Summit Shelter Snowshoe (Oregon) 06-Jan-2020

Trail sign for the Jackson Klamath Winter Trails system outside Klamath Falls, Oregon

Today the snow telemetry (SNOTEL) site at Billie Creek Divide indicated a snow depth of just 25 inches – less than half the historical median depth for this day. o_O But we deemed it enough to snowshoe some of the Jackson Klamath Winter Trails near Billie Creek. These trails are old roads that wind their way through the forest starting from the Summit Sno-Park off Highway 140. We sketched out a figure-8 loop on the Petunia, McLoughlin, and Lower Canal Nordic Trails with the Summit Shelter as our goal (and turn-around point).

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Seldom Creek Falls (Southern Oregon) 01-May-2019

Southern Oregon’s Lake of the Woods, situated between Medford and Klamath Falls, is a natural lake in that it is not, unlike some other large lakes in our area, the by-product of a dam or an irrigation scheme. Runoff from the surrounding watershed still causes the lake’s level to fluctuate, usually only 1 to 2 feet per year. Before people began tinkering with its hydrology in the 1900s, high water in the lake would flow naturally northeast into the Great Marsh and from there into Seldom Creek. Over geological time, this seasonal flow etched a 50-foot or so deep notch in a basalt ledge to form the cascade that is now known as Seldom Creek Falls.

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Burton Butte Snowshoe (Oregon) 14-Mar-2019

Yes, we’ve had plenty of snow this winter. Plenty of snow. So one would think we’ve been snowshoeing like crazy these past few months. No. The snow this year came in waves, plastering the mountain roads each time. By the time the roads were clear, or at least not too exciting to drive, the next storm hit. The snow itself was beautiful, soft, DEEP powder – superb for skiing, not so for snowshoeing. So we waited until the storms eased, the roads were clearer, and the snow had settled some. Looking for something different, we spied Burton Butte (6,090 feet), sitting about a mile southeast of the Pedersen Sno-Park on the Dead Indian Memorial Highway. There’s an old road (Forest Road (FR) 3862) that runs almost to its broad summit – a road we thought might work with snowshoes. So on a cold, but otherwise bluebird morning, we drove up to the sno-park,

Just a little snow at the sno-park

geared-up,

The LovedOne pretending I can’t see her 🙄

and headed south on the snow-covered Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), following a few blue blazers and an obvious divot in the snow. The snow – of which there was A LOT – was powdery, soft, and totally untracked – an amazingly pristine experience in a crowded world.

Following the PCT’s divot through deep snow (arrow points to a PCT blazer)
Along the PCT
Going in 8-12 inches even with snowshoes

After about 0.75 miles on the PCT, we turned east into an area that aerial photographs show as an old clear cut, now some 20 years or so into regrowth. Unlike the more open PCT, here we had to thread our way through smaller, more tightly packed trees, each laden with snow blobs. The LovedOne also managed to collapse a snow-covered air pocket, almost getting her snowshoe stuck under a buried tree as a result.

Almost trapped…

After less than a half mile of wending our way through this young forest, we came to FR 3862, which was also totally untracked. We’re guessing that it may not appeal to snowmobilers since it doesn’t connect directly to any other roads.

On FR 3862

As we went up the road in the brilliant sunshine, we noticed that the snow was losing its powdery quality and becoming “stickier” so that it now clung to our poles and shoes. Our hike was becoming seriously aerobic as muscles not used to repetitively lifting clots of snow came into play. Our original plan had been to follow FR 3862 to FR 3862-240, follow that to near the top of the butte, and then go cross-country to the top. But, as we rounded the butte’s southwestern ridge, we decided it would be easier (or no harder) to just leave the road and strike directly up the very gently sloping ridge. We took the appearance of a dynamically balanced snow sculpture as affirmation of this decision…

Snow sculpture or directional portent?

Going up through the trees was somewhat easier than working through the softening snow on the road and we soon emerged in to a big open meadow now thickly covered with a smooth blanket of absolutely pristine snow. Wonderful! This is probably a wildflower paradise in late spring and early summer.

Entering the meadow
An expanse of untouched snow
Our tracks and our tracks alone
Sunshine in the meadow
Shadows on snow

Had this been a dirt hike, we’d have just been getting started (these meadows are only two miles from the sno-park). But breaking trail in soft and sticky snow had taken its toll. Continuing on might have ruined an otherwise stellar day through overexertion. Plus the actual top of the butte is tree-covered and viewless. So we enjoyed the meadow a bit more, then headed back.

