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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hidden Horse (Trinity Alps) and Lovers Camp (Marble Mts.) Klamath National Forest

After unforeseen circumstances forced me to delay this trip on three different occasions, I finally got to leave on a Saturday and head over to Northern California to Hidden Horse Equestrian Campground, also called Carter Meadows, in the Trinity Alps. I was slightly concerned about getting a spot on a Saturday but I had no issue, in fact the place was pretty quiet during my whole stay.
Although this is only my second time camping in California I have to say I am impressed with the effort they put in to make the camps as nice for horse people as they can, adding a few extras you don't normally find out in the middle of nowhere.

The Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Hidden Horse has 6 sites with log corrals, except for spot #6 which has steel corrals, and is the only one that can be reserved. There are potable water spigots in each site, and an extra couple by the bathrooms. Spot #5 is accessible for people with disabilities.
There is a manure bin, with a couple of muck buckets, two bathrooms, two bear proof trash receptacles and a recycling bin. There is a $10.00 per night fee, and there is no extra charge for more than one vehicle.
Across the creek, close by, but not in view, is the Carter Meadows group camp with 12 steel corrals, a water trough, potable water spigots and a bathroom. There is also a large group cooking area.The gate is locked, it is reservation only, so you can't just drive in there, but it is a really nice option for larger parties.

Hidden Horse Equestrian Campground.

Hidden Horse Equestrian Campground.

While at camp that night I could hear some clanging noises nearby and after awhile I felt the need to investigate, it sounded like cowbells to me, and that is indeed what it turned out to be. There's a meadow near the group camp and the cows were grazing there. I also heard them a lot in the next couple of days, while riding, I'd be perched atop a mountain pass and hear a cowbell way down in a valley below me.

Early the first morning I went outside and discovered my horse was not actually in her corral. Not a large concern since she is not a horse that heads for the hills when loose, she doesn't even care about canoodling with any other horses in the vicinity. But it was a bit of a mystery how she got out, since she is not an escape artist. I put her back in and watched her for awhile and the mystery was solved. She has always liked to itch her butt and neck on things, and this resulted in her sliding the gate open ever so slowly. The lever latch on the gate was a little sticky, so I hadn't closed it all the way, I fixed it, and had no further issues after that.

At the TH there is a map board and it was very helpful. I took a picture of it with my phone and referred to it while riding. There are a lot of options on the map with many loops that go on forever. My first ride was north on the PCT taking a detour over to see Syphon Lake, then past Jackson Lake way below me, and then into the Russian Wilderness.

On the PCT.

On the PCT.

Taking a side trip over to Syphon Lake.

On the way to Syphon  Lake.

Syphon Lake.

This country is very similar to the Wallowas's in Oregon, but most of the trails aren't as difficult and the road driving in is paved, although there are a lot of steep sections with a few hairpin turns thrown in for good measure.

The Russian Wilderness.

On the PCT in the Russian Wilderness.

Jackson Lake, Mt. Shasta in the distance.

On my way back I ran into a hiker carrying a sun umbrella which is a shiny silver metallic color. Rina is a very seasoned trail horse and has seen every configuration of backpack known to man, people covered head to toe in mosquito netting, strange headgear etc. but an umbrella was a little different. This guy was prepared, having already had an encounter with a horse that was not pleased to see him, so he folded it up quickly and no harm was done. An hour later, I kid you not, umbrella guy #2 came hiking up the trail. This time I had to holler at him to fold it up, which he was happy to do. At the very end of this trip I saw one more guy sporting an umbrella so my conclusion is, it is the new thing hikers are carrying and it may be best to get your horse used to them at home to be prepared for a possible encounter!

The following day I went over to Trail Gulch, visiting Trail Gulch Lake first and then looping back down Long Gulch passing Long Gulch Lake along the way. This was a day that I had wanted to do a longer ride but once I got to the top of the loop, I was on a ridge and all the other loops from there were all straight back downhill in different directions which meant I would have had to climb back up, so I made the decision to stick with a shorter ride that day...just over 5 hours.

