Stein Butte (Southwest Oregon) 20-Jan-2022

Since 2014, with one fraught exception, Stein Butte has been the hike that closed out our hiking year. 2021, however, ended in the midst of a giant snow storm. Driving was treacherous. Emergency rooms (should a hike go bad) were clogged with plague victims. Even if these hadn’t been concerning issues, there was absolutely no enthusiasm for miles of post-holing up through deep drifts of fresh snow. None. So Stein was postponed.

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Lily Pad Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 16-Jul-2021

The Bootleg Fire, which has now exceeded 273,000 acres (110,450 ha), continues to march east, chewing-up the forest and spewing out great volumes of smoke as it does so. Sadly, it is now eating its way into the Gearhart Wilderness, which has a plentiful supply of dead trees to act as fuel. This was another place that we’ve now apparently missed our chance to re-visit. 😥 The smoke from the Bootleg and other fires in Oregon and California is pushed mostly east by the prevailing westerlies. But winds shift, bringing this smoke to us when they do so. That, combined with that heat dome thing, has made cool, smokeless hiking a rare commodity thus far this summer.

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Swan Mountain (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Jul-2021

Swan Mountain (6,272 ft / 1,912 m) sits on the Siskiyou Crest just north of the Oregon unit of the Red Buttes Wilderness. I’d first reached its summit on a cold, crisp day during the snowless winter of 2015. The summit is an easy walk up from the Boundary Trail #1207 and the views from the top are – weather permitting – excellent. We tried for its summit last summer but were turned back by – what then – seemed like excessive heat (if we’d only known what was coming 😓). But in 2020 we’d gotten a late start due to the long drive to the western trailhead on Sucker Creek. This year we figured, what with the heat dome still pressing on us, to go for an earlier start from the eastern trailhead on Steve Fork. It worked, but just barely.

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Frog/Cameron Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 05-May-2021

The winter of 2014-15 in Southern Oregon was one without meaningful snow, even at the highest elevations. The Mount Ashland Ski Area didn’t even open. We did more than a few hikes then that should have either been inaccessible until Spring or have required snowshoes. One of these was the Frog Pond/Cameron Meadows Trail #953 in the California portion of the Red Buttes Wilderness. By rights, we shouldn’t even have been able to drive to the trailhead, much less hike the whole loop in just boots. But we did, going counter-clockwise. Staying on the trail across Cameron Meadow was, despite the large rock cairns, tricky. And the portion of the trail down to the Cameron Meadows Trailhead was choked with brush.

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Grouse Loop (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 02-Mar-2021

The Grouse Loop Trail #941 is another one of those short trails in our area that we’ve previously overlooked. We had planned to do it, along with the Latgawa Peninsula Loop and the Gin Lin Trail, as an “Applegate Trifecta” but got distracted. Today was forecast as the second to the last of the bluebird days granted us before the next wave of storms. So after our dental appointments this morning (these aren’t nearly as anxiety-provoking as they used to be thanks to us having found a truly excellent dentist), The LovedOne headed off to do some library volunteering and I went to see what the #941 was all about.

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A Sucker Hikes Every Heated Mile (Red Buttes Wilderness) 28-Jul-2020

The meadows and shelter shown below were threatened by the 157,270 acre Slater Fire, which started in September 2020 and wasn’t declared 100% contained until December 2020. Fortunately, rain arrived in October 2020 just in time to save the meadows and the shelter.

If “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” (a quote usually attributed to Einstein but actually from a Rita Mae Brown novel), then we are nuttier than politicians during an election campaign. On a crisp, clear day in early 2015, I’d hiked up to Sucker Creek Gap, in the Oregon piece of the Red Buttes Wilderness, from Steve Fork to the east. I’d continued on from the gap to nearby Swan Mountain to enjoy expansive views from its summit.

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Hinkle Lake (Southern Oregon) 12-Jul-2019

After a month on a raft, we needed a short, but interesting, hike to get our legs back and a 5 mile out-and-back stroll to Hinkle Lake seemed ideal for that purpose.  The 425-acre Hinkle Lake Botanical Area is located in the headwaters of the Steve Fork of the Applegate River, just north of the Red Buttes Wilderness.  It’s in Oregon but just barely.  The meadow system surrounding the lake is one of the largest in the Red Buttes region and hosts several rare and endemic plant species.  We didn’t see any of those, mainly because our full attention was captured by the wildflower-laden meadows around the lake.

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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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The Seven Summits of NorCal (July 2018)

Seven Summits Northern California

In 2015, I came across a small book (The 7 Summits of the Siskiyou Trail) by Aria Zoner – an Ashland-based ultra hiker~backpacker~peakbagger – that described a 448-mile long hiking loop through seven wilderness areas in Northern California (NorCal), with scramble climbs (Class 3 or less) of the high points in each wilderness.  While 448 miles seemed a bit much, these seven hikes/scrambles looked like fun, so we added them to our never-diminishing list of hikes to do just in case the couch started to look too inviting (assuming, of course, the cat ever lets us sit on it…).

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Mountains (August 2017)

But I shall go down from this airy space,
this swift white peace, this stinging exultation.
And time will close about me,
and my soul stir to the rhythm of the daily round.
Yet, having known, life will not press so close,
and always I shall feel time ravel thin about me;
For once I stood
In the white windy presence of eternity.

Eunice Tietjens (1917)

Patrick Y. Wang (1977 – 2005)
Andrea “Andy” Basque (1963 – 2008)


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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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