Payette Trail (Southwest Oregon) 11-Feb-2022

Daytime temperatures have been unseasonably warm (70℉ / 21℃) here for some time now. So much so that the weather people on the TV are no longer gushing about all this sunny weather. It is supposed to rain – for one day – early next week. Which will be – if it happens – the first time we’ve experienced magic sky water in over a month. We like warmth and sunshine as much as anyone but both can be overdone. Now is supposed to be our snowy and wet season, when we store-up water to see us through the blistering summer ahead. So where we are now – at least weather-wise – is not good, not good at all. 😧 Our glass half full happiness metaphor is in jeopardy! Our hopes for moisture are now pinned on a late winter round of strong storms to top-up our dwindling reservoirs. We’ll see…

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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 at Full Pool 29-Apr-2017

Appelgate Lake Oregon

Since we moved to Southern Oregon, we’ve done any number of hikes around and near Applegate Lake, a reservoir  at the head of the Upper Applegate River Valley, owing to the accessibility of its trails almost all year round.  But for any number of reasons, we’ve never visited the lake when its near to full; that is, when it looks like a lake and not giant mud-rimmed bathtub. The desire to see it at least once as a lake was strong, so when its pool elevation reached 1983.17 feet, with 1987.00 feet being full pool (dam hydrograph), it was time for a visit to view the waters.  The LovedOne’s library volunteer duties kept her off this hike, so we’ll be doing another one here soon so she too can see the waters.

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Witcome-Payette Loop (Applegate Lake) 03-Dec-2016

Witcome Stock Driveway Payette Trail Applegate Lake Oregon

Since we moved to Southern Oregon, our hiking card has been pretty much filled with hikes on established trails (with varying degrees of maintenance), all of which were essentially new to us. Hence there hasn’t been much motivation to search out lost trails and cross-country routes. For one thing, going cross-country down here isn’t easy given the steep slopes, thick brush (manzanita – ow!!), choked watercourses, and gobs of poison oak. I did manage to find one lost trail – the #908 to Steve Peak – and also follow a now well decommissioned road down the Scotch Creek drainage in the Soda Peak Wilderness to make a loop involving the Lone Pilot Trail.

Recently, however, The LovedOne and I did a shuttle-facilitated hike along the Payette Trail (USFS #970) on the shores of Applegate Lake (post). Despite the fact that Applegate Lake is actually a reservoir of varying depth, this is a pretty nice, low-altitude hike and one to keep in mind if you want something snow-free to do in mid-Winter. But, as I was tracing our track on the map, I noticed another “trail” paralleling the #970 a little upslope. I suspected that this “trail” was actually an old road connecting the Manzanita and Payette trailheads of the Payette Trail, since you start the Payette Trail from these points on short stretches of old road. What it turned-out to be was the Witcome Stock Driveway, which worked in conjunction with a barbed wire fence to keep errant cows away from the reservoir. Today’s cloud-shrouded and hence viewless weather was perfect for exploring the nature and extent of this old road.

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