Elk Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 14-Oct-2018

Elk Lake Red Buttes Wilderness California

Elk Lake (sometimes called Moraine Lake) is one of six little lakes clustered at the southeast end of California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. Such high-elevation lakes are rare in the Siskiyou Mountains because this range was largely unaffected by lake basin-forming Pleistocene glaciation. [1] Lily Pad is the easiest to access, with Towhead and Echo not far behind. However, Hello, Goodbye, and Elk take some effort to visit. I wanted to see what it would take to reach Elk and also see what impact the 2017 Abney Fire had had on Cook and Green Pass and the stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) running west from there. The LovedOne demurred on yet another hike likely to involve bushwhacking and boulder flogging, opting instead to design a quilt.

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Cook and Green Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 28-May-2017

Cook and Green Red Buttes Wilderness California

The Cook and Green Loop is one of the more challenging (i.e., character-building) hikes in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness (a wilderness more readily accessible from the Oregon side). The loop consists of the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958). It can be done in either direction. Clockwise it is a gradual 11-mile, 3,600 foot climb up the Cook and Green Trail and the PCT to the Horse Camp Trail junction, and then a steep 4 mile descent down that trail to the trailhead on Forest Road 1040. The other way is a stiff 3,600 foot ascent followed by a gradual 11-mile descent. I’d done the loop clockwise in January 2015, when there was only a minuscule amount of snow along the Siskiyou Crest (post).  Plans for doing it counter-clockwise languished until the desire to see how much snow the very snowy winter of 2016-17 had left on the Crest overcame my reluctance to climb 3,600 feet (the LovedOne opted to garden instead).  So a bright, sunny, and destined to be very warm, day found me starting up the Horse Camp Trail at an absurdly early hour.

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Towhead Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Oct-2016

We’ve done several hikes in the Red Buttes Wilderness in Northern California, including a scramble to its high point (the eastern summit of Red Butte at 6,739 feet) just this last June (post). However, it’s such a beautiful area that we’re always looking for new hikes to explore around here. So, after wandering around in the virtual wilderness of the internet, I came across a few mentions of Towhead Lake, which is situated in the southeast corner of the real Red Buttes Wilderness just northwest of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

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Cook and Green Trail (Siskiyou Mountains) 14-Sep-2016

Cook and Green Trail Oregon

Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, all of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us.  In an effort to be more social, we finally (after lurking their site for a year) signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking.  My first effort at one of their hikes – a climb of Greyback Mountain (post) – went well, except for the fact that only the trip organizer and I were on it (the LovedOne having determined it was too hot to hike that day).  So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when the organizer of the Grayback Mountain hike – Joe – offered a moderate hike on the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959).

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Red Butte (Red Buttes Wilderness) 01-Jun-2016

Red Buttes Wilderness Northern California

With the LovedOne momentarily lost to gardening, I decided on a day hike of Red Butte in the 19,940 acre Red Buttes Wilderness.  This wilderness straddles both the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains (i.e., the rugged Applegate River/Klamath River divide) and the California/Oregon boundary, but has far more acreage in California than in Oregon (USFS, details).  It takes its name from the dominant peak along the Siskiyou Crest, whose peridotite rock weathers, because of its high iron and magnesium content, to a reddish-orange color.  The dominant peak has western and eastern summits (hence the “Buttes”) with the eastern summit being the named (Red Butte per the USGS) higher summit at 6,739 feet.  Although we’ve done a number of hikes in this wilderness, its high point was always somewhere down the list of things to do.

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Kangaroo Springs (Red Buttes Wilderness) 19-Mar-2015

Lily Pad Lake Kangaroo Springs Red Buttes Wilderness California

After a suspiciously warm and sunny winter, we now seem to be settling in for a clear day surrounded by days with cold fronts, clouds, rain, and (hopefully) a bit more snow. After a trip to the coast (with one sunny day) and a pro bono business trip to Portland (where it rained), I (The LovedOne stayed behind to contemplate gardening – yes, it’s that warm!) took advantage of today’s bluebird conditions to explore the southern end of the Siskiyou-Boundary Trail from Cook and Green Pass (Hike #68 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). I also wanted to check-out the condition of Forest Road (FR) 1055, which provides road access to the pass. I should note – before any map geeks go ballistic – that none of this hike is actually in the Red Buttes Wilderness.  It should be, but it isn’t 😡 – likely because of the usual political compromises involved in wilderness designation. In fact, most of this hike is through a still active surface mining claim for chromite. 👿 Hopefully that claim will never come to fruition. 😕

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Cook and Green Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 31-Jan-2015

Cook and Green Pass Red Buttes Wilderness Oregon

Looking (as always) for a loop hike with views, I came across the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959) – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958) loop in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. This is hike #154 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) He has you doing the loop counter-clockwise, which I would not recommend. Ruediger details the various botanical features of this loop in his book, The Siskiyou Crest.  As this loop was estimated at 15+ miles with a lot of gain, The LovedOne opted to stay home and knit.

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