Riding up Trail Gulch.

Trail Gulch Lake.

Views from the top of the Trail Gulch loop.

Looking down on Long Gulch Lake.

The following day I went back to the PCT and headed south this time knowing that I also wanted to detour over and check out South Fork Lakes. The trail to these lakes is steep and rocky and turned out to be quite the climb so it took a little longer than expected. I knew there was a way to do a loop once up there but although I started out on the Saloon Creek Trail, it wasn't very well used and had not been cleared, so I turned around and went back down. Continuing to ride along the PCT I found myself in some very pretty country. I could see across in the distance to some other mountains that make it pretty obvious why they are called the Trinity Alps.

Trinity Alps sign on the PCT.

Lower South Fork Lake.

Upper South Fork Lake.

Our spot for lunch after the steep trip up to South Fork Lakes.

Rina spots some hikers coming on the PCT.

Some of the "Alps" in the distance.

On the PCT.

I met a young German guy hiking the PCT backward, north to south, a girl sleeping on a rock, a couple of guys that wanted to take my picture because they said they don't see horses often, and unfortunately a guy who had an attitude problem about horses, and apparently thought he was an expert on them as well.... not everyone is nice.... but most are.

That night my solitude was interrupted by a couple of ladies and three kids that came in and camped right next to me. They stayed for two nights but rode just for one day, strapping the smallest kid on the largest possible horse. Meanwhile I gave my horse the day off and hiked up to Hidden Lake.
I was hoping for a nice swim once I got there, and I did jump in a couple times, but it wasn't a great swimming lake, too shallow, with too many dead trees in it.

While hiking I was looking across at where I was riding the day before.

Cows invade camp in the morning.

The next day it was time to pack up and do the hour or so drive to my next destination, Lovers Camp in the Marble Mountains. I stopped in the tiny town of Etna for fuel and hurried back up to the high country, as it was HOT in the lower elevations. The last 8 miles of this road is narrow, one lane and fairly steep, but it is paved.

Lovers Camp is a trailhead, with two separate parking lots, one for cars and hikers with walk in camp spots, and then the area for horses. I tucked my rig into a corner and made myself at home. There are four very large steel corrals, each corral has it's own water trough that you can fill with a spigot. There is a bathroom, but no garbage, no manure bin, and no potable water. There is no fee to camp or park here.
The Canyon Creek Trail leaves from here, and it is a popular area for horse use, during the time I was there different rigs came and went, with most people doing pack trips, as well as some day riders.

Lovers Camp.

Lovers Camp.

There is a map board at this camp as well, and this one is even better than the one at Hidden Horse. This one shows other trailheads in the area that have corrals for horses, in fact I now plan to return and camp at another one in the future.
Also besides the red lines for trails on the map there were some black lines that were trails marked as unsuitable for stock, which was handy to know ahead of time.

My horse was pretty perky after having a couple of days off so we headed off on our first day up the Canyon Creek Trail. This trail splits after a short while and there are two valleys you can ride through, Marble Valley and Red Rock Valley. I picked Marble Valley and the Sky High Lakes. I talked to a forest service lady I met on the way up, I told her how much I liked the huge corrals at camp and the easy access to stock water, and she said her husband had welded those corrals.

The lakes themselves are nice, but the whole valley is just gorgeous, even in mid August it was still so lush.
I met some ladies camping in the meadow, they were on a walk at the time but warned me that several of their horses were loose...on purpose...up by their camp. I rode on past the horses and two of them did try to follow me briefly.
After exploring this area, I continued on to the PCT getting a great view of Marble Mt. I then took a side trail over to Big Elk Lake. This trail runs through a pretty recent burn area for awhile but the lake itself is unscathed.
I then rode past the Marble Valley cabin and headed back to camp.

Sky High Lakes Valley.

