Categories
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.

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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.

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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
Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Collings Mountain and Jacksonville

Lingering snow in the mountains has continued to force us to rearrange our planned hikes. We had planned on an extended weekend backpacking trip from 6/8 to 6/12 from Grayback Mountain to the Red Buttes Wilderness but by mid May it was clear that unless we wanted to deal with a good deal of snow we’d need to hold off on that trip. After much juggling on our spreadsheet our new plan was 4 days of hiking around Medford and Jacksonville.

We set off early on Thursday morning heading south on I-5 to Medford. Our plan was to get a hike (or two) in before checking into our motel. Our first stop was at Hart-Tish Park at Applegate Lake. From Medford we followed Highway 238 through Jacksonville to Ruch where we turned left on Upper Applegate Road for 15.9 miles.

After picking up a $5 day pass at the Hart-Tish Store we set off from the day use area on a paved path toward Applegate Lake.

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The lake was pretty busy for a Thursday morning.

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From the picnic area we turned right following the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail along the lake shore.

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The forecast had called for rain but it was shaping up to be a really nice day.

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A nice variety of flowers were blooming along the level path.

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There was also a fair amount of poison oak but the trail was wide enough that it was never really an issue.

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After 3.6 miles we arrived at Watkins Campground where we crossed Upper Applegate Road to the start of the Collings Mountain Trail.

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The 6.9 mile Collings Mountain Trail would lead us back to Hart-Tish Park after passing over the 3625′ summit of Collings Mountain. The trail climbed through a dry forest with occasional views down to Applegate Lake and to the snowy Red Buttes Wilderness beyond.

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There isn’t really a view from the summit but we spotted a few additional types of flowers along the trail.

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Just over three miles from the summit the trail passed a prospectors adit on the left.

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Another quarter mile brought us to an unmarked but obvious side trail on the left that led uphill a short distance to a Bigfoot Trap which was unfortunately empty.

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From the side trail it was a little over half a mile back to the the Hart-Tish Park day use area where the clouds had lifted enough to reveal Red Buttes beyond the far end of Applegate Lake.

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It was a little after 3pm when we arrived back at our car which meant we could check into our motel now, but we had one other hike planned for the day in Jacksonville. We drove back to the former gold mining town and parked near the visitors center at the end of C Street.

From the parking lot we followed stairs up to a crossing of Highway 238.

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Another set of stairs brought us to Britt Gardens, the site of the home of Peter Britt that unfortunately burned down in 1960. Uphill to the left an open air amphitheater hosts the Britt Festival’s summer concerts.

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We followed a path to the right to a sign board for the Sara Zigler Interpretive Trail.

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This trail passes the Britt Sequoia, a 4-foot-diameter tree planted by Peter Britt in 1862 on the day of his Son’s birth.

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The trail traverses a hillside before dropping slightly to a crossing of Jackson Creek near another possible trailhead along Highway 238.

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We took the Jackson Fork Trail from this parking area and quickly recrossed Jackson Creek.

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We followed the Jackson Fork Trail uphill where we spotted a a Washington lily, a California harebell, and several California ground cones.

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We stuck to the Jackson Fork Trail until we saw a pointer for Panorama Point at which point we followed pointers for it amid the oak grassland.

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The horizon was too cloudy for us to see Mt. McLoughlin but on a clearer day it would have been visible from the viewpoint.

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We continued past the viewpoint and descended into Rich Gulch.

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Then we followed pointers for Oregon Street.

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At Oregon Street we hopped onto the road and followed it into town where we took a brief walking tour of the historic buildings.

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Before returning to our car we stopped at Bella Union for dinner. As it turned out they were celebrating their 29th birthday with free appetizers, birthday cake, and a champagne toast. The food and atmosphere were wonderful and an excellent way to finish off the first day of a vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Collings Mountain and Jacksonville

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 2 – Azalea Lake to Echo Lake

