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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls – 10/17/2020

The third day of our long weekend in Union Creek was supposed to be a single hike to Abbott Butte and Elephant Pond in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. The day started as planned as we drove from Union Creek to the Abbott Butte Trailhead.
IMG_7633Union Peak and Mt. McLoughlin on our drive to the trailhead.

IMG_7635The peaks of Crater Lake National Park

IMG_7639Abbott Butte Trailhead

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail begins here at Huckleberry Gap near the southern end of the wilderness. Much of the area burned in a 2017 fire and there was a profuse amount of fireweed present which had gone to seed and left the ground looking as though it had received a dusting of snow.
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Just after taking the preceding photo which Heather had stepped to the side of the trail for, we resumed the hike and I immediately heard a ruckus behind me. I turned around to see Heather laying on the trail next to a log. She had gotten tangled some branches and fallen. While nothing was broken she twisted her foot awkwardly. After taking inventory she decided to continue on.

The trail spent the first mile and a half loosing approximately 300′ as it wound around Quartz Mountain before arriving at Windy Gap.
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IMG_7662Huckleberry bushes

IMG_7663A section of green trees along the trail.

IMG_7670Quartz Mountain

IMG_7675Passing below Quartz Mountain

IMG_7673Abbott Butte from the trail.

Along the way my camera decided to malfunction giving me a lens error when trying to use the zoom function. I eventually had to give up on using the zoom and am now looking for a replacement :(.

At Windy Gap the trail entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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Prior to the fire the trail paralleled an old road bed on the hillside above it but that tread has been mostly lost so we stuck to the road bed.
IMG_7684On the roadbed

IMG_7685Pearly everlasting

The road arrived at Sandy Gap .4 miles from Windy Gap.
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The peaks of Crater Lake were visible from this gap.
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We continued on the road bed form this gap as well. Between the gaps we had at least been able to see where the trail had been on the hillside above but at Sandy Gap the tread had all but vanished.
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Approximately .7 miles from Sandy Gap we passed a trail sign for the Cougar Butte Trail. The sign was the only evidence that the trail had ever existed from what we could see.
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Another tenth of a mile brought us to what in theory was a 4-way junction below Abbott Butte.
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IMG_7702Sign indicating the non-existent trail is not suitable for horses.

We followed the old road up an open hillside switchbacking three times to the summit of Abbott Butte after a mile. Along the way we spotted a pair of deer near the tree line.
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There were also some spectacular views.
IMG_7727_stitchMt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta and a whole lot of other peaks that I should know.

IMG_7724Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7732Nearing the summit.

The Abbott Butte Lookout has seen better days. While the stand is still upright the lookout was not and the old sleeping quarters beneath looked near collapse as well.
IMG_7734The old lookout on Abbott Butte

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Regardless whoever the idiot was that used wood from the lookout for their precious campfire should be ashamed.

IMG_7739The old outhouse?

There view south was limited by trees but there was a good view to the east.
IMG_7745Mt. Thielsen and the peaks of Crater Lake.

After a nice break at the summit we headed back down the road. After .7 miles at the 3rd (lowest) switchback we turned right toward a post.
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This was the route to the continuation of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail. Our plan was to follow it another 1.3 miles to Elephant Pond. In typical Rogue-Umpqua Divide Fashion the trail alternated between good tread and non-existent as it passed through meadows, green forest and burned forest.
IMG_7760Flagging marking the route.

IMG_7763A cairn along the tread ahead.

We passed another sign for the Cougar Butte Trail .4 miles from the switchback and at least this time there was a visible trail.
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Just beyond this junction the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail crossed a cinder field, turned east and headed steeply downhill.
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The trail eventually leveled out a bit passing through a series of overgrown meadows. For the first time since early in our first hike in this wilderness we nearly saw other people. We heard someone calling for Tyler but we never saw that person or Tyler.
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IMG_7783This meadow is where we heard the voice.

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IMG_7789Another late flower

Before we reached Elephants Pond we spotted the rock formation known as Elephants Head.
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IMG_7804Fireweed that hadn’t gone to seed.

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IMG_7823An owl’s clover

IMG_7820It’s hard to tell from the photo but this mushroom was big.

We declared victory at the pond as the trail was growing increasingly faint and entering another section of snags plus Heather’s foot was feeling a bit sore.

We returned the way we’d come only this time when we had reached Sandy Gap I decided to follow the old trail alignment above the road bed.
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I rejoined Heather on the road near the wilderness boundary and we continued back to the car. Just before reaching it, near where she had fallen earlier we spotted a very pretty butterfly.
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This was another enjoyable hike in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, even with the faint tread and our other mishaps. At 10.3 miles it was a good days worth of hiking and we drove back to Union Creek for another round of dinner and pie from Beckie’s Cafe.

During the return hike and drive we had been discussing possible scenarios for the next days hike given Heather’s tender foot. Our planned hike was an 8.2 mile out and back from the Union Creek Resort along Union Creek to Union Creek Falls. We came up with a few different options making use of the upper trailhead which was only a seven minute drive away. Unfortunately by the time we’d driven back to Union Creek and finished our late lunch/early dinner her foot had swollen and stiffened signaling an end to her hikes this weekend.

