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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Stein Butte Loop (Southwest Oregon) 28-Dec-2020

Since 2014, with one notable exception, a hike up Stein Butte at the south end of Applegate Lake has been our last full hike of the year. This year – despite its litany of flaws – was no exception. We were (very) remotely tempted to do this hike during one of the storms predicted to arrive before New Years Day. You know, so our last hike of 2020 would be just as pleasant as the rest of 2020 has been. šŸ˜¦

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Hiking Southern Oregon: 25 Hikes (February 2020)

To celebrate our 600th post on WordPress, we’re highlighting a select few of the many hikes we’ve enjoyed here in Southwest Oregon.

As we’ve perused lists of Oregon’s greatest hikes, we’ve come to notice that these lists are heavily skewed, with a few exceptions, toward hikes near Portland.  The Portland metro areaā€™s greater population helps if a list is based on some kind of vote.  And proximity to its major airport helps get votes from those who drop in for a brief Western adventure.  Even some of the classics, like the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon or the Three Sisters in Central Oregon, often donā€™t make these lists because they are too far away.  So a lot of “great” hikes get done near Portland – the state’s most populated town. And then the complaints roll in about how thereā€™s no parking, the trails are too crowded, you need a permit or must pay a fee, itā€™s raining, etc.

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Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 30-Dec-2019

After our first hike of Stein Butte at the end of 2014, doing so morphed into sort of a year-end tradition. We missed in 2015 because we inexplicably exchanged a snow slog up Stein for a snow slog up nearby Squaw Peak. Stein is a solid hike (9.4 miles round-trip; 2,400 feet of gain) on good trail to what, for the last four years, has been big views from the old lookout site. Well, not this year. Aside from a very brief view of Applegate Lake from the summit, valley fog and a cloud deck conspired to keep us in a fuzzy grey bubble for most of the day. Probably not a bad way to end a year that had many spectacularly great moments mixed with a few not so good ones. Not every doughnut comes with sprinkles. o_O Still, this was good hike and a very fine way to end what was for us another busy year in the out-of-doors. šŸ˜€

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Madrones in the Abstract IV (April 2019)

Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract patterns in and on the bark of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. So, as winter starts being pushed aside by the warm caresses of Spring, here are more images selected from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees.

Cook and Green Trail 2017
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Miller Lake 2018
Jacksonville Woodlands 2017
Jacksonville Woodlands 2017
Stein Butte 2015
Cathedral Hills 2017
Roxy Ann 2016
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Madrones in the Abstract III (January 2019)

Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract patterns in and on the bark of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. So, as another round of winter weather (with snow! šŸ˜€ ) closes in on us, here are more images selected from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees.

Jacksonville Forest 2018
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Mule Mountain 2015
Stein Butte 2015
Jacksonville Woodlands 2015
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Sterling Mine Ditch Trail 2015
Jacksonville Forest 2018
Cathedral Hills, Grants Pass, Oregon 2017
Jacksonville Forest 2018
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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. šŸ™„

Thanks to the Motorcycle Riders Association, who maintain the #929 for the Forest Service, it was in great condition and clear of obstacles (and snow). Today was a bluebird day between storms. Big, sunny, near cloudless views started on Elliott Creek Ridge and continued to the butte’s summit at 4,398 feet. From there, snow along the Siskiyou Crest to the south looked a little skimpy. The snow was noticeably deeper on Dutchman Peak (7,417 feet) to the east, suggesting that snow with some depth is thus far confined to 6,000 feet and above (which is why Mount Ashland’s ski area is going full tilt at the moment). But we’ll need deeper snow at lower altitudes if we want to snowshoe somewhere other than Mount Ashland or Crater Lake (when it reopens šŸ˜” ). So, in the spirit of unsubstantiated optimism, here’s hoping that we soon experience more snow to give meaning to our snowshoes. o_O

View from Stein Butte in Southern Oregon
The Red Buttes from along the trail
Red Buttes from Elliott Creek Ridge
Looking north up the Applegate Valley, with Baldy Peak (B) and Little Grayback Mountain (G) on the right
The essentially snowless summit of Stein Butte
Looking east: Mount McLoughlin (arrow), Wagner Butte (W.), and Dutchman Peak (D)
Looking south toward the Red Buttes (on the left)
Grayback Mountain and Big Sugarloaf Peak on the left, with depleted Applegate Lake below
FAREWELL 2018! YOU WERE FUN! šŸ˜Ž

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!

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Madrones in the Abstract II (November 2018)

More of the abstract artistry of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract images in and on their bark.  Hence one more set of images from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees. Continue reading “Madrones in the Abstract II (November 2018)”

Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 31-Dec-2017

Stein Butte Southern Oregon

The trail to Stein Butte (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate River Valley. It was the last hike we did in 2014 (post), one of our first hike & bike efforts (post), near to the last hike we did in 2015, and the first and last hikes we did in 2016.Ā  So, without starting a tradition or anything, it seemed only fitting that it be ourĀ last hike for 2017.

The #929 was one of the few major trails in the Upper Applegate River drainage to escape impacts from last summer’s massive Miller Complex Fire. So the trail was free of obstacles and in great condition. Once we reached the crest of Elliott Creek RidgeĀ it gave us sweeping views to the south and west and, from the summit, views around 360Āŗ. Last year we were starting in to what would become a near “normal” (and then some) winter, with plenty of snow in the High Cascades and along the Siskiyou Crest. Then the #929 and the surrounding forest were sprinkled with pleasant amounts of snow for New Year’s Eve. This year, any meaningful snow has yet to materialize.Ā Medford, Oregon saw its 9th driest DecemberĀ in 107 years, while Mount Shasta City in California had its 2nd driest December since records began. Well, winter isn’t over yet, so snow may yet happen and our snowshoes may yet find meaning. You know, snow gauge half full and all that…

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
The snowless Red Buttes: New Year’s Eve 2017

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
The snowy Red Buttes: New Year’s Eve 2016

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Snowless Dutchman Peak from Stein Butte: New Year’s Eve 2017

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Snowy Dutchman Peak from Stein Butte: New Year’s Eve 2016

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
The LovedOne ushers out 2017 from atop Stein Butte

Stein Butte Southern Oregon

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!

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Hiking Squaw Peak in Winter 27-Jan-2017

Little Grayback Trail Squaw Peak Oregon

Now that low altitude (snow-free) access to the Mule Mountain Trail (USFS #919) has been lost to private development, only two publicly accessible trails remain to take you to the upper reaches of the forest east of Applegate Lake: the Stein Butte (USFS #929, post) and the Little Grayback (USFS #921) Trails. Ā The Forest Service has suggested a work-around for Mule Mountain involving the Charlie Buck Trail (USFS #918) but itsĀ trailhead is up a steep dirt road and is, at present, blocked by snow – not exactly a low-altitude, year-round accessible trail. The Little Grayback is not a trail that has (so far) madeĀ it into many guidebooks, butĀ Ruediger (The Siskiyou Crest, page 110) considers it to be the most botanically interesting trail in this area. Ā That, combined with the loss of the Mule Mountain, may increase its popularity, despite the rough dirt road to its trailhead. Ā The Little Grayback can be hiked out-and-back in its own right (wildflowers in season, big views!) but you can also go from the end of it up forest roads to the lookout atop Squaw Peak [I realize some folks find this wordĀ offensive but the U.S. Board of Geographic NamesĀ has not yet seen fit to amend the maps in this area, so I’m stuck with it when describing thisĀ hike]. Ā That lookout was today’s snowy destination.

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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 ourĀ 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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