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Friday, October 14, 2016

Willow Prairie Horse Camp, Rogue River - Siskiyou National Forest

A lot of the horse camps in Southern Oregon stay open until the end of October. Last year I headed over to Fourmile Lake Horse Camp  and did some riding in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. I knew I would eventually be back to check out some more of this area, and fall is a great time to do so.

Sunset on Mt. McLoughlin from the day use area at Willow Prairie Horse Camp.

I started by driving over to the Varney Creek Trailhead in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness. I have a friend who is a ranger and works in this area, and she informed me that this 17 mile loop had been cleared and was ready to ride. The first week of October was a little chilly which meant some snow had dropped in the higher elevations, and as I was driving towards my destination I could see the evidence on the highest peaks and wondered whether I should have done this ride on my last day instead, to allow some melting to occur. Oh well, too late to change plans now.

The Varney Creek Trail leads 4.4 miles up to a junction where the Mountain Lakes Loop starts. First I came upon Lake Como, and then I rode up over a ridge and was looking down on the stunning Lake Harriette.

Lake Como on the Mountain Lakes Loop.

Lake Harriette on the Mountain Lakes Loop.

From here the trail climbs to a junction with another trail that goes to South Pass Lake. Originally my plan had been to add this extra 3 mile detour, but this is the area where I did indeed start to hit some snow patches. I can walk my shod horse across snow for about 10 seconds at which point it balls up so badly in her feet that I have to get off and dig it out, so it was not worth the extra headache.

At the South Pass junction, we hit some snow patches.

On the Mountain Lakes Loop.

Aspen Butte on the Mountain Lakes Loop.

Mt. McLoughlin.

The trail then goes past Whiteface Peak and starts to zigzag back down. Near the end of the loop is where I discovered cute little Eb and Zeb Lakes.

Views from the Mountain Lakes Loop.

Views of Upper Klamath Lake in the distance.

Zeb Lake.

Getting back to the truck I had just enough time to make it over to the camp and get set up before dark.

Willow Prairie Horse Camp is conveniently located between Medford and Klamath Falls and has 10 sites plus a site for the camp host. He was actually still there and will be until it closes. There is a bathroom, a large garbage container, and smaller recycling can, and a waste water dump. There is a wheelbarrow with a trailer you can wheel your manure up into. Several water troughs are positioned around the camp that make it easy to have access from any spot, and there is also a hand pump with potable water.
Most of the spots are roomy enough for bigger rigs, they all have four horse log corrals except for spot #5 which has six corrals. This camp is well maintained and looks like it gets a lot of use. It's $10.00 per night and you can reserve these spots online, although at this time of the year it is not necessary. There are signs at each spot that will say whether it is reserved or vacant. They are allowing non horse people to camp there as well.

Willow Prairie Horse Camp, spot #9.

Across from the camp is a large day use area, with a set of two corrals, and a lovely view of Mt. McLoughlin.
Tucked back beside Willow Prairie meadow is Willow Prairie Cabin which you can rent, it also has it's own set of corrals, (there were four but one has fallen apart), and a water trough.

Willow Prairie Cabin.

Willow Prairie Meadow from the cabin.

The next morning as I was getting ready to ride, a guy that was camped there came by, said hello and asked me if I was planning to wear any orange, which reminded me to grab my vest. He was a hunter that was just packing up and was about to leave, but he said there were a lot of other hunters out in the woods. I was already wearing red, but I put my neon orange vest over top of that, and then went about bedazzling my saddle with bright green streamers of flagging tape. After all that preparation, and wearing this gaudy ensemble daily, I did not see a single hunter in all four days of riding!

The trail system here is a bit like a maze, but it's not particularly difficult to navigate especially if you stick to the main marked trails.There are a lot of other trails and roads going off in every direction from the main trails, and some are heavily in someone bought out an entire store of flagging tape.
There are paper maps at camp at the pay station that you can take with you and the map is somewhat useful, mostly because the main junctions are numbered so you can see where you are. The websites say there are 19 miles of trails here, however there are a variety of trails that are NOT on the map, so there is opportunity to do more mileage than that. My strategy was to stick to the map at times, but also to wander off course when the mood struck me.

On the first day I did the trail system on the east side, most of this area is forested but there was a nice open meadow called Rye Flat with a view of Mt. McLoughlin that I ended up in at one point. On my way back, to make it a longer ride, I went on some of the other non mapped trails for awhile. The largest Western White Pine in Oregon is out here somewhere, but the trail that I believe it is on had a large tree down across it, and so I did not end up finding it.

Rye Flat.

Riding back down from Rye Flat.

The following day I rode past the cabin and onto the west side trail system for awhile but I quickly became bored of looping around aimlessly so I got onto road 3735 and stayed on it until I reached the #5 loop which I proceeded to do, as well as loops 6 and 7. On pretty much every trail there are signs with arrows pointing you back in the direction of camp.

Notice the three camp arrows just on this one sign.

