While the Great Storm has made the Mount Ashland ski area (and nordic skiers and snowshoers) ecstatic, it has had a dampening effect on simple snow-free hiking. On the upside, all this snow has given me permission, so to speak, to hike some of the shorter, lower altitude trails that have been overshadowed by longer trails in less snowy years. So we’ve done more hikes around Applegate Lake than ever before. A couple of weeks ago I did a somewhat snowy hike out to the western tip of the lake’s Squaw Arm and that got me thinking about finishing hiking all of the trails on the Latgawa Peninsula across the water to the north. We had done one of those trails early in 2016 but never got back to do the rest. So, with The LovedOne preoccupied with finishing her quilting class homework, it fell to me to make my way to the Payette Trail’s Payette Trailhead at the head of Squaw Arm to finish these hikes.
Two weeks ago, the gravel road to this trailhead was clogged with snow; today only the trailhead itself was still snow covered. All the trails on the peninsula were, however, now completely snow-free – it almost felt like Spring had come early!
Along with the snow-free trails came an absolutely perfect bluebird day for hiking – sunny, warmish, with a light breeze, and just enough clouds to accent, but not obscure, the scenery.
I left the trailhead going west on the Payette Trail (USFS #970), the “backbone” trail along the east side of the lake (post). I soon passed the junction with the Osprey Trail (USFS #973) – my return route – and continued going west.
Along the way I had a good view out over the lake (yes, it’s actually a reservoir, but I don’t find it as ugly as some folks do) of still snowy Stricklin Butte to the south.
You have a choice along here of either following the trail or the old Squaw Arm Road – I stayed on the trail. Along in here you also pass some old, old trash (a midden of old cans, bottles, etc.) spilling down the slope, a reminder of the time when some miners lived next to the old road above, when that road was the only way to access the town of Copper.
Soon the Payette Trail swings north around the tip of the penninsula, past a junction with the Sinns Bar Trail (USFS #972) – which we had hiked back in 2015 – and opens on to a view of the old paved road to the now vanished town of Copper. The old dirt road to Copper was replaced by this “new” paved one and then this paved one was abandoned (as was the town of Copper) when the reservoir was constructed.
I continued along,
and, at the northern tip of the peninsula, came to a five-way junction (there used to be a sign here but some douchebag stole it). Continuing straight ahead and down will take you past the site of the old Latgawa Cove Camp and on to the French Gulch Trailhead (USFS). Two trails go to the west (left as you come in from the south) from here. The first one is what may once have been USFS #970A, but that number is no longer in the inventory. Confusingly, the Forest Service’s description for the Squaw Point Trail (USFS #946A), which is across Squaw Arm to the south, will take you to this trail. The more northerly trail here is a use trail that forms a loop with the former #970A. I did the whole loop, which provided a full-on view of the dam,
but, frankly, there are better views to be had from the Payette Trail itself. At the point where the use trails goes straight uphill to connect with the official Viewpoint Trail, I found a steel cable running downslope through the trees to the lakeshore – presumably a handline to get from your boat to the trail? The trail that heads southeast back at the 5-way junction is the Calsh Trail (USFS #971). This trail makes a pleasantly moderate ascent through a mature Douglas Fir forest to the Dagelma Trailhead (USFS). I took the Calsh Trail up to this trailhead, where there is a junction with the Prospectors Loop Trail (USFS #974) and the Osprey Trail #973. I then followed the Prospectors Loop Trail as it climbed to the ridgetop,
past its junction with the Sinns Bar Trail, and then as it contoured back eastward, through a tunnel of ancient manzanitas,
to its junction with the Osprey Trail. I took the Osprey back down toward the Payette Trailhead, marveling at how this area, which had been covered with a foot of snow just two weeks ago, was now almost Spring-like in its snowlessness. All we need now are the Spring wildflowers!
About halfway down the Osprey, where it crosses an old road, there are the collapsed remains an old cabin a short ways off in the woods. A roof peak, broken boards, a piece of stove pipe, and rusty bedspring mark yet another hopeful, but ultimately futile, attempt to realize dreams of vast wealth from a generally stingy geology.
We had hiked the Sinns Bar Trail before, so I was able to cover the remaining trails in 7.5 miles round-trip, with 600 feet of elevation gain. This turned out to be a really nice loop, through different forest habitats, with views, and traces of the mineral-driven history of this area.