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. Thanks to plentiful snowfall these last two years (the current base is over 100 inches!), we’ve been able to use it for several snowshoe trips involving Grouse Gap Shelter and the summit of Mount Ashland. Last December, we started out for McDonald Peak, which is west of Grouse Gap and just north of the Siskiyou Crest, but stopped short once we saw the peak enveloped in clouds. With today predicted (correctly) to be a full bluebird day above the stagnant air clogging the valley floor, I (the LovedOne being preoccupied with sewing a sleeve on a sweater) headed up to the Sno-Park to have another go at McDonald.
Now that low altitude (snow-free) access to the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919) has been lost to private development, only two publically accessible trails remain to take you to the upper reaches of the forest east of Applegate Lake: the Stein Butte (USFS #929, post) and the Little Grayback (USFS #921) trails. The USFS has suggested a work-around for Mule Mountain involving the Charlie Buck Trail (USFS #918) but its trailhead is up a steep dirt road and is, at present, blocked by snow – not exactly a low-altitude, year-round accessible trail. The Little Grayback is not a trail that has (so far) made it into many guidebooks, but Ruediger (The Siskiyou Crest, page 110) considers it to be the most botanically interesting trail in this area. That, combined with the loss of the Mule Mountain, may increase its popularity, despite the rough dirt road to its trailhead. The Little Grayback can be hiked out-and-back in its own right (wildflowers in season, big views!) but you can also go from the end of it up forest roads to the lookout atop Squaw Peak [I realize some folks find this word offensive but the U.S. Board of Geographic Names has not yet seen fit to amend the maps in this area, so I’m stuck with it when describing this hike]. That lookout was today’s snowy destination.
While the Great Storm has made the Mount Ashland ski area (and nordic skiers and snowshoers) ecstatic, it has had a dampening effect on simple snow-free hiking. On the upside, all this snow has given me permission, so to speak, to hike some of the shorter, lower altitude trails that have been overshadowed by longer trails in less snowy years. So we’ve done more hikes around Applegate Lake than ever before. A couple of weeks ago I did a somewhat snowy hike out to the western tip of the lake’s Squaw Arm and that got me thinking about finishing hiking all of the trails on the Latgawa Peninsula across the water to the north. We had done one of those trails early in 2016 but never got back to do the rest. So, with the LovedOne preoccupied with finishing her quilting class homework, it fell to me to make my way to the Payette Trails’s Payette Trailhead at the head of Squaw Arm to finish these hikes.
After the Great Storm (aka the Big Dump) of 2017, we were able to sneak in a quick hike before the Spawn of the Great Storm was upon us. Now that too has passed and a period of sunny high pressure is settling in for a few days. Oh, bluebird days ahead! To celebrate the return of the Sun, while waiting (yet again) for the snow to settle, we decided to try the short low-altitude hike to Viewpoint Mike overlooking Lost Creek Lake, where the William L. Jess Dam impounds the Upper Rogue River. The trail meanders 2.5 miles (and gains ~1,000 feet) across several ridges on its way to a rocky outcrop about 600 feet above the dam. An out-and-back hike is fine but a loop hike is better still, so when we found that, back in 2009, the Ashland Hiking Group had made a loop out of this hike, we decided to try that. This was Plan A. But 2017 is not 2009 and we would discover, part way into the loop, that a Plan B was needed.
Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, the majority of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us. In an effort to be more social, we signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking. We had planned to refresh our social skills with them on a hike earlier this month, only to have it canceled by the Great Storm. So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when Joe – one of the meet-up’s assistant organizers – offered an easy hike on the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of Applegate Lake between the Swayne Viewpoint Trailhead and Watkins Campground. Unfortunately, when the Library got two big donations over the holiday weekend, the LovedOne had to skip this hike to enhance her social skills by volunteering to sort books and sniff the cellulose.
It took a few days following the Great Storm for the weather to return to being abundently clear and sunny and for us to feel the urge to try out the volumes of snow the Storm had dumped on us. Having made the short snowshoe out-and-back to the South Brown Mountain Shelter before the Great Storm, we thought we’d try a little longer trip to the Summit Shelter. This shelter sits in a cluster of nordic trails (more details here) just north of Highway 140 near Lake of the Woods, Oregon; trails that are readily accessible from the deluxe (it has ample parking AND a pit toilet) Summit Sno-Park. It was clear, sunny, and about 12ºF when we pulled in to the sno-park, with its great view of Brown Mountain to the south (post).