On loop #5, my horse decided to take a nose dive, not on purpose, of course. She slipped, couldn't recover and went all the way down, but she also fell to the left, so I had no choice but to ever so gracefully bail off of her body, so she would not crush me. I've always been grateful that when horses fall they get back up instantly, it has saved my bacon a time or two. This time her weight was only on my left leg and foot briefly. We were both okay, and we continued on.
When I got back near camp, I also rode from the day use area for awhile on part of a short loop that bird watchers use, and then called it a day.

I am no mushroom expert but according to a friend these are Golden Pholiota.

A very helpful sign on the trails near camp.

On my final day I drove over to the Summit Sno Park which is right off of Hwy 140 and I did the section of the PCT to the south that goes through the Brown Mountain lava flow.

Brown Mountain from the Summit Sno Park.

After leaving the parking area, you have to cross over the busy highway. There just happened to be road work going on at the time,  and so I had to dodge a dump truck and other heavy equipment to get across to the other side.
An incredible amount of work went into constructing a trail through this large area of lava. I followed the PCT for about two hours one way, before turning around. You ride through lava, then a short stretch of forest, then lava, then forest, lava, forest, you get the idea...

On the PCT in the Brown Mt. lava flow.

Views from the PCT.

On the PCT with views of  Mt. McLoughlin.

This little guy was sunning himself along the trail.

In a couple of the forested areas, there were some ground wasps, this is the time of year to watch for them. My horse did get stung once, and I took note of where they were, so on the way back we hustled past them at warp speed,....not suggested anyone do what I do, it just seems to work for me. Meandering past them just gives them time to notice you, and they want to defend their nest.

As I was driving home along Hwy 140 and Westside Rd. there were some spectacular fall colors to enjoy.This may be my last trip of the season, although I am holding off on winterizing the trailer just in case!


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Chief Paulina Horse Camp, Deschutes National Forest

Chief Paulina is located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. There are two large lakes (Paulina and East) inside the caldera and there are resorts with restaurants at both lakes.
The Crater Rim trail is 21 miles long and runs around the entire caldera, and can be done as one long ride, or there are ways to make shorter loops.This volcano is active! Something to ponder as you are riding past the evidence of past eruptions.

Looking down on Paulina Lake from the Crater Rim Trail.

To get there: From Bend drive 20 miles south on Hwy 97, take a left on Paulina Lake Rd, there will be a sign for Newberry. Follow this paved road for 14 miles and look for the horse camp sign on the right.

Once you get to the welcome station/ fee booth, you can show them your NW Forest Pass, or pay $5.00 for entry if you are just going for the day. They will also give you a brochure with a map.

Chief Paulina has 14 sites that are reservable with either 2 or 4 horse log corrals that are $14.00 and $18.00 per night respectively. There is a bathroom, a waste water dump, and a garbage bin. There is water for stock only, that comes from a large tank, and a big manure bin, both of which are in the day use area. The spots are all back in and not all of them are large enough for bigger rigs, spot #10 is the most roomy. No dispersed camping is allowed in this area. Mosquito's can be fierce here in the early summer.

Chief Paulina Horse Camp.

Chief Paulina Horse Camp.

Stock water in the day use area.

They just closed the camp for the season on Sept. 25th. It is not gated and you can still park and ride there up until they close the whole place down in winter. The bathroom is now locked, but there are two other older bathrooms you can still use, and they are located right before the start of the trailhead.

To do the north side of the rim, leave camp following the trail between sites 8 and 10, and take a right on the Newberry Crater Trail.

The day use area.

Trails are well marked.

On the first part of the ride you will be following the power lines for just over a mile. Once you reach the junction with the Crater Rim Trail you will be right next to the main paved road, cross it, then cross the bridge, and the trailhead for the north side of the rim is behind the green gate.

The trail under the power lines.

Cross the bridge to get to the north side of the rim's TH.

Follow the wide Crater Rim trail up the hill. This is also where the Peter Skene Ogden trail starts. But more about that option later...
You will climb uphill for awhile through the forest and then it opens up and you will get some great views down onto Paulina Lake. Cyclists also use these trails so you may run into them on the rim, but on the Peter Skene Ogden trail they are only allowed to ride it uphill, they have to take an alternate route down.

 Sign by the green gate to get to these TH's.

On the Crater Rim Trail.

Paulina Lake and Paulina Peak from the Crater Rim Trail.

After awhile you will pass the junction to Swamp Wells Horse Camp .You can ride to here from Swamp Wells, which is a 20 mile total out and back trip. At the next junction if you take a right and switchback downhill towards Cinder Hill Campground you can cut the ride short and head back on the Newberry Crater Trail, and it will skirt around East Lake and eventually back to where you started.

On the Crater Rim Trail.

Or if a longer ride is preferable continue on, the next junction is gravel road 21, the Parallel Trail runs downhill beside it....but this is not any shorter than just continuing on until you get to the Lost Lake Trail. Along this next section you can see Fort Rock way off in the distance.

The Lost Lake Trail is a fun way to go back because you will pass by Pumice Flat, which is a large nearly treeless area filled with pumice. Once you reach the end of the flat stay to the right. This winds it's way downhill past the Big Obsidian Flow and more views of Paulina Lake and the Three Sisters. Once you get to the bottom take a left on the well used Newberry Crater Trail once again, and this will take you back to camp.