While we were waiting for our food I had been checking up on the condition of the Union Creek Trail which as of 2018 was overgrown with quite a bit of blowdown in between the resort and falls. Trip reports as recent as August 2020 confirmed this. The temperature in the morning was going to be just under 40 degrees and an overgrown trail meant wet foliage which wasn’t exactly an enticing combination so a new plan was formed. It was just after 4pm when we finished dinner so with Heather’s blessing I took my leave and drove to the upper trailhead.
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It was a little after 4:30pm when I set off and I gave myself a turn around time of 1 hour (or sooner if the trail conditions warranted). The trail began by descending 100′ in the first quarter a mile to the creek near Union Creek Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
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From the falls the trail continued downstream and was in relatively good shape with just a couple of small trees to step over. The creek was lively at first so I made frequent stops to check out several small cascades and chutes.
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Approximately 1.7 miles from the trailhead the trail conditions really started to deteriorate. I had been encountering a little more blowdown and now I was facing nearly chest high ferns.
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It was passable but I had to watch out for hidden obstacles so my pace slowed as had the creeks.
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I continued another quarter mile or so before calling it good, 45 minutes into my self-imposed 1 hour turn around time. The wilder show from the creek was over as it continues to calm the closer it gets to the resort. I double timed it back to the car stopping less frequently (an ouzel caught my attention at one point).
IMG_7953The broken zoom function didn’t let me get a good shot but the ouzel is on a rock in the middle of the creek.

I managed to get 3.9 miles in so almost half of the trail and I got to see a number of nice little cascades along the way. I was however a little damp from the vegetation so I was really glad I hadn’t tried to do the hike first thing in the morning.
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I drove back to the resort and found heather sitting by the creek reading. Before turning in for the evening we picked up a cinnamon roll for us and two pieces of pie from Beckie’s to take to my parents the next day. Heather is currently on the mend and will hopefully be back out there hiking and running shortly. Until next time, Happy Trails!

Flickr: Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls

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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Hershberger Mountain, Rabbit Ears, and Natural Bridge – 10/16/2020

We had a full itinerary scheduled for the second day of our Union Creek trip with three stops planned. We had originally planned on stopping first at the Rabbit Ears which are about 10 miles from Union Creek along Forest Road 6515. From Union Creek we drove north on Highway 62 to Highway 230 where we continued north on that highway for .9 miles before turning left and crossing the Rogue River on Forest Road 6510 (Hershberger Road). After 1.6 miles we forked right onto Forest Road 6520 and in another half mile turned left onto Forest Road 6515 (shown on Google Maps as Road 299). DO NOT rely on Google maps to get you to either Rabbit Ears or Hershberger Mountain. Not only is the road number incorrect but after approximately 4.5 miles it is misidentified on Google maps which shows the road making a hairpin turn to the left and shows no other existing roads. In reality this is a 4-way junction with FR 6515 continuing as a slight left. A total of 5.6 miles after turning onto this road we came to an actual hairpin curve to the left around a small meadow. To the right was a small parking area for the Rabbit Ears, but it was still a bit dark out to start hiking so we decided to change our plans and head up to Hershberger Mountain first. To reach Hershberger Mountain we needed to continue another mile on FR 6515 and turn right onto FR 580 for what Sullivan described as 1.8 steep, rough miles. We originally missed the part about the right turn after a mile and wound up passing FR 580 which was also marked as an OHV trail. After going more than 1.8 miles the wrong way we turned on our GPS unit to confirm our location then reread the book and found our error. We turned around and drove back missing FR 580 again thinking it was strictly an OHV trail and not an actual road but this time we quickly caught our mistake, turned around again and were finally back on track. A 2017 wildfire burned much of this area and along most of FR 580 which was in pretty bad shape with a number of large waterbars, some deep enough that the front bumper our our Subaru Outback scrapped the ground ever so slightly so passenger cars probably shouldn’t try it. When the 1.8 miles was up we came to a parking area on the left side of the road with some trails signs and a truck.
IMG_7144Sunrise from the parking area.

Two trails left the parking area, the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and the Acker Divide Trail.
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We would be taking the Acker Divide Trail but first we wanted to visit the lookout on Hershberger Mountain so we continued up FR 580 toward the lookout.
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We could have driven the .8 miles up to a parking area just below the lookout but 1.8 miles of FR 580 had been enough. This stretch may actually have been in a little better shape but then again we were only walking on it and not trying to drive.
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The lookout tower is available on a first come first serve basis and with the truck at the parking area below we weren’t sure if someone was using it so we didn’t go in but we did explore the area around it.
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The views were great which was a nice change to our Labor Day trip to Rattlesnake Mountain where smoke ruled the views. (post)

IMG_7160Mt. Bailey, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7162Arant Point, Union Peak, Goose Egg, Klamath Point, Lee Peak, Devils Peak, Pelican Butte, Lucifer Peak, Venus, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta (among others).

IMG_7166Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta

IMG_7163Rabbit Ears

IMG_7169Sun over Crater Lake National Park

While up near the lookout I noticed a sign along the rocky ridge to Hershberger Mountain’s summit.
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I headed for the sign and then continued onto the summit on a user path.
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From the summit I could make out Rattlesnake Mountain (post) behind some burned snags.
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Weaver Mountain just to the left of the snags with Rattlesnake Mountain behind to the right and Fish Mountain the furthest right.

IMG_7195Survey marker at the summit.

IMG_7197The sign, lookout, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta coming back from the summit.

As I was coming back the unbelievable happened. For the second day in a row a varied thrush held still long enough for me to get decent picture.
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I rejoined Heather near the lookout and we hiked back down to our car and after taking a few more sips of the coffee we’d left in it we started down the Acker Divide Trail.
IMG_7205Acker Divide Trail leaving FR 580.

