Since we moved to Southern Oregon, we’ve done any number of hikes around and near Applegate Lake, a reservoir at the head of the Upper Applegate River Valley, owing to the accessiblity of its trails almost all year round. But for any number of reasons, we’ve never visited the lake when its near to full; that is, when it looks like a lake and not giant mud-rimmed bathtub. The desire to see it at least once as a lake was strong, so when its pool elevation reached 1983.17 feet, with 1987.00 feet being full pool (dam hydrograph), it was time for a visit to view the waters. The LovedOne’s library volunteer duties kept her off this hike, so we’ll be doing another one here soon so she too can see the waters.
The 11-mile Mule Mountain~Mule Creek loop hike in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Valley (USFS #919) used to be a winter/spring favorite owing to its accessiblity in winter and wildflowers in spring. Unfortunately, access to the bulk of the trail on federal land was across a 0.3 mile easement on private land. In 2016, when that private land changed ownership, the easement was revoked. While some people still seem to be using the trail, doing so technically constitutes trespassing – which may become more of an issue if the new owner takes up residence on the site. The U.S. Forest Service is supposedly negotiating for a new easement but, in the meantime, they suggest accessing the loop from its top via the Charlie Buck/Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918). This approach does not have nearly the accessibility (it was closed by snow all winter) as did the old #919, but it’s what’s on offer at the moment.
For our sixth, and last, hike during our week wandering the Golden State, we decided it would be interesting to visit a waterfall. After consulting Soares’ 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California (2014 edition), we picked Feather Falls as our goal. It was low altitude (so no snow issues), had paved access, and was described (at 410 feet) as the sixth highest waterfall in the United States. In this wet year, we also figured it might be a more spectacular water feature than usual (and we were right). So, bidding a fond farewell to the Garlic Capital of the World, to drove to much less fragrant Yuba City, California, and, after a night there, on to Feather Falls. We arrived to find one of the largest paved parking lots we’ve ever seen at a trailhead (it would be overflowing when we got back). What the guidebook failed to mention is that this is likely one of the most popular dayhikes in the Plumas National Forest. Fortunately, our habit of arriving early and hiking steadily kept us ahead of the crowds for the whole day.
In the early 1970s, I was a frequent visitor to the west side of Pinnacles National Park (it was a national monument then) both for rock climbing and to spend time with friends who were then rangers at Chaparral. Some of my earliest rock climbs were done on the loose, crackless, downward sloping volcanic breccia that dubiously passes for “rock” at Pinnacles. I never made it over to the east side then and haven’t been back since. The LovedOne had never been there. So, after another night in Gilroy, California (“The Garlic Capital of the World”), we drove south to explore – for the fifth hike in our week of wandering the Golden State – the east side of Pinnacles. Thanks to the efforts of an early homesteader, Schuyler Hain, Pinnacles was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as a 2,500 acre national monument. Since then, the monument has increased in bits and pieces to its present size of about 26,000 acres. In 2013 President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress that redesignated the monument as a National Park.
After saying good-bye to Ken and Julie, we stayed one more night in Calistoga and then spent the next day driving further south to Gilroy, California, visiting bookstores along the way. From Gilroy (“The Garlic Capital of the World”), we would explore – for the fourth hike in our week of wandering the Golden State – the southwest side of Henry W. Coe State Park. At 87,000 acres (35,000 hectares), Coe is the largest state park in northern California and the second-largest in the state after Anza-Borrego Desert State Park east of San Diego. Yet, despite all the years we lived and hiked in California, including time spent in San Francisco, we never once visted Coe. So sad.
One of the goals for this visit to the Golden State was to catch-up with my old friend Ken (and his partner Julie) when his energies weren’t being given totally to the grape harvest. So after we finished our hike of Oat Hill, we went over to Ken and Julie’s for an excellent dinner, some of Ken’s wine, and a discussion of which hike to do together the next day. The weather forecast looked excellent – finally sunshine! – so we decided to hike the Moore Creek Trail from the Las Posadas trailhead down to the Moore Creek trailhead (brochure). This was the third hike in our week of wandering the Golden State.
This was the second hike in our week of wandering the Golden State. We spent the night in Calistoga, California – a nice little town toward the northern end of California’s Napa Valley. We were there last summer, when it was swarming with wine tasters. It’s a whole lot more mellow experience in the off-season. It rained overnight but, by morning, while the clouds persisted, the rain had stopped. Unsure of the width of our weather window, we didn’t want to sacrifice hiking time on a lengthy drive to a trailhead. Thus we decided to hike the Oat Hill Mine Trail because it literally starts right outside Calistoga. So, after an arduous two minute drive to the trailhead, we were on the trail and away.