This is one of the classic hikes in the Applegate Valley west of Medford; one that we first did last December when snow was in short supply. But last Sunday, a major storm dropped the snow level to 500 feet and the Mule Mountain area got plastered with 8 to 12 inches of fluffy new snow. What a welcome relief after two years of drought and skimpy snow! We took advantage of the brief break between storms for a quick snow hike up to the ridge crest at 4,300 feet.
We started from the (now closed) Mule Mountain Trailhead on Upper Applegate Road. Snow started showing up around the 2500′ level,
got thicker at the shady crest at 3,200 feet,
and was everywhere by 4,000 feet. We’d started under low clouds but actually climbed above them into sunshine at this point. 🙂
Above the clouds, we had a great view of the Red Buttes Wilderness to the southwest,
with the Red Buttes themselves sporting more snow than we’ve seen in two years.
We continued climbing toward the saddle at 4,300 feet on the south ridge of Baldy Peak,
observing the little stuff as we went along.
We stopped at the saddle for a snack and a view to the west of the Red Buttes and Siskiyou Crest,
of cloud-shrouded Greyback Mountain and Big Sugarloaf Peak to the west,
and of the old lookout on Squaw Peak across the valley to the east.
The sunshine lasted about an hour 😦 and then the next storm system started rolling in, preceded by high clouds that quickly blotted out the sun.
So we started down,
back into the low clouds that were once again starting to fill the valley below.
We dropped below the clouds at around 3,000 feet,
and continued back to the trailhead through the forest,
admiring patches of intricately constructed lichens,
the ever fascinating textures and colors of madrone bark,
and “waterfalls” of tree sap along the way.
A short (8.5 miles round-trip; 2,500 feet of elevation gain) but fun snow hike squeezed in between the waves of storms that seem to be our destiny this winter season. But all good after several years of drought. 😀