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Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Rogue River Trail – Big Bend to Clay Hill – 05/14/2021

Day two of our Southern Oregon Coast extended weekend had us visiting the Rogue River Trail for the first time. We were admittedly a bit apprehensive about this hike as we had hiked another river trail (the Illinois) in the area around the same time of year in 2016 and had been overrun with ticks on that outing. This turned out to be a much more pleasant outing with just a single tick needing to be flicked off Heather which she promptly flicked straight at me.

We started our hike at the Big Bend/Foster Bar Trailhead at the western end of the Rogue River National Recreation Trail.
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It was a beautiful morning as we set off on the trail in the forest skirting a pasture.
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Near the half mile mark the trail passed below the Illahe Lodge where a couple of deer had their eyes on us.
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The trail passed through a fence that was booby trapped with poison oak.
IMG_4507The poison oak trap in the afternoon.

While the relative absence of ticks was great we still aren’t accustomed to hiking with the amount of poison oak that tends to be present in the southern part of the State but we’re working on that. This hike was a good test as the majority of the first 4.5 miles of the trail passed through quite a bit of vegetation that more often than not included poison oak. We weren’t entirely sure what to make of the hikers we saw in shorts or pants that left open skin near the calves and ankles, were we being too paranoid or are they crazy? The first four miles also included a couple of climbs to bypass private land which limited the views of the river quite a bit.
IMG_4234Bridge over Billings Creek.

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IMG_4278Tolmie’s mariposa lily

20210514_074548Douglas iris with insect.

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IMG_4300More mariposa lilies (with a poison oak background)

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IMG_4315The Rogue River from the trail during one of the climbs.

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IMG_4328One of dozens of lizards we saw (or heard).

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We watched a number of rafts float by and later learned that it was the last weekend to float the river without needing a permit so it was an extra busy weekend.
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We had honestly been a little underwhelmed with the trail as we reached the bridge over Flea Creek at the 4.5 mile mark. We had equated the Rogue River Trail with the dramatic views we’d seen in others photos but the section of trail up to now was short on those.
IMG_4339Footbridge over Flea Creek

Things changed in a hurry beyond Flea Creek though as the views opened up a bit before the trail arrived at Flora Del Falls less than a quarter mile later.
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We took an extended break at the falls before continuing on another 1.75 miles to the Clay Hill Lodge where we decided to turn around. The scenery was now excellent, exactly what we had been hoping for but it was warmer than we were used to and we had more hiking to do over the next couple of days so as tempting as continuing on was, the lodge made for a good turnaround point.
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20210514_094757Oregon sunshine

20210514_095219Elegant brodiaea

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IMG_4439Clay Hill Lodge

IMG_4441Rafts in Clay Hill Rapids

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We saw our only snake of the day on our return trip when we spotted our first ring-necked snake in the trail.
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The rafts seemed to have given way to Jet Boats which we could hear coming well before we saw them.
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We stopped again at Flora Del Falls where I was tormented by a swallow tail that just wouldn’t land.
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IMG_4489One of the dozens of photos I took trying to get the swallow tail in flight.

After the break we headed back to the trailhead. We were trying to come up with markers to break up the 4.5 mile section and Heather remembered that Sullivan had said that there were 5 bridge crossings over named creeks. We ignored the “named creeks” detail and began counting bridges down from 5. There were well more than 5 bridge, closer to a dozen but only 5 crossed “named creeks”. Either way we made it back to the car (and past a few cows) finishing a very nice 12.9 mile hike just after 2:15pm.
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After staying in Gold Beach the night before we were now headed north to Bandon for a couple of nights. We stopped for dinner in Port Orford at the Crazy Norwegian on a recommendation from Heather’s Dad. We shared a clam chowder and split the fish and chips. They were wonderful, a perfect ending to our day.

We found out a couple of days later that we had missed running into the folks from Boots on the Trail, one of our favorite hiking blogs. They had been hiking the entire trail one way and would be doing this section on Saturday the 15th, one day after our hike. We have wondered if that might happen sometime when we are down in that area and it almost did. Maybe next trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rogue River Trail – Big Bend to Clay Hill Lodge

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Rough and Ready Creek Botanical Wayside

As we were driving back to the motel from our Hidden Beach hike I had become progressively ill. By Thursday evening it had developed into a full on stomach bug. Heather spent the night taking care of me. We were glad we’d moved the Hidden Beach hike up a day because there was no way that would have been a good idea Friday.

