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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_3556Iris

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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.

20220615_065219Pussytoes

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

IMG_3632Chocolate lily

IMG_3637Cinquefoil?

20220615_072644Violets

20220615_072727Bistort

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.
20220615_080217California ground cone

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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20220615_082356Pasque flower

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.

IMG_3714Scraggy Mountain

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

IMG_3903Larkspur

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
Hiking Trapper Creek Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Observation Peak

Unexpected is as fitting a description as I can think of for our visit to the Trapper Creek Wilderness in Washington. The first unexpected event happened before we even arrived at the trail head. I have mentioned before that we seem to see more large wildlife from our car than we do on the trail. As we were turning off the highway I noticed a large brown animal just a bit further up along the shoulder. I quickly turned around and got out the camera. It was an Elk just grazing on the side of the road. This was the closest we’ve been to seeing an elk on one of our hikes.
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We created the next unexpected event when we parked near Bubbling Mike Spring at an empty sign board. This turned out to be the wrong parking area, but the road ahead was gated closed and we failed to notice the small sign around the corner to our left that pointed toward the campground. We set off on a clear trail toward Trapper Creek which we knew we needed to cross at some point. That path quickly ended at the creek with no dry way to cross so we backtracked and headed up the gated road. We spotted one footbridge that had a do not use, danger sign posted on it as we passed several cabins that sat along the creek. The road veered away from the creek and just after crossing a small stream we decided to head back and work our way up the creek bank to see if we could find a crossing that way. No sooner had I recrossed the stream when I heard quite a commotion behind me. I expected to see Dominique on the ground since he is the most prone to losing his balance but instead it was Heather sitting in the middle of the stream. She banged her hand up pretty good but was fortunate not to have hit her head or hurt her legs. Her pinky though was already swelling and slightly discolored. We hadn’t even found the official trail yet and we had a “man down”. She decided she wanted to try and continue the hike so back we went to searching for a dry way across.

After wandering up and down we settled on trying a downed tree that appeared to be flattened on top for crossing. It led to the back of a couple of cabins on the far side of the creek so we quickly ducked past them onto the access road that led to them. Our map showed that this road would lead to the trail we had been seeking so we headed left and soon had found it.

We entered the Trapper Creek Wilderness and paralleled Trapper Creek through a dense forest. If you love old forests and the sound of flowing water this would be a great hike for you. If you are after views and wildflower meadows skip this trail and take the Observation Peak Trail from road 5800 as described in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes book. The trail went up and down occasionally offering glimpses of the creek below. After 2.5 miles the path crossed Hidden Creek and shortly after a pair of signs pointed to Hidden Falls. We decided we needed to check this out so we struck off on the faint trail up a ridge to a nice camping spot. Hidden Falls was below down a steep hillside which Heather and I picked our way down. We were able to make our way to the base of the secluded falls and then had to climb back out of the canyon.
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From Hidden Falls the Trapper Creek trail began to climb a long series of fairly steep switchbacks. We crossed the creek again after the first set of switchbacks and then launched upward again. A nice viewpoint along the way overlooked Trapper Creek Falls across the valley backed by Observation Peak. The trail eventually leveled out, recrossed Trapper Creek, and then came to a junction with a trail labeled “Shortcut Tr. 129B”. Dominique was all for taking any trail that had the word shortcut in it’s name so we turned up it. I don’t know how much of a shortcut it was, but we were soon at another junction, this time with the Observation Peak Trail.

We headed up toward the summit through a forest with large bear grass plumes and many other smaller white flowers. After about a half mile of climbing we reached the lower viewpoint. This first viewpoint was on a rocky outcropping dotted with white cats ear blossoms. It had been a nice day, with blue sunny skies and a occassional breeze that kept it from being too warm but we found that clouds were hanging around the Washington peaks covering each of them to some degree. Never the less the view was impressive and the view from the actual summit promised to be even better. We returned to the trail and continued up another .2 miles to the summit passing bear grass blooms and other various wild flowers. As we approached the summit, Mt. Hood appeared over the right shoulder of Observation Peak with a faint Mt. Jefferson nearly hidden by haze further to the south.

Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak
Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak

After a short rest we headed back down from the summit and turned right at the trail junction to begin our descent down Howe Ridge. We had a little over 5 miles down this pleasant trail to get back to the car. It gradually descended through the forest crossing numerous small streams and we were able to make good time. We spotted a small snake and later I came around a corner to find myself staring straight at an owl about 10 yards away. When I reached for my camera it flew to a nearby tree but I was able to get
a couple of decent pictures.
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Our feet were sore and legs tired when we finally reached Trapper Creek and we didn’t care about finding a dry crossing. Our car was almost directly across from us so we just walked into the water and crossed. What was supposed to have been a 13.3 mile hike turned into a 15.8 adventure. Despite a few mosquitoes (much less than our last hike) and Heather’s bruised hand it had been a pretty good day. There was only one way to end a day like this – with pizza 🙂 Happy Trails.

Photos – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201538005439185.1073741841.1448521051&type=3
Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157634535134225/