In March of last year, we hiked the recently restored Layton Mine Ditch Trail north from Panther Gap Road to the Chinese Wall. Then, this January, I hiked the ditch from the gap south to its end at the head of the East Fork of Williams Creek. The ditch ends about 120 feet above the creek and it wasn’t immediately obvious how the miners got water from the creek up into the ditch. Post-hike research would reveal that they had installed a 600-foot long inverted siphon (in today’s terminology, a sag pipe) to carry water to the ditch from somewhere up the creek (today’s Pipe Fork). There’s no obvious sign today of headworks or pipe (which was 36 inch in diameter cast iron) at or near the ditch’s end. There may be remains of the siphon up the Pipe Fork. With that in mind, Hike #13 in Roether’s 2006 Williams Area Trail Guide seemed like one way to reconnoiter the drainage. So with The LovedOne away volunteering at the library, I soloed out to Pipe Fork to see what could be seen.
I started hiking from where East Fork Road is blocked by a yellow gate and where there was barely enough room to park one car (the easing of this parking bottleneck will likely have to await completion of the trailhead at the southern end of the ditch further up the road).
About 0.5 miles up from the gate along the gravel continuation of East Fork Road, another obvious, wide gravel logging road branches off to the right (west). I can’t say I was immediately enamoured with hiking a road but it got better and better the higher I went, as the road decayed into more of a trail and some old-growth forest appeared.
After a steep start, the road’s gradient eased and I strolled along through the needles and duff that had accumlated on its surface.
I passed a spot where half of the road’s width had been eroded into the creek drainage – a few more intense rainstorms and the road will be gone here.
About 1.6 miles from the gate, I came to a moss-covered spur road,
that contoured over to the creek. Despite the blizzard of fallen logs, I could get to the creek – which would be a handy source of water or a place to cool-off if you did this hike in summer.
Above this spur road, about 2 miles from the gate, the road began to deteriorate. The road prism became more eroded, it narrowed to a trail-like width, and trees and shrubs sprouted from it.
The first snow didn’t appear on the trail until around 3,600 feet,
then came into its own at 3,800 feet. After another short, steep stretch,
I popped out of the trees on to 6 to 8 inches of untracked snow on Glade Fork Road (Bureau of Land Management Road 39-5-22). Clearly, my initial idea of making this a hike and bike outing would have had some issues.
On my way down, the overcast relented and let some sun into the forest,
which made it a much cheerier place than it had been on the way up. Somewhere in here are the eastern-most stands of Port Orford Cedar in the Siskiyou Mountains.
This is in no way a view hike but there is one small spot on the road where I could see Big Sugarloaf Peak to the southwest and Little Humpy Peak to the east.
Once back at East Fork Road, I made a brief detour to see the creek and ponder what secrets it may hold regarding pipe. The road was cut too high above the Pipe Fork itself for me to see the creek. And there was also a lot of veg and forest obscuring the view into its depths. As I’d probably be looking for a twisted piece of metal or a few human-arranged rocks, further pursuit of this pipe dream may require a bushwhack up along the creek. Perhaps when I experience another Don Quixote moment.
Despite being put-off initially by the road, I found this hike to be pretty nice (7.9 miles round-trip; 2,000 feet of elevation gain) as a work-out and as a chance to see some old-growth and cedars. The higher you go, the better it gets. With its passage through deep forests, it would be a good summer hike and one you could make easier by shuttling via Glade Fork Road. Just be mindful that parking space at the yellow gate is extremely limited.