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 🙂 and not available for every hike that comes along. 😦

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Hiking Southern Oregon: 25 Hikes (February 2020)

To celebrate our 600th post on WordPress, we’re highlighting a select few of the many hikes we’ve enjoyed here in Southwest Oregon.

As we’ve perused lists of Oregon’s greatest hikes, we’ve come to notice that these lists are heavily skewed, with a few exceptions, toward hikes near Portland.  The Portland metro area’s greater population helps if a list is based on some kind of vote.  And proximity to its major airport helps get votes from those who drop in for a brief Western adventure.  Even some of the classics, like the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon or the Three Sisters in Central Oregon, often don’t make these lists because they are too far away.  So a lot of “great” hikes get done near Portland – the state’s most populated town. And then the complaints roll in about how there’s no parking, the trails are too crowded, you need a permit or must pay a fee, it’s raining, etc.

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Collings Mountain Loop (Southern Oregon) 09-Dec-2019

The storms of winter have finally arrived. The snow depth is growing in the high country. Mount Ashland, our local ski area, opened a week early. Down lower, we’re having rain and fog interspersed with a day or two of clarity. I sought to take advantage of one of these clearings in the mists to do a little stiffer hike. A loop formed by the lower altitude Collings Mountain and Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trails came to mind. Easy access, a decent climb (1,800 feet), and a fair length (10 miles) seemed just about right.

We’ve usually done the loop clockwise – a long walk along the lake, then a gradual ascent followed by a plunging decent. Going counter-clockwise seemed like an easy way to change it up a bit. Unfortunately, The LovedOne doesn’t much care for this loop regardless of direction – something about a lot of work for hardly any views (which is true). So she opted to stay home and trim the tree (which cost more this year, pound for pound, than the other {now legal} crop we grow here). So I’d be hiking alone, secure in the knowledge that our cat (aka “The Princess”) would have something new to play with when I got back. 🐱

After successfully dodging a deer who seemed intent on impaling itself on my bumper, I parked at the Collings’ northern trailhead and started up along Grouse Creek through wisps of mist. The biggest attraction on this entire loop is the world famous bigfoot trap located about three-quarters of a mile in from the road. The Forest Service website also mentions an abandoned miners cabin but it’s been a pile of kindling for as long as we’ve hiked here.

The remains of the old miners cabin

I by-passed the trap this time (it was creepy enough in the mists without imagineering giant hairy creatures lunging from the woods), passed some old mine adits,

One of the mine adits (or Sasquatch burrows?) along the trail

and continued on up the steep, but well-graded, trail as madrones gave way to oaks and then pines.

A pink madrone along the trail
Madrone abstract
Into the pines

About 1,000 feet up, the mists abated and I was able to look out over the sea of fog settled on Applegate Lake – not unlike what I’d experienced last week at Mountain of the Rogue.

Applegate Lake is there under the fog

The trail’s grade slackens considerably when it reaches the top of the ridge and I began a gentle ascent around the west side of Collings Mountain. There are a few spots along here where there’s a decent view to the west.

The view from the west side of Collings Mountain: Craggy Peak (C), Steve Peak (S), Lake Mountain (L), Grayback Mountain (G), Big Sugarloaf Peak (B)
Grasses of many colors

The trail crosses the ridge just south of the viewless summit of Collings and then starts a long decent to its southern trailhead across from Watkins Campground. By now the fog over the lake had begun to dissipate and I got one of the few views available along this section of the trail.

The fog lifting off the lake, with snowy Dutchman Peak in the distance

By the time I got down to Watkins and the start of the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail, the fog was history and the rest of my hike proceeded under wintry, but welcome, sunshine. 😎 The boat ramp is named for the old mining hamlet of Copper that was removed to make way for the reservoir that is Applegate Lake.

On the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De before Copper Boat Ramp
A meadow past the boat ramp
Where the hamlet of Copper used to be

The lake is now drawn down in anticipation of winter rains and Spring runoff – the water level presently sits some 121 feet below full pool. I’m probably not supposed to, but I find that the juxtaposition of the green and orange, the striations created by changing water levels, the various shadows, and the overarching blue combine to lend the lake a compelling beauty at this time of year.

