Buckeye Lake

There are two things I need to point out at the beginning of this post.

  1. This is the last post at oregonnater.wordpress.com. If you’re a subscriber and you’ve liked what you’ve seen, head over to oregonnater.com and kindly resubscribe. It’s up and going!
  2. I have been procrastinating on fixing all the glitches with my new site and I have a backlog. I went on this hike over a week ago and I’m just now getting around to posting. I have another post in queue, as well.

This overnight trip was to an area just west of Crater Lake that was touched by fires this summer. The last time I came to Buckeye Lake, it was rainy in the spring, and this time — surprise! – it rained on me. But that was at the end of the trip. Let me start at the beginning.

Note for Google Maps users: the bridge that used to lead across South Umpqua River to get to Skimmerhorn Trailhead has been out for over a year, I think, but there is a nice bridge just past it that connects.

I got to the trailhead on a Saturday around noon. There were a few cars there and a muscular dude carrying a floating fishing chair thing. I was hoping to have a lake to myself, but I didn’t mind the muscular dude. Plus, if necessary, I could find a camping spot around Cliff Lake instead of Buckeye.

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The trail in to the lakes goes through a burn zone and offers some pretty open views of the mountains around. It doesn’t take very long to get to Buckeye Lake.

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A fairy slipper on the way in

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Looking back toward the trailhead from above

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Buckeye Lake with Grasshopper Mountain in the background

When I got to the lake, I found that everyone was there to fish, which meant I’d have the lake to myself after all. I struggled to find a campsite on the shore of the smaller lake west of Buckeye, though it was really pretty. I especially liked the little lilypads.

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So I crossed back over the little landbridge between the two lakes and found a pretty good established spot on the southwest edge of Buckeye. It took some scouting, but there’s a foottrail made by fishers and campers that traces around the edge of the lake and leads right to the site.

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I brought my drone and tested out my skills again. I did considerably better than last time, though I didn’t have a rushing river threatening to wash away my drone, either. There’s still lots of room for improvement before I invest in anything more expensive.

The next morning, I woke up around 2 or 3 to the roaring noise of frogs, which was kinda annoying how load it was, but I ignored. Then around 5, I awoke to the roaring noise of thunder, which turned into a light rain, then a heavier rain with ominous thunderclaps. I ended up packing up my gear from within the tent, then frantically gathering the tent up and heading out in the rain, only to find that the storm was about to pass and I would’ve had a sunny morning post-rain. I didn’t even go see Cliff Lake.

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One last look at Buckeye in the rain

Next time…

Rogue River Trail – Blossom Bar

I had the urge to go backpacking again this weekend, even though it’s still kinda early in the year. That meant that I had to go somewhere low in elevation so I wouldn’t freeze to death. The last time that I hiked this section of the Rogue River was a few years ago on a dayhike. All I really remember was the beautiful basalt walls of the canyon and tons of wildflowers. I didn’t remember the ticks and the poison oak.

But seriously, even though my guidebook warned that “poison oak is common”, it really should have said “this hike is mostly poison oak with a little bit of river”. It was pretty much impossible to avoid brushing against it at some points, and even more impossible to keep Grace out of it. I didn’t come prepared with any Technu, so I basically just had to hope for the best and take as many precautions as I could.

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Moss-some

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Stair Creek Falls

My original plan was to hike about 6 miles in to Brushy Bar Campground. However, since the poison oak was really everywhere, I decided to cut it short and start looking for a campsite around Blossom Bar. I didn’t realize this, but Blossom Bar has a famous (or infamous) set of class IV rapids that have the reputation for drowning novice rafters. There is a special way that you have to navigate through the field of boulders or else you end up beached or flipped over on the Picket Fence.

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Some of the boulders at Blossom Bar

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I thought that I might stay at one of the campsites near Blossom Bar, especially because there was a bear locker and easy access to the creek, but once more, the poison oak was just everywhere and I couldn’t set up camp there. I schlepped my gear another .1 miles or so to Gleason Bar where I found a decent campsite near a rocky beach. There was still poison oak around, but not near the site itself, so I set up camp.

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Rafters coming down after having survived Blossom Bar. I didn’t get why they were cheering, though I do now. They might’ve just been drunk

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My geese friends

I brought along a new toy that I wanted to try out. I got a cheap drone that I don’t mind crashing into things while I learn how to fly it. There was a TON of hilarious crash footage, but I chose this video for you of the next morning:

Though I was in bear country, I didn’t see any signs of bears being around, so I figured it was still early in the season. I did, however, see and hear tons of geese. I spotted a few hummingbirds off in the distance, as well. Spring is definitely here.

