We decided to celebrate the start of meteorological Spring with a short hike on the northern edge of the Red Buttes Wilderness. This hike is actually in California (barely) but the road access is from Oregon, so we’re calling it an Oregon hike. Or, more accurately, a State of Jeferson hike – but enough with the names already! 😉 This particular trail was spared being burned by the 2012 Fort Complex Fire, so its botanical features are still intact (Update: It was intensively maintained in 2016 and was missed by the 2017 Whiskey Ridge and Overview Fires).
The trailheads for the Frog Pond/Cameron Meadows Trail (USFS #953) are both on Forest Road 1040. You pass the end coming down from Cameron Meadows first and then, in about two miles, you come to the end going up Frog Pond Gulch (hiking this counter-clockwise is recommended). We left the truck at the Cameron end and walked the road to the start of the trail to Frog Pond.
From there, we climbed up through a forest of very, very large cedars and firs,
made intimate contact with a Brewer’s spruce growing next to the trail,
walked on up through the paltry results of our latest “snow storm,” 😦
before arriving at the large meadow holding the Frog Pond.
At the side of the meadow are the remains of a prospector’s cabin that was built within the trunks of seven large incense cedars. The walls were split cedar planks – it must have smelled great and been free of moths! According to Ruediger, it was built in the 1920s by a John Knox McCloy who lived and prospected in this area for over 50 years. He was described by locals as “having gone completely native.”
Although it was brilliantly sunny, it wasn’t particularly warm and there was still a crust of ice on the pond.
We continued along the trail around the south end of the Frog Pond, past a very rare grove of Alaskan yellow cedar,
and up to a divide between Frog Pond Gulch and French Gulch, where we caught a glimpse (this hike isn’t big on views) of peaks to the west.
We had lunch on the divide, then descended through Cameron Meadows,
past yet another huge cedar,
and a small pond not shown on the map.
Here again, the trail as built did no match the trail as mapped and staying on course across the meadows required carefully following some unevenly spaced cairns. After leaving the meadows, the trail cuts east of Point 4542 and if you aren’t on it correctly, you can find yourself mucking about down in French Gulch. Update: In 2016, where the trail passes through the meadows was marked with properly relocated rock cairns making it much easier to stay on the correct course. We managed to follow the cairns correctly (but not easily) and stay on the trail as it plunged down the ridge above French Gulch to the trailhead where we’d parked the truck. That “plunge” is why we suggest doing this hike counter-clockwise. This is a short hike (7.9 miles; 1,900 feet of elevation gain) but one that is of botanical and historical interest and offers a quick introduction to this wilderness area.