Payette Trail (Southwest Oregon) 11-Feb-2022

Daytime temperatures have been unseasonably warm (70℉ / 21℃) 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. 😧 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…

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Stein Butte (Southwest Oregon) 20-Jan-2022

Since 2014, with one fraught exception, Stein Butte has been the hike that closed out our hiking year. 2021, however, ended in the midst of a giant snow storm. Driving was treacherous. Emergency rooms (should a hike go bad) were clogged with plague victims. Even if these hadn’t been concerning issues, there was absolutely no enthusiasm for miles of post-holing up through deep drifts of fresh snow. None. So Stein was postponed.

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Witcome-Payette Loop (Applegate Lake) 21-Mar-2021

Applegate Lake is actually a reservoir, built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their design, way back in the 1970s, included fences to keep free-roaming cattle from reaching the lake and cavorting wantonly in the shallows. Since the lake isn’t much there most of the year, it was more likely to keep cattle from getting stuck in the mud. Anyway, the Corps built a road – a stock driveway – behind one of these fences so they could collect and remove errant cows. In the intervening years, the need to collect stray cows seems to have dissipated and today this driveway is more trail than road. It shows on today’s Forest Service maps as a trail paralleling the Payette Trail #970 between the Payette and Manzanita Trailheads. I first hiked a loop using the Witcome in 2016 and have done so a couple of times since. But the last time for me was in 2017 and The LovedOne had never hiked it, so today we went out to see how the driveway was holding-up.

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Grouse Loop (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 02-Mar-2021

The Grouse Loop Trail #941 is another one of those short trails in our area that we’ve previously overlooked. We had planned to do it, along with the Latgawa Peninsula Loop and the Gin Lin Trail, as an “Applegate Trifecta” but got distracted. Today was forecast as the second to the last of the bluebird days granted us before the next wave of storms. So after our dental appointments this morning (these aren’t nearly as anxiety-provoking as they used to be thanks to us having found a truly excellent dentist), The LovedOne headed off to do some library volunteering and I went to see what the #941 was all about.

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Gin Lin Trail (Applegate Valley) 22-Feb-2021

There is nothing good about the Big V. Nothing. But dealing with it has kept us more local and that has made us consider trails, however short, that we’ve overlooked in years past. One of these is the very short (0.8 mile (1.2 km)) Gin Lin Mining Trail, located a little north of oft-visited Applegate Lake. Despite its brevity, it’s actually a National Recreation Trail that was developed to recognize Gin Lin, a Chinese immigrant who through hard work, innovative thinking, and a good business sense – and despite rampant racism – became a notable and respected personage during Southern Oregon’s early days. He is credited with introducing hydraulic mining to the area. The most successful gold mines in Southern Oregon all used this method. This trail winds through the remnants of the last of his mines, the Palmer Creek hydraulic mine, which operated from the mid 1870s to about 1885.

Gin Lin c1880 (Southern Oregon Historical Society)
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Latgawa Peninsula Loop (Applegate Lake) 22-Feb-2021

Most of the geographic features at Applegate Lake (actually a reservoir) don’t have official (USGS) names but some have local names. A peninsula, bounded to the north by French Gulch (official name) and to the south by Squaw Creek Arm (local name), juts out from the east side of the lake. I’ve taken to calling this the Latgawa Peninsula simply because there’s a campsite (actually just a flat spot next to the trail) on it by that name. The USGS spells it “Latgawa” but the Forest Service’s opportunity guide spells it “Latagawa” (and shows the campsite as a trailhead, which it’s not unless you have a boat or want to walk across a mud flat at low water). All this cartographic wizardry aside, the peninsula does harbor some pleasant, low-altitude trails ideal for a winter leg stretch.

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Stein Butte Loop (Southwest Oregon) 28-Dec-2020

Since 2014, with one notable exception, a hike up Stein Butte at the south end of Applegate Lake has been our last full hike of the year. This year – despite its litany of flaws – was no exception. We were (very) remotely tempted to do this hike during one of the storms predicted to arrive before New Years Day. You know, so our last hike of 2020 would be just as pleasant as the rest of 2020 has been. 😦

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Collings Mountain Loop (Southwest Oregon) 18-Dec-2020

The Friends of the Medford Library (all volunteers) hold book sales, do on-line sales, and run a small bookstore to raise funds to augment the library’s budget. The books sold are those donated to the library. But that was in the Before Time. The library itself was fully closed for a while and is still mostly so. Only recently have limited services once again become available. This has allowed the Friends to resume on-line sales and open the bookstore a few hours a week. So The LovedOne, as a member of the Friend’s board and its treasurer, is once again volunteering in the Cellulose Jungle πŸ™‚ and not available for every hike that comes along. 😦

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Applegate Lake (Southwest Oregon) 20-May-2020

The Big V has (mercifully) only lightly touched our county thus far, so we were allowed to start re-opening last week. But a late season storm and some remote work conspired to keep us “in place” since our stroll to Vulture Rock five days ago. There’s an old saying that summer in Oregon doesn’t really start until the Fourth of July – and last week may be proof of that. πŸ™„ But when today was forecast to be an artistic mix of sun and clouds, we decided to go see if Applegate Lake looked like a lake yet.

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On Applegate Lake (Oregon) 12-Mar-2020

Well, these are trying times. Today we cancelled our long-planned trip to Cuba. The virus of course. Going anyway would have been inconsistent with helping to “flatten the curve” through social distancing (something we’re quite good at actually), avoiding crowds, and no unnecessary travel. As much as we wanted to, visiting Cuba at this time was clearly unnecessary. Not going proved costly, however, as the virus had invalidated our travel insurance.

And then there’s the stock market’s search for the bottom. Watching your life savings evaporate on a daily basis is bracing to say the least. And then there’s that clown car of elected federal officials in Washington who only seem capable of making the Big V’s effects worse. Those poor benighted buggers couldn’t find their arseholes with both hands and a compass. Sigh. So we’re staying home, protected by walls built of the immense supply of toilet paper we seem to have mysterious accumulated. πŸ™„

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Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 30-Dec-2019

After our first hike of Stein Butte at the end of 2014, doing so morphed into sort of a year-end tradition. We missed in 2015 because we inexplicably exchanged a snow slog up Stein for a snow slog up nearby Squaw Peak. Stein is a solid hike (9.4 miles round-trip; 2,400 feet of gain) on good trail to what, for the last four years, has been big views from the old lookout site. Well, not this year. Aside from a very brief view of Applegate Lake from the summit, valley fog and a cloud deck conspired to keep us in a fuzzy grey bubble for most of the day. Probably not a bad way to end a year that had many spectacularly great moments mixed with a few not so good ones. Not every doughnut comes with sprinkles. o_O Still, this was good hike and a very fine way to end what was for us another busy year in the out-of-doors. πŸ˜€

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