Madrones in the Abstract III (January 2019)

Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract patterns in and on the bark of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. So, as another round of winter weather (with snow! ūüėÄ ) closes in on us, here are more images selected from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees.

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Madrones in the Abstract II (November 2018)

More of the abstract artistry of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract images in and on their bark.  Hence one more set of images from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees.

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Hiking the Mule Mountain Loop from Above 19-Nov-2017

Mule Mountain Mule Creek Trails Oregon

The Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919) used to be one of the most popular trails in the Upper Applegate Valley. Then the Forest Service lost its easement through private property to the low-altitude start of the trail on public land. The Forest Service’s suggested alternative, the Charlie Buck/Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918), starts higher up, where it might be closed by snow in the winter, and involves a heart-wrenching 1,200 feet of gain in its first mile from its northern trailhead! Having done this before¬†(post), I thought it might be easier to reach the Mule Mountain and Mule Creek (USFS #920) Trails from the #918’s southern trailhead at the end of Forest Road (FR) 2010-300.¬† There was just time to give this a try ahead of an incoming¬† stretch of hiking-unfriendly weather. The LovedOne has always maintained that hiking should be fun rather than¬†character building, so she buried further under the covers and offered up a muffled “good luck with that” as I headed off into the freezing fog outside our garage.

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Hiking to Squaw Peak (Southern Oregon) 28-Apr-2017

Charlie Buck Trail Squaw Peak Oregon

The 11-mile Mule Mountain~Mule Creek loop hike in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Valley¬†(USFS #919)¬†used to be a winter/spring favorite owing to its accessibility in winter and wildflowers in spring. ¬†Unfortunately, access to the bulk of the trail on federal land was across a 0.3 mile easement on private land. ¬†In 2016, when that private land changed ownership, the easement was revoked. ¬†While some people still seem to be using the trail,¬†doing so technically constitutes trespassing – which may become more of an issue if the new owner takes up residence on the site. ¬†The U.S. Forest Service is supposedly negotiating for a new easement but, in the meantime, they suggest accessing the loop from its top via the Charlie Buck/Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918). This approach does not have nearly the accessibility (it was closed by snow all winter) as did the old #919, but it’s what’s on offer at the moment.

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Hiking Squaw Peak in Winter 27-Jan-2017

Little Grayback Trail Squaw Peak Oregon

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.

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Mule Mountain to Little Grayback Loop (Southern Oregon) 31-Mar-2016

Mule Mountain Trail Applegate Valley

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 excitement 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)!

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Mule Mountain to Charlie Buck Loop (Southern Oregon) 29-Mar-2016

Mule Mountain Trail Applegate Valley

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 excitement 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)!

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Snow on Mule Mountain (Applegate Valley, Oregon) 16-Dec-2015

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon

This is one of the classic hikes in the Applegate Valley west of Medford; one that we first did last December when snow was in short supply. But last Sunday, a major storm dropped the snow level to 500 feet and the Mule Mountain area got plastered with 8 to 12 inches of fluffy new snow. What a welcome relief after two years of drought and skimpy snow! We took advantage of the brief break between storms for a quick snow hike up to the ridge crest at 4,300 feet.

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Mule Mountain Loop (Ruch, Oregon) 23-Dec-2014

Mule Mountain Upper Applegate Valley Oregon

Update: Because of a change in ownership, the lower trailhead for the #919 is no longer accessible to the public from Upper Applegate Road.

While looking for a low altitude hike to explore on one of those few sunny days squeezed in between bouts of rain & clouds, we stumbled on the Mule Mountain trail system – the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919), the Charlie Buck/Baldy Peak Trail (USFS #918), and the Mule Creek Trail (USFS #920). The wonderful description of these trails in Luke Ruediger’s The Siskiyou Crest is what sold it. Note that the Applegate Ranger Station is now the Star Ranger Station. Apparently this loop is the best example of intact low-elevation forest and wood land in this area and presents a wildflower extravaganza in the Spring. The trailhead is only a sign with limited roadside parking but all the trails, if poorly signed, were obvious, in good condition, and easy to follow. We ascended the #919, traversed south on the #918, and returned via the #920.

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