On Applegate Lake (Oregon) 12-Mar-2020

Well, these are trying times. Today we cancelled our long-planned trip to Cuba. The virus of course. Going anyway would have been inconsistent with helping to “flatten the curve” through social distancing (something we’re quite good at actually), avoiding crowds, and no unnecessary travel. As much as we wanted to, visiting Cuba at this time was clearly unnecessary. Not going proved costly, however, as the virus had invalidated our travel insurance. And then there’s the stock market’s search for the bottom. Watching your life savings evaporate on a daily basis is bracing to say the least. And then there’s that clown car of elected federal officials in Washington who only seem capable of making the Big V’s effects worse. Those poor benighted buggers couldn’t find their arseholes with both hands and a compass. Sigh. So we’re staying home, protected by walls built of the immense supply of toilet paper we seem to have mysterious accumulated. 🙄

We were sad about not going to Cuba this year (but we’ll get there eventually). The LovedOne dealt with this by doing some volunteer work at the library and starting another fiber project. I, of course, went for a hike – which is classed as necessary travel. What I needed were some simple trails that I could just wander around on while meditating on life’s vicissitudes. The web of trails on the Latgawa Peninsula on the east side of Applegate Lake were just the thing. I had no plan in mind and just made up this hike as I went along.

I parked at the French Gulch Trailhead and started out on the Payette Trail toward Latgawa Cove Camp (which is just a wide spot in the trail). Applegate Lake is actually a reservoir designed to fill from snowmelt and rainfall – of which there has been precious little this winter (we’re now officially in a drought). This becomes obvious when you compare the lake’s level today to what it was at the same time in 2017, a very wet year for us.

French Gulch today
French Gulch at this time in 2017

After a short walk on the Payette Trail, I turned on to the Calsh Trail and then the Prospector’s Loop Trail and climbed to the top of the peninsula.

The view south from high on the peninsula

Then it was down the Osprey Trail to Salmon Arm, where Squaw Creek enters the lake. Again, the low water in the lake was striking.

Salmon Arm today
Salmon Arm in wet 2017

I wandered over to Harr Point Camp, had a snack, and then did something I’ve never done before – walked across the bottom of the Arm to the Payette Trail on the other side. Even when the lake isn’t full, there’s enough flow in Squaw Creek to make a crossing like this tricky. Not this year.

The bottom of Salmon Arm

After crossing the Arm, I continued on the Payette Trail around the peninsula back to the French Gulch Trailhead.

Madrone leaves on the Payette
Lines formed by changing water levels
Salmon Arm
Looking south along the lake
Remains of the old state highway now buried in the lake
The dam and intake structure from the mouth of French Gulch
The lake reached the top of the intake structure in 2017 (the Corps was spilling the reservoir at this point)

It was a short (8 mile; 600 feet of gain) hike but doing it made me feel a lot better. Never underestimate the restorative power of the outdoors. 🙂

My wanderings around the peninsula

On the way home, I made a slight detour to get a shot of the Red Buttes, which tower over the south end of the lake. There’s a storm forecast for this coming weekend and hopefully it will make a dent in our drought. Failing that, the filling of Applegate Lake will fall to the sparse snow I could see on the Red Buttes.

Snow on the Red Buttes south of Applegate Lake
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6 comments

  1. Thanks! We were looking forward to a tropical interlude but if a missed trip is the worst thing that happens to us during the virus crisis then we’re fine with that. We too have another trip planned for August and are also hoping that things have settled down by then. Positive thoughts until then. 🙂

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  2. So sorry about your trip. We have a trip planned in August and hope thinks have calmed down by then, 5 months, should be no problem, right?! The photos are beautiful!

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