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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Observation Peak – 06/15/2022

The forecast for our stay in Ashland was for a sunny Wednesday and Thursday followed by a partially sunny Friday before rain showers moved in Friday evening and into Saturday. That worked well for our planned set of hikes which were to spend the first three days at higher elevations in the Siskiyou Mountains and then on Saturday hiking in the foothills before heading home. Up first was a hike to Observation Peak just off the Pacific Crest Trail not far from where that trail crosses the Oregon/California border. In fact the start of Sullivan’s featured hike (Hike #63 in “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” edition 4.2) is at the Stateline Trailhead for the PCT. Sullivan lists this hike as open beginning late June so we were a couple of weeks early but we had been watching the snow level using the NOHRSC Snow Analysis Data layer on the Pacific Crest Trail Associations interactive map to check the snow depth and all seemed clear. Some late season snows hadn’t been enough to make up for the drought conditions that have plagued the area.

From the trailhead the hike to Observation Peak and back is just under 5.5 miles so we were open to other options to lengthen the hike a bit. While Observation Peak was north along the PCT Donomore Meadows, just across the California border, to the south offered a chance to see a cabin and the meadows. After parking in a pullout near the PCT crossing of Forest Road 2025 we set off south on the trail to visit the meadows before heading north to Observation Peak.
IMG_3548The PCT heading south from the Stateline Trialhead

From the trailhead the PCT descends a little over 550′ in approximately 1.5 miles to a footbridge across a creek in the lower portion of Donomore Meadows which we thought would be a good turnaround point for this part of our hike.
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IMG_3563A register is located 0.4 miles from the trailhead at the Oregon/California border.

IMG_3564We were long overdue for a visit to California, our last hike in the state was way back in 2018 at the Lava Beds National Monument (post).

IMG_3566A good reminder of how much of the PCT is located in CA.

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IMG_3575First look at Donomore Meadows.

IMG_3585This road crossing is just over a mile from the trailhead. The Donomore Cabin is just up the road to the right.

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IMG_3588The cabin was built in 1935.

IMG_3589The meadow below the cabin.

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IMG_3602Death camas in the meadow.

We’d seen one doe in the meadow and as we began to descend to the creek crossing we spotted another one below us.
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We watched each other for a bit before she started to head off. When she moved we both noticed what appeared to be another set of ears in the grass. It turned out to be the smallest fawn either of us had seen in the wild. We watched from afar as mom led the youngster to the safety of the trees then we continued down to the footbridge.
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IMG_3630Mariposa lily

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IMG_3643Heather passing through the meadow.

IMG_3645There wasn’t much to the brushy creek but it made for a definitive turnaround point.

After pausing at the footbridge we climbed back up to Oregon and the Stateline Trailhead and set off in the other direction for Observation Peak.
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IMG_3663PCT heading north from the Stateline Trailhead.

This section the PCT passed through a manzanita covered hillside with views of Ductchman Peak.
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IMG_3680Grayback Mountain in the distance with a small patch of snow.

IMG_3688One of three springs the trail passes on the way to Observation Peak.

IMG_3690Marsh marigolds

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IMG_3695Alpine pennycress

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IMG_3702Another spring with marsh marigolds and glacier lilies.

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The views along the PCT were very good as it passed through several open hillsides.
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IMG_3719Looking SE to the Red Buttes (post), Preston Peak, and Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3720Kangaroo Mountain and Red Butte with Preston Peak, Twin Peak and El Capitan behind in the Siskiyou Wilderness.

IMG_3723View south.

IMG_3724Part of the Marble Mountains (post)

One and a half miles from the trailhead we rounded a ridge end above Kettle Lake. The lake basin still had a fair amount of snow and there were a few small lingering patches on the PCT.
IMG_3734Kettle Lake through the trees.

