Red Cone (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 13-Aug-2019

Red Cone is a small volcanic protuberance on the east side of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness (not to be confused with the Red Cone in nearby Crater Lake National Park). The cone in the wilderness is readily visible from Tipsoo Peak and I’ve long harbored a desire to see if it could be climbed. Leaving The LovedOne at the library talking ūüôĄ taxes, I went to the wilderness alone ūüė• to explore Red Cone.

I started by taking the nice, easy trail up to the big views from atop Tipsoo. There was some high overcast – and a few overly hopeful mosquitoes – but it was otherwise a perfect day for a hike.

The easy trail to Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Peak (D), Cowhorn Mountain (C), and some of the Three Sisters (S) from Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey from Tipsoo
Howlock Mountain and Mount Thielsen from Tipsoo
Today’s goal – Red Cone

After soaking in the views from Tipsoo, I dropped off its southeast side to intersect the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the meadow below.

Tipsoo Peak from the PCT

From the PCT, I went east through the forest toward Red Cone. Although the cone is visible from Tipsoo, it’s totally invisible once you leave the divide, so I just navigated to where it’s shown on the map. The forest here has almost no understory and few fallen trees so it’s a lot like strolling through a manicured park. This was the easy part. After about two miles, I emerged from the forest at the prow of the cone’s rocky west ridge. The surface of the ridge was treacherously loose and slippery rock and scree – this was the hard part.

On Red Cone’s west ridge
Red Cone’s volcanic plug looms over the ridge
Howlock Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge from Red Cone’s west ridge

The map (and Google Earth) indicated that the cone’s east side might be the easiest path to the summit, so I worked my way – slowly and precariously – up and around to the east side.

Nearing the top of the cone’s east ridge
The steep east side of the cone

I came around to the east ridge to find about 50 feet or so of steep – and possibly loose – terrain between me and the true summit. A few Class 3 moves brought me to the base of a high Class 4 or low Class 5 crack system that looked as though it might go to the top. I imagined seeing a rappel sling near the top of this crack. I also imagined dying if I tried to climb it, so I didn’t. There might be an easier way to the top but I was in no mood to wander around on loose rock and scree looking for it. So a snack followed by an honorable retreat. ūüė¶

Diamond Peak from the east side of Red Cone
Miller Lake from Red Cone
This tree fungus was the only “color” in the forest
Tipsoo Peak from my return to the PCT
The PCT near its high point in Oregon and Washington

Rather than climb back over Tipsoo, I circled around it to the south and rejoined the built trail at the end of its longest switchback. From there it was truly a stroll down to the trailhead. The sting of not making the summit was assuaged by a stop at Beckie’s in Union Creek for pie. ūüôā

Howlock and Thielsen from the south side of Tipsoo

Some post-hike research found that there was a fire camp somewhere near the cone in the 1920s (it wasn’t officially Red Cone until 1940). There was one listing that even suggested a fire lookout had actually been on the summit at one point. I did find a few pieces of wire and some milled wood at the base of the crack – these could have been from a lookout or a triangulation station. In either case, there’s no indication of how they might have gotten to the top back in the day. Of course, then they were adept at notching tree trunks to make ladders…

My track to and from the attempt on Red Cone
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Blue Grotto (Lost Creek Lake, Oregon) 04-Mar-2019

Lost Creek Lake is a very large reservoir on the main stem of the Rouge River approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. In a narrow canyon toward the lake’s north end is the Blue Grotto. Here a seasonal stream falls some 40 feet over a cliff composed of bluish-greenish ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama Рthe massive volcano that blew-up some 7,000 years ago to form Crater Lake. The Grotto is open all year but your best chance to see this ephemeral water feature is between March and May when runoff (from rain or snow melt or both) is highest. It’s a great winter destination when we don’t want to engage with snow in the high country.

Today was a bluebird day between winter storms when nothing was going on at the library and our extra moist winter virtually assured water for the falls.  So off we went to the Lost Creek Trailhead at Lost Creek Lake.  From there, it‚Äôs some eight miles out-and-back along the North Shore Trail to the Grotto.  The Lewis Road Trailhead is closer but the section of the trail between Lost Creek and the Grotto is particularly nice as it weaves easily through oak forests, stands of pines and cedars, and open meadows that will explode with wildflowers come Spring.  In addition, there are viewpoints for the lake and the surrounding hills.  Our hike today was in near perfect Spring-like weather ūüėé and the falls were gushing as vigorously as we had anticipated.  And the first wildflowers were blooming ‚Äď a patch of Spring Golds in one of the open meadows and tiny clumps on Snow Queens under one of the forest canopies.  So after a snack at the falls, we headed back to finish yet another great hike to one of our enduringly favorite winter destinations! ūüôā

