After the long hike to Devil’s Punchbowl the day before (post) we were looking forward to a shorter hike on Sunday and having time in the afternoon to relax around camp before hiking out on the 4th. Our goal on this day was Raspberry Lake which sits below Preston Peak, the highest peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness. It had started to cloud up the day before but it hadn’t rained. A layer of fog however had settled over the meadow in Youngs Valley by early morning.
Fog at 5:30am
We hadn’t heard the bear overnight but we were still on high alert keeping an eye out for it. In fact I was so focused on looking for black fur that I didn’t notice a buck near where our food was hung and when he jumped it startled me half to death because I was less than 10 yards away from it.
After he jumped he started to run off but quickly stopped to eat just a few yards later.
The fog was burning off quickly as we ate breakfast and we did not see the bear again that morning.
Deer in the meadow.
Snail near our breakfast spot. It’s amazing how quickly these guys can get from one place to the next.
After breakfast we secured our food and garbage and headed for the lake. We walked up the old road bed to the junction with the Raspberry Lake Trail and turned right.
We followed the trail/old roadbed past the junction with the Poker Flat Trail which we had come down on our first day (post) and continued on the road for 2.5 miles to a fork near the former Cyclone Gap chrome mine.
Lupine and beargrass along the road.
Waterfall on cliffs below El Capitan.
At times the old roadbed looked like you could drive on it but other times it looked like this.
Small meadow along the trail.
The clouds burned off quickly.
At the 1.5 mile mark we detoured slightly to a view point overlooking Youngs Valley near a ridge end.
Youngs Peak with the meadow barely visible to the right below.
Rocky Knob to the left.
As we rounded the ridge we got a good view up Clear Creek to Bear Mountain where we had been the day before visiting Devil’s Punchbowl.
We ignored a side trail for Cyclone Gap shortly after rounding the ridge but when we reached the fork at the 2.5 mile mark we did detour to the right along a level roadbed to visit some of the mine ruins.
Sign at the Cyclone Gap junction.
Back into the 2018 Natchez fire scar.
Paintbrush along the trail.
Streambank bird’s-foot trefoil
Raspberry Lake Trail to the left.
Ruins from the chrome mine.
More mine ruins on the hillside below.
We returned to the trail and followed it uphill above the old mine where the roadbed ended. The trail became narrow and rocky as it rounded another ridge end. Here we ran into the couple that we had spoken with at Doe Creek the day before. They had hiked up the Rattlesnake Meadow Trail which they reported was quite overgrown and then followed a ridge cross-country up to Raspberry Lake which they did not recommend.
Bear Mountain and Rocky Knob.
Getting closer to Preston Peak.
Small stream crossing.
A short steep rocky section where cairns were helpful.
Rounding another ridge with Preston Peak on the left and Bear Mountain to the right.
First view of Raspberry Lake in the trees below to the right.
A series of steep switchbacks led down to the lake.
There were a few tents set up around the lake so we didn’t do a lot of exploring. Our timing wasn’t great as the Sun was positioned slightly to the left behind the lake which still lay in the mountains shadow which made it very difficult to photograph.
Big rock along the shore.
It was a nice lake but not nearly as dramatic as Devil’s Punchbowl had been. After a short break here we headed back looking forward to some extra rest and relaxation at the less crowded meadow in Youngs Valley.
El Capitan on the right. To the left I think that is Bear Cub with Polar Bear Mountain behind.
This squirrel gave us a stern talking to.
Western tanager pair
We believe this is what Sullivan shows as Slow Echo Camp on his map. We wondered what the stones in the foreground had been a part of?
The waterfall we had seen was near the camp and I set off into the brush to see if I could get a better view. It partially worked.
Near the other small campsite we encountered a buck which may have been the same one that startled me back near our camp earlier based on how comfortable he was with us being there.
When we arrived back at the meadow our neighbors had moved on but we did run into a grouse.
The hike to the lake and back came in at 8 miles even with approximately 1750′ of elevation gain.
After putting things away we set up our lightweight chairs near the meadow and watched the ever changing clouds. It wasn’t long before we noticed other hikers/backpackers across the meadow following the road down from the Youngs Valley Trailhead. We also spotted Buster (the name we’d given the bear) lumbering through the meadow again.
