Payette Trail (Applegate Lake) 29-Nov-2016

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

After several stormy days in otherwise bucolic Southern Oregon, today opened to near perfect bluebird conditions – sunny, crisp, and clear, with just a hint of clouds for contrast.  Rummaging through our list of low-altitude, snow-not-ready-yet-for-snowshoes, Winter hiking options, we came up with the Payette Trail (USFS #970).  This hiking and mountain biking trail runs for about nine nearly level miles along the eastern shore of Applegate Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers managed reservoir on the Upper Applegate River.  The reservoir’s pool elevation can change by 100 feet or more annually in response to seasonal rainfall.  So it looks like a real lake in mid-summer but a large mud bathtub in mid-winter.  Nonetheless the trails around it are good ones, and all offer some pretty vistas if you accept the “lake” for what it is.

We did this hike as a shuttle, leaving the LovedOne’s car at the French Gulch trailhead (ample paved parking but no amenities) and then driving around to the Manzanita trailhead (limited dirt parking, no amenities) near the south end of the lake. From here, the Payette Trail descends on an old road,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The trail just past the Manzanita trailhead

to a signed junction where it leaves the old road, continues down to just above the high water level, levels out, and starts offering views of the lake.  The popular Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940) runs along the west side of the lake here and eventually joins the Collings Mountain Trail (USFS #943), which passes the world famous Bigfoot Trap near its north end (post).

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking south across Applegate Lake from the Payette Trail

The Payette Trail then continues on along the edge of the lake. It’s mostly level for its whole length, which makes it popular as an easy, beginner mountain bike ride.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The trail just across from the Copper Boat Ramp

Just past Panther Gulch, the trail swings around a headland and heads east. From the headland, we got a glimpse back at the Red Buttes, now showing a foot or two of fresh snow from our recent storms (snow that will, come Spring, find its way into this lake).

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking south across Applegate Lake toward the snowy Red Buttes

All of the vascular plants have retreated into winter-time senescence, so, once again, we were encouraged to focus on the inherent beauty of the too-often overlooked, reviled, or just eaten (after a light sauté in butter) fungi.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

A cascade of ‘shrooms on an old log

Once the trail passes the headland, the view to the north opens up, and we could pick out peaks (Little Grayback, Baldy Peak) associated with popular low-altitude hikes starting in the Applegate Valley (for example: post).

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking north across Applegate Lake toward Little Grayback Mountain

The trail then continues through mixed stands of oaks, pines, firs, and madrones,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Along the trail

with openings that provide some interesting abstract views of the lake and its shore.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The incremental lakeshore rings of a closely controlled reservoir

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Reflections on Applegate Lake

Interspersed with these big, abstract views were much smaller ones of the mushrooms. Beetles had bored small holes in a tree – either before or after it had fallen over – then spores had found their way into these dark, moist, near perfect growth habitats and sprouted into a field of one inch tall mushrooms. Ah, yes, no niche goes unfilled…

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Mushrooms sprouting from beetle holes in an old log

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Ah, sharing…

The trail then continued along,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Along the trail

to Tipsu Tyee campground (USFS), which is accessible only by trail or boat.  The USGS map shows it well up-slope of the lake but now it’s right on the lake’s high waterline.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Tipsu Tyee Campground

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

A sunny day at Tipsu Tyee Campground

From the campground, the Harr Ridge Trail (USFS #947) climbs southward up to the ridgeline to where it leads to a cluster of other small trails: the Culy Trail (USFS #947A), the Cut-Off Trail (USFS #946), and the Squaw Point Trail (USFS #946A).  Known collectively as the Viewpoint Trails [not to be confused with the Viewpoint Trail over on the Latgawa Peninsula], they swarm around the point between the main lake and Squaw Arm and provide more views; but not all of these trails are well signed or signed at all.  We continued on from Tipsu Tyee,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Along the trail

to where we could look up the Squaw Creek Valley, with the creek’s braided channels in the foreground (only visible at low water) and snowy Squaw Peak on the far horizon. The old lookout atop Squaw Peak, reached via the Little Grayback Trail (OregonHikers Field Guide), is one of our favorite close-by hikes.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking eastward up the Squaw Creek Valley

We then passed Harr Point Campground (USFS), crossed Spring Gulch Creek,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Spring Gulch Creek

then the very robust bridge over Squaw Creek,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The massive bridge over Squaw Creek

went through the Payette Trailhead parking lot at the head of Squaw Arm and, after a short stretch of old road,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

A little road walking past the Squaw Arm parking area

rejoined the Payette Trail.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The Payette Trail north of Squaw Arm

After passing a junction with one of the several trails (USFS #972) on the Latgawa Peninsula between Squaw Arm and French Gulch Arm,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Passing the junction with the Sinns Bar Trail #972

we came into view of the dam itself,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The dam which forms Applegate Lake

negotiated a now unsigned (the sign having been torn away by some drooler) 5-way junction on a headland between the main lake and French Gulch Arm, descended past the primitive Latgawa Cove Campground, continued on to cross a small wooden bridge over French Gulch Creek,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The small bridge over French Gulch Creek

and emerged unscathed at the French Gulch trailhead. Then we rewound the car shuttle and headed home, having put in another “tough” (but totally amazing) day hiking in Southern Oregon.  NOTE: If you don’t want to do a car shuttle or an out-and-back hike, you can use an old road (as described here) to make a loop starting at the French Gulch or Payette (at Squaw Arm) trailheads, out to the Manzanita trailhead, and then back on the Payette Trail.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Our track along the Payette Trail

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2 thoughts on “Payette Trail (Applegate Lake) 29-Nov-2016

  1. Tobias Mann

    I love how detailed your blog posts are. I like how you provide links to each of the trails so anyone following a long can retrace your steps. Very cool. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to enjoy these hikes myself for a little while, but there are still plenty of places to go hiking in Minnesota and Wisconsin where I live.

    Great pictures by the way, it really helps to bring the story together. Can’t wait for your next post.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Boots on the Trail Post author

      I don’t have the literary skills to convey all the joy and wonder we experience in the out of doors, so I’ve focused on documenting our journeys so that others can came out and have those experiences for themselves. I guess the idea is to give folks some help in “hiking their own hike” so to speak. So thanks for letting me know you’ve found this approach useful. Minnesota is only 3 hours from Oregon by plane, so I hope you get a chance to come out here for a visit some day. We hiked Minnesota’s high point (Eagle Mountain) a few years back and, except for the bugs, really enjoyed it. We just received some guides and maps for the Superior Hiking Trail, so another visit to Minnesota may be in our future(?).

      Like

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