Collings Mountain Loop (Southern Oregon) 09-Dec-2019

The storms of winter have finally arrived. The snow depth is growing in the high country. Mount Ashland, our local ski area, opened a week early. Down lower, we’re having rain and fog interspersed with a day or two of clarity. I sought to take advantage of one of these clearings in the mists to do a little stiffer hike. A loop formed by the lower altitude Collings Mountain and Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trails came to mind. Easy access, a decent climb (1,800 feet), and a fair length (10 miles) seemed just about right.

We’ve usually done the loop clockwise – a long walk along the lake, then a gradual ascent followed by a plunging decent. Going counter-clockwise seemed like an easy way to change it up a bit. Unfortunately, The LovedOne doesn’t much care for this loop regardless of direction – something about a lot of work for hardly any views (which is true). So she opted to stay home and trim the tree (which cost more this year, pound for pound, than the other {now legal} crop we grow here). So I’d be hiking alone, secure in the knowledge that our cat (aka “The Princess”) would have something new to play with when I got back. 🐱

After successfully dodging a deer who seemed intent on impaling itself on my bumper, I parked at the Collings’ northern trailhead and started up along Grouse Creek through wisps of mist. The biggest attraction on this entire loop is the world famous bigfoot trap located about three-quarters of a mile in from the road. The Forest Service website also mentions an abandoned miners cabin but it’s been a pile of kindling for as long as we’ve hiked here.

The remains of the old miners cabin

I by-passed the trap this time (it was creepy enough in the mists without imagineering giant hairy creatures lunging from the woods), passed some old mine adits,

One of the mine adits (or Sasquatch burrows?) along the trail

and continued on up the steep, but well-graded, trail as madrones gave way to oaks and then pines.

A pink madrone along the trail
Madrone abstract
Into the pines

About 1,000 feet up, the mists abated and I was able to look out over the sea of fog settled on Applegate Lake – not unlike what I’d experienced last week at Mountain of the Rogue.

Applegate Lake is there under the fog

The trail’s grade slackens considerably when it reaches the top of the ridge and I began a gentle ascent around the west side of Collings Mountain. There are a few spots along here where there’s a decent view to the west.

The view from the west side of Collings Mountain: Craggy Peak (C), Steve Peak (S), Lake Mountain (L), Grayback Mountain (G), Big Sugarloaf Peak (B)
Grasses of many colors

The trail crosses the ridge just south of the viewless summit of Collings and then starts a long decent to its southern trailhead across from Watkins Campground. By now the fog over the lake had begun to dissipate and I got one of the few views available along this section of the trail.

The fog lifting off the lake, with snowy Dutchman Peak in the distance

By the time I got down to Watkins and the start of the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail, the fog was history and the rest of my hike proceeded under wintry, but welcome, sunshine. 😎 The boat ramp is named for the old mining hamlet of Copper that was removed to make way for the reservoir that is Applegate Lake.

On the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De before Copper Boat Ramp
A meadow past the boat ramp
Where the hamlet of Copper used to be

The lake is now drawn down in anticipation of winter rains and Spring runoff – the water level presently sits some 121 feet below full pool. I’m probably not supposed to, but I find that the juxtaposition of the green and orange, the striations created by changing water levels, the various shadows, and the overarching blue combine to lend the lake a compelling beauty at this time of year.

Low water in Applegate Lake, with Little Grayback Mountain in the distance
Looking south, with the Red Buttes on the horizon (which is in California)
Where Squaw Creek (right) enters the lake
Looking north toward the dam
Little Grayback Mountain (L) and the remains (arrow) of the road that used to reach the hamlet of Copper
The 1954 Ruch quadrangle map showing Copper and the road (arrow here and in previous photo) to it that is now buried in the reservoir (which went into service in 1980)
Water droplets contemplating their inevitable journey to the reservoir

Despite the limited views, this was still a good hike – especially because the fog went away and the sun came out for the return leg. And it was just long enough and high enough to move me closer to “normal” hiking condition. When I got home – after dodging enroute a dog intent on ramming my truck – I found the tree lit and The Princess asleep. Ornamentation is still a work in progress. Whether The Princess will bestir herself long enough (just getting to her food bowl is sooooo hard…) to pester the bright, shiny things that will eventually dangle from the tree remains to be seen. 🙄

Our seasonal cat toy
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8 comments

  1. Thanks for identifying the mountains on the horizon. And the history recap of Copper, and the map! Enjoy your hikes, photos are wonderful, and just enough storyline there to make me want to go hike it. I’ve done Collings Mtn, now its time to do some of the other trails. Thanks.

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