Big Blue Sky (February 2017)

“I never get tired of the blue sky.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh


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Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 31-Dec-2016

Stein Butte Southern Oregon

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.

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Towhead Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Oct-2016

We’ve done several hikes in the Red Buttes Wilderness in Northern California, including a scramble to its high point (the eastern summit of Red Butte at 6,739 feet) just this last June (post). However, it’s such a beautiful area that we’re always looking for new hikes to explore around here. So, after wandering around in the virtual wilderness of the internet, I came across a few mentions of Towhead Lake, which is situated in the southeast corner of the real Red Buttes Wilderness just northwest of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Our trailhead for this hike was at Cook and Green Pass, which we reached via a good gravel road (Forest Road (FR) 1055) which comes up from the Oregon side of the border just south of Applegate Lake. At the pass, the PCT crosses FR 1055 (which continues south and down as FR 48N20 to the Seiad Valley in California) and is joined by the terminus of the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959) coming up from FR 1040. There is also a signed “Service Road” that goes west from the pass (there will be more about this road later). We started hiking south on the PCT as in climbed gently up the slopes of Cook and Green Butte,

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Cook and Green Trail (Siskiyou Mountains) 14-Sep-2016

Cook and Green Trail Oregon

Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, all of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us.  In an effort to be more social, we finally (after lurking their site for a year) signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking.  My first effort at one of their hikes – a climb of Greyback Mountain (post) – went well, except for the fact that only the trip organizer and I were on it (the LovedOne having determined it was too hot to hike that day).  So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when the organizer of the Grayback Mountain hike – Joe – offered a moderate hike on the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959).

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Red Butte (Red Buttes Wilderness) 01-Jun-2016

Red Buttes Wilderness Northern California

With the LovedOne momentarily lost to gardening, I decided on a day hike of Red Butte in the 19,940 acre Red Buttes Wilderness.  This wilderness straddles both the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains (i.e., the rugged Applegate River/Klamath River divide) and the California/Oregon boundary, but has far more acreage in California than in Oregon (USFS, details).  It takes its name from the dominant peak along the Siskiyou Crest, whose peridotite rock weathers, because of its high iron and magnesium content, to a reddish-orange color.  The dominant peak has western and eastern summits (hence the “Buttes”) with the eastern summit being the named (Red Butte per the USGS) higher summit at 6,739 feet.  Although we’ve done a number of hikes in this wilderness, its high point was always somewhere down the list of things to do.

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Middle Fork Applegate River (California) 29-Nov-2015

Middle Fork Applegate River Northern California

The arrival of shorter, colder (it was 17º F at our house this morning) days had us casting around for some short hikes that we hadn’t already done this year and which didn’t involve significant snow travel. The Middle Fork Applegate River Trail (USFS #950) is truly short (7.2 miles out-and-back) but parallels an interesting rocky stream as it passes through some large, old-growth forest. It’s easily accessible on paved and good gravel roads and is very popular in the summer months as a swimming / picnic destination (it’s part of Hike #68 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). However, with the air temperature stuck below freezing for the whole day, it was ours to explore in solitude.

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Kangaroo Springs (Red Buttes Wilderness) 19-Mar-2015

Lily Pad Lake Kangaroo Springs Red Buttes Wilderness California

After a suspiciously warm and sunny winter, we now seem to be settling in for a clear day surrounded by days with cold fronts, clouds, rain, and (hopefully) a bit more snow. After a trip to the coast (with one sunny day) and a pro bono business trip to Portland (where it rained), I (The LovedOne stayed behind to contemplate gardening – yes, it’s that warm!) took advantage of today’s bluebird conditions to explore the southern end of the Siskiyou-Boundary Trail from Cook and Green Pass (Hike #68 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). I also wanted to check-out the condition of Forest Road (FR) 1055, which provides road access to the pass. I should note – before any map geeks go ballistic – that none of this hike is actually in the Red Buttes Wilderness.  It should be, but it isn’t 😡 – likely because of the usual political compromises involved in wilderness designation. In fact, most of this hike is through a still active surface mining claim for chromite. 👿 Hopefully that claim will never come to fruition. 😕

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Azalea Lake via Steve Fork (Red Buttes Wilderness) 06-Mar-2015

Azalea Lake Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness California

The Steve Fork Trailhead in Oregon provides relatively easy access to the north side of California’s Red Buttes Wilderness (where, because of the absurdly low snow year, I have been able to hike during much of this winter). It’s also an access point to the Boundary Trail, which I have also been exploring piece-meal this winter. Steve Fork is also an alternate trailhead for wonderful little Azalea Lake, which we had visited before via the Fir Glade Trailhead. So today’s hike was a twofer – check out the Steve Fork Trail (USFS #905) and visit Azalea Lake from a different trailhead. {UPDATE: The area around Azalea Lake was burned by the 2017 Knox Fire.}

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Frog Pond/Cameron Meadows (Red Buttes Wilderness) 01-Mar-2015

Frog Pond Cameron Meadows Red Buttes Wilderness California

We decided to celebrate the start of meteorological Spring with a short hike on the northern edge of the Red Buttes Wilderness. This hike is actually in California (barely) but the road access is from Oregon, so we’re calling it an Oregon hike. Or, more accurately, a State of Jeferson hike – but enough with the names already! 😉 This particular trail was spared being burned by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire, so its botanical features are still intact (Update: It was intensively maintained in 2016 and was missed by the 2017 Whiskey Ridge and Overview Fires).

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Swan Mountain (Red Buttes Wilderness) 25-Feb-2015

Swan Mountain Steve Fork Red Buttes Wilderness Oregon

Although most of the Red Buttes Wilderness is in Northern California, a small chunk of it is in Oregon, between Tanner Mountain and Sucker Creek Gap. The Steve Fork Trail or Steve’s Fork Trail (USFS #905) provides the shortest access to Sucker Creek Gap from the east side of the Siskiyou Crest. From the gap, it’s a short hike to views from Swan Mountain (which is, sadly, not in the designated wilderness area).

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Cook and Green Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 31-Jan-2015

Cook and Green Pass Red Buttes Wilderness Oregon

Looking (as always) for a loop hike with views, I came across the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959) – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958) loop in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. This is hike #154 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition) He has you doing the loop counter-clockwise, which I would not recommend. Ruediger details the various botanical features of this loop in his book, The Siskiyou Crest.  As this loop was estimated at 15+ miles with a lot of gain, The LovedOne opted to stay home and knit.

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