Tag Archives: mt. shasta

Castle Crags Wilderness

More potential thunderstorms were forecast for the fourth day of our stay in Mount Shasta City, but then it looked like the threat would be past so we decided to stick close by and spend a day hiking in the Castle Crags Wilderness.

We had three hikes lined up for the wilderness starting with a climb to the base of Castle Dome. For that hike we started at the Vista Point Trailhead in Castle Crags State Park. There was an $8 day use fee for the park which turned into a bit of a fiasco because we only had a twenty, a five, and a one on us and there was no one manning the booth yet to make change. I had hoped that there would be a debit/credit card option but there wasn’t so we had to drive back to Dunsmire to break the twenty.

After obtaining the day use permit we drove the narrow, winding 2.1 mile road to the Vista Point parking area.

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A short walk on the Vista Point Trail brought us to a viewpoint where Mt. Shasta, Gray Rocks, and of course the Castle Crags were visible.

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For the first time during the week Mt. Shasta was sporting a bit of a lenticular cloud.

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After checking out the view from Vista Point we returned to the parking area and crossed the road to a sign for the Crags and Root Creek Trails.

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The trail passed through a forest with a bit of poison oak here and there.

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We stuck to the Crag Trail when the Root Creek Trail split off to the right and crossed the Pacific Crest Trail after .4 miles.

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Another .4 miles brought us to a junction with the Bob’s Hat Trail.

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A mile later we passed the .2 mile side trail to Indian Springs.

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The forest began to thin not long after we’d passed the Indian Springs Trail and we soon entered the Castle Crags Wilderness.

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From there it didn’t take long to reach the base of the granite spires of the Castle Crags and climb up the rock.

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The views really opened towards the end of the official trail. Castle Dome and Mt. Shasta lined up nicely as we passed the base of rounded spire.

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It was possible to continue beyond the end of the trail sign a bit and explore the area a little more. The rock formations were spectacular, it was hard to process everything we were seeing.

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A viewpoint below Castle Dome provided a nice view of Mt. Shasta as well as a look up the granite tower.

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Although it’s possible to climb Castle Dome, knowing our limitations, neither of us had any intention of attempting to do so. After a long rest in the cool breeze that provided some nice relief after what had been a warm climb up we headed back down. On the way down we noticed that the cloud above Mt. Shasta had morphed.

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After a mile we turned toward Indian Springs to check them out.

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There were quite a few mosquitoes near the springs so we didn’t stick around long before heading back and returning to our car.

The trailhead for our second hike was a mere 3 miles from the park entrance so after exiting the park we turned right on Castle Creek Road and pulled into a large parking area on the right. The goal for this hike was Burstarse Falls which we hoped might still have a little water flowing over it. We followed the hike described here on Hike Mount Shasta.

The trail was marked by a metal post with an arrow for the PCT.

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The Dog Trail, so named because dogs are not allowed on the PCT in the Castle Crag State Park so hikers on that trail must go around the park and rejoin the PCT on the other side, climbed for just over a half mile to the PCT.

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We turned left on the PCT and followed it for approximately 1.7 miles to Burstarse Creek where a hungry tree was devouring a sign for the creek.

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There had been some poison oak along the trail so we kept our eyes open as we turned onto the use trail on the south side of the creek. The creek did have some flowing water but it wasn’t much.

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The use trail was easy enough to follow especially in conjunction with the information from Hike Mt. Shasta. We arrived at the lower falls to find just a trickle of water running down it. We knew that coming this late in the summer would probably mean little to no water but as long as we were in the area it was worth checking out.

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Heather remained at the lower falls while I continued on scrambling above the falls on the right then crossing and recrossing the creek bed before arriving at the upper falls.

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The sight of the basalt amphitheater gave me a decent idea of how nice the falls must be when the water is freely flowing. I settled for a small spray of water cascading over the lip of the rocks.

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I headed back down to the lower falls to rejoin Heather.

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We headed back to the car once again and were soon on our way to the third and final hike of the day.

For our last hike we returned to I-5 and drove north back almost to Mount Shasta City before turning west and heading for Castle Lake.

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It was an unusually late time for us to start a hike (1:30pm) and it was a hot day. When we arrived at Castle Lake at the end of paved Castle Lake Road we found a whole lot of cars. We parked in the first spot we saw and walked past the mass of cars to the trail.

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We bypassed Castle Lake settling for views along the trail which we were following to Heart Lake.

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After a .7 mile climb we found ourselves at a pass above Castle Lake. A confusion of trails appeared to head in every direction.

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Heart Lake lay to our right so we just picked a path and headed in that direction.

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Mt. Shasta emerged from behind a peak to the east over our shoulders as we made our way to Heart Lake.

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After cresting the lip of a glacially carved cirque we spied the lake.

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There is a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta beyond Heart Lake which can be seen here. We did not get this iconic image due to a group of young bikini clad girls taking turns posing for Instagram photos at the edge of the lake in the gap where Mt. Shasta was visible. They were oblivious to everyone else hoping to get an unobstructed picture of the scene.

