California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

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

It was still raining when we awoke Wednesday morning and we began packing everything we could into our dry sacks. While we were figuring out our strategy on exiting the tent and taking it down, the rain stopped. God had been good and just as the rain began after we had gotten into the tent, it ended just as we were preparing to exit.


We packed up our wet tent and cooked breakfast then headed away from the lake on the Horse Camp Trail downhill toward the Applegate River. It was the steepest trail of the hike but it was well maintained and easy to follow.

We were following a ridge down Echo Canyon until the trail veered away to the right to go around the Butte Slide.

As we passed the slide we descended a series of switchbacks with views of the leftover clouds drifting over the valleys.


We stopped to watch a hawk who seemed to be just as curious about us as we were of him.

The vegetation changed as we lost elevation and we began seeing some different trees including Madrones.



Before reaching the river we arrived at the junction with the Butte Fork Trail which we would take back up to Azalea Lake where we had stayed on our first night. Not surprisingly the trail sign was lying on the ground.

Now is a good time to mention that we had been using the USFS Red Buttes Wilderness topographic map during the trip. It was the only map I could find covering the area and we had it and our compasses as well as our Gamrin 62s GPS unit. The Garmin was of limited use though due to the fact that we were in California and we do not own the California Map so all it could show us was our elevation and where we were in relation to our earlier tracks and waypoints. We were checking the map often so that we were familiar with our route and any markers to expect along the way. Our markers for the first part of the Butte Fork Trail were a small side creek, passing beneath the Butte Slide, crossing the river near Echo Canyon, and then reentering the Red Buttes Wilderness.

The first side creek was a pleasant surprise as the trail passed between a series of small falls.



Things began to get interesting soon after the falls as we arrived at Echo Creek. The trail led us straight to the creek instead of down and across the river.

The trail was hard to see on the other side of the creek but we hopped across the rocks and found it covered in leaves.

We left Echo creek behind and continued on looking for the river crossing we had been expecting, but instead we came to a wilderness sign.

We had entered the wilderness on the opposite side of the river from what the map showed. We double and triple checked the map but we were clearly not where the trail on the map was. The trail crossed another side creek which we deemed to be Hello Creek and kept heading up the canyon on the south side of the river.


As we continued on the trail condition deteriorated. Sections were overgrown and large trees had come down across the trail along the steep canyon hillsides. We climbed over some and under others. A couple of times we had to detour up the steep hillside and crash through a mass of broken limbs to continue on. At one point the trail forked and we headed downhill finally reaching the river near what appeared to be an old campsite. We were hoping that this was the river crossing, but there was no obvious sign of the trail on the far bank nor any way to cross save fording. We returned to the fork and took the left hand fork continuing to encounter numerous downed trees. We hadn’t gotten too far from the campsite when we decided to go back and do a little more searching to see if we couldn’t find away across and possible pick up the trail shown on the map on the north side of the river. As we walked up the river bank a log lying along the hillside on the far bank caught my eye. Looking the area over we could see that it had once been lining a trail but that trail was now washed out leaving a hole on the other side where the trail had been. We now suspected that the trail had been rerouted at some point and that the map had never been updated. We decided to press ahead on the south side of the river hoping that things would improve and we at least would not encounter any obstacles that would make it impossible for us to continue. We could now see sections of the trail on the far hillside lending credence to our reroute theory.

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



We happily crossed the river and were finally on the side we had expected to be on. We noticed a trail that had been blocked off with branches coming from the direction that we would have been coming from had we been on the north side of the river which all but sold us on the reroute theory.

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

We were now on a nice trail that clearly saw more traffic than the section we had just come from. Signs of recent horse travel were evident on the trail and there was a nice little shelter along the way.



We had been gradually climbing up the valley and were passing Fruit Mountain when we heard some noise ahead and to our right. A mama bear and a cub were racing back up the hillside and disappeared into the forest. We had now seen as many bears (3) as people on the trip.
Fruit Mountain

Beyond Fruit Mountain our next marker was the one that had most interested us. On the map was the word “Graves” next to the trail at approximately the 4320′ elevation mark. We weren’t sure what we were looking for but it was obvious when we saw it.


Later we learned that a plane crash in 1945 had claimed the lives of four people, the pilot and his three passengers, a husband and wife and her sister whose graves this was.