We left the motel a little before 7am and began our drive home. I was still feeling pretty bad but at least I hadn’t vomited since the previous night. Our plans had called for us to stop on the way back at the Rough and Ready Botanical Wasyside just north of O’Brien, Oregon.

We’d been in the car a little over an hour when we reached the wayside and I was feeling well enough (stubborn enough) to want to give the hike a try. We parked at the pullout along Highway 199.
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A .3 mile gravel path led to a picnic table overlooking the creek.
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It was cold and wet, raining off and on, and there looked to be fresh snow in the foothills. Despit the conditions we continued on following an old roadbed from the picnic table just over a mile to Seats Dam which is used to divert water for irrigation before returning as we’d come.
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The area is known for its botanical diversity which was understandable given the number of different wildflowers we saw along the 2.8 mile hike. We likely missed many but here is a sample of the ones we did see.

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It was a tough 2.8 mile hike but well worth the stop. Our vacation hikes were over. We were down a camera, I wasn’t sure what was going on with my left foot, and I was hoping we’d make it home before I had any more rounds with the stomach flu, but in spite of all of that we had had a good time overall and been on some interesting hikes. When we got home we ordered a new camera and began to recover for our next outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rough and Ready Creek

Categories
California Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Northern California Coast Oregon Trip report

Shrader Old Growth, Myrtle Tree, Lower Rogue River, and Yontocket

On the fourth day of our vacation we were changing our base of operations from Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA. We planned on checking out of our motel in Gold Beach in the morning and doing three hikes along Jerry’s Flat Road before heading down to our next motel. So far the vacation had been going okay but each day had thrown some kinks our way and this day would do the same.

Our first stop was the Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail.
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The interpretive loop was just under a mile long. Brochures were available at the trailhead which we found to be very informative. It was probably the best interpretive trail we’d been on and would make a great hike for kids. Unfortunately our phones didn’t handle the low light conditions of the morning in the forest well so our photos were limited.
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To reach this trail we’d turned off of Jerry’s Flat Road 9.7 miles from Gold Beach onto Road 3300-090 for two miles. Our next stop was just across the Rogue River at the Myrtle Tree Trailhead. To get there we drove 100 feet further along Jerry’s Flat Road and turned left on Road 3310 crossing the river and turning right onto an unmarked road for less than a quarter mile to the signed trailhead.
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This trail was even shorter than the Old Growth Trail at just half a mile out and back. It climbed to Oregon’s largest known myrtle tree.
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Rough skinned newts and snails were numerous on the trail so we had to watch our steps.
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After visiting the tree we returned to Jerry’s Flat Road and followed it across the Rogue Rive to Road 375 where we turned left and followed it to Agness. We parked at the Agness Community Center/Library per the trail signs.
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We were a little nervous about our planned 6.2 mile hike here given it was almost the same time of year as our tick filled visit to the nearby Illinois River Trail the previous year.

The first part of the trail follows roads and paths through private property so following the trail signs was important.
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Candyflower and wild iris were in bloom along the trail.
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Poison oak was also a common sight.
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The trail had not been maintained yet this year and we encountered blowdown almost immediately after leaving the old roads. We were able to navigate the first few spots without having to deal with any of the poison oak but it meant being more in the brush and it wasn’t long before we’d each brushed off ticks.

After only a mile we came upon a large washout.
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I crossed it to see if I could easily pick out the continuation of the trail. It wasn’t obvious and no marking was visible so we considered our options and decided neither of us were too keen on continuing. We were unsure of the trail conditions further on so we turned around, went back to the car, and did a thorough tick check.

It was going to be too early to check in to our motel in Crescent City so we decided to pick out another hike from our guidebook that would be along our way. We chose to check out the the site of a former Native American village in Tolowa Dunes State Park.

