Squaw Peak in Snow (Oregon) 26-Dec-2015

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon

We needed to get out and burn off a few of the excess calories we’d consumed on Christmas Day. And, for whatever reason, we thought (or didn’t) that a snow hike up to Squaw Peak would be just the thing to do the metabolizing. We knew there would be snow but (hopefully) not too much snow. Going with the hopefully theme, we didn’t take snowshoes. Figuring, I guess, we’d post-hole to glory if necessary (which we did).

After a later than usual start waiting out the chance of freezing fog, we got to the trailhead at 3,100 feet to find about 4 inches of soft new snow.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
At the trailhead

About a mile up the trail, the day had cleared completely, the sun was out, and the views started – here toward the Red Buttes Wilderness and the Siskiyou Crest.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Looking west to the Siskiyou Crest
Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Siskiyou Crest

By 3,500 feet, the snow had gotten deeper (6 to 12 inches),

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Getting deeper

and there were some struggles.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Going in…
Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
And climbing out

But our objective – the old lookout atop Squaw Peak – came into view to offer encouragement, so we pressed on.

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

At about mile three, the trail passes through a forest,

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Into a snowy forest

and the sun was just warm enough to loosen the wads of snow that had accumulated in the trees – forcing us to dodge (not always successfully) mini snow storms as we hiked along.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Bombarded by falling snow

After four miles, we reached the upper trailhead of the Little Grayback Trail where it disgorges on to Forest Road (FR) 300, which is what we then followed to get to the lookout.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
At the upper trailhead

We hadn’t brought snowshoes because the trail is a little too narrow for them and, up to this point, the snow hadn’t been deep enough (except in a few spots) to justify carrying them. The road to the lookout was another matter – 12 to 24 inches of fresh powder over a deep crusty – but breakable – base. Not exactly post-holing but darn close to it. So we slogged on, feeling those excess calories dwindling with every step. FR 300 runs downhill for a bit,

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
On Forest Road 300

to FR 2010, where the service road to the lookout starts. The service road passes a locked gate, then starts climbing for the longest 0.75 miles we’ve done lately. Slog, slog, slog…

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Up the service road

But then, just as our hearts were being gripped by despair, there it was – our goal, the lookout –

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Squaw Peak Lookout

where some of us were able to avail ourselves of its deluxe relaxation facilities,

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Time for a break

and chew on a cold lunch. There’s a weather station on the summit (RAWS), so we knew exactly how cold this lunch was – air temp 29ยบF, wind speed 12 miles per hour (mph). On December 3rd, the station recorded a (possibly anomalous) wind speed of 107 mph! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Lunch at the lookout

We found out that the Forest Service may make the lookout available for rental in 2016. Let’s hope they do because in summer it seems like it would a great place to spend the weekend.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
The lookout in summer
Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
The view in summer

Today, we had some big views too.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Looking east past the weather station toward Mount McLoughlin and Wagner Butte
Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Looking west toward Grayback Mountain (G) and Big Sugarloaf Peak (S).

We had just gagged down the last of our slightly frozen sandwiches when clouds ahead of the next storm starting rolling in, signaling that it was time to descend. So off we went, with Squaw Lake below,

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Descending
Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Descending the road

back to the trail.

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Now descending the trail

We’d gotten a late start and slogging had consumed a lot of time, so for the first time in a long time we were racing darkness (and valley fog) back to the trailhead,

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Sunset

which we managed to reach without having to pull out our headlamps!

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Sunset over the Red Buttes

This hike (11 miles round-trip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain) – which is fun summer or winter – definitely qualified as strenuous on this particular occasion. But with those Christmas calories now gone, we’re ready to bloat again come New Years! Win, win! ๐Ÿ˜€

Squaw Peak Applegate Valley Southern Oregon
Our long slog to and from Squaw Peak

HOME