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From the ridge end above Kettle Lake it was just over half a mile to another ridge on the NW flank of Observation Peak. We left the PCT here and first checked out the rocky ridge to the north where wildflowers were just getting going. Then we headed cross country a half mile to the summit. The open hillside made for an easy off trail climb and was easier than if we had been trying to continue on the PCT because that trail disappeared under a large snow drift on the other side of the ridge.
IMG_3744Heading up to the ridge.

IMG_3748Dutchman Peak from the ridge.

IMG_3751Not sure if these are mule’s ears or a balsamroot.

IMG_3753Splithair Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja schizotricha)

IMG_3760Swallowtail on phlox.

IMG_3764Wildflowers on the ridge.

IMG_3766Cutleaf daisy?

IMG_3767Snow drifts covering the PCT.

IMG_3769Lance-leaf Spring Beauty
Claytonia lanceolata

IMG_3774Heading for the summit.

Mt. McLoughlin (post) came into view to the NE as we climbed.
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IMG_3779Pilot Rock (post) to the east was slightly smokey.

IMG_3785A rockcress

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Once we reached the summit Mt. Shasta came into view to the SW.
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IMG_3807Mt. Shasta above a layer of smoke that mostly hid Black Butte (post). Mt. Eddy (post) is the snowy peak to the right.

IMG_3813I think these peaks are a mix of the Russian Wilderness in the forefront and Trinity Alps behind. Bruce correct me if I am wrong on that :).

A red can houses a summit register tucked in a rock pile at the summit. As I was flipping through looking for a page to sign on I came across what we considered a huge find, a bootsonthetrail.blog business card.
IMG_3814Rock pile at the summit.

IMG_3823Our big find. I took a couple of pictures and put the card back for someone else to find (and added one of ours).

It was a great temperature at the summit so we took an extended rest (and way too many photos) before heading back.
IMG_3830There were dozens of ladybugs in the rock pile.

IMG_3827One of many photos of Mt. Shasta. We don’t get too many chances to see this Cascade Mountain.

IMG_3831We could see Mt. Thielsen (post), the rim of Crater Lake (post) and Mt. McLoughlin beyond Wagner Butte (post) and Mt. Ashland (post).

IMG_3835The peaks around the rim of Crater Lake.

IMG_3863Mt. Thielsen to the left of Crater Lake.

IMG_3878Mt. Bailey (post)

IMG_3843The Red Buttes in front of Preston Peak.

IMG_3839Grayback Mountain

On the way back down we were concentrating on any flowers that we’d missed on the way up.
IMG_3886Buckwheat

20220615_103859Alpine pennycress

20220615_104325Quill-leaf Lewisia
Lewisia leeana

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IMG_3909Chipmunk having a snack.

IMG_3914One of two hairstreaks we encountered on the PCT.

IMG_3916The 2nd hairstreak.

I decided to detour at Kettle Lake and headed cross country downhill a tenth of a mile to check it out while Heather continued toward the car.
IMG_3923Where I left the PCT.

IMG_3925Lots of this orange fungus in the forest.

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While I was scoping out the lake Heather was getting wildflower photos.
20220615_113100Bee on a marsh marigold.

20220615_113143Glacier lily

20220615_113236Trillium

20220615_113635Anemone

20220615_113648Buttercup?

IMG_3944Passing through the manzanita section.

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The hike came in at a reasonable 8.8 miles with a little over 1800′ of elevation gain. A reasonable day with lots of great scenery.

After showering and changing at the motel we walked to Caldera Brewing which was only about 0.2 miles from our room. Neither the food or beer disappointed and the view from the restaurant was good too. It was the perfect end to our first day in Ashland. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Observation Peak

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 2 -Summit Lake to Paradise Lake

We began our second day in the Marble Mountain Wilderness by waking up early and watching the morning sunlight hit the cliffs above Summit Lake.
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We had originally planned on eating breakfast on the rocks at the north end of the lake, but more hikers had arrived the night before and someone had set up camp there. The mosquitoes were out and Heather had quite a few bites already so after packing up camp, setting out just after 6am, we decided to have breakfast somewhere on the trail.

