Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

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cunningkeith
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Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by cunningkeith » July 6th, 2012, 11:36 am

I traveled to the little-known Marble Mountain Wilderness this week. The area sits just south of the Oregon border in California. What an amazing place. Given that it's the same or shorter drive as other locations Portland folks travel (Hells Canyon, Owyhee) it's surprising how little traffic it gets (just under seven-hour drive for me). The Marble Mountain Wilderness made one of those "undiscovered wilderness" lists in an outdoors magazine. After spending several days here and seeing very few people, I understand why.

Here is a shot of the very oddly named Man Eaten Lake
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I had been thinking about going to Hells Canyon (and thanks to those of you who offered advice on that trip) but ultimately there were too many good reasons to try this trip instead. I was not disappointed. This place is amazing.

I spent three nights there and covered about 60 miles. Most of the trails were snow-freee; I was only blocked by snow on one occasion (going south on the PCT). Only a few misadventures along the way, including an animal attacking my footbed and accidentally drinking camp fuel (more on those below).

I started at the Lovers Camp Trailhead. I chose this one mostly because it was paved all the way from I-5 to Yreka to Fort Jones to Lovers Camp. It also seemed to be the shortest drive.

The wilderness marker had "epic" scratched on it. I don't like to use that word, but it fits here.
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The morning I started had a 90% chance of rain in the forecast, which was a bit disappointing given my expectations of a sunny backpack in California. Although a light rain fell for most of the first day and night, it was warm (low of about 50 degrees) and it added the whole mystical quality of clouds and fog that make hikes in the Pacific Northwest so nice.

Approaching my first campsite at Deep Lake. No one was there.
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Clouds cleared for a bit that first evening at Deep Lake.
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The first night I made a fire to dry out my stuff, but as has often happened to me, I put stuff too close to the fire. This left a hole in the toe section of my footbed, which I had put out to dry. No big deal, I thought. Well, I left my footbed outside my tent that night. When I woke up the next morning I found that a fury friend had taken several bites out of my footbed. How good could that have tasted?

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The next morning, the rain had stopped and it was time to tromp through some very wet meadows and hope that my stuff would eventually dry.

Leaving Deep Lake on Day Two.
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I headed east along the Deep Lake Trail toward the Wright Lakes. I encountered my second black bear near this area near Muse Meadow.
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The only people I encountered on my hike on Day Two were two fishermen at Lower Wright Lake and two groups at the end of the day at Campbell Lake.

Here is lovely Lower Wright Lake
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Snow blocked the trail climbing above Upper Wright Lake, but I just headed uphill and eventually found the trail. Climbing to the crest of the range above the Wright Lakes, I had views east of the range lands outside the wilderness (not super fun to see cattle grazing). Looking southwest, I saw more of the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The Trinity Alps were in the very far distance to the south.

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The hike from Wright Lake and Cliff Lake was the only disappointing part of the trip. I hiked through Big Meadow and Back Meadow to get there. Much of the Marble Mountain Wilderness allows cattle grazing unfortunately (although the central portion of the wilderness does not). Why cattle grazing is allowed here is beyond me. The ranger said that they open the area to grazing on July 15 and that the cows tend to start in the lower elevations. There were no cows when I visited, but the meadows had been destroyed by the cattle. The trail was also gone, so I had to navigate by GPS through these two meadows. I was happy to arrive at Campbell and Cliff Lake at the end of the day and be done with this section of the trail.

Here is my campsite at Cliff Lake. Again no one there but me. Bugs were minor to non-existent in most places, although they were slightly annoying at Cliff Lake. The view made up for that.

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Aside from my footbed, the other mishap was with my camp fuel. I love my alcohol stove and burn grain alcohol (Everclear) on it. Being a lightweight freak, I don't carry the fuel in a heave bottle, so I store it in a Platypus bag. Well, not such a good idea, as I kept forgetting which bag was for water and which one was for fuel!

Can you guess which one is the fuel?
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The confusion meant that once when I was trying to add "water" to my pot, I accidentally added about 4 oz. of fuel, which led to a huge fire bomb mess. On another occasion, I was thirsty and took a quit swig of "water," only to discover that it was grain alcohol. That burned the throat. Ouch!

Cliff Lake on the morning of Day Three
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Back on the trail, Day Three took me to the prettiest section of the park, as I headed south on the PCT toward Man Eaten Lake. Here are some shots along the way.

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I was blocked by snow south of Man Eaten Lake on the PCT. I then turned around and headed north toward the Marble Mountains. I saw no one the entire day until reaching camp.

Here are the Marble Mountains toward the end of the day
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I spent Night Three in the Sky High Lakes Basin. This was the only night where I saw other groups (three others). It is understandable given the beauty of the place.

Here is a shot of my approach to the Sky High Lakes
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The final day, I hiked back to the Marble Mountains to have some final views before heading back on the long drive to Portland.

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Last edited by cunningkeith on July 25th, 2012, 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Grannyhiker
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Re: Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by Grannyhiker » July 6th, 2012, 11:51 am

Suggestion: get a permanent marker ("Sharpie") and draw a bunch of big X's on your fuel bottle. Renew them when they start to fade. Maybe even write "Fuel" on it!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey

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retired jerry
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Re: Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by retired jerry » July 6th, 2012, 11:58 am

Thanks for the report. Another place on my list to go. Yeah, that isn't ridiculously far from Portland.

I use Everclear to drink (diluted). Same problem - sometimes mistake it for water bottle.

Once I washed my glasses off with it. Another time I accidentally took a swig - that was not good :)

Now I have marked that bottle with "AL" all over it in black and red. Also, I have a red cap on it. I haven't screwed up since.

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bobcat
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Location: SW Portland

Re: Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by bobcat » July 6th, 2012, 1:36 pm

You're right - It does look like a great place to pack. Mus try to get there some day.

Probably a porcupine after your insoles. They need the salt and they love hikers' boots! I never leave boots outside the tent at night because of that.

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Born2BBrad
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Re: Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by Born2BBrad » July 7th, 2012, 3:49 pm

This TR earned my top honor: Worthy of being a favorite in my "Hiking/Backpacking Ideas" folder.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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cunningkeith
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Location: Portland

Re: Marble Mountain Wilderness, 6/30-7/3

Post by cunningkeith » July 8th, 2012, 11:44 am

Born2BBrad wrote:This TR earned my top honor: Worthy of being a favorite in my "Hiking/Backpacking Ideas" folder.
Hey, that's quite an honor! I think the far northern California spots (Marble, Trinity, and Lost Coast) should be on anybody's short list. Although the weather is not perfect there, I think it's generally better than ours and melts out sooner. I used "Backpacking California" to help plan this trip and Sullivan's "Hiking Southern Oregon" (which has some northern Cal. hikes).

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