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.
The trailhead was much as before – a large parking area lumpy (with now dry) potholes, across Forest Road 22 from the nearly signless (there’s a small one nailed way up in a tree) start of the trail. However, the road has now been oiled as far as Wagner Glade to support heavy logging trucks and cut down on dust (mixed blessings here). There was one car in the lot when I got there. The trail itself was in fine condition and my early start meant that the climb to Warner Glade Gap was done in the cool of the morning. There were also no mosquitos! I was at the Gap in what seemed like no time. There’s definitely something to be said for being able to glide along an obvious, well-graded trail without having to concentrate on route-finding or climb over obstacles or swat at pesky bugs!
From the Gap, the trail essentially contours past Cold Spring, which was actually flowing this time thanks to the wet winter,
and then climbs gently through a field of sage brush toward the rocky summit which is barely visible above the trees. I passed a runner coming down from the summit along here.
I had the summit, with its remains of the old lookout, all to myself thanks to my early start. There was also a pleasant breeze to keep things cool and bug-free.
We have thus far escaped a big wildfire season but there are enough in the area (Island Fire, Chetco Bar Fire, Ana Fire) to provide smoke to sharply delineate the horizon and somewhat dim the 360º views from the summit. Still, the treeless slopes of Anderson Butte (post) stood out to the west,
while I could make out Dutchman Peak (post), the Red Buttes, and Preston Peak to the southwest,
and, through considerable haze and smoke, Pilot Rock, Mount Ashland, and Mount Shasta to the south.
The old lookout was not placed on the highest point on Wagner Butte – that tree-covered and viewless point (Point 7255) is just to the south.
It was smoky to the east as well but I could see most of the local landmark peaks if I squinted enough.
It was really nice on the summit but I sensed that others knew this too and were on their way up. So, after leaving my calling card in the register box and enjoying a snack, I started back. Another runner soon passed me going up and a short while later, passed me going down. After that I passed at least two dozen people on their way up – including one of our local TV sports personalities. It was just the kind of day that made people want to get out and hike! On my way down, I did take time to enjoy the wildflower displays in the lush meadows traversed by the trail. These high meadows are one reason our wildflower season can run from March to August.
When I got back to the trailhead – after a 10.2 mile roundtrip, 2,200 foot elevation gain hike – the parking lot was nearly full, with more cars pulling in as I was pulling out. You’ll never convince me that an early start isn’t the best start – unless you like a lot of company on the trail! I should note that the USGS map for this area is hopelessly outdated; only the Forest Service’s 2016 map (available on CalTopo) shows the correct alignment of both Forest Road 22 and the Wagner Butte Trail (but with two different trail numbers; the #1011 is what’s on their website).