Lower Sky High Lake.

Frying Pan Lake.

Looking down on the Sky High Lakes.

Marble Mt. from the PCT.

Marble Valley cabin.

There are enough choices of places to ride here that I had to narrow it down, and realize I couldn't do it all... so the following day I chose to go up Red Rock Valley and then took a side trail towards Little Elk Lake and beyond. On the map I could see that the trail might be a little steep, and it was. I climbed up, then down, then up, then down quite a few times, and by this time with it not being especially scenic thus far, I was starting to think maybe I should have done a different ride... when I finally arrived at Deep Lake, and oh my...what a treat that was. A gorgeous lake nestled between mountains in a lush green valley. The pictures I took do not do this place justice unfortunately...I hung out there for about an hour while Rina contentedly munched the tall grass.

Deep Lake.

Lunch time at Deep lake.

On my way back I ran into a bow hunter, I was surprised to see him since I did not realize that California's bow season had started already. We talked for a minute and that is when I realized he was going in completely the wrong direction, so before he trudged along for miles and got lost, I redirected him towards the PCT....he wasn't thrilled to learn he had just climbed a rather long steep hill for no reason.

Later that evening back at camp, a truck drove in with four large goats in the back of it. Three guys got out and introduced themselves. Doug, Dave and Michael are also bow hunters and they use the goats to pack in some of their stuff. We proceeded to sit around shooting the breeze for the next few hours, nice guys, even though I think they got the clue I am not, and never will be a hunter.

One of the pack goats.

On my last day I rode back up through Marble Valley onto the PCT and went north. Fairly soon I was riding right through the marble, then along a ridge line for a long time with great views. And lastly to my destination for the day which was Paradise Lake.

Riding through the marble on the PCT.

On the PCT.

On the PCT.

The Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Paradise Lake.

That night a guy suddenly appeared at my trailer and asked me where I had ridden that day and whether I had smelled smoke...the short version is, he was out for a brief hike and was going to take a swim in the creek and smelled something burning. Turns out a campfire had not been put out properly and was smoldering away. He put it out and basically diverted potential disaster. As we talked I realized where he had seen it, and I told him that I had seen who was camped there the day before, and that they were the likely culprits. There was not much to be done about it at that point, but he was going to report it to the forest service the next day.

I spent one more night, and then drove home the next day...a very fun and diverse trip, so glad I finally got to ride in these two areas!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kelsay Valley Horse Camp, Umpqua National Forest.... Part 2

Three years ago I visited this camp with a friend and we rode for four days, but I knew at some point I would have to return to do more of the trails in the area. To read the first blog click here: Kelsay Valley

Miller Lake.

I had not actually planned to go back at this exact time, but Plan A had to be postponed since I could not be away for a very long time due to a business transaction I am right in the middle of. Plan B then also had to be scrapped at the last minute as I was informed that I had to be somewhere where I would have cell coverage, so I wracked my brain and remembered that Kelsay Valley had plenty of coverage ( if you have Verizon) and so that became Plan C. Last time I was there was also at the end of July and I remembered that mosquito's were a problem, so I went prepared for battle with every kind of spray imaginable.

I started the trip by trailering to the Miller Lake TH which is outside of Chemult. Horses are only allowed on one side of the lake but my plan was to follow the lakeshore, then head up to the PCT and ride over to Tipsoo Meadow from there. This is basically directly east, as the crow flies, from the camp, so this is just a shorter way to get into areas that would be a LONG ride from camp.

Some fishermen on Miller Lake.

A viewpoint on the PCT.

The trail around Miller Lake had been cleared, however the trail up to the PCT had not, but I was still able to get around the few areas of deadfall. I ended up at the highest point of the PCT in both OR and WA, which is 7560 feet, and arrived at my destination in between Howlock Mt. and Tipsoo Peak.This was an 18.5 mile out and back ride.

Tipsoo Peak.