In fact Buster passed through the meadow twice going in the same direction which led us to wonder if there was more than one Buster in the area (or a glitch in the Matrix). The bear didn’t seem to care that another group had set up a tent on the opposite side of the meadow and was similarly unimpressed when another couple arrived with their dog. We heard the dog bark and wondered if it was at Buster and when the couple passed by us on their way to finding a site they confirmed that the dog was barking at the bear and that it didn’t phase it one bit. They also mentioned that a friend of theirs had stayed there the week before and seen the bear around. Fortunately it appeared that everyone had proper bear proof systems in place, i.e. bear canisters, ursacks and/or bag hanging systems. Hopefully people continue to be responsible because it only takes one careless person leaving food out or in their tent for the bear to figure out that people have food. So far even though it wasn’t nearly as wary of people as most black bears are it didn’t show any signs of equating people with having food (not being food, those are grizzly bears lol). If that happens it typically means the bear will be put down.
This butterfly did discover people=salt.
Maybe a flycatcher of some sort near camp.
Turkey vulture checking out the meadow.
We did do a little exploring in the area and found a few flowers nearby that we’d missed the day before.
White rush lily
Both of the new groups of backpackers had dogs but aside from the initial barking at Buster we didn’t hear either of them again which we took to mean the bear kept its distance overnight. In the morning we got an extra early start for our hike out managing to have coffee and breakfast, pack up and still be on the trail by 6:15am.
Another low cloud morning.
We followed the old road bed past the Raspberry Lake Trail junction half a mile to another trail junction, this one with the Black Butte Trail.
Passing around the meadow, we didn’t see Buster this morning.
Black Butte Trail junction.
We turned right onto this trail which was also an old road bed and followed it a little over half a mile to the East Fork Illinois River.
Bear Cub under the clouds.
Vanilla leaf along the trail.
The headwaters of the East Fork Illinois River are just up from the trail so the river isn’t much more than a trickle at the trail crossing.
On the other side of the river we ignored the East Fork Illinois Trail to the left and continued on the old road bed.
The edge of the clouds to the NW.
Passing below Bear Cub.
Being an old road bed in unburt forest made for easy hiking.
Going into the weekend there had been a chance of showers both Sunday and Monday. Sunday had remained dry but today a light mist was falling and there were a couple of brief showers which were enough to prompt us to put the rain covers on our packs but not enough to don our rain gear.
When we had made it to the north side of Bear Cub (Sullivan refers to it as Polar Bear Cub) we were momentarily confused by the number of trails our GPS units were showing. Sullivan’s map only showed an unmaintained use trail heading right toward the mountain while our paper Forest Service map didn’t show any other trails, but the GPS topo showed Sullivan’s user trail and another trail heading slightly downhill to the left. What we were seeing was the old roadbed curing right toward Bear Cub and a trail with cairns on both sides heading straight.
The existence of the third trail on the GPS had us questioning whether the trail marked by cairns was the Black Butte Trail or the left most trail showing on the Garmin. After some debate we decided that it must be the Black Butte Trail and passed between the cairns. This turned out to be the right choice and we soon found ourselves climbing through the 2020 Slater fire scar.
Swtichbacking toward Bear Cub.
We were a bit disappointed when we realized that to reach the junction with the Black Butte Tie Trail below Black Butte we had to lose about 100′ of elevation first.
Heading downhill so we could go up.
Creek crossing in the basin below Black Butte.
Looking back into the clouds where we’d come from.
Steep climb up to the junction.
We made it back to the junction! Only 1.8 more miles to go.
We turned left at the junction, now following the route that we’d come in on from the Black Butte Trailhead on the first day. We had both convinced ourselves that this stretch would be mostly downhill, but we had been deceived.
Pair of woodpeckers
Why is there more uphill?
Black Butte from the trailhead with Heather coming down the trail.
It was 5.6 miles from our camp to the trailhead but after some challenging hikes it felt harder than that. The nearly 1400′ of elevation gain didn’t help that, but it had been a great trip none the less.
The most significant rain shower started as we were changing at the trailhead so the timing there was pretty good. The trip had been challenging but it was worth it to have the chance to experience a new area with such diverse plants and great scenery. The wildlife was a bonus although a little less bear would have been okay.
What wasn’t good was the low tire pressure light that came on almost immediately after starting our drive. We had the same light come on in June driving up to the Siskiyou Gap Trailhead (post) and taken the car to Les Schwab in Ashland for an air check. The two left side tires were just a little low then so they added some air and we were off. Today was the 4th though and the Les Schwab stores in Grants Pass (the closest to where we were) were closed for the holiday so we pulled into a gas station and checked the air at their self-serve station. The same two tires were again a little low so I topped them off and we drove home. The light was back Tuesday morning when I started my drive to work prompting a trip to Les Schwab in West Salem where they removed the tires and discovered a screw in the rear tire and a nail in the front. Luckily both were small leaks and repairable. Hopefully we’re done with that light for a long while now. Happy Trails!