Little Hyatt Loop (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 12-Sep-2021

The fires to the north and south of us are still burning but with less vigor. Magic sky water is predicted for later this week. If it arrives, it will (hopefully) hasten the end of what has been a truly nasty fire season here and in Northern California. Many of these fires were lightning caused. That’s unwanted but natural. But the cause of the River Complex Fire – which burned across trails we’ve enjoyed in the northern Trinity Alps 😢 – has been traced to an untended campfire. A CAMPFIRE! What kind of thoughtless idiot lights a campfire on a windy red flag day during a drought?! 🤬 Human stupidity seems to be our only infinitely renewable resource. 🤪

This slacking of the fires, combined with a shift in the winds, improved air quality here in the valley just enough (from smokey down to hazy) to embolden us to go hiking. We decided to use the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and some gravel roads to do a lollipop, figure-8 loop between Green Springs Summit on Highway 66 and Little Hyatt Reservoir to the north, passing both east and west of Green Springs Mountain along the way. The trailhead sits at about 4,500 feet (1,372 m) and up here the haze was noticeably thinner. We were breathing in delightful pine scents instead of gagging on sour campfire stench.

Starting out NOBO on the PCT
One of the small meadows along the PCT
Easy walking through an open forest
A spring-fed pond along the PCT
Season’s end

After 1.8 miles (2.9 km) on the PCT, we came to the junction for the Green Springs Mountain Loop. Here the PCT splits into a direct route on the east side of the mountain and a slightly longer scenic route on its west side. We took the east side route up to the northern end of the loop and then a short spur trail down to BLM Road 39-E-32. We followed that road, and then BLM Road 39-E-29.0, down to Little Hyatt Prairie Road. Our hike got a little longer than planned when I (The LovedOne is clear about this) made a navigation error. 😲

On BLM Road 30-E-32 (Road 39-E-29.0 goes downhill to the east (arrow))
Green Springs Mountain across Hyatt Meadows

We walked a mile (1.6 km) northeast on Little Hyatt Prairie Road to where it intersects the PCT below Little Hyatt Dam. The dam was constructed on Keene Creek in 1923 for the Talent Irrigation District. The impounded water was diverted to the Rogue Basin for irrigation (the old diversion ditch is still evident). The dam’s use for irrigation ceased in the 1950’s and the lake behind it has been used for recreation ever since. The dam itself is falling apart and none of several proposals to remove, replace, or repair it have yet come to fruition. It remains to be seen whether it will be fixed or fail catastrophically or just leak until the lake is dry.

The PCT bridge below the dam
The dam creating Little Hyatt Reservoir (dark blotches are leaks)
Little Hyatt Reservoir

After a snack at the lake, we followed the PCT back across the northern end of Hyatt Meadows and along the west side of Green Springs Mountain. The scenic views this route is known for were dulled by the haze, but at least we could see the mountains on the far side of the Bear Creek Valley! 🙂

Across northern Hyatt Meadow
Cairns (arrow) mark the PCT for when the meadow is deep in vegetation during summer
Heading toward Fall
Mount Ashland from the west side PCT
The Bear Creek Valley from the PCT: (1) Mount Ashland, (2) Buck Point, (3) Wagner Butte, (4) Major Butte, (5) Tom Spring Mountain
Pilot Rock on a hazy horizon
Through a field of Yellow Star Thistles
A wall of smoke filled the horizon to the southeast
Pilot Rock
Returning along the PCT

This loop is only 10 miles (16 km) with 1,000 feet (305 m) of gain – if you don’t veer off on to the wrong road. 😕 Then it’s longer and you have to endure waves of silent opprobrium for all the extra, unnecessary walking. Overall, it’s a good hike – with forests and meadows and springs and a lake and views. And deer behind practically every tree. It’s a particularly nice walk on a crisp Fall day when those views to the west are at their best. 😁

Our route out (red) and back (blue)
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