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We continued on past Heart Lake (and the Instagrammers) planning on following another route recommended by Bubba Suess at Hike Mt. Shasta. His recommendation was to continue west from the lake and follow a ridge up and around to Castle Peak then return down the far side to complete a small loop with some big views. We continued west past a small tarn then headed up hill on a faint but visible use trail.

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An initial steep climb brought us to the top of the ridge where we were rewarded with a great view.

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We still had a ways to go to reach Castle Peak though.

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The route was pretty brushy and at times we weren’t sure if we were following the correct path, but we kept making our way up the ridge.

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When we arrived at the summit of Castle Peak we found one other gentleman who had seen us coming up behind him. The 360 degree view was impressive with the Castle Crags jutting up to the south.

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Further away through the haze we had our best view of the trip of Mt. Lassen.

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To the north the size disparity between Black Butte and Mt. Shasta was striking.

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When it was time to continue on we headed east down the the other side of Castle Peak. Again the brush made it difficult to tell what was in fact supposed to be the trail and we found ourselves just lumbering through whatever route looked easiest.

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I had been attempting to match our GPS track to the one shown on Hike Mt. Shasta but we wound up turning downhill earlier than we should have which caused us to have an unnecessarily steep descent back to the trail to Heart Lake. Once we were back on that trail we turned right and kept right making our way to the trail down to Little Castle Lake.

This trail dropped down from the pass to a meadow with quite a few wildflowers.

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A short distance from the far end of the meadow was Little Castle Lake.

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After visiting this final lake we headed back down to Castle Lake. On the way we passed a group of naked hikers which was not something we had expected to see. They were a friendly group that was on their way up to Heart Lake. It made for an unexpected end to an interesting day in the Castle Crags Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Castle Crags Wilderness

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Mt. McLoughlin

Our plan for the second day in the Sky Lakes Wilderness was to hike to the summit of 9495′ Mt. McLoughlin, the sixth highest peak in the Oregon Cascades. We were going to hike the 2.5 miles back to our car from Badger Lake then drive the approximately 3 miles to the Mt. McLoughlin Trailhead. It would have been possible to hike the whole way by going back to Fourmile Campground and taking the Twin Ponds Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail and then turning up the Mt. McLoughlin Trail, but that would have been a nearly 25 mile hike.

Before setting off we ate breakfast watching the sunrise from Badger Lake.

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As we passed Fourmile Lake we got a nice view of our goal for the day.

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At the campground we took advantage of the water pump near the trailhead and filled our CamelBak bladders as well as our Hydroflasks. It was going to be another warm day and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of water for the nearly 4000′ climb. Heather also loaded her pack with little bags of Cool Ranch Doritos just in case we ran into any thru-hikers on the short section of the Pacific Crest Trail that the Mt. McLoughlin Trail shares. From the campground we drove back along Fourmile Lake Road and turned right near milepost 3. The Mt. McLoughlin Trailhead is located at the end of the maintained portion of this road.

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It was around 8:30am when we arrived and the parking lot was already packed with cars. It was so full in fact that we had to loop around and park on the shoulder near the lot entrance. There is a large sign at the trailhead and, an identical sign near the wilderness boundary, warning of the dangers of Mt. McLoughlin. The main issue hikers run into is getting lost during their descent if they veer too far south in an attempt to take a short-cut.

The second sign near the wilderness boundary.

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Sullivan has the same warning in his “100 Hikes in Southern Oregon” guidebook so we were already aware of the issue, but the sign added a tip to always keep Fourmile Lake in view on the way down.

The trail set off through a forest of Mountain Hemlock and almost immediately crossed Cascade Canal which looked more like a creek here than it had near Fourmile Lake.

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In the first mile the trail entered the Sky Lakes Wilderness and climbed gradually to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.

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For a short distance the PCT and Mt. McLoughlin Trail were one and the same. Heather was on the lookout for thru-hikers to offer her Doritos to and I was looking for a side trail shown in our guidebook as well as on our maps that led down to Freye Lake. We were planning on visiting that lake on the way back down but I always like to make sure I am familiar with where I am going to be turning. According to the information we had the side trail was approximately .2 miles from the PCT junction. Then it would be another .2 miles to where the PCT and Mt. McLoughlin Trial parted ways. I never spotted the side trail and Heather hadn’t seen any thru-hikers when we reached the split.

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I happened to look at the GPS which showed our location as being at the side trail down to Freye Lake and not the PCT split which on the GPS map was further ahead. We continued one wondering if the PCT had been rerouted at some point and was now sharing at least the first part of the trail down to Freye Lake. We kept an eye out for signs of a former trail in the area where the GPS showed the PCT splitting off but all we saw was blowdown.

We hadn’t seen the side trail or any thru-hikers but on the PCT but we did see something we hadn’t seen on either of the previous two days – a deer.

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We’d been a little surprised that we hadn’t seen any on the trails yet, just a pair bounding off from near a horse corral in the Fourmile Lake Campground when we drove in the day before. After sizing one another up for a bit we went our separate ways. We were on a 1.5 mile section of the trail that climbed slowly away from the PCT toward Mt. McLoughlin. At times we were able to see the summit rising above the trees.

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The easier 1.5 mile section ended when the trail finally realized that we had to go up to reach the summit. The trail steepened drastically as it began climbing up increasingly rocky terrain amid an ever thinning forest.

