was obvious when we saw it.
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Later we learned that a plane crash in 1945 had claimed the lives of four people, the pilot and his three passengers, a husband and wife and her sister whose graves this was.

After the grave site we recrossed a now much smaller river and climbed to Cedar Basin.
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We relaxed against one of the large cedars before climbing the final .9 miles to Azalea Lake. We had half expected to find the horseback riders whose signs we’d seen on the trail but it was just us at the lake again for the night. We set up camp at the same site as before and watched the sun go down behind the ridge between Figurehead Mountain and Buck Peak.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660615820905

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 2 – Azalea Lake to Echo Lake

After a good nights sleep at Azalea Lake we packed up and got ready to hit the trail.
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We followed the Butte Fork Trail from the lake and headed downhill toward Cedar Basin which was .9 miles away.
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At a trail junction in the basin we turned right following a pointer for Fort Goff.
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This trail began climbing gradually through beargrass meadows in a forest that had been impacted by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire.
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After almost a mile and a half we took a side trail to the right to visit Lonesome Lake where we had originally planned on staying the night before. As it turned out much of the area around the lake had been burned by the same fire and there didn’t seem to be many places to set up a tent.
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From Lonesome Lake the trail continued to climb up to the Siskiyou Crest where views extended ahead to the Red Buttes. To Echo Lake, our goal for the day, we would need to make it around the back side of the buttes where we would pick up the Horse Camp Trail and descend a half mile to the lake.
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While looking back at the hillsides above Lonesome Lake I spotted something that looked brown and thought that maybe it was a deer.
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As I was busying zooming in on a rock Heather spotted a bear moving across the rocky slope to the right of were I was looking. She lost it in this clump of trees but I took a picture anyway. There is a suspicious black thing in front of the trees but we couldn’t tell if it was in fact the bear or if it is a piece of burnt wood.
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After crossing over the crest we were now on the Boundary Trail which followed the crest east joining the Pacific Crest Trail on the shoulder of Kangaroo Mountain. The Fort Complex Fire over-swept the entire section of the trail between Lonesome Lake and the PCT as well as a portion of the PCT. This left a lot of burnt trees and some sections of thick brush that has since grown up along the trail.
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The brush was the thickest in the first quarter of a mile or so and then it thinned out some. The trail here was a little tricky to follow so we had to make sure we were paying close attention to it’s location both ahead on the hillside and directly in front of us.
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The views along the trail were great. With very few trees left we could see unobstructed in every direction. It was a cloudy day but they were high enough in the sky to reveal many of NW California’s peaks, most of which we were unfamiliar with.
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Polar Bear Mountain, Preston Peak, and El Capitan
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To the NE were some more familiar peaks.
Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Thielsen and the peaks around the rim of Crater Lake
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We were also beginning to see more and more interesting rocks along the trail.
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Often we could see the trail further ahead easier than it was to pick out directly in front of us. A good example of this was the trail leading up and around Desolation Peak.
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The trail climbed in a series of switchbacks on the side of Desolation Peak where we were surprised to find some scarlet gilia still in bloom.
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Switchback on Desolation Peak
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After getting around Desolation Peak we got our first look at Mt. Shasta.
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We had passed around Goff Butte, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Desolation Peak and up next was Kangaroo Mountain where we would find the PCT.
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Kangaroo Mountain is made up of the same type of red rock, peridotite, as Red Buttes.
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We met the PCT on the south side of Kangaroo Mountain and took a celebratory break.
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While the Boundary Trail has seen little to no maintenance since the 2012 fire the PCT has been. While we were sitting on a log having a snack we saw our first other humans of the trip. Three members of the Forest Service out on a tree survey were hiking up the PCT and heading back to their vehicle. After a brief conversation they went on and we soon followed heading toward Red Buttes.
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Kangaroo Mountain was by far the widest peak that we’d gone around that day and the backside was an interesting mix of rocks with marble outcrops dotting the red peridotite.
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We arrived at Kangaroo Spring to find the springs dry although there did appear to be some water further offtrail on the downhill side of the PCT.
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Next we passed Lily Pad Lake where several ducks were paddling about.
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We were coming out of the burn area and passing a series of meadows that still held a few wildflowers.
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We popped out of the trees below Red Buttes near Bee Camp.
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A half mile after crossing an old road we arrived at the junction with the Horse Camp Trail and a unique pointer for Echo Lake.
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We took a moment to take in the view then spied the lake below us and began the half mile descent to the lake.
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We turned left at another pointer for Echo Lake before arriving at the pretty little lake.
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We set up out tent and rainfly as the forecast when left had been for a chance of showers Tuesday night and rain on Wednesday.
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No sooner had we gotten settled into the tent when it began to rain. The wind blew and the rain fell all night long. We got what sleep we could wondering what Wednesday would be like and just how wet we were going to get. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/7215766058094952

