Looking (as always) for a loop hike with views, I came across the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959) – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958) loop in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. This is hike #154 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) He has you doing the loop counter-clockwise, which I would not recommend. Ruediger details the various botanical features of this loop in his book, The Siskiyou Crest. As this loop was estimated at 15+ miles with a lot of gain, The LovedOne opted to stay home and knit.
I parked at the Horse Camp Trailhead and then walked the 0.5 miles back down Forest Road (FR) 1040 to the Cook and Green Trailhead. From there, I climbed the trail steadily, but gently, up through a 2012 burn [Update: This entire area was burned again by the 2017 Cook and Abney Fires],
into oak woodlands,
to “No-See-Em Camp” – a small flat spot along Cook and Green Creek about four miles from the trailhead.
After crossing both Cook and Green and Bear Gulch Creeks, I started climbing again (still easily – there’s nothing steep about this trail) through forests of fir,
across an open area sporting clumps of the dreaded manzanita,
and then on to trail’s end at Cook and Green Pass at its a junction with the PCT and FR 1055.
After a quick snack at the pass, I headed southwest on the PCT,
savoring the expansive views offered by the crisp, clear winter air,
and the PCT’s rocky, open character in this area.
Soon the double-hump of the Red Buttes came into view,
with their very depleted snow pack. That I was able to do this hike in January wearing just trail runners speaks to the 18% of “normal” snow level we’re currently experiencing.
The PCT – Horse Camp Trail (which leads to Echo Lake) junction is on the saddle just east of the Red Buttes. The Horse Camp Trail is much steeper than the Cook and Green Trail – it gains (or loses) 3,500 feet in just four miles, while it took the Cook and Green – PCT combination almost 11 miles to make that gain. It is also less used and less maintained. I could see Echo Lake from the saddle,
but had to negotiate a few patches of icy snow and some faint trail to actually reach the lake, with its thin coating of ice.
The trail became very faint below the lake,
and some navigation was needed to re-acquire it at about the 4,700-foot level. When I later matched my actual track to the “mapped” trail alignment, it became obvious that the mapped alignment was fanciful, at best, in a few places. But from 4,700 feet down, the trail was easy to follow and took me through several stands of ancient cedars and firs,
as it worked its way down through more than a few switchbacks to the Horse Camp Trailhead. A great loop hike (15 miles round-trip; 3,500 feet of elevation gain) with views, creeks, lakes, and ancient forests. 😀
I’d met someone in Portland who’d worked on the roads around Applegate Reservoir back in 1978. He said that some trees that had been left standing at the south end of the lake as raptor perches. Well, they’re still there, but it may be too early yet for raptors.
The Corps starts filling the reservoir today and since it relies on rainfall (which we’re finally predicted to receive in the coming days 🙂 ) and not snow, there’s a good chance it’ll look more like a lake by summer. Fingers crossed on that happening…