We parked at a tricky trailhead to find along Pala Road. My best advice for finding it is to look at the park on Google Maps, find Pala Road near the NE end of the park and get driving directions. 🙂
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Pala Road passed through cow pastures which proved to be interesting on our drive out as we wound up in a heard of dairy cows on their way to be milked.
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As for the hike my left foot had gotten a little tender during the drive. I had been wearing an older pair of hiking shoes and they were really irritating a tendon or ligament on the outside of that foot. Every step shoved the shoe up against it and I was really having trouble walking.

We were headed for the village site which was located atop a small hill.
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We stopped at the picnic tables so I could put some bandages on my foot to try and cushion the contact before heading back downhill to a marked trail junction where we headed for the Smith River.
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The scenery in the area was great with several types of flowers blooming and many birds flying overhead including great white egrets and a bald eagle.
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The bandages weren’t helping so Heather came up with the idea of trading shoes. For the rest of the hike we each wore one of the others shoes which did provide some relief. We managed to make it to the Smith River which was less than a half mile from the village site.
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It was late enough now that we’d be able to check in to our room so we called it a day and I limped back to the car. When we got settled I iced my foot and we wondered what the next day had in store. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Shrader Old Growth, Myrtle Tree, Lower Rogue, and Yontocket

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Hanging Rock -Panther Ridge Trail

The second day of vacation we left Gold Beach and headed toward Agness of Jerry’s Flat Road aka NF-33. Our plan for the day was to visit Hanging Rock in the Wild Rogue Wilderness and to revisit Elk Creek Falls to retake the pictures we’d lost when I threw the camera into the Coquille River the day before. When we drove past the Coquille River Falls Trailhead on our way out Road 3348 I gave one last goodbye to the camera.

We began our hike at the Buck Point Trailhead.

The trail climbed for a mile around Buck Point to a spring at the head of Buck Creek.
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Early spring flowers included fairy slippers, fawn lilies and trillium.
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Just over half a mile from the spring the unsigned Hanging Rock Trail split off to the left. We were planning on continuing along the Panther Ridge Trail to make it a longer hike than the 4 mile round trip out to Hanging Rock and back so we decided to save the side trip until later when the sun would be more overhead and not interfering with the view east from the rock. The Panther Ridge Trail followed the rim of Panther Ridge up and down through a variety of scenery.
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Approximately 2.7 miles north of the Hanging Rock Trail we reached the signed cutoff for Panther Camp.
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We continued on passing through a beargrass meadow and a dry section of trail lined with manzanita.
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Two miles from Panther Camp we came to a junction with the Clay Hill Trail which led down into the Rogue River Valley.
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Our guidebook indicated that another .9 miles would bring us to the rentable Bald Knob Lookout so we kept going.

After about a mile we arrived at a grassy turnaround at the end of an abandoned road. There was no lookout to be seen but the trail continued north below a small hill along the ridge. We kept following the trail for another mile and a half where we came to another abandoned road bed. The Garmin showed this road heading up to the top of the hill we’d just skirted around so we followed it up to the top where there was no lookout and just a minimal view to the west.

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While we took a break I did some looking at the map on the Garmin and decided that the actual lookout was likely still to the north but we’d already gone further than we’d planned and were still confused by the description in the guidebook. We returned the way we’d come checking around the grassy turnaround to see if we’d somehow missed the lookout.

On the way back the views to the east had improved and now we were able to make out a snowy Mt. McLoughlin on the horizon.
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We turned onto the .4 mile trail out to Hanging Rock which still had some lingering snow of its own.
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It was quite windy on the exposed rocks but the views were good with Hanging Rock towering over the Rogue River Valley.
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Having slipped on the wet rocks the day before I chose not to make my way out onto Hanging Rock itself although it is possible.
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After a nice long break we returned to our car stopping at Elk Creek Falls before returning to Gold Beach. We hadn’t seen much in the way of wildlife on the hike but on the drive back we spotted a couple of deer and a young black bear along Jerry’s Flat Road. A check of the Garmin back at the motel showed we’d gone 19.5 miles on the day, nearly 5 miles more than we’d planned. We were also able to determine that the Bald Knob Lookout had been another 1.5 miles north of the road we took up the hill where we turned around. It was a good example of what can happen when you don’t take the time to fully research your hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Panther Ridge Trail

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Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Elk Creek & Coquille River Falls and Azalea Lake

We just got back from a week of hiking near Gold Beach, Oregon and Crescent City, California. This was the second year in a row that we spent part of our May vacation in Gold Beach due to our original plan of visiting the SE Oregon desert being derailed by the chance of rain. Over 7 days we visited 17 trailheads (1 twice) and had plenty of adventures, some good, some not so much.