Low water in Applegate Lake, with Little Grayback Mountain in the distance
Looking south, with the Red Buttes on the horizon (which is in California)
Where Squaw Creek (right) enters the lake
Looking north toward the dam
Little Grayback Mountain (L) and the remains (arrow) of the road that used to reach the hamlet of Copper
The 1954 Ruch quadrangle map showing Copper and the road (arrow here and in previous photo) to it that is now buried in the reservoir (which went into service in 1980)
Water droplets contemplating their inevitable journey to the reservoir

Despite the limited views, this was still a good hike – especially because the fog went away and the sun came out for the return leg. And it was just long enough and high enough to move me closer to “normal” hiking condition. When I got home – after dodging enroute a dog intent on ramming my truck – I found the tree lit and The Princess asleep. Ornamentation is still a work in progress. Whether The Princess will bestir herself long enough (just getting to her food bowl is sooooo hard…) to pester the bright, shiny things that will eventually dangle from the tree remains to be seen. 🙄

Our seasonal cat toy
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Collings Mountain Loop (Applegate Lake) 25-Oct-2018

Collings Mountain Trail Applegate Lake Oregon

The Collings Mountain Trail (USFS #943) is one of several trails near Applegate Lake that offer hikers a low-elevation option in the winter months.  We last hiked it in late 2016. Today seemed like a good day to do it again, what with some weather (rain ❤ ) finally predicted to be heading our way. Thanks to persistent drought conditions, Applegate Lake is currently almost 100 feet below full pool. We combined the #943 with the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of the lake between Hart-tish Park and Watkins Campground, to make a nice 10.6 mile, 1,700-foot gain loop. We found two geocaches along the way but didn’t stop to linger at the world famous (we hope) Bigfoot Trap!

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Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (Applegate Lake) 16-Jan-2017

Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail Applegate Lake Oregon

Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, the majority of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us. In an effort to be more social, we signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking. We had planned to refresh our social skills with them on a hike earlier this month, only to have it canceled by the Great Storm.  So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when Joe – one of the meet-up’s assistant organizers – offered an easy hike on the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of Applegate Lake between the Swayne Viewpoint Trailhead and Watkins Campground.  Unfortunately, when the Library got two big donations over the holiday weekend, the LovedOne had to skip this hike to enhance her social skills by volunteering to sort books and sniff the cellulose.

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Collings Mountain Loop (Applegate Valley) 17-Dec-2016

Collings Mountain Trail Applegate Valley Oregon

The Collings Mountain Trail (USFS #943) is one of several trails in the Upper Applegate Valley that offer hikers a low-elevation option in the winter months.  The trail was named for two brothers who mined in the Upper Applegate Valley in the 1850s and 1860s. The hike up past Collings Mountain is a fairly easy one (if done clockwise) through now rare undisturbed low elevation forest, with occasional views both east and west.  Today I combined it with the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of Applegate Lake between Hart-tish Park and Watkins Campground, to make a nice 11 mile loop hike.  This loop hike is described in Ruediger’s The Siskiyou Crest  (2013) and is Hike #64 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) but was inexplicably left out of Berstein and Urness’ 2014 Hiking Southern Oregon guide.  This is a sad and questionable omission given that this Southern Oregon hike passes by what’s believed to be the world’s only Bigfoot Trap!

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Payette Trail (Applegate Lake) 29-Nov-2016

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

After several stormy days in otherwise bucolic Southern Oregon, today opened to near perfect bluebird conditions – sunny, crisp, and clear, with just a hint of clouds for contrast.  Rummaging through our list of low-altitude, snow-not-ready-yet-for-snowshoes, Winter hiking options, we came up with the Payette Trail (USFS #970).  This hiking and mountain biking trail runs for about nine nearly level miles along the eastern shore of Applegate Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers managed reservoir on the Upper Applegate River.  The reservoir’s pool elevation can change by 100 feet or more annually in response to seasonal rainfall.  So it looks like a real lake in mid-summer but a large mud bathtub in mid-winter.  Nonetheless the trails around it are good ones, and all offer some pretty vistas if you accept the “lake” for what it is.

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Collings Mountain Loop (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 03-Jan-2015

Collings Mountain Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Applegate Reservoir Oregon

Despite morning temperatures in the 20ºFs ( 😯 ), it proved possible to lure The LovedOne from under the down comforter and on to a trail. Continuing what has become an exploration of the trails in the Upper Applegate Valley (several of which will have to be re-explored once the wildflowers emerge), today we chose the Collings Mountain Trail (USFS #943) on the west side of Applegate Reservoir and made a loop by adding the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940) that parallels the lake.

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