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The thinning forest did allow for some views of the surrounding area.
Pelican Butte and Fourmile Lake

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Lake of the Woods and the Mountain Lakes Wilderness

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Mt. Thielsen beyond the Rim of Crater Lake and the Sky Lakes Wilderness

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Brown Mountain and Mt. Shasta

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It was a little hazier than it had been two days earlier when we had climbed Aspen Butte in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness, but one improvement was the view of Mt. Shasta as sunlight reflected off the snow.

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As we trudged uphill the locals kept a close eye on us.

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As we gained elevation most of the trees gave way leaving Whitebark pines and some manzanita bushes.

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There were occasional glimpses of the summit which always seemed to be the same distance away – far.

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About one and a quarter miles from the summit we reached a saddle where much of the remaining route was visible.

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Along this final section a few alpine flowers added some color to the area while a couple of patches of snow attempted to make it through the year.

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It was about noon when we arrived at the summit to find a decent sized crowd gathered.

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There was plenty of room though and we took a seat near the summit register.

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In addition to there being quite a few hikers at the summit there were numerous butterflies and bees who seemed to really like me.

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There was a heavy band of smoke possibly coming from the Trail wildfire that was visible from the north beyond Mt. Thielsen all the way south into California. Despite the haze on the horizon the skies above the mountain were bright blue and beautiful and there was still a decent view in all directions.
Pelican Butte, Fourmile Lake and Squaw Lake

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Aspen Butte in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness

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Mt. Shasta beyond Fish Lake

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Mt. Ashland

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Union Peak, Hillman Peak and Mt. Thielsen

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The Sky Lakes Wilderness with the peaks around Crater Lake and Mt. Thielsen beyond

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We broke out our snacks including a couple of the bags of Doritos which we had forgotten would expand at that altitude. Luckily none of the bags exploded but they did look like little balloons. After sitting awhile we began to get a little warm. There had been a nice gentle breeze on the way up but oddly there was none whatsoever on top. We began our descent remembering not to drift too far south.

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On the way down we took some time to study some of the volcanic rock formation in the mountains glacier carved north face.

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The loose volcanic rock was kind of nice to descend in. It was soft on the knees and kept us from picking up any unwanted speed. On the climb up though it was a different story as every step up came with a small slide backward. One way to eliminate having to deal with that issue is to climb the mountain while there is still some snow (post).

We still wanted to visit Freye Lake on the way back to the car so when we reached the Pacific Crest Trail we pursued our earlier theory of a possible reroute that used the existing trail to the lake. We kept an eye on the GPS and we could see we were quickly beginning to move away from the lake so our theory was blown. At that point there was only one sensible solution -off-trail bushwack. We left the PCT and followed a little gully down to the lake.

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There was a use trail going around the lake so we followed it clockwise around to east side of the lake where there were a number of campsites and a view of Mt. McLoughlin.

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After taking another break at the lake we continued around hoping to find the missing trail from this end. We weren’t able to locate it but we did find something. A large blue tarp was spread out on the ground surrounded by arraigned logs and rocks. Next to the tarp was a stone fire pit surrounded by a short log fence. Around the fire pit were several items including a gas can, pair of gloves, and several old looking tin cans.

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It all seemed very out of place for a wilderness area. I did send a message to the Forest Service about it, but have not gotten a response yet.

We tried to use the GPS to locate the trail as we climbed uphill from the lake to the PCT. If the GPS was right we crossed over it a couple of times but we never saw anything that was identifiable as a trail, just a couple of spots where tents had been sent up, probably by thru-hikers.

Speaking of thru-hikers when we were back on the PCT we spotted one approaching. Heather had her Doritos in her pack and then kind of froze and didn’t say anything as she passed. For whatever reason she suddenly had become shy about asking if they would like a snack. Luckily she got a second chance as another hiker was coming up the trail. She asked this one if he’d like some Doritos and his face lit up. He introduced himself as “Sobo”. It turned out that it had been his girlfriend who had passed us just before so Heather gave him a second bag for her. Another pair of thru-hikers followed and more chips were handed out and then we were off the PCT.

When we got back to the trailhead we found even more cars than there had been that morning. We freed up a spot by heading back to Fourmile Lake Campground where we refilled our water.(We had both emptied our CamelBaks and were glad we’d brought the additional water in the Hydro Flasks) We had brought our dinner for the night with us (Mountain House chicken and dumplings) and decided to cook it at the day use area near the Fourmile Lake boat ramp. We followed the Badger Lake Trail from the trailhead to the crossing of Fourmile Lake Road then turned down the road to walk to the day use area. At the campground entrance on a signboard was a trail conditions report.

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We thought it was kind of strange not to have a copy on the signboard at the trailhead as well, but at least it explained the blowdown beyond Badger Lake on the Badger Lake Trail. We ate dinner at the day use area and watched people doing whatever it was they were doing down by the lake.

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After dinner we returned to the Badger Lake Trail by hiking past a gated road at the end of the parking area near the boat ramp.

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This time as we passed the little side trail .9 miles from the canal we turned down toward the lake to a rocky beach with a view of Mt. McLoughlin.