We headed down to Gold Beach on Saturday morning planning on stopping at four trailheads along the way. All four were located on or near NF-33 (Powers South Road) between Powers and Agness. Our first stop was the Elk Creek Falls & Big Tree Park trailhead located at a pullout along NF-33 between mileposts 57 & 58.
Elk Creek Falls Trailhead

The pullout was next to Elk Creek.
Elk Creek

The trail quickly split with the left fork arriving at the impressive Elk Creek Falls in just a tenth of a mile.
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Elk Creek Falls

After visiting the falls we returned to the fork and headed uphill on the Big Tree Trail. Due to a camera issue which will be explained a little later we have no pictures from the 1.2 mile trail to a huge Port Orford cedar tree measuring 239′ tall and 12′ thick. A few other large trees were near this behemoth including another Port Orford cedar and a Douglas Fir.

After admiring these huge trees we returned down the trail to our car and continued south on NF-33 another 4.9 miles to the China Hat Recreation area. We were planning on hiking the Barkow Mountain Trail into the Copper-Salmon Wilderness which would give us one more check mark on our Oregon Wilderness areas visited list. Unfortunately winter storm damage had closed Road 3353 just 3 miles into an 11 mile drive to the trailhead. We would have to save this wilderness for another trip as the only other possible trailhead needed to be accessed from the west near Port Orford.

We drove back to NF-33 and headed south another 5.2 miles and turned left onto Rd 3348. A mile and half on this steep windy one lane road brought us to the Coquille Falls Trailhead.
Coquille River Falls Trailhead

A half mile trail descends to a very scenic fall on the Coquille River.
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Coquille River Falls

Coquille River

The camera issue occurred while admiring the falls. As I was taking pictures I shifted my weight and slipped on the wet rocks. As I was falling into the mud the camera flew out of my hand (I hadn’t used the wrist strap) and I heard it hit the ground. I recovered just in time to watch it plummet over the side of the cliff and disappear into the river below.
Spot where my camera fell into the river.

It was an awful feeling, the first day of vacation and the camera was gone. We typically bring out old Sony Cybershot as a backup but hadn’t done so this time. At least I wasn’t hurt but we were left wondering what we were going to do for pictures during the trip. We thought about ordering another camera from Amazon and having it overnighted to the motel but it was the weekend so it would still be several days. There weren’t really any options in town camera shopping so we decided we’d just use our phones for better or worse and get a new camera after vacation.

The loss of the camera is the reason for not having any pictures from the Big Tree Trail. The photos of Elk Creek Falls were taken the next day since we were in the same area and it was such a short hike to the falls.

A bit deflated we returned to the car and headed for our final stop – the Azalea Lake Trailhead.

A quarter mile south of Road 3348 we turned right onto Road 3347 for a mile to the trailhead.
Azalea Lake Trailhead

An old road led uphill to the start of a loop around the lake.
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Azalea Lake

The lake is named for the Azaleas that bloom around it but we were too early for those by a week or two. We settled for a decent display of fawn lilies.
Fawn lilies

Fawn lilies

There was also a lot of wildlife, albeit small, along this 2 mile trail.
Rough skinned newt

Slug

Snail

Rough skinned newts

It was certainly an eventful start to our vacation. The waterfalls had been wonderful but the loss of the camera and not being able to visit the Copper-Salmon Wilderness were disappointments. It had been a bit of a mixed bag but we had 6 more days for things to improve. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk Creek & Coquille River Falls and Azalea Lake