The trail quickly entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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The trail dropped quickly losing nearly 300′ in the first .4 miles where the trail crossed a small stream at the edge of a meadow.
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The meadow was what we have come to picture when we think of this particular wilderness. Faint tread with a few cairns led us through the meadow and into a section of green trees.
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IMG_7216Another cairn to the right of the tree ahead.

Beyond the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and just over a mile and a half from the trailhead we passed a sign for the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.
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I believe that the 2 mile section beyond this sign may be abandoned. On the map it leads to the edge of the wilderness near the junction of FR 6515 & FR 580 but according to the Forest Service and a sign we saw at a horse camp along FR 580 the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail follows FR 580 between that horse camp and the trailhead we were parked at. In any event we stuck to the Acker Divide Trail arriving at a meadow below Toad Lake in another .4 miles.
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IMG_7234A lonely flower along the Acker Divide Trail

IMG_7236Mushroom near the meadow.

IMG_7245Toad Meadow

Another .4 miles brought us within view of the Cripple Creek Shelter at the edge of the fire scar.
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We made our way to the shelter where we took a nice break and enjoyed the surroundings.
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IMG_7258Tis the time of year for Mushroom to replace flowers.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for mushrooms and any lingering flowers that might yet be blooming.
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IMG_7271Candyflower

Our hike here came in at 6.8 miles and approximately 1200′ of elevation gain. After successfully navigating FR 580 again we stopped at the Rabbit Ears pullout and followed a path into the trees.
IMG_7274Pullout along FR 6515

IMG_7275Trail to Rabbit Ears

In a tenth of a mile the patch split and we chose to go right which brought us to the base of the rock formation.
IMG_7284The split

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The trail then turned uphill on some loose rock which made us happy that we’d chosen to go this direction because we felt going up it would be easier than coming down.
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IMG_7295We were surprised to find these phlox blossoms still looking good.

From the high point we had a pretty good view of Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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Continuing on the trail brought us a view of Fish Mountain to the north before the trail dropped back down into the trees to complete the loop.
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20201016_114550_HDRSmaller rock formation along the trail.

The half mile loop was really nice. Getting to see the Rabbit Ears up close was interesting and the added bonus of mountain views and surprise phlox was icing on the cake. We then drove back to Union Creek and parked at the lodge where we were staying since our next hike started just across the highway.
IMG_7329Beckie’s Cafe across Highway 62.

IMG_7332The lodge, store, and gift shop at Union Creek Resort.

We crossed the highway to the seasonally closed ice cream shop and followed a path on its right side to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint parking area.
IMG_7331The Ice Cream shop and to it’s right the sign for the trail to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint.

IMG_7337Interpretive signs at the parking area.

A .2 mile paved loop offers a short but spectacular option for a quick tourist stop with several viewpoints of the Rogue Gorge. We did the loop counter-clockwise heading first to viewpoint 4.
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IMG_7344Viewpoint 4

IMG_7352Rogue River at viewpoint 4.

IMG_7358Viewpoint 3

IMG_7359View upriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7361Downriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7369Interpretative sign at the viewpoint.

IMG_7370The lava tubes.

IMG_7373Viewpoint 2

IMG_7380Viewpoint 1 above the end of the Rogue Gorge.

From viewpoint 1 the paved path crossed a footbridge before arriving at the interpretative sign boards at the parking area. The Rogue Gorge Trail, which we took, continued as a dirt trail descending to the riverbank and continuing downstream.
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For the next 1.2 miles the Rogue Gorge Trail followed the river closely as it passed a number of cabins and a portion of the Union Creek Campground. This section of the Rogue River flowed quietly past a wonderful display of Fall colors.
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IMG_7425Union Creek Campground

At the end of the 1.2 mile stretch we arrived at Union Creek (the actual creek) and crossed it on a footbridge.
IMG_7428The orange sign and flagging was for a 50k being run the following day.

IMG_7429Union Creek

Beyond the footbridge was a 1.7 mile stretch of trail passing more of the campground and some other cabins before arriving at a footbridge spanning the Rogue River.
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As we neared the bridge the river became wilder as it passed over and through more lava flows.
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IMG_7472A Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_7488The footbridge to the upper left.

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The footbridge offered an opportunity for a 2.2 mile loop using the Upper Rogue River Trail and passing Natural Bridge. For now we stuck to the Rogue Gorge Trail and continued past the footbridge.
IMG_7496Rogue River on the other side of the footbridge.

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About a mile from the footbridge we came to a sign at what looked like a fork in the trail.
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We took the right hand fork sticking to the river bank where a gentleman was walking his dog. The trail petered out on some rocks along the river.
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It was easy enough to walk over the rocks though so we continued on not realizing that we were very close to Natural Bridge which in the past had been the way across the river but has been closed and replaced by another footbridge.
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We turned inland on an old road bed still not realizing we were off course until it petered out and we discovered we were on the wrong side of a fence.
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When we saw the fence we realized that we should have forked left at that sign so we made our way to the correct side of the fence and quickly picked up a paved path coming from the Natural Bridge Day Use Area.
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The paved path brought us to the Upper Rogue River Trail which we took to the footbridge across the river.
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The Rogue Gorge had been spectacular but Natural Bridge added the element of oddity to the mix as the river disappeared under the lava rock only to reappear a short distance later.
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IMG_7565The inlet

