I first became aware of this trail from a 2013 Ashland Hiking Group post and then later found it posted as that on the Hiking Project. In both posts, the trail was described as indistinct, brushy, and hard to follow in places. Yet I could see it as part of a hike and bike loop – perhaps the last one of the 2017 summer season – involving it, Forest Roads 20 and 22, and the Wagner Butte Trail. So I girded myself for some bushwhacking and route-finding and set-off on a perfect bluebird day to explore this variation on the classic hike to Wagner Butte. As this loop progressed, I would be pleasantly surprised to find that the Ashland trails plan that has been in the works for years had finally come to fruition for this tread. Continue reading →
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 Lakess hiking needs unmet, and the weather window about to snap shut, I consulted the augeries 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.
It was time for a hike that was close (no long drive to the trailhead), straightforward (no cross-country adventures this time), and high above the valley heat (if possible). After engaging an extra brain cell, it dawned on me that an old favorite, Wagner Butte (USFS #1011) was the perfect choice. Although we’d been up there many times before (post), it had been awhile since we’d done it as a snow-free summer hike. So, with the LovedOne committed to spending the day at a cow-quilting class in Ashland, I soloed up to the Wagner Butte Trailhead to once again enjoy this old classic.
The South Fork Rogue River, a 25-mile tributary of Oregon’s Rogue River, rises in the Blue Lake Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness and flows generally northeast to its confluence first with the Middle Fork and then with the main Rogue slightly upstream of Lost Creek Lake. The South Fork is bordered for part of its length by three hiking trails: the Lower South Fork Trail between Lower South Fork Bridge and Imnaha Creek (USFS #988), the Middle South Fork Trail between the Upper and Lower South Fork Bridges (USFS #988), and the Upper South Fork Trail from near Upper South Fork Bridge to the Blue Lake Basin (USFS #988). Both the Lower and Middle trails are locally popular and are also described in almost every hiking guidebook for this area. The Upper trail is rarely mentioned (if at all) in local guidebooks and is described by the Forest Service as a minimally maintained primitive trail, one not recommended for horses, and a challenging workout for hikers. This made a hike of it sound intriguing for one last venture into the Sky Lakes until the end of mosquito season in September.
The Elk Creek Trail (USFS #1230) is an odd little trail in that it has a website and a trailhead sign but does not appear on any USGS or USFS maps. In reality, it’s a somewhat worn, moderately steep, but easy to follow trail that climbs from Forest Road (FR) 079 along Elk Creek through heavy woods to a junction with the Boundary Trail (USFS #1207) on the Siskiyou Crest. We first learned of it from Roether’s 2006 Williams Area Trail Guide (Hike #3) and have used it as a shortcut for a hike of Mount Elijah (post). Both that guide, and the Forest Service website, intimate that you can also use it to reach Grayback Mountain (post), some three miles to the north. So we decided to go see about that for ourselves and also check the condition of the Boundary Trail along the way.
Oregon’s Rogue River flows some 215 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs within Crater Lake National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, Oregon. Although not as large as the Columbia or the Willamette, it is nonetheless one of Oregon’s iconic rivers. It’s been in our hearts for years but only recently have we had the time to give it the attention it deserves. Between 2012 and 2016, we hiked (in sections) the entire Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) as it roughly parallels the river from near Boundary Springs to Prospect, Oregon. In 2015, we backpacked the famous Rogue River Trail (USFS #1160) from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post) and also did a rafting day trip from Robertson Bridge to Grave Creek. In 2016, we bolstered the local economy again with a multi-day rafting trip on the Wild and Scenic Rogue from Grave Creek to Foster Bar (post). After attending a presentation earlier this year by Gabriel Howe of the Siskiyou Mountain Club on their 2015 restoration of the Wild Rogue Loop, we knew we had to hike it. With lingering snow keeping us from the High Cascades and parts of the Siskiyou Crest, now seemed like just the time to do this lower-altitude loop.
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 in winter (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.