After a good nights sleep at Azalea Lake we packed up and got ready to hit the trail.
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We followed the Butte Fork Trail from the lake and headed downhill toward Cedar Basin which was .9 miles away.
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At a trail junction in the basin we turned right following a pointer for Fort Goff.
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This trail began climbing gradually through beargrass meadows in a forest that had been impacted by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire.
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After almost a mile and a half we took a side trail to the right to visit Lonesome Lake where we had originally planned on staying the night before. As it turned out much of the area around the lake had been burned by the same fire and there didn’t seem to be many places to set up a tent.
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From Lonesome Lake the trail continued to climb up to the Siskiyou Crest where views extended ahead to the Red Buttes. To Echo Lake, our goal for the day, we would need to make it around the back side of the buttes where we would pick up the Horse Camp Trail and descend a half mile to the lake.
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While looking back at the hillsides above Lonesome Lake I spotted something that looked brown and thought that maybe it was a deer.
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As I was busying zooming in on a rock Heather spotted a bear moving across the rocky slope to the right of were I was looking. She lost it in this clump of trees but I took a picture anyway. There is a suspicious black thing in front of the trees but we couldn’t tell if it was in fact the bear or if it is a piece of burnt wood.
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After crossing over the crest we were now on the Boundary Trail which followed the crest east joining the Pacific Crest Trail on the shoulder of Kangaroo Mountain. The Fort Complex Fire over-swept the entire section of the trail between Lonesome Lake and the PCT as well as a portion of the PCT. This left a lot of burnt trees and some sections of thick brush that has since grown up along the trail.
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The brush was the thickest in the first quarter of a mile or so and then it thinned out some. The trail here was a little tricky to follow so we had to make sure we were paying close attention to it’s location both ahead on the hillside and directly in front of us.
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The views along the trail were great. With very few trees left we could see unobstructed in every direction. It was a cloudy day but they were high enough in the sky to reveal many of NW California’s peaks, most of which we were unfamiliar with.
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Polar Bear Mountain, Preston Peak, and El Capitan
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To the NE were some more familiar peaks.
Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Thielsen and the peaks around the rim of Crater Lake
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We were also beginning to see more and more interesting rocks along the trail.
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Often we could see the trail further ahead easier than it was to pick out directly in front of us. A good example of this was the trail leading up and around Desolation Peak.
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The trail climbed in a series of switchbacks on the side of Desolation Peak where we were surprised to find some scarlet gilia still in bloom.
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Switchback on Desolation Peak
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After getting around Desolation Peak we got our first look at Mt. Shasta.
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We had passed around Goff Butte, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Desolation Peak and up next was Kangaroo Mountain where we would find the PCT.
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Kangaroo Mountain is made up of the same type of red rock, peridotite, as Red Buttes.
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We met the PCT on the south side of Kangaroo Mountain and took a celebratory break.
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While the Boundary Trail has seen little to no maintenance since the 2012 fire the PCT has been. While we were sitting on a log having a snack we saw our first other humans of the trip. Three members of the Forest Service out on a tree survey were hiking up the PCT and heading back to their vehicle. After a brief conversation they went on and we soon followed heading toward Red Buttes.
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Kangaroo Mountain was by far the widest peak that we’d gone around that day and the backside was an interesting mix of rocks with marble outcrops dotting the red peridotite.
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We arrived at Kangaroo Spring to find the springs dry although there did appear to be some water further offtrail on the downhill side of the PCT.
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Next we passed Lily Pad Lake where several ducks were paddling about.
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We were coming out of the burn area and passing a series of meadows that still held a few wildflowers.
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We popped out of the trees below Red Buttes near Bee Camp.
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A half mile after crossing an old road we arrived at the junction with the Horse Camp Trail and a unique pointer for Echo Lake.
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We took a moment to take in the view then spied the lake below us and began the half mile descent to the lake.
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We turned left at another pointer for Echo Lake before arriving at the pretty little lake.
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We set up out tent and rainfly as the forecast when left had been for a chance of showers Tuesday night and rain on Wednesday.
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No sooner had we gotten settled into the tent when it began to rain. The wind blew and the rain fell all night long. We got what sleep we could wondering what Wednesday would be like and just how wet we were going to get. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/7215766058094952

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 1 – Sucker Creek Trailhead to Azalea Lake

After spending two days in Crescent City, CA hiking in the Redwoods we headed up Highway 199 to the Oregon Caves Highway 46 and drove to the Sucker Creek Trailhead. We were planning on spending 4 days and 3 nights backpacking in the Red Buttes Wilderness. The wilderness was established in 1984 and encompasses 20,323 acres mostly in California but with some of that area located in Oregon. Running through the wilderness is the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains which include some of the oldest rocks in the region. These began as ocean bottom sediments eventually becoming metamorphic rock uplifted by the North American Plate scraping the ocean floor as it drifted westward across the Pacific Plate.

The trailhead sign was set back behind some vegetation and at an angle such that we missed it the first time by and very nearly did the same as we came back down the road, luckily my wife spotted it just before we drove past again.
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The trip had a real wilderness feeling to it right from the start. The trail had the appearance of a less traveled path and the trail signs we did see seemed to have been there for decades.
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There were also a few downed trees to navigate our way around or over.
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After about 2 miles of climbing we entered a series of meadows where the tread became faint.
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Just under 3 miles along the trail we spotted the Sucker Creek Shelter in a meadow below us to the left of the trail. We followed a fairly steep path down to the shelter to check it out and take a short rest before continuing on to Sucker Gap.
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Sucker Gap is located at a saddle on a wide ridge with a four way trail junction. We followed the pointer for Steve Fork.
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Two tenths of a mile beyond Sucker Gap we took a 100 yard side trail to our right and visited Cirque Lake.
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Beyond Cirque Lake the trail began a 2 mile descent to a trail junction where we would head back uphill on the far side of the valley to the Azalea Lake/Fir Glade Trail.
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We climbed back up out of the valley only to once again begin descending down the opposite side of a ridge. The vegetation was vastly different on this side of the ridge with plenty of manzanita bushes making up the majority of the underbrush.
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We even spotted a butterfly in the area.
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We switchbacked downhill for a bit before reaching the junction with the Azalea Lake/Fir Glade Trail where we again took a right.
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The Azalea Lake Trail climbed to a pass with some great views above Phantom Meadows.
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After passing around the south ridge of Buck Peak we got even better views including Azalea Lake, Mt. McLoughlin, and our first views of Red Buttes.
Azalea Lake and Mt. McLoughlin in the distance
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Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain, and Desolation Peak from left to right.
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We followed the trail down to Azalea Lake and headed around the west side of the lake where the designated hiker camps are. (Horse camps or on the east side.) We hadn’t originally planned on staying at Azalea Lake and had intended to continue on to Lonesome Lake which was another 2.3 miles away, but we were running late and after taking a wrong path leading away from one of the campsites we decided to call it a day and set up camp.
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Figurehead Mountain
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It turned out to be a great decision. The lake was very peaceful with small fish occasionally jumping and the pine needle covered ground made for the most comfortable night we’d spent in the tent. It had been 13.1 miles from the trailhead to the lake including our little side trips and we hadn’t seen another person all day. What we had been seeing was a lot of poop, more specifically bear poop but we hadn’t spotted any that day. We went to bed tired but relaxed wondering what the next day’s trails would bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660604852831