Through one of the moss-laden oak forests
Pines and cedars along the trail
Lost Creek Lake
A Flota-Potty is moored in the bay below the Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto (today there was enough water for a double pour-off)
Blue Grotto
Rainbow
From behind the falls
From behind the falls
Over the lip
And into the pool
Clouds were coming in as we headed back
Winter trees and clouds
Back along the trail below Fawn Butte
Snow Queens – one of the earliest blooming wildlowers
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Timber Crater (Crater Lake National Park) 06-Jul-2018

Timber Crater Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Crater Lake National Park is, for most visitors, all about the lake and only the lake. Which is understandable, given that the park’s roads take them right to this utterly stunning natural feature. Even popular hikes in the park, like Garfield Peak or Mount Scott, are mostly about getting a better view of the lake. But what about some of the park’s other natural features, like its cinder cones or bogs or desert? Granted, We went to see Crater Lake! sounds a lot better during show-and-tell than We went to see a bog!¬† But, still, some of these underdog features deserve a little recognition. With that it mind, I (while The LovedOne caught up on her library duties) set out to summit Timber Crater,¬†a well preserved shield volcano in the park’s largely untracked northeast quadrant. Continue reading “Timber Crater (Crater Lake National Park) 06-Jul-2018”

Dwarfed by Fire (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 27-Oct-2017

Dwarf Lakes Area Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The¬†Sky Lakes Wilderness¬†stretches north to south along the Cascade Crest between Crater Lake National Park in the north and State Highway 140 in the south. Three major lake basins (Seven Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Blue Canyon) occupy this wilderness and we’ve so far hiked in all of them.¬† But the Dwarf Lakes Area, a subsidiary of the Sky Lakes Basin, had gone unvisited, and I’d planned a first visit for earlier this Fall.¬† But then a host of wildfires (the High Cascades Complex) blew-up, keeping this wilderness closed until the end of September.¬† One of the complex’s component fires, the North Pelican, had burned its way west off the slopes of Pelican Butte and into the southern end of the Sky Lakes Basin.¬† Then an early season blanket of snow put an end (mostly) to this reign of fire, opening the way for a late-in-the-season visit to the Dwarf Lakes.¬† With the LovedOne busy at the library, I approached this hike solo with a lot of trepidation about what I would find the North Pelican had done to this basin.

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Climbing to Breathe (Mount McLoughlin) 01-Sep-2017

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

After two partially successful attempts – hikes of Aspen Butte and Mount Ashland – to get above the wildfire smoke that has been choking Southern Oregon and Northern California for several weeks, we were finally faced with Mount McLoughlin, the sixth highest Cascade peak in Oregon. ¬†At 9,495 feet, it just had to be high enough to be above the smoke. ¬†It just had to be (sob)! ¬†If I (the LovedOne having demurred on a grueling ascent in favor of air conditioning at home) got above the smoke, I would (hopefully) be rewarded for the nearly 4,000 of elevation gain this summit demands (making it one of the toughest hikes in Southern Oregon) with BIG VIEWS in all directions. ¬†It would also be the first time in many years that I’d climbed it under totally snow-free conditions – which, to me, makes the climb both easier and harder for different reasons.

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Stuart Falls (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 11-Jul-2017

Stuart Falls Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

UPDATE: In August of 2017, this whole area sustained substantial damage from the Blanket Creek Fire, part of the High Cascades Complex Fire.  Current trail and forest conditions are unlikely to match those seen here.

Stuart Falls is a gorgeous 40-foot or so cascade of silver water nestled in a spectacular forest in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, near the extreme southwest corner of Crater Lake National Park. It has some wonderful campsites at its base and used to be readily accessible via the Red Blanket Trail (USFS #1090) from a trailhead on Forest Road (FR) 6205 to the west. But then this area was touched by the 2008 Lonesome Complex Middle Fork fire, which removed a lot of the understory and ground cover. This was followed by two years of minimal snow cover, punctuated by short, but intense, bursts of rain. No longer slowed by an understory, this water tore down gullies and completely obliterated the #1090 in several places (and also closed FR 6205 2.5 miles from the trailhead). Using my 4×4 to reach the trailhead, I did this hike in 2015 and found the journey to the falls to be difficult at best and possibly even dangerous. A return visit seemed unlikely until I realized there was a safe (but slightly longer) way in from the east via the Pumice Flat Trail. So, leaving the LovedOne immersed in some sort of intricate fabric project, I headed out to return to the falls.