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast Trip report

Illinois River Trail and Indian Sands

Our wildest hike came Friday. We had planned on a 17.2 mile hike along the Illinois River Trail going 8.6 miles to Silver Creek and back. The description in our guidebook said to look out for poison oak and to check for ticks at the end so we were prepared for a bit of an adventure. Our hike began at a trailhead near the end of Oak Flat Road. To get there we took Jerrys Flat Road from Gold Beach 27 miles then turned right on Oak Flat Road road for another 3.1 miles.
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The trail set off through an open forest with lots of yellow and purple wildflowers and some poison oak.
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As we neared our first marker, Nancy Creek, we spotted a pair of deer that had already seen us and were heading back into the forest. Just beyond Nancy Creek we came upon a nice patch of columbine flowers. The only ones we would see during our vacation.
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Other flowers here included catchfly and henderson’s stars.
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The next creek up was Rattlesnake Creek. A short distance before reaching this small stream we spotted a black bear in the woods below the trail. It saw us at about the same time and promptly turned around. For some reason I failed to even reach for the camera as we watched it go back downhill through the trees.

Beyond Rattlesnake Creek the trail entered an area where the trees had been lost to the 2002 Biscuit Fire.
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There continued to be a lot of flowers as well as the occasional patch of poison oak.
Pink honeysuckle
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chaparral false bindweed
chaparral false bindweed

Bridges’ brodiaea
Bridges' brodiaea

With the trees mostly burned this section of trail was crowded by brush.
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The amount of poison oak increased in the area of Ethels Creek and we started picking up ticks. Heather was the first to notice. She made an alarmed sound behind me and I turned around to see several ticks climbing up her legs. Looking down at my own I immediately spotted three. We brushed them all off and started to hike again. We had not gone far at all before Heather exclaimed again. We both had multiple ticks on our legs again. This had gone on for about a mile when we reached the Buzzards Roost, a rocky outcrop, at the 2.5 mile mark of our hike.
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A short scramble path went out onto the Buzzards Roost but we could see poison oak along that path and were too preoccupied with looking for and knocking off any additional ticks. We were discussing what to do as the number of ticks that we’d already brushed off was more than we could have imagined and it was giving us the willies. Things didn’t get any better when one of my trekking poles slid off the log I had propped it on. I had made the mistake of leaning it on the log without checking the area around the log. We watched it fall and bounce on some little poison oak plants. We used some wipes to pick it up (along with yet another tick) and then wiped it down as best as we could. I had also left my gloves in the car which would have come in handy since it was the grip that had made contact with the poison oak.

After a thorough cleaning we decided to at least try and go another 2 miles to Indian Flat and Indigo Creek and see if the tick and poison oak situation got any better.

It did improve some beyond the Buzzards Roost where the trail had rounded the hillside and was now on the southern facing slope which was drier with less brush crowding the trail. The flower display along this section was impressive.
Henderson’s Stars
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Silver puff
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Paintbrush
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Blue gilia in the foreground
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Balsamroot
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Mariposa lily
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Fleabane
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Madia
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Penstemon
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Narrowleaf blue eyed mary
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California lady-slippers
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Western wallflower
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Ookow
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About 1.7 miles from the Buzzards Roost an old roadbed split off to the left. This led .2 miles to the meadow at Indian Flat.
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We continued on the Illinois River Trail and descended to the bridge across the lovely Indigo Creek.
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On the far side of the creek we stopped to do a more intensive tick check. There were just a couple of stragglers to knock off and we decided to try and continue at least another .7 miles to Fantz Ranch. The trail began to climb uphill to reach a saddle above the ranch. As we climbed the switchbacks the amount of poison oak began to increase again. When it appeared that there was going to be no way past one patch without going through it we finally gave in and decided to call it. We’d made it a little over 5 miles and had seen a lot of neat stuff despite everything.

As we made our way back we stopped regularly to brush off the inevitable ticks. There were other more enjoyable critters out along the trail as well including a large number of alligator lizards. We hoped that they were filling up on the little blood suckers. 🙂
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Back at the trailhead we wiped everything down in an attempt to remove an urushiol we might have picked up from contact with poison oak and did a final tick check before heading back to Gold Beach. We stopped by our room to shower and soak in the hot tub to try and relax.