Beyond Natural Bridge the Upper Rogue River Trail decided to gain some elevation as it climbed steeply gaining 300′ before dropping back down to the other footbridge. The climb did provide a brief glimpse of Llao Rock along the rim of Crater Lake.
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We turned off the Upper Rogue River Trail to cross the footbridge and return to the Rogue Gorge Trail.
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We turned left on the Rogue Gorge Trail and followed it back to Union Creek. Instead of crossing the creek this time we turned right onto the Union Creek Trail.
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The Union Creek Trail followed the creek closely for .7 miles through the Union Creek Campground. The trail actually passed through some campsites but this section of the campground was closed for the season so all of the sites were empty.
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The trail crossed Union Creek on a footbridge near the campground entrance.
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On the far side of the bridge was a parking area near the Union Creek Amphitheatre where they were setting up for the 50k.
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Just up the road from the parking area here a short path led to another parking are near Beckie’s Cafe where we simply walked up to the take out window and ordered dinner and a piece of pie.
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The pie was as good as I had hoped it would be having read about it from Boots on the Trail. After dinner we walked across the highway and into our room at the Union Creek Resort Lodge. It had been another day of nice hikes in this area. We were growing more and more impressed with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (despite the lack of trail maintenance). There was something about that wilderness that just felt peaceful. We went to bed looking forward to another visit to it the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hershberger Mountain and Natural Bridge

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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge – 10/15/2020

As the strangest hiking season we’ve experienced winds down we took our final long distance (over 3 hours away) trip of the year for a long weekend of hiking around Union Creek, OR. Recent rains had knocked down the wildfires for the most part but those rains had given way to a sunny forecast which made for promising hiking conditions. We kicked off our hikes with a stop at the National Creek Falls Trailhead.
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Located just west of Crater Lake National Park National Creek Falls is spring fed from water absorbed by the Park’s pumice plain. A short .4 mile trail descends from the trailhead to the creek just below the falls.
IMG_6881There was just a little bit of blowdown to navigate on the way down.

IMG_6884National Creek Falls

On a warmer day we would have loved to stay for a bit and possibly wade across the creek to get a full view of these impressive falls but it was in the mid 30’s this morning and with the moisture generated by the falls we quickly became uncomfortably cold. We settled for the view we could get from the creek side and retreated back up to our car and turned the heat on full blast.
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When enough feeling had returned to my hands to grip the steering wheel we returned to Highway 230 following it south to its end at Highway 62 then continued south on that highway past Union Creek to Woodruff Meadows Road (between mileposts 51 and 52). We turned right onto this paved road for one and three quarters of a mile to a small pullout just past the Woodruff Bridge Day Use Area and a bridge over the Rogue River (parking is also available in the day use area).
IMG_6895Signboard at the pullout.

We were here to do Sullivan’s Takelma Gorge hike (#32 in the 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California”). In his book he suggests a quick detour to a small fall beneath the bridge so we crossed the road and made our way down to the river bank to view the cascade.
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We then recrossed Woodruff Meadows Road and headed south along the river on the Upper Rogue River Trail.
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The mile and a half to Takelma Gorge had many river views with lots of fall colors lining the banks. There was also a varied thrush sighting that actually resulted in a few decent pictures (these birds are my nemesis when it comes to getting photos).
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As we neared the gorge the river began to be squeezed through channels created by lava flows.
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IMG_6962Rogue River emerging from a channel.

Takelma Gorge is also the result of a lava flow where the Rogue turns a sharp corner and blasts down the gorge.
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The trail follows along the rim of the gorge passing a couple of viewpoints over the next .9 miles.
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IMG_7029Rogue River emerging from Takelma Gorge.

Either end of the gorge could have been turn around points but the Upper Rogue River Trail continues and so did we. From the southern end of Takelma Gorge it was just over two miles to the River Bridge Campground which we planned on making our turn around point. The nearly level trail remained close enough to the river to provide plenty of views.
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Just under a mile from the gorge we passed the Rogue Baptist Camp.
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IMG_7053Ouzel

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IMG_7064River Bridge

We turned around at the campground and headed back.
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It was a beautiful day and somehow the colors and the gorge were even more impressive on the return hike.
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When we got back to Woodruff Bridge we noticed some flagging and signage along the trail that had not been there earlier. Apparently there was a 50k race scheduled for Saturday (10/17). The race was an out and back starting and ending in Union Creek. The fact that the race would be happening Saturday helped us decide that Friday we would be doing the Natural Bridge hike since that would have us on trail following part of the race course.

We drove to Union Creek where we checked into the Union Creek Resort then after getting settled we walked across Highway 62 to get dinner from Beckie’s Cafe. After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner we decided to check out the area behind the cafe which was actually part of our next day’s hike. We managed to get ourselves turned around in the Union Creek Campground and our little after dinner stroll turned into a nearly mile out and back along Union Creek. It had been a nice start to the long weekend and we were looking forward to what the next day had to bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge

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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Rattlesnake Mountain – 09/06/2020

After spending the night at Wiley Camp (post) we grabbed our day packs and crossed the West Fork Muir Creek on the Wiley Camp Trail.
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IMG_5661Smokey skies turning the Sun red.

We followed the cairn and flagging that we had found the day before and picked up the trail on the far end of the meadow.
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The Wiley Camp Trail entered the trees where we had to navigate around and over a number of downed trees.
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Despite the numerous obstacles the trail was easy enough to follow and it passed a number of huge trees.
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IMG_5671Little trees surrounding a giant.

IMG_5674A downed giant.