East Lake from the Crater Rim Trail.

Pumice Flat from the Lost Lake Trail.

Views from the Lost Lake Trail.

Hard to capture the shininess of Obsidian with a camera.

Another fun ride to do is to take the Crater Rim Trail south up to Paulina Peak which looms directly above camp. Tourists that aren't into hiking can just drive up to the peak and look around. There is a spur trail with an area that is cliffy near the top, and in fact you are not supposed to ride horses along that section, but you can bypass it. The trail then crosses over the road and from here you could take a quick detour up to the parking area to see the view. Then go back to the trail and continue, returning along the Lost Lake Trail to make a nice loop.

Paulina Peak.

On the Lost Lake South Trail.

It's bad karma and illegal to take any of the Obsidian.

The Big Obsidian Flow along the Newberry Crater Trail.

The Peter Skene Ogden trail is another ride option leaving from behind the green gate across the bridge as mentioned before. It runs 8.5 miles one way downhill alongside Paulina Creek to the parking area and trailhead by the Ogden Group Camp.

One of the waterfalls on the Peter Skene Ogden Trail.

On the Peter Skene Ogden Trail.

There is also the Paulina Lakeshore Loop Trail which is not a horse trail, but makes for a really nice 8 mile hike. There are several other shorter hikes, the best ones are over to see Paulina Falls or to hike across the Obsidian Flow. There are also some hot springs, and of course water sports and swimming. So there are plenty of other things to do in between rides!

Paulina Lake from the lake shore loop hiking trail.

Happy Trails!


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cabot Lake to Table Lake, Mt. Jefferson National Forest

Sadly there is not too much time left to get into the high country this year. Awhile back a friend asked me if I had ever done the ride to Table Lake, and my answer was no. I had gone part of the way there once, on a not so great weather day, with a lot of cloud cover, and I hadn't been back since. So it was time!

Above Carl Lake on the Cabot Lake Trail.

To get there: From Sisters go 12 miles west on Hwy 20, take a right at the sign for Wilderness Trailheads and Jack Lake Rd. Follow it for 4.4 miles, then take a left on Rd. 1230, it will turn to gravel after 1.5 miles at a junction, stay on 1230 which is to the right, and follow it another 7 miles until it ends at the Cabot Lake Trailhead.

The gravel part of Rd 1230 is bumpy in places, one lane, with some washboard.
The trailhead is not huge, but you can turn around and park even if there are some cars in the lot.

This trail starts through the old burn area from the B&B fire of 2003 with views of the top of Mt. Jefferson peaking above the other ridges and buttes. Full of Manzanita this area is always green and pretty. If it is a windy day don't be surprised if you hear something that sounds like screaming. The wind whistles through the dead trees and they make some very ghostly sounds.

The parking area at the Cabot Lake Trailhead.

At the start of the Cabot Lake Trail.

Along the Cabot Lake Trail, Green Ridge in the distance on the right.

The first junction you will get to is the short trail that goes over to Cabot Lake, which you can check out very quickly. On this particular day that trail was not cleared, so I skipped it. You can see it from above a little later as you switchback up from there.
There are a few other ponds and small lakes along the the way until you get to the much bigger Carl Lake.

A small lake along the Cabot Lake Trail.

After checking out Carl Lake which is lovely and very swimmable, the trail continues on beside the lake shore. You will see another junction to the left that goes towards Shirley Lake and the PCT, ignore it and stay straight, towards Junction Lake. The trail then switchbacks up above the lake and continues on.

Carl Lake.

On the switchbacks above Carl Lake on the Cabot Lake Trail.

Once you get to Junction Lake which is more of a pond, the old Sugar Pine Ridge trail that is not maintained leaves to the right from here, but just stay on the very obvious main trail.
This is where things start to get really interesting, you will come to a large lava field with Forked Butte on the right and North Cinder Peak on the left, and some fabulous Mt. Jefferson views.

Riding past the lava flow on the Cabot Lake Trail.

Shale on the Cabot Lake Trail.

Getting closer to Mt. Jefferson.

North Cinder Peak.

Mt. Jefferson.

Bear Butte in the distance.

After this scenic section the trail drops downhill into the forest and eventually you will reach Patsy Lake. At Patsy Lake there is another trail heading down to the right but it is the one that goes to Jefferson Lake. There is a sign pointing out that this trail is not maintained. I would heed that warning, even hikers have a difficult time attempting it these days. The main trail switchbacks yet again uphill from here for a short while.

Patsy Lake.

Forked Butte.

Fall colors on the Cabot Lake Trail.

The next destination is Table Lake. There are no views of Jefferson from this lake unless you go up a little higher. I stayed here for a brief break and then turned around and headed back.

Table Lake.

Hanging out at Table Lake.

This was an 18.2 mile ride according to my map, but it seemed longer, you can't move out very fast for a lot of the ride, and so time wise it wasn't a normal 18 miler. From what I understand the trail continues briefly past Table Lake, and may not be cleared from there, but I didn't attempt it.

Heading back on the switchbacks above Patsy Lake.

Patsy Lake from above.

Happy Trails!