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We sat on the beach and soaked our feet before continuing on toward our tent at Badger Lake. We took one final detour to look around the south side of Woodpecker Lake.

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It was just us again at Badger Lake that night, well us and a couple ducks and some frogs actually.

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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157673125210295

Mountain Lakes Wilderness

We used a long weekend to take a trip down south to visit a pair of wilderness areas between Medford and Klamath Falls. We started our trip at the Varney Creek Trailhead located at the end of Forest Road 3664. To reach the trailhead we turned off of Highway 140 on Forest Road 3637 near milepost 36 for 1.8 miles before turning left on road 3664 for another 1.9 miles.
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Our plan was to take the Varney Creek Trail to the Mountain Lakes Loop and set up camp at either Eb or Zeb Lake then complete the loop using our daypacks.

The Varney Creek Trail begins in a fairly dense forest as it slowly climbs between Mt. Harriman and Varney Creek (which we could not see or hear).
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A little over a mile along the trail we entered the 36 square mile Mountain Lakes Wilderness. One of the 8 original wilderness areas in Oregon created by the 1964 Wilderness Act.
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At the 1.4 mile mark we came to an wet area that had seen a lot of blowdown. A pair of bridges helped keep us out of the mud created by some trickles of water.
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It was on our way out the next day when we realized that this was actually a crossing of Varney Creek.

We were now on the west side of the creek and for the next couple of miles the trail passed by a series of meadows to the left and dry, open slopes on the right. The majority of the wildflowers were finished but a few stragglers remained.
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Aster
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Fireweed
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Paintbrush
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Scarlet gilia
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Larkspur
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Near the four mile mark the trail began to climb a little more steeply up toward the Mountain Lakes Loop junction which we reached after a total of 4.4 miles.
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At the junction we turned right heading toward Eb and Zeb Lakes which were just under a half mile away. This section of trail climbed a little more steeply at first before leveling out some as it neared the lakes.
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The lakes are across from one another on either side of the trail. We noticed Eb Lake on our right first and headed over to see if we could find a good campsite.
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We hiked all the way around Eb Lake seeing a few possibilities but nothing that we were in a hurry to claim so when we arrived back at the trail we crossed over to check out Zeb Lake.
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We found a decent looking spot at the edge of a small burned area at the SW end of the lake. We set our packs down and decided to go counter-clockwise around the lake to see if there were any better locations. Along the way we encountered a grassy area full of small frogs.
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We swung out wider to avoid accidentally stepping on any of the little guys. After working our way around and passing through the burnt area we arrived back at our packs and decided that this would be our campsite for the night.
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After setting up camp we threw on our daypacks and continued on the loop. Beyond the lakes the trail steepened as it climbed out of the valley to a saddle between Whiteface Peak and an unnamed point.
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From the saddle the view included Klamath Lake to the east and Brown Mountain & Mt. McLoughlin to the NW.
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From the saddle the trail passed around Whiteface Peak through drier forest.
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Almost a mile and a half from the lakes we arrived at trail junction with the Mountain Lakes Trail.
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We headed left to continue the loop arriving at a second junction in another .7 miles.
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The right hand fork headed downhill a mile to Clover Lake and the Clover Creek Trail. We were feeling pretty good and since one of the reasons we take these trips is to explore the area we headed down toward the lake. The relatively small lake was full of activity. Dragonflies darted through the air and fish seemed to constantly be breaking the surface of the lake feeding on insects.
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We sat by the lake enjoying the action while we had a snack. When it was time to continue we took a look at our maps to locate an old trail that was no longer maintained. This abandoned trail would lead us back up to the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail about a mile from where we had left it. We had to continue downhill past Clover Lake for just a bit and almost missed the turn but a small rock cairn and an old blaze in a tree helped us locate it.
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Despite the trail no longer being maintained there weren’t too many obstacles and between the blazes and cairns, following it wasn’t difficult.
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After making it back to the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail we continued on quickly arriving at a viewpoint along the rim above Lake Harriette.
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Approximately a mile from where we had rejoined the loop trail a pair of large rock cairns marked a use trail to the summit of 8208′ Aspen Butte.
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The mile long use trail began up a wooded ridge before views opened up of our goal.
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The trail followed the ridge SE before heading up more steeply up the butte.
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It was in the mid 70’s and we were feeling the heat going up the exposed trail and we welcomed a little shade and breeze at the summit.
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The horizon was hazy in all directions but it was all blue skies above the wilderness. To the south was snowy Mt. Shasta.
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To the north the Sky Lakes Wilderness, the peaks around Crater Lake, and Mt. Thielsen lay beyond the Mountain Lakes Wilderness.
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To the northwest Mt. McLoughlin rose above the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
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Klamath Lake lay to the east.
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After another nice break we returned once again to the Mountain Lakes Loop which almost immediately began descending toward a junction with a trail down to South Pass Lake.
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We actually skipped this one since it would have added another 3.2 miles to what was already going to be a long hike. From this junction the trail gradually descended through open forest toward Lake Harriette.
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We had seen a number of hawks already when a large red-tailed hawk flew into a nearby tree.
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Just under two miles from the South Pass Trail we arrived at large Lake Harriette.
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We were looking for a place to filter some water and have dinner but there were two other groups of hikers at this part of the lake so we decided to check out another nearby lake. Echo Lake was just down a hill on the other side of the trail. We bushwacked down to this smaller lake only to find the shore a bit muddy. It was a pretty little lake but not what we were looking for in dinner spot.
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We headed back up to the trail and continued along Lake Harriette. At the west end of the lake an area had been closed to camping. This proved to be the perfect spot for dinner with a nice view of the lake which at times had a good reflection.
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Next to the lake here was a large rock covered slope with a couple of what appeared to be small caves.
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After having dinner and filtering some water we left Lake Harriette and passed over a low saddle heading toward Lake Como. Along the way we passed a small unnamed lake on the left which I somehow failed to get any photos of. A little over a mile from Lake Harriette we arrived at Lake Como.
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It was another .7 miles from Lake Como back to the junction with the Varney Creek Trail where we had begun the loop earlier that day and another .4 miles back to our campsite at Zeb Lake. We arrived back at our tent just before 7:30pm. The days hike had been approximately 17.4 miles and taken us just under 10 hours but we’d managed to see quite a bit of the area. One thing we noticed was that many of the area was very rocky and a lot of the trail had small to medium sized rocks in them making the ground uneven. Otherwise the official trails were all in good shape with little blowdown to navigate.