Contemplating our hike back
Back across the meadow
Back along FR 3862, with the tip (arrow) of Brown Mountain visible on the horizon
Back along the PCT

Despite being only 4.3 miles round-trip with 500 feet of gain, this hike had given us quite a work-out (certain muscles echoed this sentiment until silenced with ibuprofen). But this minor suffering was well worth it for the opportunity to cross untracked snow on a beautiful day to a big snowy meadow! 😀 And, with all this snow, there may be more than a few weeks left in the snowshoe season. And time for the snow to settle just a little bit more. 🙂

Our track to the meadows on the side of Burton Butte
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Summit Shelter Snowshoe (Oregon) 13-Jan-2019

The Summit Shelter is nestled in the forest southeast of Mount McLoughlin, the most striking peak in Southern Oregon. In winter, the shelter can be accessed via a network of old roads converted to Nordic trails. The last time we visited the shelter was during the BIG snow winter of 2017. Snowfall thus far this year hasn’t been nearly that epic, but the Billie Creek Divide snow telemetry site (the closest one to the shelter) currently shows 30 inches on the ground. Plenty for snowshoeing if we stayed on the trails. So when the weather gurus promised us a full-on bluebird day, we had little choice but to unlimber the shoes and head for the forest.

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Surveyor Mountain (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 22-May-2018

Surveyor Mountain Fremont-Winema National Forest Oregon

Surveyor Mountain (not to be confused with Surveyor’s Ridge near Hood River) is a long, high-elevation ridge capped by Surveyor Peak (~6,200 feet) in the north and Summit Rock Point (6,542 feet) in the south.  The Casacde-Siskiyou National Monument’s expansion now protects the ridge, whose snowpack feeds headwaters streams of Jenny Creek. This creek, a candidate for Wild and Scenic River status, flows south past the Box O Ranch, over Jenny Creek Falls, and into the Klamath River.

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West Brown Mountain Loop (Southern Oregon) 12-May-2018

Brown Mountain Oregon

Brown Mountain is a small, youthful-looking (it’s only about 12,000 to 60,000 years old), basaltic andesite shield volcano sitting directly south of its more prominent neighbor, Mount McLoughlin. Much of Brown Mountain is bare, unweathered, dark-colored, block-lava, with a glacial valley carved into its northeast flank.  I snowshoed to it’s summit in early 2016 and we circumnavigated it later that year using the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Brown Mountain Trail (USFS #1005) [#3724 on the Fremont-Winema National Forest], and the High Lakes Trail (USFS #6200). At that time, we thought, per the Forest Service website, that the western end of the #1005 was at Forest Road (FR) 3705. We would later find that it actually continues to the west and north on a mix of trails and old roads. So the idea emerged of using the PCT and this additional piece of the #1005 to make a loop to the west of Brown Mountain. The LovedOne’s knee is still being cranky, so I set off alone (sigh) under near perfect hiking conditions to have a go at this loop.

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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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Devils Peak (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 17-Oct-2017

Devils Peak Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

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 Sky Lakes hiking needs unmet, and the weather window about to snap shut, I consulted the auguries 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.

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Gardner Peak (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 01-Jul-2017

Gardner Peak Skylakes Wilderness Oregon

Gardner Peak (6,884 feet) sits on the eastern edge of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, overlooking the northern reaches of Upper Klamath Lake.  It’s a named peak without a benchmark and the origin and date of this name are uncertain; it was probably named after an early settler in the Wood River Valley around Fort Klamath.  It certainly doesn’t get the same attention as does Devils Peak along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to the west.  Still, a cross-country hike to its summit was as good a reason as any for a first visit to the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead and the associated Sevenmile Trail. With its easy trails, plethora of campsites, and over 200 lakes of varying sizes, the Sky Lakes Wilderness is one of (if not the most) beguiling and wonderful wilderness areas in the state.  But only the hiking-obsessed (hand raised here) visit before September, when the clouds of blood thirsty mosquitos that hatch from snowmelt until mid-August have dissipated.

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Summit Shelter (Oregon) Snowshoe 15-Jan-2017

It took a few days following the Great Storm for the weather to return to being abundantly clear and sunny and for us to feel the urge to try out the volumes of snow the Storm had dumped on us.  Having made the short snowshoe out-and-back to the South Brown Mountain Shelter before the Great Storm, we thought we’d try a little longer trip to the Summit Shelter.  This shelter sits in a cluster of Nordic trails (more details here) just north of Highway 140 near Lake of the Woods, Oregon; trails that are readily accessible from the deluxe (it has ample parking AND a pit toilet) Summit Sno-Park. It was clear, sunny, and about 12ÂșF when we pulled in to the Sno-Park, with its great view of Brown Mountain to the south.

