Trail of the Lost Chair (Applegate Lake, Oregon) 09-Apr-2015

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon

During the last winter (what there was of it), we’ve managed to hike all of the major known, signed, and listed trails that are accessed from the Applegate Valley west of Medford, Oregon. With Spring now upon us, our attention is starting to shift to as yet unexplored trails (for us) in the Cascades and elsewhere. But there was one bit of unfinished business in the Applegate Lake area – Trail #908. This trail is no longer listed on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest website but is shown on various topographic maps including the latest (2014) Carberry Creek quad (but it’s not on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest large scale map). I finally found a description of it in Ruediger’s book, The Siskiyou Crest, wherein he calls it the “Osier Creek Trail” and indicates that it’s still there and can be followed. So, in the spirit of adventure and discovery, I set off to find it. The LovedOne bowed out on this one given that it might involve crashing through sharp brush festooned with poison oak (Oh, how right she was!).

The #908 starts at Forest Road (FR) 1030 and climbs the east ridge of Steve Peak to the Mountain View Mine. The #908 seems to have been built to service the lookout on Steve Peak which was first built in 1919 and survived until 1968.  Forest maps from 1925 show a trail and a phone line coming up to the peak from Carberry Creek.

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The Steve Peak Fire Lookout

The mine was first prospected in 1911 but a road was not built to it until the 1930s or 40s This road obliterated part of the #908 below the mine site, while the mine obscured the part of the #908 that went on up to the lookout site. The mine did produce some gold but costs of production probably outweighed its yield and it seems to have been abandoned sometime in the 1960s. It’s not clear when the Forest Service finally gave up on the #908 but its no longer in their inventory and obviously not maintained (not even by volunteers like some of the other old trails in this area). Needless to say, there’s no sign at the trailhead (or even a trailhead) and I had to find the start of the #908 by looking for a faint depression on the side of FR 1030. Once I did that, the trail was fairly easy to follow, with really good sections,

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
Clear trail

sections with blowdown that could be scrambled through,

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
Negotiable blockage

and sections requiring major detours followed by a hunt for the trail on the other side.

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
Pain in the butt blockage, often laced with poison oak

While Ruediger speaks glowingly on this trail, he fails to mention the consequences of its lack of maintenance or the fact that there is A LOT of poison oak  😥  in some sections. After about three miles of dodging and weaving through the brush and poison oak, I popped out on the old mine road – whose openness was a welcome relief from the brush on the #908.

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The old road to the mine

This road is open enough to provide the only view on this trail – of snow-covered Wagner Butte.

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
Wagner Butte

About a half-mile up the road, I came to an adit,

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The smaller adit

and, after passing through the results of our latest snow storm,

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
What passes for snow cover in the winter of 2015

the site of the main adit, which had collapsed (I later found out) sometime in the 1960s.

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The Mountain View Mine’s main adit

I’ve explored a lot of old mines so I guess I was expecting some interesting old equipment or buildings or junk. But there was only a rusty folding chair – just like the ones that have graced bureaucracies and public schools for generations. 😦

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The Lost Chair

Somewhat deflated, I sat on the chair for lunch, then headed back the way I’d come. A short, but steep, hike (7.4 miles round-trip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) that allowed me to scratch the itch I had about the #908. Soon I will know if all that crawling through brush hasn’t created an itch of a different sort. 😕

Steve Peak Mountain View Mine Applegate Lake Oregon
The solid yellow track is the #908 trail & road system; the dotted red track is the old mine service road (which can no longer be followed up from FR 1020)

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