We had seen a handful of other hikers during the day but the only other people we had seen camping had been at Lake Harriette so we had Zeb Lake all to ourselves as we turned in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157673010323616

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 2 -Summit Lake to Paradise Lake

We began our second day in the Marble Mountain Wilderness by waking up early and watching the morning sunlight hit the cliffs above Summit Lake.
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We had originally planned on eating breakfast on the rocks at the north end of the lake, but more hikers had arrived the night before and someone had set up camp there. The mosquitoes were out and Heather had quite a few bites already so after packing up camp, setting out just after 6am, we decided to have breakfast somewhere on the trail.

We were headed for the Pacific Crest Trail, a .7 mile climb from the lake. The trail began on the west side of the outlet creek and was obscured by some blowdown. There was a fair amount of it along this section of trail but nothing that was too difficult to get around. The scenery along the trail was beautiful alternating between forest and meadows.
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Near the top of a series of switchbacks we stopped to cook breakfast on a large rock outcropping next to a meadow that could have passed for a lawn.
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The rocks offered views and wildflowers as well as some protection from mosquitoes.
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Sierran woodbeauty
Sierran woodbeauty

Lewis flax
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We climbed through another damp meadow with shooting star, marsh marigolds and western pasque flowers before reaching the junction with the PCT.
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We reached the PCT junction just in time to meet a thru-hiker on his way to Canada. We couldn’t help but be a little envious as he sped off with his lighter pack. We knew he lacked some of the luxuries we were carrying, but his seemingly effortless walk was a stark contrast to the labored climb we’d just made.

We were glad to be on the PCT and after a short break we started north toward Paradise Lake which was 10.3 miles away. The 3.5 mile section from where we had started to the junction with the trail to the Sky High Lakes was wonderful. Because the PCT sticks to ridgelines whenever possible it provides some good views and minimizes elevation changes. There were some areas where the trees had burned but there were lots of wildflowers along the way and other areas where the trees were not burnt.
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Torrey’s blue-eyed mary and Jepson’s monkeflower
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Monument plant
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Catchfly
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Ballhead sandwort
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Penstemon
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Oregon Sunshine
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Trinity Alps in the distance.
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Scarlet gilia
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We had been considering staying at Shadow Lake on the 3rd and 4th nights of our trip so when we reached the signed trail for it, we decided to detour down to the lake to check it out.
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There had been a fire in the area at some point in the last few years and the trail was further north than our map or GPS showed it. We had already passed another spot where a second trail was shown on our maps without seeing any sign of it. This trail started out climbing up a ridge before beginning to descend down to Shadow Lake’s basin.
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From the ridge we could see Frying Pan and Lower Sky High Lakes in the Sky High Lakes Valley which was below the basin that held Shadow Lake.
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We wound up turning back when we encountered a decently sized snow drift over the trail.
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We could see a little bit of the lake from there and just didn’t feel like it was worth it to attempt to navigate the snow given the steepness of the trail and having our full packs on.
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We would run into another couple the next day who did make it down and camp at the lake. They had found a way around the snow with the help of another gentleman but said that it was pretty “sketchy” so we were glad we had chosen not to continue.