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Brown Mountain from Summit Sno-Park

Here the Nordic trail maps are not much more than simple sketches showing the names and approximate alignments of the various trails. Fortunately, the trails themselves are well signed and marked with the usual blue plastic diamonds. The Powerline Trail leaves going east right from the Sno-Park and we took that trail for 0.25 miles over to its junction with the Lower Canal Trail, the major north-south connector trail.

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Starting north of the Lower Canal Trail

Pretty soon, we came to a junction with the McLoughlin Trail and turned east (right) on to that trail. There had been ski and snowshoe tracks (this area is closed to snowmobiles) on the Lower Canal Trail, which made travel easier, but once we got on the less-tracked McLoughlin, we quickly found out just how soft, deep, and unconsolidated the snow was. Even with snowshoes, we would sink-in at least 8 inches all the time and much, much deeper in selected spots. Snowshoeing is SOOO much more aerobic than just hiking on dirt!  Soon the word consolidated lost all meaning…

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
On the McLoughlin Trail
Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
On the McLoughlin Trail

It was work, but the day was clear, sunny, and bright, and the forest was amazingly quiet and fully decorated in all manner of snow fittings and sculptures. Truly stunningly beautiful! We passed a junction with the Petunia Trail and stomped on to where the McLoughlin Trail crosses the Pitt View Trail. Here we turned north (left) on to the Pitt View and were almost immediately rewarded with the only clear view we’d get of Mount McLoughlin all day.

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Mount McLoughlin from the Pitt View Trail

The Pitt View Trail climbs a bit, and gently at that, but with the snowshoes it felt a lot steeper (still, we’d gain only 500 feet the whole day).  About 0.5 miles up the Pitt View, we came to its junction with the Petunia Trail and after consulting our sketch map,

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Map reading at the Pitt View-Petunia junction

we turned northeast (right) and headed up the Petunia,

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Up the Petunia Trail

past the Big Mac Trail junction, and on to the junction of the Petunia and McLoughlin Trails (the McLoughlin continues past where we left it earlier in the day and curves around to this junction and beyond),

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
At the Petunia-McLoughlin junction

and then swung south (right) on the McLoughlin for the last 0.25 miles to the shelter.

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Along the McLoughlin Trail to the Summit Shelter

Local snowmobile and Nordic clubs maintain the Brown Mountain, Summit, Four Mile, and Big Meadow shelters, making sure they are stocked yearly with firewood for use by snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, hikers, and snowshoers. The shelters are open winter months to use to warm-up or in case of an emergency. The layer of snow on the shelter’s roof gives you an idea of what the Great Storm brought us!

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Summit Shelter
Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Checking for mice
Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
The shelter’s wood stove

The shelter was clean, neat, and fully stocked with wood but the stove was, sadly, not lit, otherwise we might have lingered for awhile. But, nay, after a cold snack, we started the return stomp, back down the Petunia to the Pitt View, and then northwest (right) on to the Pitt View Trail toward the Lower Canal Trail. On the way down the Petunia, we passed some other snowshoers coming up, so our track going down was considerably firmer than it had been coming up. The tracks of the other snowshoers made it easier for us all the way back to the Lower Canal Trail and then along it all the way back to the Summit Sno-Park.

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Returning on the Lower Canal Trail

Hard, but rewarding, work (6.3 miles; 500 feet of elevation gain) on a beautiful day through snow-blanketed, quiet forests, with a visit to a classic snow cabin thrown in for good measure. A long stretch of rainy, gloomy weather is forecast for the days ahead, so it felt good to get out and enjoy a full bluebird day!

Summit Shelter Fremont-Winema NF Oregon
Our track around the various Nordic trails in this area
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Yamsay Mountain (Fremont-Winema NF) 30-Aug-2016

Yamsay Mountain Oregon

Yamsay Mountain is a huge, sprawling (and fortunately now dormant) shield volcano with a glacier-carved crater on its northeast side. It sits 35 miles due east of Crater Lake National Park, at the border of Klamath and Lake Counties. Yet, despite its height and size (it covers 75 square miles), Yamsay is barely visible above the surrounding hills and forests. What makes it interesting as a hike is its size: it’s #73 on the list of Oregon’s highest peaks, #15 of the peaks that share a history of Cascade Range volcanism, and #14 on the list of Oregon’s most prominent peaks (where prominence is the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain). All this listing makes the peak attractive to peakbaggers and view-obsessed hikers (like us). It’s also a popular winter cross-country ski route.  And the recent placement of a geocache near the summit has attracted yet another group of visitors (Yamsay geocache).  So it’s a bit obscure but not unpopular.

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