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❤ ❤

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More rafters on my way back to the car, the last of which had a dog?! Without a lifejacket?!

I dunno if it was worth the ticks and the risk of poison oak (I still don’t know how my week is going to end up), but it was definitely a memorable backpacking experience on the Rogue. For sure next time that I go hiking, it’ll be above 5000 ft where the poison oak and ticks are not usually a bother.

Backpacking to Pine Flat

After revisiting the Illinois River trail a few weekends ago, I decided that I was going to spend part of my spring break backpacking back down Shorty Noble Way to those riverside campsites. From the forecast I could see that the weather would actually work out pretty well in my favor. I headed out on Tuesday morning, planning to pack up and head back on Thursday morning — two days of lounging around camp in my underwear and taking hundreds of identical pictures of the river.

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A few miles into my hike, I came upon a few people who were also heading to Pine Flat. They told me that the Siskiyou Mountain Club was there to maintain Shorty Noble trail and to build a bridge (!!!) over the creek. First, thanks so much SMC for improving some of my favorite trails (and for just keeping them alive, in some cases). I try to do my part by cleaning off small brush and crappy rocks that trip you up, but I rarely break out the saw and do any real trail work, much less build a bridge!

As I walked on, I realized that I had to find another campsite because the SMC crew would be camping at my destination. Sure enough, I came upon some of them hiking back for supplies and they confirmed that they were camped at the base of Shorty Noble Way, so I decided to go a bit further and find a spot at Pine Flat.

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Almost six miles later… ❤ ❤

I originally had my campsite set up close to the water, but the constant shimmering from the water was making my skin feel like it was cooking me alive, so I moved further away from the river. It was also better at night because it was less gusty. The next morning, I awoke to this…

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It took about 15 or 20 minutes for the sun to dissipate the fog once it came up over the mountains. It’s probably a daily occurrence in the spring since the water is super cold and the weather from the ocean is warm and humid. Here are some more pictures from when I was lounging around.

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Though I had to climb a bit more and walk a bit further in order to get to Pine Flat, I had the place completely to myself, so it was a perfect spring break vacation. Now that I think about it, I could recover a few days, then head out for one more overnight before school is back in session. 😉

Illinois River Trail to Shorty Noble Way

It’s almost spring, which means a few things — primarily, less snow and more bugs. I took advantage of the fantastic springish weather to revisit one of my favorite trails. I visited the Illinois River Trail a few times (like here and here) over the past couple years and the last time I came, I saw some volunteers clearing up the Shorty Noble Way trail, which begins just over 4 miles from the Illinois River trailhead at Briggs Creek Campground. (Sidenote: someone put some gravel down on Forest Road 4103, which made the trip a lot more pleasant, so thanks, whoever that was. The last half mile or so to the parking is still terrible and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance.)

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The river from the road on the drive in

Right off the bat, I made the mistake of leaving my hiking parasol in the car. My skin just barely recovered from the sunburn I got at Crater Lake last week and I knew that this hike didn’t have many trees to protect me, so I had to use my jacket to provide a little shade. Yeah, I coulda used sunscreen, too, but whatever.

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I also noticed pretty quickly that there were ticks all around. Grace tends to hover on the edges of the trail, so I constantly had to pick them off of her before they latched on.

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“Ugh, get the tick off my neck!”

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As usual, the exposure on this hike is kinda ridiculous. There are parts in which one wrong step would send you tumbling down the gorge to the river below (or probably the rocks). Still, it is absolutely worth the risk.

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Around 4.1 miles in, we reached the junction with Shorty Noble Way trail. I didn’t really remember how long the trail was, but I knew that it went straight down to the river below, so I had to prepare myself for a strenuous ascent out. It turns out that it is about one mile long and 600 feet down.

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One mile and lots of elevation loss later…this beautiful sight!

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❤ ❤

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Spring is in the air

This hike, though difficult, inspired me to perhaps come back next week with my overnight gear. I could set up camp at the top of Shorty Noble and have a base from which to explore the meadows down by the riverside. I still haven’t been to the one at Pine Flat and apparently there was one at this trail’s end, too. To be continued?

If you’re interested in the stats and map and that stuff, here you go:

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10.4 miles roundtrip, 1916 elevation gain, 4 hrs 31 mins

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Snowshoeing to Watchman Peak

I decided to change things up a little bit this weekend since the weather was clear and sunny at Crater Lake. I’ve got some snowshoes that don’t get used as much as they should during the winter months, so I took my friend Scott up to Crater Lake early this morning for a strenuous hike in the snow.

We were pretty much the only ones there when we first got there this morning. The only other group had stayed the night up at the Watchman Peak lookout and was just getting back the car when we arrived.

