Humans plan; the gods laugh. I had several new hikes planned in Southern Oregon’s Sky Lakes Wilderness to enjoy it during the usually glorious (and bug-free) Fall weather. But lightning strikes (thank you, Zeus!) ignited the Spruce Lake, Blanket Creek, and North Pelican fires, and these closed this wilderness (and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)) until a week ago. Then we got our first snow (thank Chione for that!), with more coming soon. So, with my hiking needs unmet, and the weather window about to snap shut, I consulted the augeries and soon visualized Devils Peak. Devils isn’t the highest peak in this wilderness (that would be Mount McLoughlin), but it is the presiding monarch of the Seven Lakes Basin and a summit which, based on previous trips, I knew had one heck (metaphorically speaking) of a great view.
Earlier this year, we did an out-and-back hike along the Layton Ditch Trail above Williams, Oregon. That trail is a piece of Southern Oregon’s mining history, as is the Chinese Wall it crosses. After plotting our track for that hike, I got to looking at maps for other possible hikes in the area. One that caught my attention was along the ridge east of Ferris Gulch, with a return via Ferris Gulch Road – about an 8 to 9 mile loop. The LovedOne was up for a not-too-long, not-too-far away hike, so we decided to capitalize on the continuing perfect Fall weather to have a go at this Ferris Gulch Loop (which seemed particularly fitting since one of the LovedOne’s most favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are well known (and well used) hiking and wildflower venues just north of Medford, Oregon. They present different, but always attractive, short- and long-distance vistas throughout the year. By Fall, the expansive wildflower meadows that graced the plateaus in Spring have gone fallow. Any surface water has been supplanted by hardened soil and the color palette has shifted from multiple colors to various muted hues of yellow and gold. Reasons enough for a return visit (one of many to date) to Upper Table Rock. This Rock is horseshoe shaped, with the legs of the “shoe” pointing south. Popular guides to this area usually mention only the short hike (3 or so miles round-trip) to the tip of the eastern leg. But you can craft a longer (8 or more miles roundtrip) and more varied hike by venturing over the top of the shoe and out to the tip of its western leg. So, on a day with near perfect weather for hiking, I (today being one of the LovedOne’s library volunteer days) set out to enjoy the colors of a different season, and a longer hike, on Upper Table.
In July of this year, thanks to the efforts of the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association (SUTA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Phase 1 of the Jack-Ash (Jacksonville – Ashland) Trail was completed from Griffin Lane to Anderson Butte Road, about ten miles west of Ashland, Oregon. This new (yeah!) trail connects with the well known Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, a trail which, since 2013, we have been able to hike all parts of, including the segment between the Deming Gulch and Grub Gulch Trailheads. In addition, I used sections of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail to craft a loop over Anderson Butte to and from the Wolf Gap Trailhead. Based on these previous wanderings, and with the Jack-Ash now available, further map-gazing suggested a loop involving it, Anderson Butte, and the mine ditch trail. And so, on a Fall day with near perfect weather for hiking, we set out to explore this loop (and the new trail).
First off, it seems useful to review where we are here. This is not the Little Cowhorn Mountain topped with a lookout and located on the Willamette National Forest at the end of a one mile trail. This Cowhorn – what some also, for extra confusion, call Cowhorn Butte – is on the Deschutes National Forest (in the Oregon Cascades Recreational Area) a few miles southwest of Crescent Lake. Back before this Cowhorn’s cow-horn shaped summit spine fell over in a 1911 storm (some storm!), it was called Little Cowhorn to distinguish it from Mount Thielsen, which was then called Big Cowhorn. The hike to this Cowhorn Mountain’s 7,664-foot summit is along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) starting north from Windigo Pass, which is reached via Forest Road (FR) 60 (a good gravel road) off State Highway 138 about six miles north of Diamond Lake.
Paradise Lake lies beneath Kings Castle along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Northern California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness. The lake can be reached from the west by hiking north or south along the PCT or from the Paradise or Lovers Camp Trailheads or from the Box Camp Trailhead. The Box Camp seemed less well known than the other two trailheads (Lovers Camp can get extremely busy) and the Box Camp Trail itself has been described as recently reinvigorated, so it seemed like an interesting way for a first visit to Paradise (Lake). The onset of cool Fall weather and the recent lifting of this area’s closure due to the Salmon-August Complex Fire where all that were needed to get me headed south to the Marbles.
A few days ago, I did a loop hike that included a brief visit to Point 5648, a surprisingly interesting rock formation just downslope from Vulture Rock in Southern Oregon. My attempt to reach the spot elevation on this Point was rebuffed due to risk aversion (or common sense, one is never quite sure which), but a later look at Google Earth suggested that maybe that spot wasn’t the highest point on the formation. Vows were made to return! As luck would have it, today’s unsettled weather coincided with the LovedOne’s temporary release from library volunteerism to form the perfect excuse to spend a couple of damp hours conducting further explorations around the Point. The exertions associated with those explorations would then serve as justification (as if we needed any) for a restorative lunch with beverages at Caldera Brewing in Ashland, Oregon. So, win-win!