It rained last Monday and it’s supposed to rain again (with a little snow higher up) next Monday. But yesterday and today it was sunny, clear, and pushing 80℉ (27℃). Ah, Spring in Oregon, how fickle art thou blandishments. 🙄 Despite the fact that the world is still a frustrating mess and the drought continues to weigh heavily on the land, we decided to celebrate Spring (or at least the briefly sunny part of it) with yet another hike. This time we sought to revisit Songer Butte near Emigrant Lake just south of Ashland.
We were last on Songer in December 2021, just before the Great Storm. It was clear and sunny then and it was clear and sunny today – just many degrees, F or C, warmer. That it was so clear and sunny in mid-winter speaks to why the drought is a growing concern today. But hiking helps take the edge off our anxiety about many things (if just for a few hours), so we drove south and parked at the Old Greensprings Day Use Area. Last December, we’d gone counter-clockwise around the butte from here, liked that route, and so did it again today, snagging both Little Songer and Songer along the way.
Emigrant Lake has gained a little water since last December (it’s now 13% full) but is still low enough that the former site of Klamath Junction, at the intersection of old Highways 99 and 66 is still visible from the parking lot, as are the remains of the highways themselves.
Today’s gravel road from Highway 66 to the Old Greensprings Day Use Area is actually a remnant piece of the old (pre-Emigrant Lake) highway. We walked up the gravel road, across today’s Hwy 66, and down a still paved piece of the old 66 to the Songer Wayside. From there, we picked up the single-track trail that runs north along the east side of Songer Butte.
We dropped down from Little Songer to the saddle between it and Songer and then followed a faded old road (as we’d done last December) up to the ridge just north of Songer itself.
The trail along the ridge is pretty mellow except for the section just before the summit where it feels like you’re going straight up. As hiking around here goes, this abrupt climb is not all that hard but it’s enough to make Songer’s summit seem worthwhile.
From the summit, we went down along the ridge and then on down to the trail that runs along the edge of the lake – but it’s been a while since the water came this high up.
So we had another easy (4.9 miles (7.8 km), with 700 feet (213 m) of elevation gain), but fun, hike in perfect Spring weather. While the water level in Emigrant Lake was gained from the melt of that big snow dump last December, it doesn’t look like there’s enough of that to bring the lake (or the other lakes/reservoirs upstream) to anywhere near full this year. 😥 We’ll just have to adapt. So, as there’s still beer (which can serve as an important water source) at the Standing Stone Brewing Company, we decided to start adapting by going there for lunch. 🍔🍺😁