After the grave site we recrossed a now much smaller river and climbed to Cedar Basin.

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



Happy Trails!


California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 2 – Azalea Lake to Echo Lake

After a good nights sleep at Azalea Lake we packed up and got ready to hit the trail.

We followed the Butte Fork Trail from the lake and headed downhill toward Cedar Basin which was .9 miles away.

At a trail junction in the basin we turned right following a pointer for Fort Goff.

This trail began climbing gradually through beargrass meadows in a forest that had been impacted by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire.


After almost a mile and a half we took a side trail to the right to visit Lonesome Lake where we had originally planned on staying the night before. As it turned out much of the area around the lake had been burned by the same fire and there didn’t seem to be many places to set up a tent.


From Lonesome Lake the trail continued to climb up to the Siskiyou Crest where views extended ahead to the Red Buttes. To Echo Lake, our goal for the day, we would need to make it around the back side of the buttes where we would pick up the Horse Camp Trail and descend a half mile to the lake.


While looking back at the hillsides above Lonesome Lake I spotted something that looked brown and thought that maybe it was a deer.

As I was busying zooming in on a rock Heather spotted a bear moving across the rocky slope to the right of were I was looking. She lost it in this clump of trees but I took a picture anyway. There is a suspicious black thing in front of the trees but we couldn’t tell if it was in fact the bear or if it is a piece of burnt wood.

After crossing over the crest we were now on the Boundary Trail which followed the crest east joining the Pacific Crest Trail on the shoulder of Kangaroo Mountain. The Fort Complex Fire over-swept the entire section of the trail between Lonesome Lake and the PCT as well as a portion of the PCT. This left a lot of burnt trees and some sections of thick brush that has since grown up along the trail.


The brush was the thickest in the first quarter of a mile or so and then it thinned out some. The trail here was a little tricky to follow so we had to make sure we were paying close attention to it’s location both ahead on the hillside and directly in front of us.


The views along the trail were great. With very few trees left we could see unobstructed in every direction. It was a cloudy day but they were high enough in the sky to reveal many of NW California’s peaks, most of which we were unfamiliar with.



Polar Bear Mountain, Preston Peak, and El Capitan

To the NE were some more familiar peaks.
Mt. McLoughlin


Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen and the peaks around the rim of Crater Lake

We were also beginning to see more and more interesting rocks along the trail.



Often we could see the trail further ahead easier than it was to pick out directly in front of us. A good example of this was the trail leading up and around Desolation Peak.


The trail climbed in a series of switchbacks on the side of Desolation Peak where we were surprised to find some scarlet gilia still in bloom.

Switchback on Desolation Peak

After getting around Desolation Peak we got our first look at Mt. Shasta.


We had passed around Goff Butte, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Desolation Peak and up next was Kangaroo Mountain where we would find the PCT.

Kangaroo Mountain is made up of the same type of red rock, peridotite, as Red Buttes.


We met the PCT on the south side of Kangaroo Mountain and took a celebratory break.

While the Boundary Trail has seen little to no maintenance since the 2012 fire the PCT has been. While we were sitting on a log having a snack we saw our first other humans of the trip. Three members of the Forest Service out on a tree survey were hiking up the PCT and heading back to their vehicle. After a brief conversation they went on and we soon followed heading toward Red Buttes.


Kangaroo Mountain was by far the widest peak that we’d gone around that day and the backside was an interesting mix of rocks with marble outcrops dotting the red peridotite.


We arrived at Kangaroo Spring to find the springs dry although there did appear to be some water further offtrail on the downhill side of the PCT.



Next we passed Lily Pad Lake where several ducks were paddling about.


We were coming out of the burn area and passing a series of meadows that still held a few wildflowers.





We popped out of the trees below Red Buttes near Bee Camp.

A half mile after crossing an old road we arrived at the junction with the Horse Camp Trail and a unique pointer for Echo Lake.

We took a moment to take in the view then spied the lake below us and began the half mile descent to the lake.




We turned left at another pointer for Echo Lake before arriving at the pretty little lake.



We set up out tent and rainfly as the forecast when left had been for a chance of showers Tuesday night and rain on Wednesday.

No sooner had we gotten settled into the tent when it began to rain. The wind blew and the rain fell all night long. We got what sleep we could wondering what Wednesday would be like and just how wet we were going to get. Happy Trails!