Three quarters of a mile from Wiley Camp the trail entered a large meadow where we finally lost the tread.
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IMG_5687Madia

IMG_5689Paintbrush

We used the GPS to relocate the trail at the upper end of the meadow in a saddle.
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The trail then dropped a tenth of a mile to the Wiley Camp Trailhead on Fish Creek Valley Road 870.
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On the far side of the road was a pointer for the Whitehorse Meadows Trail.
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This trail reentered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness and dropped into another meadow following a small stream.
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IMG_5708Goldenrod and other flowers.

IMG_5710Arnica?

IMG_5714Columbine

20200906_082143St. John’s wort

IMG_5721Fleabane (or aster) and coneflower

Three quarters of a mile from the road we arrived at Fish Creek where the trail briefly disappeared.
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Heather found the trail on the far side of the creek where we turned left along the edge of the meadow before turning right at a tree with another trail sign.
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Just beyond the trees we came to the unsigned Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.
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Here we turned left following this trail a quarter of a mile where the Whitehorse Meadows Trail split off uphill to the right.
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IMG_5732The trail sign on the left wasn’t particularly descriptive.

The Whitehorse Meadows Trail climbed steadily through meadows and forest for 1.2 miles to a four-way junction at Windy Gap. The highlight of this section was an owl that flew by and landed in a nearby tree.
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IMG_5739The owl is in the center of the picture behind the branch with green needles.

IMG_5742Small stream crossing

IMG_5744Chipmunk

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IMG_5754Windy Gap

We took a break on some logs at the gap before heading up the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail (which was on the right as we arrived).
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The sometimes faint Rattlesnake Mountain Trail gained over 800′ in the next 1.2 miles as it climbed via a series of switchbacks, steeply at times to a large rock cairn. It had been a little smokier than the previous day but as we climbed we managed to get above the smoke.
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Along the way we passed an impressive rock outcropping.
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IMG_5775Near the upper end of the 1.2 mile section we entered a burn scar with views of Mt. Bailey, Mt. Thielsen and Crater Lake.

IMG_5777Mt. Thielsen

IMG_5779High points along the rim of Crater Lake above the smoke.

IMG_5781A bee photobomb with Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen to it’s right.

IMG_5786Flagging in the burn scar.

IMG_5783Nuttall’s linanthus

20200906_100351Owls clover

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IMG_5792Golden-mantled ground squirrel.

IMG_5794The rock cairn.

The Rattlesnake Mountain Trail continued NE at a much smaller cairn at a switchback below the larger cairn. We missed this on the way up, it appears that it had not been maintained since the 2017 Rattlesnake Fire.
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From the large cairn we simply headed uphill through the meadow to a viewpoint on the west side of the mountain.
IMG_5798Nearing the summit.

The air was okay where we were, but the smoke was impacting the views. We were able to make out the top of Mt. McLoughlin beyond Fish Mountain.
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IMG_5802Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_5804Hillman Peak and The Watchman at Crater Lake

We tried taking a break amid the trees near the summit but we wound up attracting a number of yellow jackets (and I don’t do yellow jackets) so we decided to instead stroll around the fairly level top of Rattlesnake Mountain where we located the old lookout site.
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IMG_5811Butterfly and bees.

We did a small loop around the forested top and dropped back down through the meadow to the cairn and returned to Windy Gap.
IMG_5824For some reason this cracked us up.

20200906_114812Heather spotted this cricket on my shoulder (I always have some sort of insect on me for some reason).

At the 4-way junction at Windy Gap we went straight following a sign for the “Tie Trail to Castle Creek Trail No. 1576”. (Not a trail name that just flows off the tongue.)
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Approximately .2 miles from Windy Gap we passed a sign for a faint unnamed trail leading uphill to the right.
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The next .2 miles were interesting as the trail grew faint and then disappeared in a meadow.
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This section of trail was not shown on the GPS so we couldn’t use that to stick to where the trail was supposed to be so we wound up crossing the meadow and then heading uphill to the Castle Creek Trail which was shown on the GPS.
IMG_5835We’d lost the trail here and were just heading for the Castle Creek Trail.

IMG_5836We came across this faint tread in the trees before reaching the Castle Creek Trail and started following it.

IMG_5839Apparently it was the actual trail as it popped us out at a trail sign along the Castle Creek Trail.

We turned left on the Castle Creek Trail, which followed an old roadbed downhill for 1.1 miles to the end of Fish Creek Valley Road 877 at the Happy Camp Trailhead
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IMG_5850Rattlesnake Mountain

IMG_5855Happy Camp Trailhead

We followed the road to the left 100 yards to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.
IMG_5863Rattlesnake Mountain

IMG_5864Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail

The trail dropped into a meadow and crossed Fish Creek. We followed this trail three quarters of a mile to the junction with the Whitehorse Meadows Trail where we had turned uphill earlier in the day.
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IMG_5876Snake in Fish Creek

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IMG_5885Scarlet gilia

We then retraced our steps to the Wiley Camp Trail and the Fish Creek Crossing where we refilled our water supply.
IMG_5887Fish Creek

IMG_5889Fish in Fish Creek

IMG_5891Frog in Fish Creek

As we climbed past the meadow beyond Fish Creek we spotted several hawks and one deer who crashed off before we knew what had happened.
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We recrossed Fish Creek Valley Road 870 and returned to camp on the Wiley Camp Trail.
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No sooner had I sat down at camp when a bat flew by and landed on a nearby tree.
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I’m not sure why it was out during the day but it stayed on the tree for a minute or two then flew off across the creek. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the creek (which was really cold).
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IMG_5936This frog decided that under Heather’s pack was a nice spot to chill.

