Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, all of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us. In an effort to be more social, we finally (after lurking their site for a year) signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking. My first effort at one of their hikes – a climb of Greyback Mountain (post) – went well, except for the fact that only the trip organizer and I were on it (the LovedOne having determined it was too hot to hike that day). So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when the organizer of the Grayback Mountain hike – Joe – offered a moderate hike on the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959).
The Cook and Green Trail starts from the Middle Fork Applegate River and ascends 8.2 miles to the Siskiyou Crest, where it feeds into the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Its name comes from Robert Cook and the two Green brothers who were partners in several mining ventures in this vicinity during the 1870s and 1880s. Records show the trail was originally built by miners, but it may have been improved and re-routed by Civilian Conservation Corps crews who were based in this area in the 1930s. About four miles from the trailhead, it passes No-See-Em Camp, which would be our turn-around destination for today’s SOHT hike.
When ten people (us included) showed up at the meeting in Jacksonville, Oregon, we knew that we were finally going to have an authentic meet-up experience. From Jacksonville, we carpooled to the lower Cook and Green trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 1040 (USFS TH) – parking for 6-8 cars but no amenities. It isn’t officially Fall yet but it sure felt like it down in the canyon next to the river.
After minimal preliminaries – and another shot at trying to remember names (always my weak point) – we were off up the trail .
We began with an easy, winding ascent through a mixed forest of oaks, pines and, madrones. All the bugs were gone and the poison oak (which is plentiful in this area) had started to die back for the season. It felt good to be moving in the cool of the morning.
After its inital climb in the first mile or so to 2,800 feet, the trail almost levels off as it contours above Cook and Green Creek in a southeastly direction. This is where the first rays of sunlight struck and we were able to start shedding layers of clothing.
Giant pine and fir trees captured a lot of attention along this stretch of the trail. But we also noticed the abundance of golden chinquapin trees, a rare type of chestnut – whose fuzzy, but sharp, seed pods were strewn on the trail. Some of the fir trees here have fallen victim to dwarfed mistletoe, a native parasite. Affected trees can be identified by their many “witches’ brooms,” large masses of excess twigs and foliage. Other stresses, both pathological and environmental, can lead to the formation of brooms. Organisms such as fungi, mites, aphids and mistletoe plants can cause abnormal growth when they attack a host tree. Environmental stresses that injure the growing points of branches can also trigger the formation of brooms.
From 2,800 feet, the trail climbs almost imperceptibly up toward No-See-Em Camp at 3,400 feet. Following the trail here was just a pleasantly warm, easy stroll through a sun-dappeled forest, past an small spring or two.
After about four miles, we reached No-See-Em Camp, a wide spot between the trail and the creek large enough to accommodate 2-3 tents.
The trail continues on and up beyond the camp for about four miles past Bear Gulch to the Pacific Crest Trail on the Siskiyou Crest above. The higher reaches of the trail are coveted by botanists and include conifer relics such as the Brewer Spruce and hundreds of other plant species. At 8.2 miles the trail reaches Cook and Green Pass (also accessible via FR 1050), which at 4,600 feet is the area’s lowest passage over the Siskiyou Crest. This route once served as the best route from the Applegate Valley to the Klamath River. At No-See-Em, we stopped for snacking and talking,
enjoyed the creek (a reliable water source between the trailhead and the pass),
and then headed back to the trailhead.
This part of the trail doesn’t offer much in the way of views – the big ones come if you go all the way up to the Crest – but there is one spot where you can catch a glimpse of an edge of the Red Buttes (post) to the south.
On the way back, about 0.25 miles from the trailhead, we noticed that the trail crosses an abandoned ditch likely dug back in the day to bring water from Cook and Green Creek to some mine workings further down the valley. A great deal of work for what was likely not much of a pay-out.
And then we were back. A moderate (8.5 miles round-trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) hike but just enough of one, after sitting on a raft for several days, to get the parts moving again for the next hike. It was also a good introduction to the meet-up / hiking experience – we’ll have to do this again. Thanks Joe!