East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southwest Oregon) 19-Feb-2022

After 5 days out-of-town sitting in cars and planes, some trail time was needed. With The LovedOne catching-up on her volunteer duties at the library, it was my call as to where boots would meet dirt. Rain and snow are (again) expected here next week – and these are no less critical now than in months past. But today was forecast to be cold (at least at first), clear, and sunny, so I decided to partake of the huge views of the Applegate Valley and the surrounding peaks available from the East Applegate Ridge Trail (East ART). As penance for all that sitting around, I embarked on an out-and-back hike from the lower trailhead.

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East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southwest Oregon) 28-Feb-2021

I first hiked the East ART, solo out-and-back from the (upper) Sterling Creek Trailhead, soon after the trail opened in 2017. In 2019, after the lower trailhead on Highway 238 was finished, I coxed The LovedOne into a one-way downhill shuttle-supported hike between the two trailheads. The excellent weather we had on both these hikes favored the huge views of the Applegate Valley and the surrounding peaks you get from the upper half of this trail. When today was forecast to be cold (at least at first), clear, and sunny, we decided to reprise my first hike here, only this time out-and-back from the lower trailhead.

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Circling the Ditch (Southwestern Oregon) 29-May-2020

The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is undoubtedly one of the best known trails in Southwestern Oregon. For some 21 miles, it follows the route of an old ditch dug (in the 1870s) to supply water from the Little Applegate River to a hydraulic mine in Sterling Gulch. Because of its linearity, doing a loop hike involving a long stretch of it requires some improvisation. So back in 2015, we figured how to do such a loop from the Deming Trailhead by combining a little road walking with the then newly opened connector trail from Wolf Gap. Although today was forecast as a hot one (some 20°F (12°C) above whatever passes for normal these days), the weather in the days ahead was forecast to involve exciting bursts of water and electricity, so we ventured forth today to repeat this loop.

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East Applegate Ridge Trail (Oregon) 11-Oct-2019

I first hiked the then new East Applegate Ridge Trail (East ART) in late 2017. The LovedOne couldn’t join me then due to pressing fiber projects (there’s a pun in here somewhere). Today was, however, a sweet spot for her between the library and the fiber, so we were off to enjoy the East ART in absolutely perfect hiking weather. 🙂 One thing I love about this trail – in addition to its great views – is its passage through a variety of our signature plant communities. Oak woodland, pine forest, madrone forest, grassy meadows, buckbrush thickets, alluringly colorful poison oak – this trail has them all.

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Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 28-Dec-2018

The Stein Butte Trail (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Valley. It was the last hike we did in 2014, near to the last hike we did in 2015, and the last one we did in both 2016 and 2017. So, in the spirit of unimaginative repetitive behavior, it seemed only fitting that it be our last hike for 2018 as well. 🙄

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Sundown Trail (Ruch, Oregon) 06-Dec-2018

A week or so ago, we hiked up Mount Isabelle in the Wellington Wildlands near Ruch, Oregon. The views from the summit were, as promised, excellent, as was the day. The Applegate Trails Association has developed other trails in this area, in conjunction with their work on the still evolving Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) system. One of these is the Sundown Trail, which runs along a ridge south of Mount Isabelle. We had to wait out several days of much needed rain (and snow – Mount Ashland opens tomorrow! 🙂 ) before we could give this trail a try.  But today’s sunny, cold, and cloudless break between storm systems was our chance to get in a little hiking absent “full conditions.”

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Mount Isabelle (Ruch, Oregon) 25-Nov-2018

Our persistent search for yet another new hike eventually took us to a short loop on Mount Isabelle, in the Wellington Wildlands near Ruch, Oregon. The views were reported to be spectacular (and they were 😀 ). The Applegate Trails Association has developed several trails in this area, in conjunction with their work on the still evolving Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) system. Since the route to the summit is only a mile long, we added a short cross-country section to connect with the Isabelle Spring Trail, which we used for our return.

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Tallowbox Mountain (Ruch, Oregon) 29-Dec-2017

Tallowbox Mountain Lookout Ruch Oregon

Although the atmosphere has thus far regaled us with clouds and inversion fogs and winds and heavy mists masquerading as rain, it has yet to throw any meaningful amounts of snow on the local mountains. Our snowshoes and poles and pole snow baskets sit in the garage alone and unused. Incantations are undoubtedly being said on Mount Ashland – as I write! – to encourage mana from heaven in the form of frozen water.  While we wait for this miracle, we’re doing the positive spin thing by visiting some local sights that might otherwise have been by-passed in favor of a good snowshoe.

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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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Stein Butte Loop (Southern Oregon) 02-Apr-2016

Stein Butte Southern Oregon


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 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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