We didn’t see another person the entire day which was nice but in a way also a shame. The area is beautiful but it clearly sees little maintenance and appears to see most of it’s visitors during hunting season. The lack of visitors likely contributes to the lack of maintenance which in turn discourages visitors. It’s really a shame. We enjoyed the privacy though and had another nice evening alone with the critters. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rattlesnake Mountain

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Diamond Lake and Wiley Camp – 09/05/2020

As I write up this trip report the Diamond Lake Resort, like many other areas in Oregon, has been evacuated due to a wildfire. The tragic loss of homes and lives happening right now is truly heartbreaking. Right now the Thielsen Fire is moving away from the lake but a shift in the winds could change that in an instant.

We visited Diamond Lake to kick off our Labor Day Weekend hiking the full loop around the 3,015 acre lake. There are numerous possible starting points for the loop and we chose to park at Horse Lake where we could follow the Horse N Teal Trail to the Dellenback Trail which is the paved trail around Diamond Lake. There was quite a bit of smoke from wildfires in California in the air which limited visibility as we set off from Horse Lake on the trail.
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IMG_5373Horse Lake

IMG_5375Lesser yellowlegs

We opted not to make the short loop around Horse Lake and turned right at a junction toward Forest Road 4795 and Teal Lake.
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The trail crossed the road and then descended a short distance to Teal Lake.
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There is also a loop around Teal Lake so we had the choice of going left or right. We had planned on hiking counter-clockwise around Diamond Lake so we went right here and passed around the east side of Teal Lake where there was a hazy view of Mt. Bailey (post).
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At the north end of the lake a very short connector trail led to the paved Dellenback Trail where we again turned right.
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IMG_5398Northern flicker

A large meadow separates the trail from the lake here.
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We followed the path through the forest ignoring side trails for a mile where we arrived at the South Shore Picnic Area.
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IMG_5406Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.

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IMG_5420Mt. Thielsen from the South Shore Picnic Area

IMG_5412Diamond Lake underneath the smoke.

IMG_5414Mt. Bailey

IMG_5425Mt. Thielsen from the boat dock.

We had expected the lake to be busy given it was Labor Day weekend and Diamond Lake is a very popular spot and we were right. We utilized our masks as we passed through the picnic area and continued past an RV park and into the Diamond Lake Campground which stretches along most of the eastern side of the lake.
IMG_5427Picnic tables in the picnic area.

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IMG_5432Short Creek (it really is short)

IMG_5433Resort buildings between the RV park and campground.

IMG_5434Sign instructing users to follow painted bike symbols through the campground.

Despite passing through the busy campground there were a number of good views of Mt. Bailey across the lake. There were also quite a few ducks in the area.
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IMG_5443Common merganser

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IMG_5458Goldeneyes

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The trail left the campground and then in a quarter mile arrived at the Diamond Lake Lodge area.
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IMG_5469Mt. Bailey again.

IMG_5471Arriving at the lodge area.

IMG_5472Seagulls

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We passed by the lodge along the grassy lake shore and then returned to the trail on the far side. We were now far enough around the lake that we could once again see Mt. Thielsen.
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This section of trail was lined with larger and more diverse trees and is also the side closest to the Thielsen Fire as of this writing.
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There were fewer people along this stretch but a steady stream of bicycle riders did pass by. More entertaining though were the birds.
IMG_5492Bald eagle

IMG_5498I’ve been spotted

IMG_5503Chickadee with a seed or nut.

IMG_5510Junco in some fireweed.

IMG_5513The junco with Mt. Bailey in the background.

IMG_5521Looking back at Mt. Thielsen

IMG_5523More goldeneyes

IMG_5526Mergansers

The trail joined FR 4795 again 1.7 miles from the lodge to avoid what appeared to be an old guard station or possibly just a private cabin near Lake Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail continued with the Rodley Butte Trail on the opposite side of the road.
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The trail then passed a nice little sandy beach with a view of Mt. Thielsen.
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IMG_5536Osprey

We were now heading south along the western side of the lake which provided good views of Mt. Thielsen and Howlock Mountain despite the smoke.
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IMG_5546Cormorant

IMG_5548Howlock Mountain to the left and Mt. Thielsen

The mountain views would be interrupted just over a mile from Lake Creek when the Dellenback Trail veered away from the lake to avoid the Thielsen View Campground.
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We again crossed FR 4795 and continued through the trees for nearly three miles before recrossing the road.
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IMG_5554Back on the lake side of FR 4795.

We were now passing by the large meadow at the south end of the lake, only this time it was Mt. Thielsen not Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.
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Just under a mile after recrossing FR 4795 we arrived at a scenic footbridge over Silent Creek.
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A quarter mile beyond Silent Creek we arrived back at the Horse N Teal Trail junction near Teal Lake.
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We turned up this trail and passed by Teal Lake on the opposite side from that morning thus completing that loop.
IMG_5576Canada geese at Teal Lake.

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We arrived back at Horse Lake after 11.6 miles of hiking. This managed to be a somewhat easy yet hard hike at the same time. The lack of elevation change and obstacles along the trail made for easy, quick hiking, but the paved surface is a lot harder on the feet than dirt. We hadn’t stopped much at all along the way either due to the number of other trail users and our attempting to do our best to stay properly socially distanced.

