July 22, 23
We decided to leave the Carter Meadows Camp and go to Oregon to ride the northern sections I left off last year. The trail from Carter Meadows would not be open because of snow for another 2 weeks or more and I was losing time waiting.
We arrived at Lily Glen a camp we knew from last year and found they were having an endurance event and were able to meet some great people. A mom and her daughter were on their first ride and the anticipation was heavy in the air. They rode Arab crosses and Ashley did the horse’s feet using boots as needed. I am glad to see that boots are so popular. They rode off and I wanted to get started from Hwy 140 on the edge of Mount McLoughlin to Four Mile Lake. Leaving early I hoped that the 13 miles would not have too many obstacles and I was pleased to find a well marked trail and few downed trees.
After all I was again in Oregon where the trails are horse friendly. We came up behind a couple of hikers who had left the trail head before me but had turned around thinking they had missed the side trail to Mount McLoughlin. I adjusted my GPS and told them they had 2 more miles before that intersection and wondered why they didn’t have any maps. We passed some packing goats in training and I was told they could carry 100 lbs if needed but ususally carried 50...based on their size I bet that is almost as much as they weigh! The trail moved upward and we finally got to the Four Mile trail which was a secluded loop to the lake. The trail passed through some young trees which made me feel like there had been a fire or the old trees had been harvested.
When we arrived at camp Burton had already set up and dinner was started. How I suffer!
Burton met a couple of gals who were out for the weekend and said they would love to ride with me. This unexpected company was welcome since we travelled so many miles talking to the wildlife! Toni and Gaileen were great riders although they weren’t prepared for the mosquitoes or the 16 mile ride to Cold Springs.
They were good sports and we laughed and chatted the whole way finding graze and lakes so the horses enjoyed the trip as well.
It’s funny how my focus became the camaraderie and not the trail.
As the miles passed we found we had so much in common and even wished for a few more days to ride together, but Burton was there at Cold Springs to haul the gals back to Four Mile Lake where their rig was and we parted after taking a few pictures.
While I grazed Issy waiting for Burton both Issy and I were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes: I sprayed both of us and the vicious little bugs would just land on a near by rock and wait until the spray had settled and then attacked any spot not directly covered with spray. I was amazed to see a gray rock turn completely black with bodies of mosquitoes and in unison they would attack. Finally, Issy just stood there looking me straight in the eyes and not moving a muscle letting the mosquitoes just eat as they wanted. I was horrified. I couldn’t wait for Burton to get us out of Cold Springs, although a great looking spot with a live running spring and a log shelter it was no place to camp.
We opted to go back to Lily Glen where we knew we could camp undisturbed. It was a long way back but well worth the peace.
We decided to take another day off doing wash and shopping.
Burton hauled us back to Cold Springs and we arrived all saddled up so I could just mount up and ride out with hopes the mosquitoes didn’t land. That didn’t happen and they attacked us with a vengeance with Issy and I running as fast as we could to put some distance from the spring. The goal today was to be Nannie Creek at the suggestion of Jackie the Ranger. She said that Devils’ Peak was impassable to horses because of the snow and that we would have to bypass around to Seven Mile Marsh going out at Nannie Creek. The trail was basically open timber except for some slides and when I arrived at one I almost turned back. The rocks were sliding down the canyon and I couldn’t see any safe way around.
Then just as I was resigned to turn back I saw a 3 foot wide path, flat and almost packed where trail crews had certainly work very hard to get such a great path across the scree.
We passed without any slips and were rewarded with several ponds and creeks which were nestled in the mountain.
The path narrowed and we found a downed tree hanging across the path. Pulling my saw back and forth making only a small cut after many minutes of work I thought perhaps I could cut from the bottom and then break the tree. With the cuts almost matching I crashed my foot down on the tree hoping it would complete the break. This was a big mistake since the tree immediately started to slide down the mountain and I was obliged to start another cut again. As I was sawing for the third cut the tree started to slide again and this time I was ready and I helped it drop over the edge. Very dangerous!
We continued on for a few miles and came to an inpass at a wash. The downed trees were pretzeled all around us from high on the cliff to well down the slope. Issy even stopped and looked around, but we climbed up the slope and jumped, stepped over and skirted trees to the far trail. By three we met Burton at Nannie Creek to trailer over to Happy Trails Horse Camp located in Chiloquin. This camp was not as represented and Burton was annoyed that the ads specified showers, hookups and and full service camp. It had none of those niceties but we stayed because Issy was enjoying the varied equid company.
We drove to Seven Mile Marsh and camped there to start early in the morning. The trailhead was large and located on the side of the mountain but very horse friendly. Issy stayed in the trailer since the entire parking lot was on a ledge and there wasn’t any place to put up our pen.
I rode out at first light climbing the mountain taking switchback after switch back. It was a great workout for Issy and he was huffing when we got to the top. The trail then went to a creek and continued to climb again. The forest became thin and the trees were small with the soil dry and desert like. I arrived at the PCT to find a hiker who was resting and we chatted when he mentioned that he heard about an accident last year and wanted to know if I was aware of it. Of course, I knew of Janice’s loss and Grindle preceded to inform me that he got her saddle up to the trail for her. What a small world but I was not happy to be reminded about the sad and preventable loss. I continued on towards Jack Spring then turned around so Burton and I could find a better spot for Issy for the night.
