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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IMG_5627Honeysuckle

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

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Pacific ninebarkPacific ninebark

20220702_075859Streambank bird’s-foot trefoil

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

IMG_5649White-vein wintergreen

There were occasional pockets of green trees, typically near creeks.
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IMG_5665There was a small stream in the middle of the trees here.

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

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

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

IMG_5710Another side creek.

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

Silver-spotted skipperSilver-spotted skipper

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IMG_5752Chipmunk

IMG_5761White-stemmed frasera

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

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IMG_5776Washington lily with a crab spider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_5800Pacific coralroot

IMG_5809Phantom orchid

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

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

IMG_5821Bear Mountain

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

IMG_5830Oregon sunshine

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

IMG_5845Siskiyou lewisia

IMG_5850Preston Peak

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Before reaching Devil’s Punchbowl the trail passed a smaller but scenic lake.
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It was pretty obvious why this is the most popular spot in the wilderness and draws crowds. We however were fortunate enough to be the only people here when we arrived.
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It wasn’t long before another couple arrived followed by a pair of backpackers but we appreciated the solitude nonetheless.
IMG_5905Beetle on a pussypaw

IMG_5911Swallowtail on azalea

IMG_5917Silver-spotted skipper on Siskiyou lewisia

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

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IMG_5938Mountain heather

IMG_5941Green beetle

IMG_5953Ground squirrel

IMG_5960Clouds gathering around Preston Peak.

IMG_5963Fleabane near the pool.

IMG_5964Waterfall along the outlet creek.

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IMG_5973Clouds over Devil’s Punchbowl.

IMG_5978A duskywing

IMG_5979More clouds to the north.

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

IMG_6003Back at the ford.

IMG_6010Ouzel at the Clear Creek ford.

IMG_6022Doe in the forest.

IMG_6024This little guy had a pretty song.

IMG_6029Arriving back at Youngs Valley.

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

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

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

Day 2 track in Magenta

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

Flickr: Devil’s Punchbowl

Categories
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