Since we moved to the State of Jefferson, the majority of our hikes have been either solo efforts or just the two of us. In an effort to be more social, we signed up with Southern Oregon Happy Trails (SOHT), our local meet-up group focused on hiking. We had planned to refresh our social skills with them on a hike earlier this month, only to have it canceled by the Great Storm. So, we needed to try again and that opportunity came when Joe – one of the meet-up’s assistant organizers – offered an easy hike on the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (USFS #940), which traverses the western shore of Applegate Lake between the Swayne Viewpoint Trailhead and Watkins Campground. Unfortunately, when the Library got two big donations over the holiday weekend, the LovedOne had to skip this hike to enhance her social skills by volunteering to sort books and sniff the cellulose.
It had been sunny on our carpool up to the trailhead from Jacksonville but by the time we arrived it looked like we were going to spend the day in gloom but that, fortunately, was just a passing thing, weather-wise.
Joe had chosen this trail in the hopes that it would be less snow-clogged than many of the other trails in the Applegate (the Great Storm having done its work at all altitudes) and that hope proved to be true, in that we only encountered patches of easily passable snow on this trail.
I usually do this hike as part of a loop over Collings Mountain (post), starting from the Collings Mountain trailhead. So I didn’t realize that the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail actually starts at the Swayne Viewpoint and goes through the Hart-tish Park (closed for the season) before passing the Collings Mountain trailhead. Always something new to learn…
Past Hart-tish Park, we got our first glimpse of the snowy Red Buttes to the south, along with the encouraging sight of the clouds starting to part.
Then we negotiated another short stretch of snowy trail,
but were soon back on clear trail. We’d alternate this snow patch / clear section all the way out to the Copper Boat Ramp.
When we came in sight of the Copper Ramp, we also got the big view of the snowy Red Buttes. The Corps seems to be keeping the reservoir level down in anticipation of all that snow up there melting and refilling it in a hurry this Spring.
It was fully sunny now and part of the group decided to take a lunch break short of the Copper Ramp and then head back along the trail.
Joe and I decided to push on to the Ramp and then head back from there along the road (which, while not a wilderness experience, is still 0.5 miles shorter than the trail).
The Copper Boat Ramp leads down toward to the former site of Copper, named for the copper-mining boom in the nearby mountains that had begun in the late 1880s. At its zenith, it was only a one-room schoolhouse, farm, store, gas station and post office (from 1924 to 1932), all of which disappeared before 1980, when the Corps of Engineers completed the Applegate Dam and submerged the old town site under 100 feet of water. Guy Watkins (for whom today’s Watkins Campground is named) was the last of his family to live here; he moved to a new home on higher ground in 1978. When the reservoir is at low water in the winter, you can still make-out the old asphalt highway (and the faint yellow centerline that divided it) that once ended near the Copper store.
From the Ramp, we made quick time back along the road to Swayne Viewpoint, arriving before the other folks, and getting in one last look of sunlight on the waters before the next storm arrives.
An easy (6.9 miles; 100 feet of elevation gain) but enjoyable hike and a good chance to exercise my social muscles but not so much the ones still recovering from yesterday’s snowshoe to the Summit Shelter!