We decided to go back to a place we stayed last year called Sun Pass Ranch in Fort Klamath. They had renovated their barn and it was a great spot for Issy, with our trailer parked right outside the barn.
Burton dropped us off at the Hwy 62 just south of Crater Lake at the PCT trail head. I was looking forward to this ride but was somewhat concerned that the trail wouldn’t be clear since there was a designated horse trail and a designated hiker trail. This usually means that the hiker trail is maintained and the horse one is not. The first 4 miles were perfect because it made a loop to the Crater Lake Lodge but after Lighten Springs cut off it was one downed tree after another. There were at least 100 downed trees per mile for the next 12 miles. No one packing a horse could have gotten through unless they unpacked their horses and then led them into the heavy under brush and then carried their packs to the animals and repacked. They would have had to repeat this literally 100’s of times. Issy accepted each downer as a challenge and I let him decide which way to move on. It astonished me to sit quiet and watch him decide which way to go. It was always to get through and never to turn around. He would head for a spot then a better one would catch his eye and we would pull like a cutting horse towards the opening he liked best. I once started to stop him from crossing a tree where there were too many projecting fingers but at the last minute he turned and headed to the far end of the tree where the snags were not as tall. It just amazed me! We finally arrived at Red Cone Springs only to find that blown down trees were all over the spring and a horse or hiker couldn’t easily get anywhere near it. I filled my canvas bucket and Issy drank it dry several times. From there on the trail was cleared because it was another good hiker loop. Too bad for Crater Lake because it could have been a wonderful, scenic trail.
We spent the night at Kelsey Valley Trailhead close to Windigo Pass but I was to ride out of the Crater Lake trailhead. The ride would only be a short one and we planned to camp at the trail head tonight. It was a bland ride over flat terrain and the arid conditions made the trail less scenic. The trees were sparse but the footing was very consistent allowing us to move out at a grand pace which we rarely ever got a chance to do. Issy shook his head with delight and gathered up into the bridle like a race horse so we cantered along for a few miles and made short work of the 10 miles to camp. Burton had Issy’s pen already set up with water and hay.
Today the goal was to get to Windigo Pass where Burton was to find a place to camp but we decided to go to Diamond Lake Corrals instead and check out Diamond Lake. The corrals were owned by a colorful cowboy Wayne Watson who had been in business for 40 years right there. He had helped Doctor York when he made his historic through ride many years back and Wayne made his living by taking out riders for half day or longer rides. He was delightful. We knew we wanted to spend the night there and hoped for some real cowboy stories! We weren’t disappointed because Wayne told of when he worked for the forest service and packed all over the mountains in this area. He was a gold mind of information and helped me with the next section to Windigo Pass. See www.diamondlakecorrals.com and read about his wilderness rides. I rode out for 5 miles following a 3 hour ride Wayne was hosting. Although I left a few hours later it was easy to follow the tracks of the horses in a big loop and I enjoyed the scenery of Diamond Lake from a ridge about 500 feet above the lake.
Issy was in fine spirits since he was ready for a real ride and when we got back to Wayne’s corral he reared and bucked and just showed off making anyone who saw him wonder if he was even saddle broke. This behavior wasn’t new to me so I just laughed and knew when he was saddled again he would be respectful and compliant but Issy was back in true form and he looked like a Sumu wrestler: all muscle and strength.
At 7:30 I headed out with more confidence then I had in a long time about the terrain and challenges of the next 29 miles. Wayne was precise and detailed about the trail leaving me to feel like I could handle any blow downs or obstacles. This made the trip relaxing although long, but the trail had its difficulties. Although there were many unmarked cross trails, the blow downs were easily handled by moving off the trail and Wayne was right about the open forest giving me adequate room to circumvent them. I had snow to go around, trees to climb over but we never missed a beat. We climbed Sawtooth Ridge with it’s snow banks causing us little more than few feet detour and hit some meadows where there was a sign stating that we were at the highest point on the PCT in Oregon and Washington. I really thought that the PCT in Glacier Peak Wilderness was higher but here stood the sign.
Snow capped Mount Thielsen peeking out from the trees made the scenery breath taking.
We then pulled off trail to Maidu Lake at Wayne’s recommendation. With over 500 feet loss in elevation I was very concerned about the expenditure of energy since Issy had to go the 29+ miles today but considering that there wasn’t any water for 8 more miles we dropped off the PCT and I am sure glad I did. Maidu Lake was a delight with plenty of graze for one horse, ducks swimming and a great place to relax or camp for that matter.
One of the disadvantages of having someone at the other end of the trail is not being able to just stop and enjoy the afternoon and camp at such a scenic spot, but this was greatly outweighed by the fact that Issy could travel light, I knew my resupply was close and we all could settle in at the trailer safely with Burton.
We enjoyed Maidu Lake for a long rest and then climbed out back to the PCT. Along the trail we enjoyed views of the lake until we climbed Mule Peak heading towards Tolo Mountain.
Issy was looking for more graze so I stopped and fed him for the third time today and then urged him on to finish the last 5 miles. He always seems to know when we are close to camp and with a snack in his belly he moved forward like a freight train, pulling and increasing his already fast walk. By 5:30 we had gone almost 30 miles and dropped into a gully then climbed a ridge to find Burton had managed to park within view of the PCT at the Windigo Pass trailhead.