We decided that since we had cut our hike short we should go back out in the evening to check out Indian Sands in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. We had not gone that far on Thursday when we were hiking in the southern portion of the park so we drove back down and parked at the Indian Sands pullout.
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We set off on the wide Oregon Coast Trail.
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A confusion of paths led off toward the ocean and the dunes of Indian Sands from the trail. We weren’t sure which was the “correct” one but we just kept heading toward the Pacific until we could see sand and then headed for that.
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We followed a path out to a wildflower covered viewpoint of a rock arch.
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Sea figs
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Seaside daisy
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Sea thrift and paintbrush
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Mariposa lilies
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The sandstone cliffs here create the dunes making it an interesting area unlike anything else we’d seen in the park.
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We made our way north following footprints in the sand.
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We came to a saddle with a great view where a trail to the right led up through a brush covered slope back into the forest and onto the Oregon Coast Trail.
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Turning right on the Oregon Coast Trail would have taken us back to the car but we decided to turn left and check out the Thomas Bridge Viewpoint. We’d driven over the bridge multiple times already and read that it was the highest bridge in Oregon at 345′. We left the Oregon Coast Trail at a split in the trail where it headed uphill toward the parking area for the viewpoint. We headed downhill to the left to find the viewpoint. The first viewpoint we came to was partly blocked by trees.
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The trail continued out along a ridge so we followed it looking for a better view. We noticed another trail along the right that hopped over the ridge and headed steeply down into the trees. We ignored that and continued heading for the ocean. No view of the bridge had appeared as we rounded the end of the ridge but the trail kept going now heading downhill back inland. It did wind up leading to a better, but not great, viewpoint.
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From this viewpoint we followed a path uphill that wound up being the same trail we had seen going over the ridge and down into the trees. When we crested the ridge we met another couple looking for the viewpoint. We pointed them in the right direction before heading back to Indian Sands.

In the end it worked out really well to have turned back on the Illinois River Trail in time for us to get the hike in at Indian Sands. It was definitely worth the visit. We appear to have escaped the poison oak without any ill effects (at least not yet) and haven’t had to brush off any ticks since leaving the Illinois River Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666245754163

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Kalmiopsis Wilderness and Redwoods Nature Trail

Tuesday of our vacation week brought us our longest drive from Gold Beach to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We had a pair of hikes planned there followed by a quick stop on the way back at Alfred Loeb State Park to see some redwoods.

Our first stop was the Vulcan Peak Trailhead. To reach this trailhead we drove to Brookings and took North Bank Road along the Chetco River for 16 miles to a T shaped junction with gravel Forest Service Road 1909. We turned right following signs for the wilderness and began a tedious 13.3 mile drive. This wasn’t the worst road we’ve been on but it was arguably the longest stretch of bad road we’ve encountered. It took over 45 minutes to reach the trailhead on a short spur road with an outhouse.

For the first mile we were actually on the Chetco Divide Trail as it followed an old roadbed along a ridge surrounded by forest burnt in the massive 2002 Biscuit Fire.
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At the 1 mile mark the Vulcan Peak Trail split off heading uphill while the Chetco Divide Trail veered to the right.
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Shortly after leaving the Chetco Divide Trail we entered the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
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It was pretty windy along the exposed ridge but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.
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The area reminded us of our trip to the Red Buttes Wilderness last October only here it was Spring and there were plenty of wildflowers.
Death Camas
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Tolmie’s mariposa lily
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Wild iris
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A paintbrush
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Wallflower
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Sand Dune Phacelia
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Arnica
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Wedgeleaf violet
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Dwarf ceanothus
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The trail wound its way up the hillsides before reaching a saddle with a nice view south to Preston Peak and the Siskiyou Mountains.
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The trail then headed north to the summit of Vulcan Peak.
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We followed the summit ridge north to a view of Little Vulcan Lake (one of our destinations on our next hike).
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We declared victory there although the ridge continued on and would have eventually provided a view down to Vulcan Lake as well.

Our next trailhead was another 1.7 miles along road 1909. The final mile of this section made the first 13.3 seem like a nice country road. The trail began at a signboard where the road was blocked by some dirt mounds.
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A short distance from the signboard the trail split. We took the right-hand fork uphill toward Vulcan Lake.
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The lakes were on the other side of a ridge so we followed the trail up to a saddle with a view of both lakes and Vulcan Peak.
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Vulcan Lake
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Between the rocky terrain and the 2002 fire the trail grew fainter as we neared the lakes. Rock cairns helped mark the way though.
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Vulcan Lake quickly ranked as one of our favorites. The colors of the water and surrounding rocks were amazing and lizards scurried along the shore while newts swam by in lake.
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The water was cool but not cold and we sat on the rocky bank soaking in the scenery. We could have easily spent hours or even days there but we had other places to visit so we eventually pulled ourselves away and continued to Little Vulcan Lake.

