The Forest Service styles the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470) as the primary route through the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. This may be true in concept but, in practice, they seem to have given little, if any, attention to its maintenance. We have been exploring it in sections for the last few years and have found tread ranging from good (from its southern trailhead to Abbott Butte Lookout) to non-existent (between Falcon Butte and Abbott Butte). It would be the obvious thru-hike for this wilderness if one could trust the tread (and also find water sources). But our explorations continue, this time between Anderson Mountain and Hershberger Mountain, with a visit to Anderson Camp, Anderson Prairie, and the site of the Anderson Mountain fire lookout.
Because the #1470 is a linear trail, hiking it in sections without a shuttle requires some craftiness. I (The LovedOne was mulching some library finances) left the mountain bike at the head of Forest Road (FR) 6515, then drove down and parked the truck at the trailhead for the Anderson Camp Trail (USFS #1075) on FR 6515 at 4,950 feet (the #1075 does not start on FR 090 as shown on the 2008 Tiller Ranger District map or the Forest Service topo map).
There used to be a trail sign here, but some douchebag stole it, leaving only the now blank notice board. The Forest Service advises that this trail receives limited maintenance and thus may be encumbered with brush and downed logs. The tread was faint from the start, as I worked my way up past an old register,
through two short switchbacks (very easy to miss the turns on these),
through towering cedar trees,
and out into a large, grassy meadow where the corn lilies were just starting to emerge.
Anderson Camp, a late 19th-early 20th century sheepherder’s camp, commemorates Frank Anderson, an early sheepherder (it’s also been called Minter’s Camp). Back in the day, a thousand or more sheep used to graze in this meadow and on the prairie along the divide just above. It was too early for many wildflowers but this is apparently a prime area for them in season (see Elizabeth Horn’s 2006 Oregon’s Best Wildflower Hikes—Southwest Region).
I’d lost the trail when it entered the meadow, but by staying on its south side, I was able to wander uphill cross-country and reacquire the #1075 just before it reached the divide, after passing a Wilderness boundary sign. On top, immediately to the left (south) of where the #1075 meets the Divide Trail, I found three old wooden signs: one for the #1075, one for the #1470, and one pointing to Abbott Butte and Hershberger Lookout. From there, I went south on the #1470 (visible in the forest, non-existent in the meadows), across Anderson Prairie (old Frank got to name all kinds of places),
which provided one of the few expansive views along this stretch of the #1470,
and up to the old fire lookout site atop Anderson Mountain. A 30-foot pole live-in tower was built here in 1933, abandoned in 1958, and destroyed by burning some time after that.
Today, only the tower’s footings and some of its wooden support legs remain. The trees have grown up over the intervening years and now its view is gone too.
From the old lookout site, I went back across the prairie to the trail junction and started following the #1470 north. I was very pleasantly surprised to find this section of the trail pretty easy to follow – it was obvious in the forest and along the rocky sections and vague only those few times it crossed a small meadow. There was ravel on the tread – it obviously hadn’t been maintained for ages – but no large blowdown or encroaching brush.
Much of the journey north was through the forest, but there were spots where a view emerged. It was also possible to see the rust brown crowns of trees burned in the 2017 Pup Fire (one of the High Cascade Complex Fires).
Further north, the trail parallels an open rocky ridge,
and I went to the top of it for a view of Highrock Mountain to the northwest,
and of Hershberger Mountain to the north, with its historic fire lookout still intact. The Forest Service worked hard to protect this old wooden structure from the ravages of the 2017 Pup Fire, which was burning all around it at one time.
The trail continued along open, rocky ground,
and – sooner than expected thanks to the good condition of this section of the Divide Trail – I arrived at a junction where the Pup Prairie Trail (USFS #1434) goes off to the northwest and an unsigned use trail goes east to connect with FR 525 (where I’d stashed the bike). The #1470 from here north to Hole-in-the-Ground is in the footprint of the Pup Fire; we were lucky to have hiked some of this now-burned piece before the fire. This was a short hike (4.8 miles; 1,600 feet of elevation gain), but I’d allowed a lot of time for it not knowing the condition of the trail between Anderson Mountain and FR 525. But, thanks to the good tread, I’d arrived at the bike earlier than expected. It only took a second to realize what needed to be done. I hopped on the bike, zoomed down to the truck, and blazed down forest roads and Highway 230 to Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek, where I acquired two slices of their chocolate cream pie, before heading home to surprise The LovedOne with this sugary deliciousness! Hiking would be hard if it were not for pie…