On the PCT at Tipsoo Meadow.

OR and WA's highest point on the PCT.

Heading back along the lake shore.

I then drove the rest of the way to the camp, pulled in and found to my surprise that no one else was there, not even a camp host, although he did show up on the third night.
I picked the shadiest and farthest spot I could find from the creek to avoid the mosquito's and settled in.

Kelsay Valley Horse Camp is located near Diamond Lake in OR and has two loops A and B with 16 spots, although one of those is for the camp host. You can make reservations on There is a day use area, four manure bins with wheelbarrows, steel corrals in most of the sites, (a few spots do not have corrals), a bathroom, garbage cans and the creek for stock water. A number of the spots have plenty of room for larger rigs. There is no potable water and it is $10.00 per night.

Kelsay Valley Horse Camp.

The North Umpqua River, the stock water source.

It cooled off nicely that night and I was glad to be camping and not back home where the heat was rapidly rising. I usually like to go for some walks in the evening, take some pictures etc. but although I made some attempts to leave the safety of my shaded spot, the mosquito's were pretty thick.... I did what started out as a walk, but ended up abruptly turned into a brisk jog.

The following day I went out to do a nice long loop, following the Windigo Pass trail up to the PCT, then heading south for several miles, and taking a side trail down to a four way junction. From there I took a detour up to the top of Tenas Peak, which afforded some great views, and then I went back down the Tolo Creek Trail, and back to camp, making this around an 18 mile ride.

On the Windigo Pass Trail.

A small burn area on the PCT.

On the top of Tenas Peak.

That evening I got some company...a few different rigs pulled in which turned out to be some ladies that are with OET, and they camped at the end of the B loop.

The next day I went over to the trail that heads up to Calamut Lake, we had done this ride last time I was here, but we did it on our last day and just went to the lake and back. This time I wanted to turn it into a 16 mile loop. We also had bypassed a side trail last time that went to Linda Lake and Lake Charline, so I did that detour, and then continued on to Calamut. (Although Linda Lake is the name on the signs and maps of the area, the FS website says it is actually called Lake Patricia.) I hung out for awhile at Calamut just because it is such a beautiful, clear, sandy bottomed swimmable looking lake, and I had the place to myself.

On the trail to Calamut Lake.

At Linda/Patricia Lake there is a very fancy bathroom.

Lake Charline.

Calamut Lake.

I continued up the Windigo Pass Trail, this next section was not cleared yet, but it is such open country that it was easy to navigate around any downed logs. I saw some signs that someone on horseback had ridden the trail fairly recently, and had attached some new flagging tape along the way and so I figured it was worth a try. I would like to thank the person who flagged it, as there were a few spots where the trail came out into some small meadows and then disappeared briefly and so I was able to just look ahead and find the bright pink tape. This was the only trail I rode during the trip that had steep sections, most of the rest of the trails are wide, and easy, with good footing and have gradual inclines. Eventually this trail brought me back to the junction with the PCT where I had come up the day before, so I returned to camp that way.

One of the small meadows on the Windigo Pass Trail.

The sign at the junction near the PCT.

On my last day I trailered up Windigo Pass Rd to the PCT trailhead, and got ready to ride north on the PCT up to Cowhorn Mt.
This is a very scenic stretch of trail with something new to see around every corner, starting with West Windigo Lake, Timpanogas and Indigo Lakes, and Sawtooth Mt. Once I reached Cowhorn Mt. I continued on for about another mile until I could see Crescent Lake and also over to Diamond Peak and Summit Lake. At this point I turned around and headed back making this ride about 11 miles.

Looking down onto West Windigo Lake from the PCT.

Mt. Thielsen from the PCT.

Cowhorn Mt.

Sawtooth Mt.

Crescent Lake from the PCT.

Diamond Peak and Summit Lake from the PCT.

Cowhorn Mt. on the PCT.

Well Plan C turned out pretty well. Now a brief break before the next trip!