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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉RETURN TO FRONT PAGE