On the up side, the air temperature here has moderated (for the moment) to a reasonable (for August) 80°F (26°C). On the down (very down) side, we’re still wallowing in thick, near toxic, wildfire smoke from the many (too many 😥) fires burning to our south and north. We’re not even supposed to go outside – or at least not breathe if we do. But, drawing on our considerable experience with tough and stupid, we conjured-up a way to do just that. We didn’t materialize one of the great hikes of Southwest Oregon, but it was a route we hadn’t done before and one that featured thinner air and somewhat thinner smoke (at least for a while).

We got a moderately early start and found our way to where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses the Mount Ashland Ski Road just downhill from the lodge area. From that trailhead it was SOBO on the PCT to Forest Road (FR) 40S15, then up that to FR 20 and hence to the lodge. The Bull Gap Trail #1017 starts near the lodge and descends – mostly as an old road – to Bull Gap. It’s not the greatest of hiking trails but is popular with mountain bikers in the summer, so we had to watch our back on the way down (yet only one biker passed us). The #1017 is a popular nordic trail in the winter.

A brief SOBO on the PCT
The meadows beneath Mount Ashland are coming to the end of their season
Mount Shasta (arrow) was barely visible to the south
On to FR 40S15
Summer (and fresh air 😃) at the Mount Ashland Ski Area
We live down there 😥
Starting down to Bull Gap
On the Bull Gap Trail
To the east, Mount McLoughlin (arrow) was even less barely visible than was Mount Shasta

This upper section of the Bull Gap Trail is part of the old Beaver Creek-Mount Ashland Loop Road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the mid-1930s. From then until the early 1960s, this road was the only route to Mount Ashland from the town of Ashland in the valley below. At some point during its construction, a wire-bound wooden pipe was repurposed as a road culvert.

Wooden culvert

The Bull Gap Trail brought us to a four-way junction with FR 2080, FR 2080-200, and the continuation of the #1017. We spoke to one mountain biker here (the only other one we saw all day) and then turned south on to FR 2080. Last January, we’d snowshoed along this gravel road when it was laden with a fresh layer of untrodden powder snow. That was one of the best snow hikes we’ve had around here, what with the fresh snow, accommodating weather, and cold, crisp fresh air. Ah, fresh air…’tis but a memory. Today FR 2080 was just a smooth gravel load that took us gently uphill to the PCT, which we followed for a short distance back to the trailhead. In January, there had been views; today, not so much.

On FR 2080
Pilot Rock from FR 2080
Mount Ashland and the NEXRAD dome from FR 2080
The same view from January 2021
Continuing on to the PCT and the trailhead

This loop, on trails and (mostly) roads, came to 8.1 miles (13 km) with 1,000 feet (305 m) of gain. In the grand scheme of things, this is not one of our great summer-time hikes. But on a too smokey day when the alternative was gasping for breath while couch-surfing in the valley, it was a very, very good hike. Very good. 😁

Our Upper Bull Gap Loop on roads and trails