East Fork Camp Creek (Soda Mtn. Wilderness) 03-Jun-2020

In the United States, wilderness areas were not established just so we could go hiking in them. They were created to serve higher purposes – such as securing the benefits of wilderness for present and future generations, preserving areas untrammeled by humans, protecting a community of life, etc. So one shouldn’t expect to find trails in these areas. It’s nice if there are some but that’s just sprinkles on life’s doughnut. So when the Soda Mountain Wilderness was designated in 2009, there were no formal trails in it other than the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which skirts its northern edge. There were, however, several old dirt logging and ranching roads. The Siskiyou Mountain Club turned some of these into hiking trails – most notably the Lone Pilot Trail and the Boccard Point Trail. This was great work on the Club’s part but it left more than a few of the old tracks unexplored. Inconceivable! Previous efforts on our part lead to explorations of Scotch Creek and Lone Pine Ridge. Today it was Camp Creek’s turn.

If you continue on the dirt road past the Hobart Bluff Trailhead (which was overflowing with parked cars today 😮 ), you’ll soon discover one of the bumpiest, most pothole-infested, most erosion-ditch bisected stretch of backcountry dirt in Southwest Oregon – just the kind of road your possessed GPS might suggest as an alternative to a nearby freeway. The LovedOne was continually scrabbling inside the cab to find something to hang on to as we bucked and heaved down this “road.” Fortunately it’s a short trip from the end of the decent dirt road at Hobart Bluff to where we parked just east of Soda Mountain. From here we followed a very decommissioned old road south above the west side of the East Fork of Camp Creek. It was a very uneven surface to hike on but there was no brush and it was obvious from the use trail we followed that others (likely hunters) use it.

The old road going south and, yes, there’s a use trail here
Working our way down the old road
Great Polemonium

After 1.4 miles of stumbling down the decommissioned road, we came to a junction. The equally distressed road coming up from the east (left) would be our return, so we turned right (west) and started along another old road that continued south. This one, however, had not been decommissioned and now lived on as a two-track trail that was remarkably easy to follow.

A much easier track to hike on 🙂
A puff ball the size of a grapefruit…
The old road did have its challenges…
And its more mellow stretches…

We followed this old two-track for about 1.2 miles to where the Forest Service map said is was supposed to end but where the Garmin map said it didn’t. Well, it didn’t. It went a little farther as a two-track and then plunged 700 feet down the ridge as what was once probably a log skid. This was the most brush-choked section we faced today but it only lasted for a half-mile and then we were on another old road, this one close to the creek.

Down the old log skid
The old road along the East Fork of Camp Creek

A short side road took us down to the East Fork – our objective for the day. It’s shown as an intermittent stream on the USGS map, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it still flowing reasonably well despite the nearness of summer and the drought. We also managed to surprise a wild turkey – enough so that it actually flew 😮 up into a tree to escape us. There are plenty of these walking around town but this was the first actual demonstration of flight by one that we’ve seen.

The East Fork of Camp Creek

After enjoying the creek, we returned via an old road that went up a side canyon and then met up with the road we’d hiked in on. This second old road was just as lumpy and uneven as the first one thanks to it having been decommissioned too. This hike was about visiting the creek but there was one gap in the trees where we got a view of Mount Shasta looming large to the south.

Up the other old road
Lumpy and uneven but not brushy!
Mount Shasta
Mountain Phacelia with guest
Almost back to the trailhead
The meadow at the trailhead

On most of our hikes we can keep a pace that averages out at 2-2.5 mile per hour. So this 5.8 mile (with 1,200 feet of gain) lollipop loop should have taken us maybe three hours. Instead, thanks to the lumpy old roads, it took closer to five and our feet were unusually sore from all the stepping over and around rocks and sticks. It was, nonetheless, a great hike in that we got to see the creek in action and visit a part of the Soda Mountain Wilderness that would otherwise be hard to access. 🙂 And we got to see a turkey fly! Something you usually only get to see during political campaigns. 😉

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12 comments

  1. Well, your experience hiking Kerby certainly sounds more interesting(?) than ours as we had the trail to ourselves. Not sure how you could walk 3.4 miles on that trail and not be on the summit – since the good trail goes nowhere else – unless what you were using to measure mileage was off. As for naked hikers & rattlesnakes – we usually try to give both as much space as they need. 🙄

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  2. We hiked the trail yesterday. Variable high clouds that did not interfere with our 360 degree view of the area. Tried to see Rabbit Lake but there were trees blocking the view of the water. Met one lone lady hiker that was hurrying back to the trailhead as her husband would be waiting for her. She said she didn’t know where the summit of Kerby Peak was, went 3.4 miles and turned back. Really??? We found the summit is very well defined! Also near Kerby Peak met a guy hiking with two dogs and two little girls. The girls had shoes on but no clothes! We have heard of people who like to hike in the buff but these girls were quite young. Also when we arrived back at the trailhead we saw a rattlesnake slither under the hiker’s car. We left a note on the road about the snake so they would hopefully not be surprised. Yes, the trail is in good condition, making it less painful to gain all that elevation. Thanks for the flower pictures and their names. We saw pretty much the same ones but didn’t have all the names.

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  3. Thanks for posting about the rabbit lake access to Kerby Peak. I saw the trail on google earth and wondered why the shorter trail is not used. Decommissioned road! Plan to take the regular 3.3 mile route today.

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  4. Beautiful landscapes, excellent photographic records !!! Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to visit one of these magnificent sceneries. Good walks

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  5. Judging from the use trail, some old footprints, and some old beer cans, a few people use these old roads, at least during hunting season. Nature is playing a part here – fallen trees, erosion, big slumps in the road prism, etc. – but the decommissioning went on for miles. BLM must have had a bigger budget for this kind of work back then. We figured they didn’t bother with the upper road because it doesn’t go anywhere.

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  6. Interesting hike. Not many people have gone here in a while. I used to decommission roads for BLM and I’ve found Nature does most of the work for you!

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