To get to Watchman Peak in the winter, you basically just follow West Rim Road for about 3 miles, then offroad your way up to the lookout. The guide that I found said that it was about 7.5 miles roundtrip from the Rim Village gift shop. The snow levels were pretty low for Crater Lake, though it was a warmish March day so it was kinda expected. Still, it was a cold enough night for there to be a frozen layer on everything, so we were glad to get there early before things got too slushy.

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The view at the start of the hike near the gift shop

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Following everyone else’s tracks through the snowdrifts

I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it all the way to the Watchman, so I was happy when we easily made it to Discovery Point.

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Some awesome rocks on the side of the road

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The lookout is in sight!

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After a little over 3 miles, we came around a bend and saw the snowshoe tracks going up the mountain, so we knew we’d arrived at the turnoff for Watchman Peak. It was just around the corner from the overlook that is very popular in the summer on the west rim.

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The lookout is peeking over the trees, welcoming us up

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Reached the top!

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Victory! (with developing sunburn and all)

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❤ ❤ My favorite from the hike

In the end, this was a b**** of a hike that required high levels of perseverance and endurance. I didn’t bring my watch to track with the GPS, but it was definitely a lot of work and the snow didn’t make it any easier. Luckily, we were able to push ourselves to make it all the way to the top of Watchman Peak, a feat I didn’t even try in the summer.

Lake Siskiyou Trail

In my desperation for a novel trail that is also accessible, I hiked around another man-made reservoir today. I was wanting to go to something else in the area, but there has been a decent amount of snow recently and I had to go with my plan B. Lake Siskiyou is just off of I-5 near Mount Shasta (the city). The Lake Siskiyou trail was also under a little bit of snow, but it wasn’t enough to keep people from using it. It seemed to be a popular spot in the area for fishing and hiking.

I didn’t get to complete the whole loop since a seasonal bridge was taken out, but here are some pictures for you to you enjoy:

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First view of the lake, with residential behind me

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Wagon Creek pedestrian bridge

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Someone fishing out in the cold

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Some geese watching some other geese

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A creepy fungus creature that is devouring this plant

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❤ ❤

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Spring Hill Trail and Mossbrae Falls

It was a pretty mild winter for most of December and January, but now winter weather has finally started to show itself. I was left with only a few options for hiking this weekend since it was going to be wet at low elevations and snowy at higher ones in most of Southern Oregon. I had a good plan to get up early and beat a snowstorm before it reached the I-5 pass that I needed to cross to get into California, but Grace was being all picky with her breakfast and we ended up leaving late. Luckily, we only caught a little bit of ice and slush on the highway on the way to Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

My first stop was Spring Hill Trail, which is right on the edge of Mt. Shasta City. It was just the perfect length of hike to get me going for the morning and the on-and-off snow made for a beautiful hike. I couldn’t really see many of the mountains around, Mt. Shasta in particular, so I will have to return on a clearer day.

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I love how summit is spelled with one m. I hope a child made this sign.

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Manzanita ❤ 🙂

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I took the Rock Point Loop on the way back down

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The view of town on the way down

Here’s the map and stats for Spring Hill Trail:

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2.82 miles, 705 ft elevation gain, 1 hr 12 mins

For my second stop, I did something that was…well…illegal. I mean, technically the hike to the captivating Mossbrae Falls is trespassing on Union Pacific property because you have to walk along active rails for a little over 3/4 of a mile. Now, I’m not the most straight-edge guy, but I also don’t want to pay any sort of trespassing fines, so I made sure to do my research before I decided to break any laws.

Apparently, a woman was hit while walking along this stretch of railroad in 2011, so there definitely is an element of physical danger if your timing is poor. And there are a bunch of serious-looking signs prohibiting access to Mossbrae Falls, so it’s enforceable. Still, this is America and we often put ourselves above the rules. I saw at least 15 other people in my hour-long hike. And not one single train.

What it comes down to is that no one really enforces the trespassing. As long as you park on public streets and don’t do anything stupid, you can pretty much expect to make it to the falls and back without legal issues. Whatever the risk, it was absolutely worth it, as Mossbrae Falls are a sight to see. I don’t feel the pictures even did them justice.

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Some of the trespassing signs when first turning onto the tracks

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The Sacramento River

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Lots of room and not that dangerous if you are watching out

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Mossbrae Falls ❤ ❤

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Mossbrae Falls ❤ ❤

In all, I hiked 3.23 miles roundtrip to get to the falls and back and it only took an hour. Hopefully they will figure out a way in the near future for this area to be accessible in a completely legal and safe way so that all parties are satisfied. For now, it seems, the de facto rule is for everyone to ignore the trespassing signs and walk in anyway.