Stein Butte (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. It was the last hike we did in 2014 (post), the first full hike we did this year, and one of our first hike & bike efforts (post), so it seemed only fitting that it be our last hike for 2016. The #929 trail is well-maintained, well-graded, and offers sweeping views once you reach the crest of Elliott Ridge.
In February of this year, I snowshoed to the summit of Brown Mountain (post), a relatively small shield volcano located in Oregon’s Klamath and Jackson counties, directly south of its more prominent neighbor, Mount McLoughlin. Then, later in the summer, we circumnavigated the mountain, on a combination of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and other local trails (post). While planning for these trips, I’d come across mention of the South Brown Mountain Shelter, lying just west of the PCT about two miles north of Dead Indian Memorial (DIM) Highway. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, which seems to have a plethora of shelters, they are few and far between on the PCT. Which, of course, made a visit to this one all that more attractive. So we waited until it could be done as an early Winter snowshoe and then drove – carefully – to where the PCT crosses the DIM at Pederson Sno-Park. This is an informal sno-park (with no amenities), so no permit is required to park there.
Searching for “Enchanted Forest” will almost invariably take you to the Enchanted Forest Storybook Theme Park near Portland, Oregon. As much fun for kids as that is, this Enchanted Forest is, on the other hand, a real hike on a real trail through a real forest in the Applegate River Valley near Williams, Oregon. This one is fun for kids too. We first learned of it from Evelyn Roether’s 2006 Williams Area Trail Guide and were then spurred on to investigate it by an oregonnaterpost. It’s maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is accessible year round, so it seemed like a good choice while we wait for the new snow in the high country to settle a bit. In the Spring, this trail system is an ideal place to enjoy some of the numerous species of wildflowers found in Southern Oregon. For additional adult entertainment, there’s the Enchanted Forest Wine Run in the Fall and nearby wineries all year-round!
The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail was the first trail we hiked in Southern Oregon before deciding to move south (post). Granted calling a trail “mine ditch” doesn’t make it sound all that attractive but it is, in fact, a very pleasant, low elevation, year-round trail, with wildflowers in the Spring and a rich history. We’ve now hiked the entire length of the trail between its Deming Gulch, Wolf Gap, and Little Applegate trailheads (post). Having done all this, the eternal quest for a new hike or a twist on an old hike kicked in. A posting by the Ashland Hiking Group attracted our attention to Anderson Butte (5,197 feet), a lumpy peak which rises above the eastern end of the ditch trail and which used to be graced by a fire lookout. After deep cartographic introspection, it looked like a loop could be formed using the ditch trail, some forest roads, and a bit of cross-country travel. The LovedOne has grown just a little leery of my “experimental” hikes and thus obtained a Winter Solstice Deferment (not enough daylight!) to avoid accompanying me on this one. So, feeling warmth only from my Dutch Brothers White Chocolate Mocha, I headed into the wilderness…
The Collings Mountain Trail (USFS #943) is one of several trails in the Upper Applegate Valley that offer hikers a low-elevation option in the winter months. The trail was named for two brothers who mined in the Upper Applegate Valley in the 1850s and 1860s. The hike up past Collings Mountain is a fairly easy one (if done clockwise) through now rare undisturbed low elevation forest, with occasional views both east and west. Today I combined it with the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of Applegate Lake between Hart-tish Park and Watkins Campground, to make a nice 11 mile loop hike. This loop hike is described in Ruediger’s The Siskiyou Crest (2013) and is Hike #64 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) but was inexplicably left out of Berstein and Urness’ 2014 Hiking Southern Oregon guide. This is a sad and questionable omission given that this Southern Oregon hike passes by what’s believed to be the world’s only Bigfoot Trap!
Mount Ashland is our local ski area and also a Sno-Park. Thanks to the ski area, the Sno-Park, despite its being at 6,600 feet, is usually readily accessible with little, if any, winter driving drama. The two days of the week when the ski area is closed is a perfect time to use the Sno-Park as the starting point for cross-country skiing or (in our case) snowshoeing on the forested slopes and snow-covered meadows along the Siskiyou Crest to the west. Last winter (2015-16), thanks to the plentiful snow brought by an El Niño, we were able to do several snowshoe trips from here to the Grouse Gap Shelter, Grouse Creek, and the summit of Mount Ashland (post). A La Niña (El Niño’s flip side) now seems to be settling in, bringing with it substantial early season snow (the ski area opened a week early) and starting the winter of 2016-17 toward (we hope!) being as much frozen fun as was last winter!