Back on the PCT the flower show was only getting better as we approached the Sky High Lakes junction.
Buckwheat
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Blue Gilia
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Paintbrush
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Aster
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Nettle-leaf Giant-hyssop
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From the Sky High Lakes junction the PCT remained on the ridge for another .5 wildflower filled miles to a three way trail junction.
Orange agoseris
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Mountain coyote mint
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Grand collomia
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Penstemon lined trail
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Marble & Black Marble Mountains
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Washington lily
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Toothed owl’s clover
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At the junction the PCT headed downhill to the right toward Marble Valley. The trail to the left headed to Big Elk Lake while the Marble Rim Trail continued straight ahead. We were tentatively planning on hiking on the Marble Rim on Thursday but for now we stuck to the PCT.
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The PCT descended beneath the marble of Marble Mountain for 1.1 miles to the locked Marble Valley Shelter.
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We took a break near the shelter before beginning the climb out of Marble Valley. The trail was fairly level as we passed the Marble Gap Trail on our left and crossed Canyon Creek. Then we began to regain the elevation we’d lost coming down into the valley. We began encountering patches of snow and glacier lilies below Black Marble Mountain.
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Marble and meadows dominated the scenery as we continued north of Black Marble Mountain toward Box Rock Camp.
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From Box Rock Camp the trail climbed through more meadows to a junction with the Box Camp Trail at a saddle known as “Jumpoff”.
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Views to the south included the snowy peaks of the Trinity Alps.
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Views to north opened up here and we spotted the familiar Kangaroo Mountain and Red Buttes.
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The PCT switchbacked down a couple of times before leveling out again. Patches of snow lingered on the trail in spots. Most were easily crossed or bypassed with one exception. One large, sloped drift extended quite a way downhill into the trees and required some careful maneuvering. Beyond that patch there was one other large snowfield over a creek but it was much more level and other hikers and created a nice track to follow across.
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Not long after that snowy creek crossing Kings Castle came into view.
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Our destination, Paradise Lake, lay below that peak and we were anxious to get there. It had been a beautiful day, but it was warm and we were pretty drained when we passed the Paradise Lake Trail coming up from the right.
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Our first impression of Paradise Lake was to wonder how it got it’s name. The setting was pretty impressive, but the lake itself was fairly shallow, a little muddy, and had some vegetation on the surface.
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Despite the lake not being spectacular the area had some other nice features including a small waterfall cascading into the lake and a meadow full of shooting star.
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A nearby osprey indicated that there were fish in the lake.
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We picked out a camp site, pulled out our Alite Mayfly chairs and plopped down for a rest.
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We had originally planned on taking a climbers trail up to the summit of Kings Castle in the afternoon/evening, but we were having second thoughts after the long hot day of hiking. The longer we sat and looked at Kings Castle the higher it seemed to get.

We had passed the hikers who had made the tracks in the snowfield and they arrived and set up camp on the other end of the lake after we had settled in. Several thru hikers also passed by including one gentleman from France who stopped to take a picture of our campsite. He was attempting to document all the possible camp sites along the PCT. His impression of the lake was the same as ours, with a name like Paradise Lake he was expecting a lake with clear blue water.

We had almost talked ourselves out of attempting the climb up Kings Castle and were now thinking of trying it in the morning before we broke camp. We had not been able to definitively make out any trail heading up from the lake but after having dinner we decided to at least see if we could locate the climbers trail to see if it was even worth trying in the morning. We put our day packs on just in case and set off on a trail we’d seen across from the inlet creek at the south end of the lake. The trail led up a small hill then turned into a small stream. The other hikers had gone this way to the small waterfall where they had taken a swim earlier so we knew we could go further. We veered off the trail onto a rock shelf above the lake to bypass the flooded trail. Just before the stream that fed the waterfall we cut back through the brush to pick up the climbers trail.
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The climbers trail was faint but there were a few small cairns to help in locating it. Being just after 6pm, we knew we had enough light if we wanted to try and make the summit, so we sallied forth.
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We had to pass through a cloud of small bugs before starting the steep ascent to the ridge along the south side of Kings Castle.
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We lost and picked up the trail a couple of times until we hit a meadow on the steep slope below the ridge. Here the trail became clearer as it switchbacked up to a saddle.
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The trail became even fainter as we continued toward Kings Castle. The hillside was covered with wildflowers and we did our best to avoid stepping on them as we made our way up.
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Split-hair Indian paintbrush
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We also had to watch out for the local residents.
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To reach the summit we had to swing out and around the rocky south eastern face of Kings Castle to reach the summit where someone had fashioned a rock bench.
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The 360 degree view included Mt. Shasta to the NW. This would be the only time the 14,180′ mountain would be visible to us during the trip.
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Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps
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Red Buttes
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As we sat atop Kings Castle we were glad we’d wound up making the climb after all. We eventually climbed down and returned to our tent to turn in for the night. As we were falling asleep a chorus of frogs began croaking. It was a sound we hear all the time in TV shows and movies but in reality most nights in the tent are nearly silent except for the sounds of wind or running water. Maybe the lake was named correctly after all. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667735301193

