Yellow Jacket Camp (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 06-Jul-2020

I have a conflicted relationship with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail #1470 which runs the length of Southern Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. On one hand, the Forest Service’s website styles this trail as the “primary route” though this wilderness, but only a few sections of it appear to have seen any maintenance for a long, long time. On the other hand, it provides access to views, old lookout sites, meadows with wildflowers, and otherwise inaccessible parts of this wilderness. But, like that famous “box of chocolates”, you’re never quite sure what to expect – easy movement on good trail or an arduous slog on dim, overgrown tread over, under, and around fallen trees of varying sizes. Today’s adventure (which The LovedOne wisely decided not to get sucked into) was to see what the #1470 was like between Yellow Jacket Camp (not to be confused with the Yellow Jacket Loop Trail #1522) and Anderson Mountain.

The challenge with section hiking a linear trail like the #1470 is figuring-out how to loop back to your starting point. Doing so for this particular section involved some travel cross-country, on gravel roads, and on the much faded Anderson Camp Trail #1075. So, after parking in a pull-out on Forest Road (FR) 6515, I climbed a 45+ degree slope to the end of an old logging road (FR 770) some 700 feet above.

Parking along FR 6515 – the hike started up the slope to the right
Climbing a rock outcrop on the slope

I reached the end of FR 770 at the top of the slope only to find it choked with Snowbrush – another nearly impenetrable variety of Ceanothus. Fortunately this brush abated after only a few hundred yards and then it was easy walking on open, lightly used FR 770 (since it doesn’t connect to another road, it’s likely used only during hunting season).

FR 770

After 2.5 miles on FR 770, I came to a four-way junction with FR 500 and FR 700. Here FR 700 is also part of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Route #23, the Golden Stairs Loop Trail. This reflects the fact that while the west side of the Divide is a wilderness area, the east side has been given over to OHV trails. It’s also ironic that in order to create OHV Trail #23, the Forest Service abandoned the Golden Stairs Trail #1092 🙄

FR 700 / OHV #23

I turned up OHV #23 and, in just over a mile, reached the kiosk and sign that marked the location of Yellow Jacket Camp (or Yellow Jacket Gap, because a Forest Service telephone line construction crew encountered a nest of yellow jackets here in 1924). This is where I started northeast on the #1470.

Yellow Jacket Camp

It was immediately apparent that this section of the #1470 was one that hadn’t seen maintenance in ages. The first half mile past the camp is an old skid road – which should have made for easy going. It didn’t thanks to the fallen trees, intrusive vegetation (vine maples were the worst), and eroded tread.

One of the few good stretches of the old skid road
Several of more than a few trees across the trail
Columbia Windflower

After that half mile, the road petered-out and the #1470 made a sharp turn to the right (east) and settled into being a faded, often overgrown, fallen tree blocked single-track tread for the next three miles. By paying attention (no meditative strolling here), I could always find the tread but dealing with the brush and the fallen trees made this three-mile journey much more exhausting than it should have been.

A thin tread through the forest
Serpentine Arnica

But this struggle finally paid-off as I got near Anderson Mountain and encountered the first of several large, wildflower-rich meadows and some views. Of course, the growth in these meadows completely obscured the trail but I could always find it again, after some looking around, in the forest on the other side.

One of the meadows
The #1470 near its junction with the Sandstone Trail #1436
Approaching Anderson Prairie below Anderson Mountain (the trail is completely covered here)
The view to the west from Anderson Prairie
Anderson Prairie on the divide – Anderson Mountain is to the right

Anderson Mountain is the former site of a now long gone fire lookout but there are no views from its summit. The best views are from Anderson Prairie, the meadow on the divide north of Anderson Mountain. At the north edge of the Prairie is the junction with the Anderson Camp Trail #1075, marked by a large wooden sign affixed to a large tree.

The sign at the #1470 / #1075 junction

The Anderson Camp Trail is essentially non-existent for about 0.3 miles below the Divide Trail. But, by staying on the right side of Anderson Meadow (site of a sheep camp in the early 1900s), I was able to re-connect with the trail shortly before it reaches FR 6515. Then it was easy walking (at last!) on that gravel road back to my truck to complete this 11.3 miles, 1,400 feet of gain loop.

The view of the Crater Lake Rim from Anderson Meadow
Anderson Meadow
Corn Lilies and Lupines in Anderson Meadow
Back to the truck on FR 6515

Sadly, the section of the Divide Trail between Yellow Jacket Camp and Anderson Mountain is not to be recommended – it’s just too faded and chocked to be much fun. However, Anderson Mountain and its surrounding meadows and the views from there, accessed via the Anderson Camp Trail, are well worth the effort. The #1075 can be followed as a trail from FR 6515 (its trailhead is an unsigned sign board next to the road) up to the edge of the meadow where it fades. After it does, just follow the left (south) edge of the meadow up to the Divide and then follow the general route of the #1470 toward Anderson Prairie and Anderson Mountain (this is Wildflower Hike #24 in Horn’s 2006 Oregon’s Best Wildflower Hikes: Southwest Region).

Black track is road walk; Red track is hiking on the #1470 (D) and cross-country (C); (Y) is Yellow Jacket Camp; Purple track (A) is the #1075
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4 comments

  1. I don’t doubt that the Big V is affecting maintenance plans this year (although the Siskiyou Mountain Club is now out clearing trails 🙂 ). But the lack of maintenance on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, Upper Rogue River, and Union Creek Trails goes back for years and years. It’s as though the High Cascades and Tiller Ranger Districts have just given-up on these trails. 😦 But, with wildfires having priority and not many hikers clamoring to use these trails (which is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy as poor trails = little use), I can sorta (just barely) understand why maintaining them seems to always be on the back-burner.

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