We were headed for the Pacific Crest Trail, a .7 mile climb from the lake. The trail began on the west side of the outlet creek and was obscured by some blowdown. There was a fair amount of it along this section of trail but nothing that was too difficult to get around. The scenery along the trail was beautiful alternating between forest and meadows.
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Near the top of a series of switchbacks we stopped to cook breakfast on a large rock outcropping next to a meadow that could have passed for a lawn.
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The rocks offered views and wildflowers as well as some protection from mosquitoes.
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Sierran woodbeauty
Sierran woodbeauty

Lewis flax
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We climbed through another damp meadow with shooting star, marsh marigolds and western pasque flowers before reaching the junction with the PCT.
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We reached the PCT junction just in time to meet a thru-hiker on his way to Canada. We couldn’t help but be a little envious as he sped off with his lighter pack. We knew he lacked some of the luxuries we were carrying, but his seemingly effortless walk was a stark contrast to the labored climb we’d just made.

We were glad to be on the PCT and after a short break we started north toward Paradise Lake which was 10.3 miles away. The 3.5 mile section from where we had started to the junction with the trail to the Sky High Lakes was wonderful. Because the PCT sticks to ridgelines whenever possible it provides some good views and minimizes elevation changes. There were some areas where the trees had burned but there were lots of wildflowers along the way and other areas where the trees were not burnt.
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Torrey’s blue-eyed mary and Jepson’s monkeflower
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Monument plant
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Catchfly
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Ballhead sandwort
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Penstemon
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Oregon Sunshine
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Trinity Alps in the distance.
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Scarlet gilia
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We had been considering staying at Shadow Lake on the 3rd and 4th nights of our trip so when we reached the signed trail for it, we decided to detour down to the lake to check it out.
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There had been a fire in the area at some point in the last few years and the trail was further north than our map or GPS showed it. We had already passed another spot where a second trail was shown on our maps without seeing any sign of it. This trail started out climbing up a ridge before beginning to descend down to Shadow Lake’s basin.
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From the ridge we could see Frying Pan and Lower Sky High Lakes in the Sky High Lakes Valley which was below the basin that held Shadow Lake.
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We wound up turning back when we encountered a decently sized snow drift over the trail.
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We could see a little bit of the lake from there and just didn’t feel like it was worth it to attempt to navigate the snow given the steepness of the trail and having our full packs on.
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We would run into another couple the next day who did make it down and camp at the lake. They had found a way around the snow with the help of another gentleman but said that it was pretty “sketchy” so we were glad we had chosen not to continue.