Red Buttes Wilderness Day 2 – Azalea Lake to Echo Lake

After a good nights sleep at Azalea Lake we packed up and got ready to hit the trail.
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We followed the Butte Fork Trail from the lake and headed downhill toward Cedar Basin which was .9 miles away.
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At a trail junction in the basin we turned right following a pointer for Fort Goff.
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This trail began climbing gradually through beargrass meadows in a forest that had been impacted by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire.
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After almost a mile and a half we took a side trail to the right to visit Lonesome Lake where we had originally planned on staying the night before. As it turned out much of the area around the lake had been burned by the same fire and there didn’t seem to be many places to set up a tent.
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From Lonesome Lake the trail continued to climb up to the Siskiyou Crest where views extended ahead to the Red Buttes. To Echo Lake, our goal for the day, we would need to make it around the back side of the buttes where we would pick up the Horse Camp Trail and descend a half mile to the lake.
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While looking back at the hillsides above Lonesome Lake I spotted something that looked brown and thought that maybe it was a deer.
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As I was busying zooming in on a rock Heather spotted a bear moving across the rocky slope to the right of were I was looking. She lost it in this clump of trees but I took a picture anyway. There is a suspicious black thing in front of the trees but we couldn’t tell if it was in fact the bear or if it is a piece of burnt wood.
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After crossing over the crest we were now on the Boundary Trail which followed the crest east joining the Pacific Crest Trail on the shoulder of Kangaroo Mountain. The Fort Complex Fire over-swept the entire section of the trail between Lonesome Lake and the PCT as well as a portion of the PCT. This left a lot of burnt trees and some sections of thick brush that has since grown up along the trail.
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The brush was the thickest in the first quarter of a mile or so and then it thinned out some. The trail here was a little tricky to follow so we had to make sure we were paying close attention to it’s location both ahead on the hillside and directly in front of us.
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The views along the trail were great. With very few trees left we could see unobstructed in every direction. It was a cloudy day but they were high enough in the sky to reveal many of NW California’s peaks, most of which we were unfamiliar with.
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Polar Bear Mountain, Preston Peak, and El Capitan
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To the NE were some more familiar peaks.
Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Thielsen and the peaks around the rim of Crater Lake
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We were also beginning to see more and more interesting rocks along the trail.
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Often we could see the trail further ahead easier than it was to pick out directly in front of us. A good example of this was the trail leading up and around Desolation Peak.
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The trail climbed in a series of switchbacks on the side of Desolation Peak where we were surprised to find some scarlet gilia still in bloom.
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Switchback on Desolation Peak
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After getting around Desolation Peak we got our first look at Mt. Shasta.
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We had passed around Goff Butte, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Desolation Peak and up next was Kangaroo Mountain where we would find the PCT.
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Kangaroo Mountain is made up of the same type of red rock, peridotite, as Red Buttes.
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We met the PCT on the south side of Kangaroo Mountain and took a celebratory break.
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While the Boundary Trail has seen little to no maintenance since the 2012 fire the PCT has been. While we were sitting on a log having a snack we saw our first other humans of the trip. Three members of the Forest Service out on a tree survey were hiking up the PCT and heading back to their vehicle. After a brief conversation they went on and we soon followed heading toward Red Buttes.
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Kangaroo Mountain was by far the widest peak that we’d gone around that day and the backside was an interesting mix of rocks with marble outcrops dotting the red peridotite.
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We arrived at Kangaroo Spring to find the springs dry although there did appear to be some water further offtrail on the downhill side of the PCT.
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Next we passed Lily Pad Lake where several ducks were paddling about.
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We were coming out of the burn area and passing a series of meadows that still held a few wildflowers.
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We popped out of the trees below Red Buttes near Bee Camp.
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A half mile after crossing an old road we arrived at the junction with the Horse Camp Trail and a unique pointer for Echo Lake.
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We took a moment to take in the view then spied the lake below us and began the half mile descent to the lake.
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We turned left at another pointer for Echo Lake before arriving at the pretty little lake.
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We set up out tent and rainfly as the forecast when left had been for a chance of showers Tuesday night and rain on Wednesday.
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No sooner had we gotten settled into the tent when it began to rain. The wind blew and the rain fell all night long. We got what sleep we could wondering what Wednesday would be like and just how wet we were going to get. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/7215766058094952

Grizzly Peak and Beaver Dam Trail

Friday it was time to head home and we had originally planned a shorter hike up Grizzly Peak. The Grizzly Peak Trailhead is located off of Dead Indian Memorial Highway. From the Green Springs Inn where were staying we could take Hyatt Prarie Rd. between Hwy 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Hwy avoiding the windy drive back down into Ashland. We noticed the 2.1 mile Beaver Dam Trail was close to where we would come out on Dead Indian Memorial Highway from Hyatt Prarie Rd. so we decided to start our final day with that hike prior to Grizzly Peak. The trail started at the Daley Creek Campground which we surprisingly found gated closed. We could see a trail sign just on the other side of the gate so we parked on the shoulder and headed down.
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The first part of the trail clearly hadn’t been maintained for some time and it took a bit of searching at times to keep on it.
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After recrossing the creek, where a bridge had obviously been, the trail was in a little better shape. Then we came to a sign post that was set against a tree at a trail junction.
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The trail supposedly traveled .6 miles to the start of a .9 mile loop. The directions that this sign was giving made no sense. It indicated that the start of the loop was in the direction we’d just come. We disregarded the sign and took the path that seemed correct. We chose wisely and arrived at the signed start of the loop.
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Here we tried taking the left fork toward the creek which brought us to a creek crossing with another missing bridge.
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Neither of us were in the mood for a fording and we weren’t sure what the trail would be like on the far side so we turned around and headed back to the confusing sign. When we got back to the sign post we took a moment to attempt to figure out where the sign should have been placed and when we did we noticed the pointer for Daley Creek CG was not pointing in the direction we had come from early but toward a different path. We decided to follow it to see where it took us and ended up at a different trailhead further down the closed campground road where we had parked. Here were additional signs including a notice that parts of the trail were closed due to missing bridges.
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Later I checked the Forest Service website but it hadn’t been updated since 2013 regarding the trail and said that the campground would be reopening in May 2015. We should have checked the website before visiting, but in this case that wouldn’t have made much of a difference. After returning to our car we headed for Grizzly Peak arriving at the empty trailhead under the first virtually cloud free skies we’d had on the trip.
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The first portion of the trail offered nice views to the NE of Mt. McLoughlin, Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.