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Tipsoo Peak on Snow (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 06-Jul-2017

Tipsoo Peak Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon

Tipsoo Peak (8,034) is one of the few 8000-foot Cascade volcanos (it ties for #38 in terms of elevation) with a well-graded trail to its summit. Located in Oregon’s Mount Thielsen Wilderness, it is an easy hike to spectacular 360¬ļ views, including Howlock Mountain, Mount Thielsen, Mount Bailey, Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, and Diamond, Miller, and Maidu Lakes. ¬†Directly south of its summit is the highest point (7,560 feet) on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Oregon and Washington. ¬†We decided to do a quick hike to its summit to: (a) take in the views on what was to be a full bluebird day, (b) check-out snow levels along the PCT, and (c) generate an excuse to stop at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek for some of their delicious pie (because hiking is hard and you need to stay fueled!).

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Wild Rogue Loop Backpack 20/22-Jun-2017

Wild Rogue Loop Trail Rogue River Oregon

Oregon’s Rogue River flows some 215 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Although not as large as the Columbia or the Willamette, it is nonetheless one of Oregon’s iconic rivers. ¬†It’s been in our hearts for years but only recently have we had the time to give it the attention it deserves. Between 2012 and 2016, we hiked (in sections) the entire Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) as it roughly parallels the river from near Boundary Springs to Prospect, Oregon. ¬†In 2015, we backpacked the famous Rogue River Trail (USFS #1160) from Grave Creek to Foster Bar and also did a rafting day trip from Robertson Bridge¬†to Grave Creek. ¬†In 2016, we bolstered the local economy again with a multi-day rafting trip on the Wild and Scenic Rogue from¬†Grave Creek to Foster Bar. ¬†After attending a presentation earlier this year by Gabriel Howe of the Siskiyou Mountain Club on their 2015 restoration of the¬†Wild Rogue Loop, we knew we had to hike it. ¬†With lingering snow keeping us from the High Cascades and parts of the Siskiyou Crest, now seemed like just the time to do this lower-altitude loop.

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Upper Rogue River Trail (#1034) Summary 28-May-2017

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Sadly, as of May 2019, the trail from Crater Rim Viewpoint to Natural Bridge Viewpoint has yet to see any maintenance and remains difficult to find and follow due to fading tread, missing bridges, fallen trees, and encroaching brush. The section from Natural Bridge to River Bridge, which passes the popular Takelma Gorge, still provides relatively clear and easy hiking.

The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that roughly parallels the Main (or North) Fork of the Rogue River for about 47 miles from near its headwaters at Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. This trail can be thru-hiked¬†but is more often¬†hiked in sections, each of which is¬†readily accessible from Highways 62 or 230. We hiked our first section of the #1034, the northern-most, in 2012 and sometime after that finishing the whole thing became a bit of an obsession. ¬†We should have seen this coming since I’m sufficiently compulsive to finish almost every project I start. ¬†This behavior has proved to be¬†both a strength and a weakness, depending on how you look at it – but it does make for a lot of hiking, which is a universal good. ¬†So, here is a summary¬†– in section order from north to south – of our five-year, ~49+ mile mission to hike where many have hiked before…

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Fun with Ticks on the Upper Rogue River 26-May-2017

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Hiking trails follow the Rogue River for approximately 100 miles. ¬†One of these, the¬†Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034), roughly parallels¬†it for about 47 miles from near Boundary Springs to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. ¬†It can be hiked in sections. ¬†We hiked¬†our first section, the northern-most, in 2012 and completed the southern-most section in 2016. ¬†Done and done, except for the possibility¬†(per Sullivan) that there was a path from the North Fork Dam Recreation Area¬†to¬†the Peyton Bridge Trailhead at Lost Creek Lake. ¬†This would allow one to link the true Upper Rogue River Trail (#1034) with¬†the “Rogue River Trail” that goes around the north and south shores of Lost Creek Lake and ends at Casey State Park. ¬†We conveniently ignored that “except” until the nagging malaise¬†of incompleteness was too much to bear. ¬†So we dragged ourselves off the sofa and went out yesterday to finish the hike…

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Discovery Point Snowshoe (Crater Lake NP) 08-May-2017

Crater Lake National Park Oregon

We live about an hour and a half from Crater Lake National Park and, while we’ve visited several times, we don’t get to it (or at least the Rim) as often as we should. Too busy with tourists in the summer months; too challenged by snow and weather in the winter months. A little touch of guilt here – particularly now that there’s talk of privatizing National Parks and abolishing National Monuments (so sad, so stupid). So, yesterday, with The LovedOne mostly recovered from a bout of bronchitis, we went for a short – but amazing – snowshoe hike to Discovery Point on the lake’s west rim.

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