It was time for a hike that was close (no long drive to the trailhead), straightforward (no cross-country adventures this time), and high (above the valley heat if possible). After engaging an extra brain cell, it dawned on me that an old favorite, Wagner Butte (USFS #1011) was the perfect choice. Although we’d been up there many times before (post), it had been awhile since we’d done it as a snow-free summer hike. So, with the LovedOne committed to spending the day at a cow-quilting class in Ashland, I soloed up to the Wagner Butte Trailhead to once again enjoy this old classic.
Big Blue Lake is situated at the northern end of California’s Russian Wilderness. I came across it in Lautner’s Day & Section Hikes, Pacific Crest Trail, Northern California (2010), where reaching it is portrayed as an off-trail adventure hike. And so it was. Going cross-country to Big Blue is a lot of work but, once you’re there, it’s an exquisite turquoise blue gem of an alpine lake, set in a rugged granite bowl. On reflection, it would have been better to have hiked to it on a cooler day and on one where the scenery wasn’t faintly obscured by smoke from a wildfire smoldering some 10 miles to the northwest in the Marble Mountain Wilderness (Island Fire). Ah, hindsight.
Stuart Falls is a gorgeous 40-foot or so cascade of silver water nestled in a spectacular forest in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, near the extreme southwest corner of Crater Lake National Park. It has some wonderful campsites at its base and used to be readily accessible via the Red Blanket Trail (USFS #1090) from a trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 6205 to the west. But then this area was touched by the 2008 Lonesome Complex Middle Fork fire, which removed a lot of the understory and ground cover. This was followed by two years of minimal snow cover, punctuated by short, but intense, bursts of rain. No longer slowed by an understory, this water tore down gullies and completely obliterated the #1090 in several places (and also closed FR 6205 2.5 miles from the trailhead). Using my 4×4 to reach the trailhead, I did this hike in 2015 (post) and found the journey to the falls to be difficult at best and possibly even dangerous. A return visit seemed unlikely until I realized there was a safe (but slightly longer) way in from the east via the Pumice Flat Trail. So, leaving the LovedOne immersed in some sort of intricate fabric project, I headed out to return to the falls.
Tipsoo Peak (8,034) is one of the few 8000-foot Cascade volcanos (it ties for #38 in terms of elevation) with a well-graded trail to its summit. Located in Oregon’s Mount Thielsen Wilderness, it is an easy hike to spectacular 360º views, including Howlock Mountain, Mount Thielsen, Mount Bailey, Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, and Diamond, Miller, and Maidu Lakes. Directly south of its summit is the highest point (7,560 feet) on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Oregon and Washington. We decided to do a quick hike to its summit to: (a) take in the views on what was to be a full bluebird day, (b) check-out snow levels along the PCT, and (c) generate an excuse to stop at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek for some of their delicious pie (because hiking is hard and you need to stay fueled!).
The Jacksonville Woodlands Trails are 18 miles of connecting interpretive and recreational trails surrounding 70% of the historic district of Jacksonville, Oregon. They are popular – when not too muddy – in the winter when snow closes the trails in the high country and wildly popular during the Spring wildflower extravaganza. By summer, however, the flowers (and mud) are gone, the poison oak is out in its full toxic glory, and mid-day temperatures aren’t necessarily hiker-friendly. But with an early start, a summer hike in the Woodlands offers up some interesting sights without becoming a remake of Beau Geste.
The South Fork Rogue River, a 25-mile tributary of Oregon’s Rogue River, rises in the Blue Lake Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and flows generally northeast to its confluence first with the Middle Fork and then with the main Rogue slightly upstream of Lost Creek Lake. The South Fork is bordered for part of its length by three hiking trails: the Lower South Fork Trail between Lower South Fork Bridge and Imnaha Creek (USFS #988), the Middle South Fork Trail between the Upper and Lower South Fork Bridges (USFS #988), and the Upper South Fork Trail from near Upper South Fork Bridge to the Blue Lake Basin (USFS #986). Both the Lower and Middle trails are locally popular and are also described in almost every hiking guidebook for this area. The Upper trail is rarely mentioned (if at all) in local guidebooks and is described by the Forest Service as a minimally maintained primitive trail, one not recommended for horses, and a challenging workout for hikers. This made a hike of it sound intriguing for one last venture into the Sky Lakes until the end of mosquito season in September.