Mt. McLoughlin
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Union Peak, Mt. Scott, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.
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Mt. Bailey
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Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, and Mt. Thielsen
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Crater Lakes rim and Mt. Scott
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From the trailhead the trial travels 1.2 miles through open forest with wildflowers to the start of a 3 mile loop.
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We took the loop counter-clockwise passing by the viewless summit first.
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Then the trail passed a broad meadow.
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As the loop continued around the peak we came to another meadow with a view to the north.
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Here we could see the city of Medford and the Table Rocks.

Upper Table Rock
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Flowers here included camas
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and ookow which was very popular with a swallowtail butterfly.
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As we continued on the views shifted to the SW. Here Mt. Ashland and Wagner Butte which we had climbed the day before were visible.
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Mt. Ashland
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Wagner Butte
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We had entered an area burned in 2002 where the fire left open views and plenty of sunlight for wildflowers.
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Further along the views included Mt. Shasta, Black Butte, Pilot Rock, and Mt. Eddy.
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Mt. Shasta
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Black Butte and Pilot Rock
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Mt. Eddy
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and the distant Trinty Alps
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Just like all our other hikes in the area there were lots of birds happily singing along the way and here in the burnt trees they were easier to spot.
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Hummingbird going for the paintbrush
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We completed our loop and headed back down to the now packed trailhead. This was the first trail besides Lithia Park where we saw more than 5 other hikers on the trail but with views like this packed into only 5.4 miles we could see why it was a popular hike. Our first hiking trip to Southern Oregon had turned out well. We got to see new flowers, plenty of wildlife, and nice views along with a wonderful play. That’s the recipe for Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653715322378

Wagner Butte

We continued our exploration of the trails around Ashland on the fourth day of our trip. Our destination this time was the former lookout site atop 7140′ Wagner Butte. This trail sometimes does not open until mid-June due to snow but this year that wasn’t an issue. What could have been an issue was a forecast that called for a slight chance of thunderstorms. We checked the forecast once more before leaving in the morning and the possibility of thunder storms had been removed although it still called for mostly cloudy skies. The drive to the trailhead was indeed through thick fog and once again we were setting of on a trail in the clouds.
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The trail climbed for almost a mile along an old road before leveling out through a series of meadows.
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The largest meadow having been created in 1983 by the Sheep Creek Slide when 400,000 tons of debris slid down from high up on Wagner Butte.
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There weren’t many flowers yet in the meadow but we could easily see how it would be an impressive show once the bloom began.
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Beyond the Sheep Creek Slide the trail continued to pass through meadows where an increasing amount of sagebrush was present. We also began to get glimpses of blue sky above which we began to think might mean there was a chance that we would be above the clouds once we reached the summit.
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We had seen several rabbits on the drive in and one on the trail near the slid meadow. I had not been able to get a picture of that one but we wound up spotting another one that was too busy eating to worry about my picture taking.
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At the 2.4 mile mark the trail began to switchback up through sagebrush filled meadows where there was more evidence of the clouds breaking up.
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We climbed for almost a mile before reaching a sign announcing Wagner Glade Gap.
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From the gap the trail turned left for the final 1.9 mile climb to the summit. We passed through trees and meadows, some in the fog and some in the sun.
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This portion of the climb was never very steep and when we arrived on the ridgecrest for the final scramble we were indeed greeted with blue skies.
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To reach the former lookout site requires a bit of rock scrambling. The trail seems to end at a pile of boulders below a railing where the lookout once stood.
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A faint path around to the right led to a fairly easy scramble up the rocks to the top of the rocks and spectacular views.

Mt. McLoughlin along with Brown Mt. to the right and Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Baily to the left.
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Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Ashland and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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We couldn’t see much to the SW which was still mostly covered by a layer of clouds.
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We stayed at the summit for awhile watching the clouds continue to break up.
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When we noticed another batch of clouds moving toward our position on the summit we decided to head back down. The meadows and forest was now mostly fog free allowing for better views.
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As we passed back through the meadows we noticed several types of flowers we had somehow missed on the way up including the very interesting elkweed or monument plant. A large stalk several feet tall full of pretty blossoms which we have no idea how we managed not to notice it earlier.
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We also spotted some peony
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Lewis flax
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and Fritillaria
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We eventually made it back down into the cloud bank, but the lower meadows were far less foggy revealing some additional flowers and views as well.
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For the fourth straight day we had somehow managed to sneak in some views despite the cloudy/foggy conditions. Southern Oregon was not disappointing with its hikes and we had one day left. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157654117259261