Thielsen Creek Loop (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 29-Jun-2015

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon

Having climbed Mount Thielsen a while back, we decided it was time to explore some trails on the west side of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness. We sketched out a variation of Hike #17 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). As an aside, there are essentially no trails on the east side of this wilderness, which suggests the possibility of some fun cross-country exploration/travel or maybe a wilderness traverse? Why we decided to hike on one of the hottest days of the year (so far) is not clear; suffice to say that the return part of our loop was a little like a torment-in-the-desert scene from the classic film Beau Geste. Sigh. But that was later.

We drove up to Diamond Lake and parked at trailhead for the Howlock Mountain Trail (USFS #1448) near the horse corrals. When we started up the trail at around 0900, the air temperature was very moderate (but the mosquitos intense) and after going toward the light under Highway 138,

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
The tunnel under Highway 138

we started a gradual, but steady, climb up into the wilderness on the well-maintained 1448 trail (but it’s dusty here due to the horse traffic).

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Along the Howlock Mountain Trail

About 3.5 miles up the trail, we came to Timothy Meadows near the wilderness boundary and to our first crossing of Thielsen Creek. Water in this area is essentially confined to this creek but suitable campsites on the forest duff (not the meadows) are readily available nearby. Here we left the 1448 and continued southeast on the Thielsen Creek Trail (USFS #1449).

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Thielsen Creek near Timothy Meadows

Despite the rising air temperature, there was still some flowering going on near the creek, in the open meadows, and even higher up on the slopes of Mount Thielsen.

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Floral exuberance

We got our first look at Mount Thielsen about 5 miles in from the trailhead,

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Mount Thielsen peaks above the forest
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Mount Thielsen’s north face

shortly before we reached a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
The #1449 ends at the PCT

We had lunch there – because there was maximum shade – and then headed south on the PCT to where it crosses Thielsen Creek.

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Crossing the head of Thielsen Creek on the PCT
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Upper Thielsen Creek

Here the air was thick with dozens on dragonflies and was curiously devoid of the mosquitos that had plagued us since the trailhead. Ah, aerial predation – gotta’ love it. 🙂

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Dragonflies (arrows) foraging beneath Mount Thielsen

South of the creek crossing, the PCT climbs the flanks of Mount Thielsen on some long, long switchbacks. This got us up to over 7,000 feet where the weather was pretty nice (but the sun intense) and also got us some views: of Howlock Mountain to the north,

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Howlock Mountain

of Diamond Peak and the South Umpqua fire (there’s currently a large Forest Service firebase at Diamond Lake) to the northwest,

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
The Umpqua Fire (L) and Diamond Peak (R)

and of Mount Bailey and Diamond Lake to the southwest.

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Mount Bailey (L)

After following the PCT south for about two miles, we reached its junction with the Mount Thielsen Trail (USFS #1456). Here we were photo-bombed by some large, unidentified insect and it became apparent that The LovedOne’s enthusiasm for the seemingly endless trail and high heat had faded completely (and then some). 😦

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
The LovedOne projects displeasure in front of Mount Thielsen

It seemed best, from a purely personal survival point-of-view, to stay ahead of her (i.e., out of reach) as we descended the 1456 to its junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail (USFS #1458) and then took that trail back to the trailhead. That was followed by a mad dash to the store at Diamond Lake for cold drinks! This is an interesting area and this moderate hike (13.5 miles round-trip; 2,000 feet of elevation gain) would have been really great had the air temperature been 15-20ºF lower. We can definitely see doing more here in the Fall when, hopefully, the temperature will be lower.

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Our loop around the west side of Mount Thielsen

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