Payette Trail (Southwest Oregon) 11-Feb-2022

Daytime temperatures have been unseasonably warm (70โ„‰ / 21โ„ƒ) here for some time now. So much so that the weather people on the TV are no longer gushing about all this sunny weather. It is supposed to rain – for one day – early next week. Which will be – if it happens – the first time we’ve experienced magic sky water in over a month. We like warmth and sunshine as much as anyone but both can be overdone. Now is supposed to be our snowy and wet season, when we store-up water to see us through the blistering summer ahead. So where we are now – at least weather-wise – is not good, not good at all. ๐Ÿ˜ง Our glass half full happiness metaphor is in jeopardy! Our hopes for moisture are now pinned on a late winter round of strong storms to top-up our dwindling reservoirs. We’ll see…

The Payette Trail (#970) runs along the eastern side of Applegate Lake between the Manzanita and French Gulch Trailheads. It’s a good leg stretch (9.2 miles / 14.7 km) with minimal elevation gain (800 ft / 244 m) through oak, pine, and madrone forests with views of the lake and the Red Buttes. The last time we hiked it in its entirety was in late 2016 on a nice day between storms. So it was about time for another go at it. There were no storms this time. Instead the weather, perversely, thrust ideal hiking conditions on us, forcing us to hike in shorts in February. ๐Ÿคจ

We did this hike as a shuttle by leaving a car at the French Gulch Trailhead, then driving around to start from the Manzanita Trailhead. This way there wouldn’t be a climb waiting for us at the end.

Descending from the Manzanita Trailhead
On the Payette Trail
A too low Applegate Lake with the snowy Red Buttes beyond
Continuing on through the pines
Applegate Lake with Little Grayback Mountain (arrow)
Shadows I
Trail maintenance
Continuing on…
Shadows II
Water lines in the bank
Maintenance in progress
Very pretty for a reservoir

At a little over 3 miles (4.8 km) from the Manzanita Trailhead, we turned into Squaw Creek Arm and passed through Tipsu Tyee Camp. It features some picnic tables, fire rings, and a pit toilet (that is home to many interesting multi-legged creatures). There’s no potable water at the camp itself and, at this time of year, it’s a long, muddy walk to the lake. The camp connects with the Viewpoint Trails – short, now fading, little trails that no longer go to much in the way of views.

The battered sign at Tipsu Tyee
Water lines in Squaw Creek Arm
On the trail into Squaw Creek Arm *
Running water in Spring Gulch
The stout bridge at the Payette Trailhead

From Tipsu Tyee, we continued on past Harr Point Camp (tables, fire rings, and a toilet) to the Payette Trailhead at the head of Squaw Creek Arm. We stopped here for a snack and to watch someone consider trying to get their drift boat into the lake across a mighty expanse of mud. They (wisely) gave up before burying their truck in mud. ๐Ÿ™„ Today the Arm was a dry expanse as far as we could see. But we still remember the gloriously wet winter of 2016-17 when the Arm was full to the brim (and then some) by April.

Squaw Creek Arm today
Squaw Creek Arm in April 2017

Beyond the Payette Trailhead, the Payette alternates between single-track trail and old road as it works its way around the Latgawa Peninsula into French Gulch Arm. This peninsula holds a number of short trails that allow for loop hikes of various lengths starting from the Payette, Dalgema, or French Gulch Trailheads.

The Payette continues for a bit as an old road
Blue sky over a blue lake
Through tall pines
Sunshine over the old county highway now (sometimes) on the bottom of the lake
The dam that creates Applegate Lake
On into French Gulch *
Last season’s efforts *
The Red Buttes over Applegate Lake

We got back to the trailhead at French Gulch with our legs well stretched and our decision to wear shorts fully vindicated. ๐Ÿ˜Ž We’re OK now if the weather wants to, ah, you know, rain or snow some more. Actually a lot more. Hint. Hint. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Payette Trail (blue line) from the Manzanita Trailhead (1), past the Payette Trailhead (2), to the French Gulch Trailhead (3)
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3 thoughts on “Payette Trail (Southwest Oregon) 11-Feb-2022

  1. Beautiful photos, as always. But shocking to see how low Applegate Lake is. Our friends in Ashland tell us that all of the nearby reservoirs look like mud puddles. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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