Many years ago, the Buck family owned several properties along the Applegate River in the vicinity of McKee Bridge. Around 1880, Charles Buck was a rancher at the mouth of Star Gulch and by 1900 was a settler about two miles away on lower Beaver Creek. He also had something to do with placing an early cow camp at Wrangle Gap, on today’s trail to Wagner Butte. We can’t say if Charlie was a good ol’ boy, but he was seemingly sufficiently respected to have a gulch and a trail named after him. Unless, of course, he just named them himself?
Charlie’s namesake trail, the Charlie Buck / Baldy Peak Trail #918, runs north and south past Baldy Peak between Charlie Buck Gulch and a trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 2010-300. From the forest road end, it’s not too much of a climb to Baldy Peak. From the Charlie Buck end, it’s a sturdy 1,600-foot climb in under a mile-and-a-half. Your lungs hurt on the way up and your calves and thighs hurt on the way down. It’s a good workout and the views from Baldy Peak are expansive, so I pitched it to The LovedOne. She was initially up for it until I sorta mentioned “ticks” and then the deal was off. The Big V was already giving her the creeps and she didn’t want to add tiny critters with sucking mouth parts and too many legs to that. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!
Which is why I found myself alone on FR 940 on the way to the #918’s northern trailhead. I parked at the last decent pull-out before the trailhead and walked up to it from there. I did this because, in recent years, the last mile or so of the road has been blocked by rocks or fallen trees or both. If you go past this last pull-out and find the road blocked, there’s no place to turn around and you have to back down the narrow dirt road. So walking was easier and I needed the exercise. Of course, the road was now free and clear all the way to the trailhead. 🙄
The trail itself between the Charlie Buck Trailhead and the saddle below Baldy Peak was in good condition and completely brush free. It is, however, steep. From the trailhead it lunges up the ridge, levels out for a bit through some stately Ponderosa pines, then shoots up again to the crest of Baldy’s west ridge, where it finally levels off for the crossing to a junction with the Mule Mountain Trail #919 on the saddle south of Baldy. Both sides of the trail here were swathed with tiny violet Filaree and bright white popcorn flowers.
The Mule Mountain Loop was the first real hike we did after finally settling in Southwest Oregon. Unfortunately, in 2016, the land at the loop’s lower trailhead was sold and the Forest Service lost the easement that had allowed the trail to reach Applegate Road. That piece of land has sold yet again but the Forest Service still hasn’t been able to regain its easement. A few people still hike up the #919 from down below but now they’re technically trespassing. From the saddle it’s a brief cross-country climb to the top of Baldy – steep but not nearly as steep as the trail getting here!
My time on the summit was brief – just enough for a snack and some re-hydration. Then it was back down the slope, trail, and road to the truck. My thighs and calves were definitely feeling the burn (as they say) by the time I got there (after having been distracted by yet more flowers).
So, a good, robust little hike (5.3 miles round-trip, with 2,000 feet of gain – less if you park at the actual trailhead) with flowers and views. 🙂 Since the trail was free of brush, I had no encounters with ticks (but I know they’re out there!). For a longer hike, it’s possible to use the Charlie Buck Trail to reach the lookout on Squaw Peak. Putting a shuttle car (or bike) at the top of FR 2010 keeps the length of a hike like this within reason.HOME