Witcome-Payette Loop (Applegate Lake) 21-Mar-2021

Applegate Lake is actually a reservoir, built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their design, way back in the 1970s, included fences to keep free-roaming cattle from reaching the lake and cavorting wantonly in the shallows. Since the lake isn’t much there most of the year, it was more likely to keep cattle from getting stuck in the mud. Anyway, the Corps built a road – a stock driveway – behind one of these fences so they could collect and remove errant cows. In the intervening years, the need to collect stray cows seems to have dissipated and today this driveway is more trail than road. It shows on today’s Forest Service maps as a trail paralleling the Payette Trail #970 between the Payette and Manzanita Trailheads. I first hiked a loop using the Witcome in 2016 and have done so a couple of times since. But the last time for me was in 2017 and The LovedOne had never hiked it, so today we went out to see how the driveway was holding-up.

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Applegate Lake (Southern Oregon) 12-Jan-2017

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

After seven days of cold, wet, snowy fury, the Great Storm of 2017 (or at least the first round of it) finally passed into history. This first day post-storm was predicted to begin grim but end clear and sunny, so I planned to hike up Baldy Peak on the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919), figuring my arrival on the summit would coincide with the dissipation of the clouds and the emergence of big views. Great plan, had it not been for the fact that the Great Storm had left a surprising amount of low-altitude snow in its wake – more than enough to smother the small road shoulder that functions as the “parking lot” for the #919 trailhead.  So, now without parking, I pushed on to Applegate Lake where I was able to find, with some difficulty, a little snow-free parking near the Dagelma Trailhead.  From there, an out-and-back hike to the west end of Squaw Arm seemed like it might offer some sun-dappled views over the water should the clouds lift as promised.

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Payette Trail (Applegate Lake) 29-Nov-2016

Payette Trail Applegate Lake Southern Oregon

After several stormy days in otherwise bucolic Southern Oregon, today opened to near perfect bluebird conditions – sunny, crisp, and clear, with just a hint of clouds for contrast.  Rummaging through our list of low-altitude, snow-not-ready-yet-for-snowshoes, Winter hiking options, we came up with the Payette Trail (USFS #970).  This hiking and mountain biking trail runs for about nine nearly level miles along the eastern shore of Applegate Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers managed reservoir on the Upper Applegate River.  The reservoir’s pool elevation can change by 100 feet or more annually in response to seasonal rainfall.  So it looks like a real lake in mid-summer but a large mud bathtub in mid-winter.  Nonetheless the trails around it are good ones, and all offer some pretty vistas if you accept the “lake” for what it is.

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