Back on the PCT the flower show was only getting better as we approached the Sky High Lakes junction.
Buckwheat
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Blue Gilia
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Paintbrush
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Aster
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Nettle-leaf Giant-hyssop
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From the Sky High Lakes junction the PCT remained on the ridge for another .5 wildflower filled miles to a three way trail junction.
Orange agoseris
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Mountain coyote mint
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Grand collomia
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Penstemon lined trail
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Marble & Black Marble Mountains
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Washington lily
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Toothed owl’s clover
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At the junction the PCT headed downhill to the right toward Marble Valley. The trail to the left headed to Big Elk Lake while the Marble Rim Trail continued straight ahead. We were tentatively planning on hiking on the Marble Rim on Thursday but for now we stuck to the PCT.
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The PCT descended beneath the marble of Marble Mountain for 1.1 miles to the locked Marble Valley Shelter.
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We took a break near the shelter before beginning the climb out of Marble Valley. The trail was fairly level as we passed the Marble Gap Trail on our left and crossed Canyon Creek. Then we began to regain the elevation we’d lost coming down into the valley. We began encountering patches of snow and glacier lilies below Black Marble Mountain.
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Marble and meadows dominated the scenery as we continued north of Black Marble Mountain toward Box Rock Camp.
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From Box Rock Camp the trail climbed through more meadows to a junction with the Box Camp Trail at a saddle known as “Jumpoff”.
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Views to the south included the snowy peaks of the Trinity Alps.
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Views to north opened up here and we spotted the familiar Kangaroo Mountain and Red Buttes.
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The PCT switchbacked down a couple of times before leveling out again. Patches of snow lingered on the trail in spots. Most were easily crossed or bypassed with one exception. One large, sloped drift extended quite a way downhill into the trees and required some careful maneuvering. Beyond that patch there was one other large snowfield over a creek but it was much more level and other hikers and created a nice track to follow across.
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Not long after that snowy creek crossing Kings Castle came into view.
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Our destination, Paradise Lake, lay below that peak and we were anxious to get there. It had been a beautiful day, but it was warm and we were pretty drained when we passed the Paradise Lake Trail coming up from the right.
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Our first impression of Paradise Lake was to wonder how it got it’s name. The setting was pretty impressive, but the lake itself was fairly shallow, a little muddy, and had some vegetation on the surface.
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Despite the lake not being spectacular the area had some other nice features including a small waterfall cascading into the lake and a meadow full of shooting star.
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A nearby osprey indicated that there were fish in the lake.
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We picked out a camp site, pulled out our Alite Mayfly chairs and plopped down for a rest.
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We had originally planned on taking a climbers trail up to the summit of Kings Castle in the afternoon/evening, but we were having second thoughts after the long hot day of hiking. The longer we sat and looked at Kings Castle the higher it seemed to get.

We had passed the hikers who had made the tracks in the snowfield and they arrived and set up camp on the other end of the lake after we had settled in. Several thru hikers also passed by including one gentleman from France who stopped to take a picture of our campsite. He was attempting to document all the possible camp sites along the PCT. His impression of the lake was the same as ours, with a name like Paradise Lake he was expecting a lake with clear blue water.

We had almost talked ourselves out of attempting the climb up Kings Castle and were now thinking of trying it in the morning before we broke camp. We had not been able to definitively make out any trail heading up from the lake but after having dinner we decided to at least see if we could locate the climbers trail to see if it was even worth trying in the morning. We put our day packs on just in case and set off on a trail we’d seen across from the inlet creek at the south end of the lake. The trail led up a small hill then turned into a small stream. The other hikers had gone this way to the small waterfall where they had taken a swim earlier so we knew we could go further. We veered off the trail onto a rock shelf above the lake to bypass the flooded trail. Just before the stream that fed the waterfall we cut back through the brush to pick up the climbers trail.
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The climbers trail was faint but there were a few small cairns to help in locating it. Being just after 6pm, we knew we had enough light if we wanted to try and make the summit, so we sallied forth.
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We had to pass through a cloud of small bugs before starting the steep ascent to the ridge along the south side of Kings Castle.
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We lost and picked up the trail a couple of times until we hit a meadow on the steep slope below the ridge. Here the trail became clearer as it switchbacked up to a saddle.
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The trail became even fainter as we continued toward Kings Castle. The hillside was covered with wildflowers and we did our best to avoid stepping on them as we made our way up.
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Split-hair Indian paintbrush
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We also had to watch out for the local residents.
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To reach the summit we had to swing out and around the rocky south eastern face of Kings Castle to reach the summit where someone had fashioned a rock bench.
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The 360 degree view included Mt. Shasta to the NW. This would be the only time the 14,180′ mountain would be visible to us during the trip.
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Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps
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Red Buttes
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As we sat atop Kings Castle we were glad we’d wound up making the climb after all. We eventually climbed down and returned to our tent to turn in for the night. As we were falling asleep a chorus of frogs began croaking. It was a sound we hear all the time in TV shows and movies but in reality most nights in the tent are nearly silent except for the sounds of wind or running water. Maybe the lake was named correctly after all. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667735301193