Because of yet more personal business and more bouts of marginal weather, we had been denied a hike since we visited Whisky Creek over a week ago. 😥 At least we got a decent day’s worth of much needed rain out of the last storm system (and another wet storm is upon us as I write). 😊 But today offered us a clear(ish), cool, and sunny 😎 interlude between these storms. And, with our personal business project temporarily in the hands of others, we – fortuitously – had time for a hike.
The Mule Mountain Trail #919 was the first real hike we did after settling in Southwest Oregon in late 2014. Unfortunately, in 2017, the land at the loop’s lower trailhead was sold and the Forest Service lost the easement that had allowed for access from paved Applegate Road. That piece of land has sold yet again (and again) but the Forest Service still hasn’t been able to regain its easement. A few people still hike up from the road but now they’re technically trespassing.
Since the easement was lost, the Forest Service has touted the Charlie Buck / Baldy Peak Trail #918 as the alternate route. From that trail’s northern trailhead, its a robust little hike to views from Baldy Peak (4,645 ft / 1,416 m). Your lungs burn on the way up and your calves and thighs burn on the way down. So it’s a short – but good – workout and the views from Baldy Peak are expansive. The LovedOne hadn’t hiked here since 2015, so today seemed as good a time as any to revisit the start of our hiking endeavors here in Southern Oregon.
From the trailhead, the trail lunges up the ridge, levels out for a bit through some stately Ponderosa pines, then shoots up again to the crest of Baldy’s west ridge, where it finally levels off for the crossing to a junction with the Mule Mountain Trail #919 on the saddle south of Baldy.
From the saddle it’s a brief cross-country climb to the top of Baldy – steep but not nearly as steep as the trail getting to here!
We reached the summit to find that someone had stuck a sign on it – presumably to replace one that had been bolted to a rock yet had rotted away. There are few views from the summit itself – but there are good flat rocks for a sit and a snack. Views are readily available if you walk out and around the brush.
Then it was back down the slope and the trail to the Charlie Buck Trailhead. Our thighs and calves were definitely feeling the burn (as they say) by the time we got there.
This short hike was as aerobic as promised: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) round-trip, with 1,600 feet (488 m) of elevation gain. The #918 between the Charlie Buck Trailhead and the saddle below Baldy Peak was in good condition and completely brush free – but somewhat rutted by motorcycles. We lucked-out with the views as a hazy morning had given way to clear skies by the time we reached the summit. Clouds ahead of the next storm did not start to appear until after we got back to the trailhead. It was a good hike but we still miss the Mule Mountain / Mule Canyon loop. Maybe, maybe one day the Forest Service will find a way to recover that easement. 🙄
In the meantime, it’s still possible – with some effort – to experience (when Forest Road 2010-330 is open) this loop by starting at the Mule Creek / Baldy Peak Trailhead at the south end of the #918, going north on the #918 to its junction with the #919, descending the #919, and returning via the #920 – about 9 miles (14.4 km) with 2,700 feet (823 m) of gain. 😁