Applegate Lake (Southern Oregon) 12-Jan-2017

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

After seven days of cold, wet, snowy fury, the Great Storm of 2017 (or at least the first round of it) finally passed into history. This first day post-storm was predicted to begin grim but end clear and sunny, so I planned to hike up Baldy Peak on the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919), figuring my arrival on the summit would coincide with the dissipation of the clouds and the emergence of big views. Great plan, had it not been for the fact that the Great Storm had left a surprising amount of low-altitude snow in its wake – more than enough to smother the small road shoulder that functions as the “parking lot” for the #919 trailhead.  So, now parkingless, I pushed on to Applegate Lake where I was able to find, with some difficulty, a little snow-free parking near the Dagelma Trailhead.  From there, an out-and-back hike to the west end of Squaw Arm seemed like it might offer some sun-dappled views over the water should the clouds lift as promised.

From the trailhead, I went south on the Osprey Trail (USFS #973), down toward the lake. Much of this trail was covered with 6 to 8 inches of soft snow under a breakable crust, so, while it wasn’t quite postholing, it was more work than just walking. The clouds were still in place, so it looked (and felt) like the depths of winter (which, of course, it is).

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Down the Osprey Trail #973

After a short hike, I reached the head of the Squaw Arm of Applegate Lake, which looked definitely “wintery,”

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Squaw Arm

then continued on to connect with the Payette Trail (USFS #970), following that over the robust bridge at the head on the Arm,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The now snow-covered bridge on the Payette Trail at the head of Squaw Arm

and then west along the south side of the Arm.  As was the case with the Osprey trail, the Payette was also mostly covered with 6 to 8 inches of soft snow under a breakable crust, so more work for the weary hiker.  After crossing Spring Gulch, whose intermittent stream was in almost full flood,

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

The waters of Spring Gulch come alive in winter

I soon reached Harr Point Camp, a nice place for lunch in the summer, but now sporting an impressive (for 2,000 feet elevation) layer of snow.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Harr Point Camp in winter

A little further along, I came to Tipsu Tyee Camp – another summer favorite – now also mostly snow-bound.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Tipsu Tyee Camp in winter

By the time I’d plodded on to the west end of the Arm, the clouds had, in fact, started to dissipate and the sun had risen high enough to start shining down into the canyons that form the lake.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking south toward the Red Buttes from the west end of Squaw Arm

This was my turn-around point. So after a quick snack, I retraced my steps. By now, the sun, snow, and remaining clouds were interacting to paint mixes of light and dark and subtle reflections.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking west toward Collings Mountain

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking west from further up the Arm

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

Looking east up the Squaw Creek drainage

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

A closer look east up the Squaw Creek drainage

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

A last look over Squaw Arm, with Collings Mountain beyond

After seven mostly sedentary days spent weathering the Great Storm, the welcome exercise (thanks breakable crust!) and the sun coming through the clouds at just the right time made this a pretty good hike (6.8 miles; 300 feet of elevation gain).  Not the hike I’d planned for, but nice for a Plan B.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

My out-and-back track from the Dagelma Trailhead

Appelgate Lake captures runoff from a 220 square mile watershed primarily for flood control purposes, so it’s drawn down in the winter months in anticipation of the Spring rush. It’s only at its maximum (when it looks most like a “lake”) for a couple of months in the early summer before the next season’s drawdown begins in early July.

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

An example annual hydrograph for Applegate Lake

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2 thoughts on “Applegate Lake (Southern Oregon) 12-Jan-2017

    1. Boots on the Trail Post author

      The reservoir is designed to capture rainfall and Spring runoff across a 220 square mile watershed primarily for flood control purposes. So it’s at its lowest in February, reaches its maximum in May, and then starts drawing down again in July. It only looks like a “lake” for about 2 months of the year.

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