To reach Little Vulcan Lake we located a trail sign for the Gardner Mine Loop near where we had left the main trail to go down to Vulcan Lake.
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From there we could see another trail sign for the Trail 1110B.
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Two tenths of a mile following more cairns and faint tread brought us to Little Vulcan Lake. As close as these two lakes were to one another they couldn’t have been much different.
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Instead of red rock surrounding the water here we found Darlingtonia californica. Insect eating pitcher plants.
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This was our first time seeing the pitcher plants and we found them to be really interesting. In addition to the pitcher plants there were a number of newts in the lake.

Six newts in Little Vulcan Lake.
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From Little Vulcan Lake we returned to the Gardner Mine Loop trail and followed it as well as we could. Between cairns and our GPS we managed to stay mostly on course despite almost no sign of the actual trail tread.
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We followed the cairns for .6 miles being eyed by lizards the whole time.
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After the .6 miles of cairns we arrived at Sorvaag Bog.
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From the bog the trail followed an old roadbed making it easier to follow. We passed the entrance to the Gardner Mine before reaching a junction in a saddle with the Johnson Butte Trail.
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This junction was just .8 miles from where the trail had split and we’d taken the right-hand fork to Vulcan Lake. Before heading back though we had one final lake to visit and some rare flowers to look for so we turned right and headed deeper into the wilderness.

We were hoping to see some kalmiopsis leachiana in bloom. This rare flowering plant is found only in a few areas in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We knew that there were some along the Johnson Butte Trail so we were keeping an eye out only we weren’t entirely certain what they looked like. For some reason we hadn’t looked at any pictures online beforehand so the only information we had was the general areas we might spot them in and a belief that they were pink.

The Johnson Butte Trail followed another old road for 2.6 miles then turned to a simple trail. The whole time the trail alternated between ridges and hillsides often switching between the east and west facing sides at saddles.
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There were plenty of flowers along the way including a surprise appearance of a single beargrass blooming.
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Wild Rose
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Wild iris
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Narrowleaf blue eyed mary
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Starflower
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Rhododendron
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Tolmie’s mariposa lily
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We began seeing some pink flowers that we at first mistook for mountain heather, but after looking at them closer we realized they were something different. We eventually convinced ourselves that these must be the kalmiopsis leachiana which was confirmed later when we double checked online.
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The best patches were found after the trail made a sharp right turn at a ridge end below Dry Butte.
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A few other flowers we had not been seeing were found below Dry Butte.
Bleeding heart
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Red flowering currant
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Penstemon and solomonseal
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A little over three miles from the saddle where we had set off on the Johnson Butte Trail we found a sign for the Salamander Lake Trail.
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There was a campsite just below the ridge but the lake was further downhill hidden by brush and trees. The trail disappeared in the same brush and trees at the campsite and we momentarily considered not picking our way down to the lake, but that had been our planned turnaround point so down we went. We fought our way steeply down through the brush and blowdown to find the little lily pad filled Salamander Lake.
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After the Vulcan Lakes this one was a bit of a letdown but we found some shade along the bank and took a short break that was interrupted by a few mosquitoes. We climbed back up to the Johnson Butte Trail and returned the way we’d come. At the saddle junction we kept straight following the trail along the old roadbed the .8 miles back to where we’d split off earlier and then completed the short walk to the trailhead.
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It had been a very warm sunny day and we were pretty worn out when we started the drive back out along road 1909. It was nice to rest in the car for a bit as we slowly made our way back to North Bank Road. Once we were back on North Bank Road we drove 8.5 miles towards Brookings where we turned into Alfred Loeb State Park for our final hike of the day. The temperature gauge in the car read 87 as we pulled in.

