Crispy is the Forest (Jacksonville, Oregon) 14-Jul-2021

Well, this year’s trifecta of oppressive heat, foul smoke, and destructive conflagration got off to an early, and strong, start. Air temperatures over 100°F (37°C) in late May and onward from there. And it looks like this trifecta is going to be with us for awhile. 😢 If we want a shot at hiking in clearer air and cooler temperatures, we’ll have to go high and hope that the ever shifting winds don’t push smoke at us.

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Little Silver Creek Lake (Galice, Oregon) 09-Jul-2021

A landslide lake is – as the name suggests – a body of water formed when a canyon wall slides or slumps to dam a creek or stream. These aren’t created very often or usually last very long, as the dam is typically swept away by subsequent rain events. Little Silver Creek Lake is unique in that it is a landslide lake that has survived for over 100 years – it is one of the only landslide lakes to survive in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. This made it a worthy destination in the ongoing search for, and exploration of, trails not previously hiked.

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Swan Mountain (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Jul-2021

Swan Mountain (6,272 ft / 1,912 m) sits on the Siskiyou Crest just north of the Oregon unit of the Red Buttes Wilderness. I’d first reached its summit on a cold, crisp day during the snowless winter of 2015. The summit is an easy walk up from the Boundary Trail #1207 and the views from the top are – weather permitting – excellent. We tried for its summit last summer but were turned back by – what then – seemed like excessive heat (if we’d only known what was coming 😓). But in 2020 we’d gotten a late start due to the long drive to the western trailhead on Sucker Creek. This year we figured, what with the heat dome still pressing on us, to go for an earlier start from the eastern trailhead on Steve Fork. It worked, but just barely.

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A Moment On Big Red (Siskiyou Crest) 29-Jun-2021

In 1968 – the year I first went backpacking – the atmosphere’s CO2 content was 323 ppm (up from 285 ppm in 1850). Last month it reached 419 ppm. A 96 ppm increase in 53 years may not seem like much but, at the scale of an entire planet’s atmosphere, it’s a lot. More than enough to set in motion natural forces which are going to affect us regardless of one’s political or ideological or religious persuasion(s) or whether one believes in them or not.  In a contest between belief and atmospheric physics, bet on the physics and hang on.

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Rafting the San Juan River VI 21-Jun-2021

DAY 6: Oljeto Camp to Clay Hills Crossing

River Flow: 954 cfs (27.0 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 102°F (39°C) high

We had a nice alcove to sleep in at this camp, one I abandoned early for a look inside the mouth of the wash. As would be expected, this wash is subject to flash floods and those have kept its floor a smooth ribbon of dirt between towering walls of sandstone. Flowering Datura (Jimson Weed, Devil’s Snare) plants dotted the floor, along with an aspen seedling washed down from who knows where. Datura contains an interesting mix of hallucinogens and cyanide – ingesting it could be a trip or your last one. After about 300 feet (90 m) of walking, I turned back and headed for a Datura-free breakfast.

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Rafting the San Juan River V 20-Jun-2021

DAY 5: Slickhorn C Camp to Oljeto Camp

River Flow: 1,120 cfs (31.7 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 104°F (40°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low

At first light, the bats started zooming over my head catching the insects that were on their way to feed on me – but became bat food instead. Win-win! 😉 I find bats fascinating and could have lain on my sleeping pad just watching them flit about. But I wanted to see Slickrock Canyon before the solar blowtorch got going, so I arose and shuffled the short distance over to the canyon’s mouth. The LovedOne slept on…

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Rafting the San Juan River IV 19-Jun-2021

DAY 4: Twin Canyon Camp to Slickhorn C Camp

River Flow: 1,290 cfs (36.5 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 102°F (39°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low

Time and the river flowing… In addition to being Juneteenth, today was also my birthday. Almost 30 years ago I celebrated one during a DIY canoe trip on the Green River with The LovedOne, Diane, Wayne and two other friends. A lot of water, some turbulent, has flowed under the proverbial bridge since then. And yet here we are, once again on a river, still good friends, and still having adventures together. What amazing and wonderful people. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full…

Aside from further expansive geology, today would offer-up the one moderately challenging rapid we’d run on the lower San Juan – Government Rapid (Class III- to III) at RM 63.7. When we reached camp, we’d start getting some insights into how Lake Powell had affected the river and what the future might hold for the hydrology of southeast Utah.

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Rafting the San Juan River III 18-Jun-2021

DAY 3: Mendenhall Camp to Twin Canyon Camp

River Flow: 1,290 cfs (36.5 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 103°F (39°C) high / 73°F (23°C) low

We would spend the better part of this day wending our way through the canyons of the Goosenecks to straighter sections beyond. Aside from the soaring and varied geology – and some big horn sheep – the principal human feature along this stretch is the Honecker Trail.

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Rafting the San Juan River II 17-Jun-2021

DAY 2: Lower Eight Foot Camp to Mendenhall Camp

River Flow: 1,340 cfs (37.9 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 105°F (40°C) high / 72°F (22°C) low

Despite being fully exposed (figuratively) to Nature, we slept soundly – only having to brush-off some multi-legged creature once during the night. We soon found that activities like a little exploring, packing-up, and having a light breakfast were way easier to accomplish in the cool and shade of the early morning than when the sun arrived. So turning in around 2100 and getting up around 0500 became the norm for us for the rest of the trip.

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Rafting the San Juan River I 16-Jun-2021

Sixteen months. Sixteen months since either of us had set foot in an airport or flown in a plane. But with vaccinations in hand (or arm) and things opening-up in general, it was time. Our initial plan – with our long-time friends Wayne and Diane – was to do a raft trip down the Yampa River. But that one had already been booked by the multitudes now yearning to get out of the house and GO SOMEWHERE! So we switched to a six-day raft trip on the San Juan River in Utah run by O.A.R.S.

The San Juan originates in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, then flows 383 miles (616 km) through the deserts of northern New Mexico and southeastern Utah to join the Colorado River at Lake Powell. The stretch we rafted was the 83 mile (133 km) section from Sand Island (near Bluff, Utah) to Clay Hills Crossing, just short of Lake Powell. This segment turned-out to be light on rapids (but we knew that going in) but absolutely huge on scenery and canyons and wildlife (all of which came as a welcome surprise). 😃

We got this adventure going by flying (uneventfully) to Salt Lake City and then driving down to Bluff, where we met up with Wayne and Diane and the rest of our group and Adam, our trip leader.

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Green Mountain (Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument) 13-Jun-2021

We made a modest donation to the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council and they sent us a newsletter, which, among other things, listed four off-beat hikes in the Monument and Soda Mountain Wilderness. We’d done three of the four but the fourth, a loop past Green Mountain (not to be confused with Green Springs Mountain) from the road to Boccard Point, was new to us. It looked like a 4 mile (6.4 km) loop that would fit neatly into the pleasant morning of a day forecast to end with clouds, wind, and rain (which it did 😀).

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