Our day wasn’t done after the lake loop though. We were planning on spending the weekend in the area with Sunday’s hike being to Rattlesnake Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. We left Diamond Lake and took Highway 230 toward Medford to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead which was devoid of other vehicles.
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We had brought our backpacking gear with thoughts of setting up camp somewhere between the trailhead and Wiley Camp.
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We had been to Hummingbrid Meadows before (post) but on that hike we had come in on the Buck Canyon Trail. On that trip we had also not visited Wiley Camp. For this trip we were planning on spending the night in our tent then using the Wiley Camp Trail to hike up to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and complete the Rattlesnake Mountain hike described in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook. The status of Wiley Camp and the Wiley Camp Trail was a little confusing. The Forest Service websites mention the trail but in almost every instance “area not available” followed the reference. A 2018 trip report from vanmarmot.org though showed that just two years before the trail was still there and passable.

We followed the Hummingbird Meadows Trail into the wilderness where we were quickly met with some downed trees.
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The trail then passed through a meadow and dropped to a crossing of the West Fork Muir Creek where we thought we might find a campsite but there really wasn’t anything that caught our eye.
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IMG_5596hedgenettle and aster.

IMG_5597Monkeyflower

The trail climbed away from the creek and in 100 yards arrived at the Buck Canyon Trail junction (approx .4 miles from the trailhead).
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We turned right onto the Buck Canyon Trail which passed through Hummingbird Meadows before arriving at the Wiley Camp Trail junction in 1.6 miles. There were quite a few downed logs as trail maintenance in the area appears to be way down the Forest Service’s list of priorities but nothing was unmanageable. We had been watching for any campsites but nothing stood out so we decided to just go to Wiley Camp since it was only a little over 2 miles from the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead.
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IMG_5605Wiley Camp Trail on the right.

We turned down the Wiley Camp Trail which was in no worse/better shape than the Buck Canyon Trail arriving at Wiley Camp after a quarter of a mile.
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IMG_5611Wiley Camp sign

Unlike the busy Diamond Lake area there was no one else to be seen in this area. We picked a tent site and set up camp on the hillside above the West Fork Muir Creek.
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We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening down at the creek and doing a quick survey of the Wiley Camp Trail for the next day. Clear tread led up from the creek into the meadow on the far side where it quickly vanished. After heading too far left (west) into some trees we located a small cairn and some pink flagging leading the way out of the meadow.
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IMG_5615Grass of parnassus

IMG_5623Frog

IMG_5616Trail leading up from the creek into the meadow.

IMG_5630Big cedar at the edge of the meadow.

IMG_5635Cairn and pink flagging (small tree to the right) marking the Wiley Camp Trail.

IMG_5644Elder berry

IMG_5648Twisted stalk

No one else ever showed up to Wiley Camp, at least no people. A bright Moon helped light the area where we could see many bats darting about.
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Hopefully the forest and features in this trip report will look similar for years to come and this isn’t a memorial of what once was. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Diamond Lake Loop

Categories
Hiking Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide

Muir Creek Loop – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

We had planned our most adventurous hike of Memorial Day weekend for Sunday. The goal was a long loop into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, one of the wilderness areas we had yet to visit in our outings. Our intended route was to begin at the Muir Creek Trailhead and complete a 15.5 mile loop described by William Sullivan in his Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (Hike #37 in the 2017 4th edition). We were pushing the envelope a bit by attempting the loop this early in the year given that the route would take us to an elevation just over 6000′. A May 8, 2015 variation of the loop by fellow hiker Van Marmot appeared to have been snow free (trip report). That was an extremely low snow year and although this years snow pack was well below normal it isn’t nearly as bad as it was in 2015. We hoped the extra two weeks in timing would at least make what snow might be left passable. We figured the worst case scenario would be that we would hike up the creek as far as possible and make it an out-and-back if necessary.