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 1 – Sucker Creek Trailhead to Azalea Lake

After spending two days in Crescent City, CA hiking in the Redwoods we headed up Highway 199 to the Oregon Caves Highway 46 and drove to the Sucker Creek Trailhead. We were planning on spending 4 days and 3 nights backpacking in the Red Buttes Wilderness. The wilderness was established in 1984 and encompasses 20,323 acres mostly in California but with some of that area located in Oregon. Running through the wilderness is the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains which include some of the oldest rocks in the region. These began as ocean bottom sediments eventually becoming metamorphic rock uplifted by the North American Plate scraping the ocean floor as it drifted westward across the Pacific Plate.

The trailhead sign was set back behind some vegetation and at an angle such that we missed it the first time by and very nearly did the same as we came back down the road, luckily my wife spotted it just before we drove past again.
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The trip had a real wilderness feeling to it right from the start. The trail had the appearance of a less traveled path and the trail signs we did see seemed to have been there for decades.
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There were also a few downed trees to navigate our way around or over.
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After about 2 miles of climbing we entered a series of meadows where the tread became faint.
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Just under 3 miles along the trail we spotted the Sucker Creek Shelter in a meadow below us to the left of the trail. We followed a fairly steep path down to the shelter to check it out and take a short rest before continuing on to Sucker Gap.
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Sucker Gap is located at a saddle on a wide ridge with a four way trail junction. We followed the pointer for Steve Fork.
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Two tenths of a mile beyond Sucker Gap we took a 100 yard side trail to our right and visited Cirque Lake.
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Beyond Cirque Lake the trail began a 2 mile descent to a trail junction where we would head back uphill on the far side of the valley to the Azalea Lake/Fir Glade Trail.
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We climbed back up out of the valley only to once again begin descending down the opposite side of a ridge. The vegetation was vastly different on this side of the ridge with plenty of manzanita bushes making up the majority of the underbrush.
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We even spotted a butterfly in the area.
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We switchbacked downhill for a bit before reaching the junction with the Azalea Lake/Fir Glade Trail where we again took a right.
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The Azalea Lake Trail climbed to a pass with some great views above Phantom Meadows.
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After passing around the south ridge of Buck Peak we got even better views including Azalea Lake, Mt. McLoughlin, and our first views of Red Buttes.
Azalea Lake and Mt. McLoughlin in the distance
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Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain, and Desolation Peak from left to right.
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We followed the trail down to Azalea Lake and headed around the west side of the lake where the designated hiker camps are. (Horse camps or on the east side.) We hadn’t originally planned on staying at Azalea Lake and had intended to continue on to Lonesome Lake which was another 2.3 miles away, but we were running late and after taking a wrong path leading away from one of the campsites we decided to call it a day and set up camp.
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Figurehead Mountain
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It turned out to be a great decision. The lake was very peaceful with small fish occasionally jumping and the pine needle covered ground made for the most comfortable night we’d spent in the tent. It had been 13.1 miles from the trailhead to the lake including our little side trips and we hadn’t seen another person all day. What we had been seeing was a lot of poop, more specifically bear poop but we hadn’t spotted any that day. We went to bed tired but relaxed wondering what the next day’s trails would bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660604852831