East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

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VanMarmot
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East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

Post by VanMarmot » November 23rd, 2017, 9:05 am

Whatever else you might say about 2017, it was a great year for new trails in Southern Oregon!  Several hiking, biking, and equestrain trails came online in Prescott Park, Phase I of the Jack-Ash Trail was opened, and then the East Applegate Ridge Trail, another addition to the still developing 50-mile long Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) system, came online.  The East ART has been lauded for its smooth tread, vast views, open meadows, and transits of oak, madrone, and pine forests. When today looked to be (and was) an amazingly bluebird perfect break in the atmospheric river of wet that has been coming our way lately, I went out to hike it for myelf. The East Applegate Ridge Trail runs between Highway 238 (lower trailhead) and Sterling Creek Road (upper trailhead). At present, however, trailhead parking is available only at its upper end; completion of the lower trailhead is planned for 2018. BLM Road 38-2-19.1 connects Sterling Creek Road to the huge gravel parking lot at the upper trailhead where there is a sign but no amenities.  The trail, and the land that it's on, are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Image The East Applegate Ridge Trail's upper trailhead

The trail starts out through some forest but very soon breaks into the open and begins contouring across open, grassy slopes.

Image Looking west over the cloud-filled Upper Applegate Valley

This was one of those days when the valleys were clogged with early morning fog but above 3,000 feet or so, all was blue sky. Clouds like this always remind me of camping at Camp Muir prior to climbing Mount Rainier and looking out from 10,000 feet over a sea of clouds stretching for miles and miles.

Image The cloud-filled Upper Applegate Valley with the snowy Siskiyou Crest beyond

After a long stretch in the open, the trail turns a corner on to the wetter side of a ridge and passes into a pine forest,

Image Into the pines

then turns again, leaves the pines, passes through a stand of oaks and madrones,

Image Another change in the forest - to oaks and madrones

crosses over the head of Buckhorn Gulch, then comes out again into open meadows of tall grasses that were glowing golden in the soft Fall light.

Image A sculptured tree and golden grasses

The big views also return,

Image Snowy Grayback Mountain and Big Sugarloaf Peak to the right of pointy Negro Ben Mountain

Image The Upper Applegate Valley

and then the trail turns north, crosses the ridge and a faint old mining road (at 2.5 miles from the upper trailhead), then starts descending.

Image Crossing the ridge at the trail's highest point

This crossing is the highest point on the trail - from here I would drop, gently but steadily, some 1,200 feet down to the lower trailhead. I knew this was coming, but I can't say that the thought of having to regain this altitude sat very well. But I pushed on, now back into forest,

Image Into the forest below the trail's highest point

across old BLM Road 38-3-13.1 (not shown on the last (1985) USGS topo map for this area but clearly visible on Google Earth), then, in 0.2 miles, across another, fainter old road (BLM  38-3-13.2) , and then out into the open on south-facing (likely scorching hot in summer!) slopes.

Image Descending south-facing slopes towards the lower trailhead

About 0.8 miles further on the trail briefly follows another short piece of old road (BLM Road 38-2-18.0), then switchbacks down through a madrone forest, then traces another segment of old road (BLM Road 38-3-14.1), before finally arriving at the lower trailhead - just a green gate at present - on Highway 238.

Image The lower trailhead on Highway 238

The trail had been remarkably quiet and peaceful up to this point, which made the car and truck noise coming from the highway all the more jarring. Seeking a return to solice, I decided to climb up from the highway a bit before taking a snack break. So, back up the old road,

Image The old road just above the lower trailhead

up those open south-facing slopes,

Image The trail climbs up and around the hill way in the distance

and back into the forest for that snack break.

Image A patch of forest about half way back up

Continuing on I passed a couple of birdwatchers (judging from the size of the binoculars they were carrying) and a mountain biker, then regained the high point, now with a view south toward Wagner Butte and Mount Ashland.

Image Snowy Wagner Butte (L) and Mount Ashland (R) from the high point on the trail

There's a strtegically placed bench along in here which I'll admit to taking advantage of it for another break. My concerns about the 1,200-foot climb back up proved to be overblown - the trail is so well-graded that keeping a steady upward pace was not at all painful. From the bench, it was more golden grasses,

Image Contouring along past the high point

a last glimpse of Wagner and Ashland,

Image Snowy Wagner Butte (L) and Mount Ashland (R)

and then I was back at the upper trailhead. A total of 10.6 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain (that 1,200 feet plus some little ups here and there) on a well-constructed, easy-to-hike-on trail! Truly wonderful!  :D But to give credit where credit is due, let me quote part of the sign at the trailhead: "...Applegate Trails Association has received grants from BLM Title II, the Schwemm Family Foundation, REI, and Travel Oregon and contributions from many citizens of the Applegate and Rogue Valleys. This financial support is greatly appreciated. There were many helping hands volunteering in the construction of the trail as well. Without them, this beautiful trail would not exist!"

Image My track along the East Applegate Ridge Trail
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woodswalker
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Re: East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

Post by woodswalker » November 28th, 2017, 7:45 am

Really nice report. I greatly miss my morning view of Wagner and my sunny winter walks when I lived near Tunnel Ridge up Little Applegate. Thanks for the lovely refresher photos.
Colette Grace

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kelkev
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Re: East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

Post by kelkev » November 28th, 2017, 8:56 am

Thanks for sharing. My brother lives a couple of miles from Provolt, he didn't know about this one yet....but it's now on his list.
"Going to the mountains is going home."
— John Muir

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VanMarmot
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Re: East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

Post by VanMarmot » November 28th, 2017, 9:24 am

woodswalker wrote:Really nice report. I greatly miss my morning view of Wagner and my sunny winter walks when I lived near Tunnel Ridge up Little Applegate. Thanks for the lovely refresher photos.
Colette Grace
Thanks! It is nice down here. I guess we don't miss living in Portland as much as we enjoy living down here.
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VanMarmot
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Re: East Applegate Ridge Trail (Southern Oregon) 14-Nov-2017

Post by VanMarmot » November 28th, 2017, 9:26 am

kelkev wrote:Thanks for sharing. My brother lives a couple of miles from Provolt, he didn't know about this one yet....but it's now on his list.
This one has only been "open" for a few weeks. I'd have missed it myself if some other local hikers hadn't gushed about on their blogs. It will get even better if they build parking at the lower trailhead in 2018.
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