We typically try to find a short hike to do on our way home from vacation but those had plans had gone by the wayside when we re-arraigned our planned hikes due to Friday’s weather. The hike that had originally been planned for Friday was Sullivan’s featured hike #67 (“100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” edition 4.2) – Frog Pond. Located in the California portion of the Red Buttes Wilderness Sullivan describes two options, a 3.6 mile out-and-back and a 7.9 mile loop. Under normal circumstances we would do the longer loop and that had been the plan but with the hike now being on the same day that we were driving back to Salem the shorter hike started to look more appealing. From Ashland we had to drive NW to Jacksonville then SW into California so this hike was not at all on our way home.
The out-and-back option climbs 1200′ in 1.8 miles to Frog Pond and a cabin ruin. Sullivan’s description of the hike calls this “..a good place to declare victory, have lunch, and head back.” The loop option climbs south to a viewpoint on a ridge then descends to Cameron Meadows which is described as a “grassy alpine bowl“. From this meadow the trail heads 2.4 miles down a wooded ridge to the Cameron Meadow Trailhead on FR 1040 leaving a 2.1 mile road walk to the Frog Pond Trailhead to complete the loop. (If we had done the loop we would have parked at the Cameron Meadows Trailhead and gotten the road walk out of the way first.)
The road walk didn’t sound appealing and grassy alpine bowls can be nice but it didn’t sound like a “must see” attraction either so we settled on the out-and-back, unless we changed our minds once we got to Frog Pond, and drove to the Frog Pond Trailhead. (Note that FR 1040 fords a creek between the two trailheads. This was no problem for our Outback on this day but in times of heavy rain/snowmelt the ford can become impassable.)
The forecast called for partly sunny skies at some point during the day but it was clearly not in the morning hours as we set out into the foggy wilderness.
A big cedar.
California ground cone
With 1200′ of elevation in under 2 miles we expected some pretty stiff climbing but for the most part the trail avoided being very steep and there were several breaks in the climb along the way where the trail either leveled off or dropped slightly. We also took a few breaks because we spotted several snowplants (Sarcodes sanguinea) which up until now had been on our bucket list of plants/flowers that we hadn’t seen on trail yet.
The bright red color made them fairly easy to spot amid the green leaves.
It was a pretty climb through the old forest.
The snowplant wasn’t the only odd sight along the trail. A Brewer’s spruce had formed a nearly perfect circle of hanging pine needles creating what I called a shower curtain.
I of course had to step inside.
A lone beargrass preparing to bloom.
Lupine also getting ready for a bloom.
Trillium ending theirs.
Frog Pond with the cabin ruins in the stand of cedars to the right.
There was clearly going to be no view this morning so any though of either attempting the loop or going up to the viewpoint on the ridge ended here.
We checked out some of the flowers in the meadow and listened to the many birds in the area. The frogs were a little shy although they did put on a brief concert. I also continued around the south side of the meadow to see how hard the trail was to follow as I had read that it can be faint. I didn’t have any issued getting to the inlet creek where I turned around but could see where later in the year it might get tricky when the vegetation has had more time to grow.
A yellow-rumped warbler hiding in the branches.
This was the trickiest part to follow at the time but it was pretty easy to see where it picked up in the trees on the far side of the grassy area.
The inlet creek.
After exploring we headed back down the way we’d come, stopping to gawk at the snowplants along the way. It was a quick, short outing but a really nice one and we were able to make it home to Salem at a reasonable time. It had been a successful vacation, we’d had some great hikes and we managed to cross 9 more (and part of a 10th) featured hikes off our to-do list. It’s nice to feel like we are finally making some progress again in the Southern Oregon/Northern California area. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Frog Pond