With plans A & B at the ready we left Bend a bit before 5am and were ready to set off on the Muir Creek Trail by 6:45.
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It was a crisp 35 degrees as we set off through the forest. We were soon climbing over and around a good deal of blowdown.
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It wasn’t long before we began getting our first views of the meadows along Muir Creek.
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We were on the lookout for wildlife in the meadows as well as any sign of where the abandoned portion of the Meadow Creek Trail might drop us back onto the Muir Creek Trail if we were indeed able to complete the loop. We expected that junction to be somewhere near the one mile mark but never noticed anything that looked like it might be the old trail. Beyond the one mile mark we encountered what appeared to be a somewhat recently eroded section of trail.
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Just under a mile and a half from the trailhead we came to a beautiful view of Muir Creek as it flowed through a meadow.
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Just beyond the viewpoint we passed a nice patch of white lupine along the trail.
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Then we came to Alkali Creek which proved to be a little challenging to get across dry footed but we managed to find a fairly dry route.
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The trail spent most if its time in the forest but occasional openings in the trees provided meadow views and at one point we spotted a pair of deer nibbling on some bushes.
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Roughly two and three quarter miles from the trailhead we spotted East Fork Muir Creek Falls. Here we also saw the only other people we would see along the trail all day, a couple of backpackers who had set up camp near the falls.
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Beyond the falls the trail continued up along West Fork Muir Creek briefly joining OHV Trail 27.
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We left the OHV Trail at a bridge over the creek after a couple tenths of a mile.
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We were now on the Buck Canyon Trail which began at road 6560/190 on the other side of the bridge at the Buck Canyon Trailhead.
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Approximately a quarter mile from the bridge we came to the first of two bridgeless crossings of the creek. We searched to no avail for a place where we could cross without getting wet and eventually decided to ford the creek which was only calf deep but it was cold.
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A quarter mile later we were faced with a similar situation and plunged through the icy water again.
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In a small meadow we found some tall mountain bluebells beginning to bloom and a butterfly who appeared to be waiting for the flowers.
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The meadows increased as we officially entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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We soon entered Hummingbird Meadows which had a nice display of yellow glacier lilies.
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We also spotted a coyote here and watched it run off into the forest and disappear. A total of 5.3 miles from the Muir Creek Trailhead we passed the signed Hummingbird Meadows Trail.
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The trail continued to the large and scenic Hummingbird Meadows as it climbed gradually up Buck Canyon.
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The meadows continued for a mile and a half from the Hummingbird Meadows Trail to a junction with the Wiley Camp Trail which the Forest Service Website currently lists as “area is unavailable”.
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Near the upper end of the meadows we began seeing some decent amounts of snow.
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We also spotted a dreaded mylar balloon which we packed out.
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At the junction there was no sign for the Wiley Camp Trail but there was one for the Buck Canyon Trail pointing toward the Meadow Creek Trail (which was still quite a ways away).
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Shortly after passing the Wiley Camp Trail we came to Devils Slide, a half mile long rock-slide.
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We stopped to visit a small waterfall next to the rocks.
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After passing Devils Slide the trail entered an upper meadow.
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Here we found some large patches of marsh marigolds.
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A brief stint in the trees led us to more blowdown and another small waterfall.
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Then we were back in a meadow but this time there was quite a bit more snow.
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A few phlox and avalanche lilies bloomed here.
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We lost the trail in the snow as we left the meadow and entered the trees.
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For the next couple of miles we played find the trail due to the lingering snow. There was enough left that it made things challenging but not impassable. We did a bit of postholing, especially Heather, as we zig zaged through the forest looking for signs of the trail. Sometimes old tree blazes led the way and other times it was downed logs that had been cut for the trail. Occasionally the trail itself would appear for a bit only to be swallowed again by a snow drift. Having the GPS also helped as we were able to tell where the trail was in relation to our position.
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IMG_4483blaze in the tree

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After passing over a saddle at 6000′ we descended to Alkali Meadows. From the meadows we spotted Union Peak and some of the rim of Crater Lake.
IMG_4504Union Peak

IMG_4506Hillman Peak and The Watchman

After a brief stint in the upper portion of the meadows the trail turned back into the trees for a couple of creek crossings.
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Soon we were back in Alkali Meadows and staring straight at Mt. Thielsen. (post)
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A little further down the meadow Mt. Bailey (post) joined the view.
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We left the snow behind after Alkali Meadows where the trail turned south traversing through a drier area for a mile to Bear Camp where we found the Meadow Creek Trail.
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IMG_4532The rim of Crater Lake

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We turned left onto the Meadow Creek Trail and quickly began a steep mile long descent.
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We passed through more meadows with more views.
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Just before reaching road 6540-700 we left the wilderness behind.
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We turned left onto this road and followed it just over a quarter of a mile to where we turned right and followed signs for OHV Trail 27.
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OHV Trail 27 left the wide road in favor of a rougher, narrow track.
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There had obviously been some recent maintenance done to this trail, unlike our earlier trails.
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We passed a nice view of Mt. Bailey and then saw the source of some of the maintenance.
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The little dozer was Forest Service but it alone couldn’t have created all the debris we’d been seeing along the trail. Broken trees and brush had lined the entire track. After passing another viewpoint, this time of Crater Lake’s rim and Union Peak we discovered what had been chewing up the vegetation.
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After roughly 1.5 miles descending on the OHV Trail we arrived Road 6540-900.
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As nice as it was to have an actual trail to follow from Road 6540-700 down to the next road crossing it would have been much nicer if it had been the Meadow Creek Trail which had originally continued all the way down to the Muir Creek Trail. All of that trail save the mile between Bear Camp and Road 6540-700 has been abandoned by the Forest Service and from the map OHV Trail 27 appears to have obliterated some of the original trail. Road 6540-900 is where Van Marmot had started his hike and his trip report noted that the lower portion of the Meadow Creek Trial between this road and the Muir Creek Trail was still usable.

We turned right on Road 6450-700 looking for signs of the trail. Luckily someone had placed some pink flagging at the old trail otherwise we would have probably walked right past it even though the GPS showed we were right near it.
IMG_4572Faded pink flagging in the tree marking the abandoned Meadow Creek Trail

The trail was approximately 100 yards from where OHV Trial 27 popped out on the road and just a short distance before a cattle guard.
IMG_4573Cattle guard on Road 6540-700

The old trail was faint but easy to follow, in fact it was easier to follow this trail than the Buck Canyon Trail had been in the snow.
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There was pink flagging along most of the half mile route but we did finally lose track of the tread just above the Muir Creek Trail. There was enough blowdown along the hillside that we had to make the final descent up on our own. This explained why we had been unable to spot any sign of the trail on our way by in the morning. We wound up just about a mile away from the trailhead so we headed back along the Muir Creek Trail maneuvering around the downed trees along the way. The 15.5 mile loop wound up being 16.2 according to our GPS, much of difference can be attributed to the back and forth hiking we did searching for the Buck Canyon Trail in the snow.

It was a beautiful hike even with the OHV Trail thrown in and we were amazed that on a holiday weekend we had only seen the one other couple all day. It was everything we’d hoped for in our first visit to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Muir Creek Loop