Snow on Mule Mountain (Applegate Valley, Oregon) 16-Dec-2015

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon

This is one of the classic hikes in the Applegate Valley west of Medford; one that we first did last December when snow was in short supply. But last Sunday, a major storm dropped the snow level to 500 feet and the Mule Mountain area got plastered with 8 to 12 inches of fluffy new snow. What a welcome relief after two years of drought and skimpy snow! We took advantage of the brief break between storms for a quick snow hike up to the ridge crest at 4,300 feet.

We started from the (now closed) Mule Mountain Trailhead on Upper Applegate Road. Snow started showing up around the 2500′ level,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
We hit snow at 2,500 feet

got thicker at the shady crest at 3,200 feet,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
A little more at 3,200 feet

and was everywhere by 4,000 feet. We’d started under low clouds but actually climbed above them into sunshine at this point. πŸ™‚

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Getting above the clouds

Above the clouds, we had a great view of the Red Buttes Wilderness to the southwest,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Red Buttes on the horizon

with the Red Buttes themselves sporting more snow than we’ve seen in two years.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Red Buttes

We continued climbing toward the saddle at 4,300 feet on the south ridge of Baldy Peak,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Looking west from the side of Baldy Peak

observing the little stuff as we went along.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Twigs

We stopped at the saddle for a snack and a view to the west of the Red Buttes and Siskiyou Crest,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Looking west toward the Siskiyou Crest from the saddle

of cloud-shrouded Greyback Mountain and Big Sugarloaf Peak to the west,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Greyback Mountain and Big Sugarloaf Peak

and of the old lookout on Squaw Peak across the valley to the east.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Squaw Peak Lookout (arrow)

The sunshine lasted about an hour 😦 and then the next storm system started rolling in, preceded by high clouds that quickly blotted out the sun.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Good-bye, Mr. Sunshine…

So we started down,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Re-tracing our steps

back into the low clouds that were once again starting to fill the valley below.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
We descend into the clouds
Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
We moving through the clouds

We dropped below the clouds at around 3,000 feet,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
The cloud deck was only about 500 feet thick

and continued back to the trailhead through the forest,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Through the towering forest

admiring patches of intricately constructed lichens,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Lichen it!

the ever fascinating textures and colors of madrone bark,

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Bi-color madrone

and “waterfalls” of tree sap along the way.

Mule Mountain Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
The sap floweth down…

A short (8.5 miles round-trip; 2,500 feet of elevation gain) but fun snow hike squeezed in between the waves of storms that seem to be our destiny this winter season. But all good after several years of drought. πŸ˜€

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