We parked at a signed trailhead and took the .7 mile River View Trail.
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This trail passed through a forest following the Chetco River. Lettered signposts corresponded to entries in a brochure that could be picked up at the trailhead.
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The Riverview Trail led to a crossing of North Bank Road where the Redwood Nature Trail began on the far side.
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This 1.2 mile loop trail passed through a mixed forest with some nice redwoods along the way.
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We did the loop in a counter-clockwise direction which seemed to leave the steeper sections as downhill. After finishing the loop and returning to the car we walked down to the Chetco River because there really hadn’t been a great view of it along the River View Trail.
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When it was all said and done our GPS showed a total of 16.6 miles for the three hikes. Three miles for Vulcan Peak, 10.7 for Vulcan and Salamander Lakes, and 2.9 for this final hike. It had been a long hot day and we decided that ice cream sounded good for dinner so we stopped at the DQ in Brookings splitting a chicken strip basket and each having a Blizzard. Such are the joys of being on vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668642744636

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Oregon Caves National Monument

We’d slept well after our dinner in the Dining Room of the Chateau at the Oregon Caves and woke ready for the final hikes of our vacation. We had reserved tickets for the 10am cave tour so we had plenty of time to eat breakfast at the cafe, explore a little of the historic district, and work on the puzzle sitting out in the Chateau’s lobby.
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We checked in at the Visitor Information Center at 9:30 and picked up our tickets. The cave tours are limited in size to 15 people and can fill up quickly during the busy summer months, but on this day there would only be 8 of us on the tour. Like the rest of the Siskiyou Mountains the area began as part of the Pacific Ocean seafloor that was later lifted by the North American Plate as it scrapped over the ocean bottom. The Oregon Caves are mostly made up of marble which was formed by the “skeletons” of marine organisms. Later the caves formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding marble and created a special marble cave system.

The tour was led by a ranger who let us know that bats had begun to settle into the cave for the coming winter months and not to use camera flashes where bats were present. We passed several small bats near the entrance to the cave clinging to the rocks.
Bat above the path toward the right hand side of the picture.
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Harvester spider in the gray triangle (upper left) and a bat directly ahead and above.
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Lights in the cave made it possible to get some pictures without needing a flash so I experimented with and without using one with varying degrees of success.
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Our favorite part of the tour was a side trip up to a room called Paradise Lost which is only part of the tour when time allows. Luckily we were making good time and the ranger led us up the stairs and into the room.
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Near the cave exit we were asked if anyone was deathly afraid of spiders. Harvester spiders had also begun moving into the cave and forming clumps on the walls and ceiling.
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The tour lasts 90 minutes and covers about a mile including the .3 mile walk back down to the Visitor Center after exiting the cave.
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In addition to the cave tour the monument offers a number of other hiking opportunities and we planned on checking out the Big Tree Loop before leaving.
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The highlight of the Big Tree Loop is a 14′ diameter Douglas Fir, the widest known to exist in Oregon. The trail gains a good deal of elevation over a fairly short distance making it a moderate hike.
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As we climbed through the forest we spotted several birds including an owl that silently flew by and landed in a tree ahead of us.
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Big Tree may not have been as large as some of the redwoods we’d seen at the beginning of our vacation but it’s size was more emphasized due to the much smaller surrounding trees.
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After a little more climbing we began descending back down toward the Visitor Center. Just over 1.5 miles from Big Tree we arrived at a junction with the Cliff Nature Trail.
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We faced the choice of turning right and ending our hike back at the Visitor Center in .3 miles or taking the Cliff nature Trail .4 miles past a viewpoint and then down to the Cave Exit for the additional .3 miles to the parking area. We chose the nature trail. 🙂

We climbed to the viewpoint and discovered we were not alone.
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We were nearing the end of our trip and we’d seen an amazing variety of animals during the 7 days, but one we had not seen was any black-tail deer. We had expected to see at least one in the Red Buttes Wilderness but had not and we hadn’t even seen one while driving to our various destinations. As we were coming down the paved path from the cave exit for the second time at a switchback there stood a deer.
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It had taken over 80 miles of hiking but there in the last quarter mile were two black-tail deer. They looked up at us and then went back to grazing as we passed by.
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We headed home both tired and refreshed. It had been a wonderful trip full of unique sights and beautiful scenery and was a perfect way to wrap up our main hiking season for 2015. We’ll scale back to one a hike month for a while so Heather can focus on her running and I can work on next years adventures. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660617381321

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 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