A nice walk in perfect weather. To a cute, restored fire lookout (which you can rent). With wonderful views in all directions. On a peak with an unfortunate name. Efforts to change that have lurched along for several years now, with no end in sight. But the work continues.Continue reading “Squaw Peak Lookout (Southwest Oregon) 21-Nov-2020”
Squaw Peak (4,984 feet) lies about 18 miles southwest of Ashland, Oregon. It’s a prominent point on the ridge system that includes Little Grayback Mountain to the west and Squaw Mountain to the east. A (now classic) new model L-4 groundhouse, with catwalk , was built on its summit in 1943. This lookout was staffed regularly from 1943 until the mid-1960s. Unlike many other fire lookouts in the Pacific Northwest, it was not destroyed when the Forest Service decided that aircraft could replace them. It is still used for emergencies and in early season when access to the still-staffed lookout on Dutchman Peak to the east is blocked by snow. It has recently been refurbished and placed in the Forest Service’s lookout rental program. From its catwalk, you have (if the weather cooperates) expansive views of the upper Applegate Valley, the Rogue River Valley, the Cascade Range and the western Siskiyous.
On gravel Forest Road 2010, you can drive to the lookout (if you’ve rented it) or to within a mile of it. Or you can hike to it on the Little Grayback Trail plus some road-walking. A gap in the weather was predicted for the Solstice, making it the perfect opportunity to see what conditions were like at the lookout. The LovedOne demurred on this adventure, still wary of Squaw from when we postholed our way to it during the super snowy winter of ’15. On my way to the lookout, I experienced various combinations of fog, rain squalls, sunshine, and snow flurries. There were a few inches of snow and blue skies above at the lookout but the usual views were blocked by swirling clouds. There’s a weather station on the summit, which is how I know the air temperature was 33F (with a 6 mph wind) when I was there. No worries – it was still a good, solid hike (11 miles round-trip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) to a favorite local destination! 🙂
The trail up Kerby Peak from the White Creek Trailhead is steep and challenging but well graded and rewards your efforts with wonderful views of the Illinois Valley, the Siskiyou Crest, and beyond. We’ve hiked it before (post) and even tried (unsuccessfully) to summit it when its covered with snow (post). But, while contemplating the map for another hike of Kerby, I saw a small lake – Rabbit Lake – just below the ridge running south from the peak. Lakes are a rarity in the Siskiyous so checking-it out quickly took precedence over yet another hike of Kerby. I found a description of the use trail to Rabbit on the Highway 199 website and the short out-and-back hike discussed there seemed ideal for what was going to be (finally) a sizzling hot day in Southern Oregon.
We find water droplets – particularly those on leaves – inherently fascinating, as they seem to serve as metaphors for a wide range of human perceptions and emotions.
Since we moved to Southern Oregon, we’ve done any number of hikes around and near Applegate Lake, a reservoir at the head of the Upper Applegate River Valley, owing to the accessiblity of its trails almost all year round. But for any number of reasons, we’ve never visited the lake when its near to full; that is, when it looks like a lake and not giant mud-rimmed bathtub. The desire to see it at least once as a lake was strong, so when its pool elevation reached 1983.17 feet, with 1987.00 feet being full pool (dam hydrograph), it was time for a visit to view the waters. The LovedOne’s library volunteer duties kept her off this hike, so we’ll be doing another one here soon so she too can see the waters.
The Little Grayback Trail (#921), which is in the Upper Applegate Valley southwest of Jacksonville, Oregon, is one that does not show-up in many guidebooks. That’s too bad since it provides hiking access to the (now available for rent) historic lookout on Squaw Peak and is south-facing, so it’s usually clear of snow sooner and hence a good place for early season wildflowers. It may become more popular now that direct access to its companion trail in the Upper Applegate, the Mule Mountain Trail (#919), has been lost to private development.Continue reading “Little Grayback Mountain (Southern Oregon) 12-Mar-2017”
Now that low altitude (snow-free) access to the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919) has been lost to private development, only two publicly accessible trails remain to take you to the upper reaches of the forest east of Applegate Lake: the Stein Butte (USFS #929, post) and the Little Grayback (USFS #921) Trails. The Forest Service has suggested a work-around for Mule Mountain involving the Charlie Buck Trail (USFS #918) but its trailhead is up a steep dirt road and is, at present, blocked by snow – not exactly a low-altitude, year-round accessible trail. The Little Grayback is not a trail that has (so far) made it into many guidebooks, but Ruediger (The Siskiyou Crest, page 110) considers it to be the most botanically interesting trail in this area. That, combined with the loss of the Mule Mountain, may increase its popularity, despite the rough dirt road to its trailhead. The Little Grayback can be hiked out-and-back in its own right (wildflowers in season, big views!) but you can also go from the end of it up forest roads to the lookout atop Squaw Peak [I realize some folks find this word offensive but the U.S. Board of Geographic Names has not yet seen fit to amend the maps in this area, so I’m stuck with it when describing this hike]. That lookout was today’s snowy destination.
Stein Butte (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. It was the last hike we did in 2014 (post), the first full hike we did this year, and one of our first hike & bike efforts (post), so it seemed only fitting that it be our last hike for 2016. The #929 trail is well-maintained, well-graded, and offers sweeping views once you reach the crest of Elliott Ridge.
As of January 2017, there is no longer access to this trail from the Upper Applegate Road. The area previously used as its lower trailhead is now on private property for which the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest does not currently have an easement. Please respect the landowner’s wishes and access this trail from its upper reaches via the Charlie Buck / Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918).
The Upper Applegate Road begins in the small town of Ruch, Oregon on Highway 238. Along this stretch of road are some of the best low-altitude, all-year hikes in Southern Oregon. It is, however, hard to build loop hikes out of these trails without having to resort to friends and/or family car shuttles or extra long walks on roads. This would consign the solo hiker to just out-and-backs if it were not for – wait for it – the mountain bike! With a bike, it’s possible to make moderate loop hikes out of many otherwise loopless hikes – allowing you to mix the contemplative pace of a good hike with the soul-searing excitment of a downhill ride on gravel forest roads or on some actual mountain biking trails. Hence the miracle of the hike and bike (H&B)!
Last month, I’d hiked a part of the Little Grayback Trail for the first time but had gotten diverted from it by a climb of Little Grayback itself. This time around our goal was to hike the whole trail and continue on to the old lookout (Now restored and part of the Forest Service’s rental program.) on Squaw Peak. We realize some folks find this name offensive but the U.S. Geological Survey has not yet seen fit to amend the maps in this area, so we’re stuck with it when describing our hike. The LovedOne was along to provide the common sense needed to keep me from getting flayed by foolishly trying to go cross-country through manzanita and buckbrush thickets! 🙄 Continue reading “Squaw Peak (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 21-Feb-2015”
The Little Grayback Trail (USFS #921) is another trail that starts in the Upper Applegate Valley and climbs up to a ridge near Hanley Gap. The fact that it doesn’t seem to go anywhere in particular may have kept it out of many guidebooks. However, Ruediger, in his book The Siskiyou Crest, considers it to be the most botanically interesting trail in this area. Later I would learn that, if you add in a little road walking, this trail a great way to reach the old lookout on Squaw Peak. So I decided to check it out. As an added (but ultimately painful) bonus, I decided to summit Little Grayback Mountain as well. That the trail doesn’t go very near this summit seems to have eluded me. Ah, hubris… 🙄 Continue reading “Little Grayback Mountain (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 08-Jan-2015”