With clear gaps between active weather patterns seemingly reduced to a few hours, our (or at least my) attention has been forced toward some of the shorter, lower altitude trails that in less “active” years we avoided in favor of longer trails. This has meant finally hiking all of the trails around Applegate Lake in the Upper Applegate River Valley. In December 2016, I hiked an old road between the Payette and Manzanita Trailheads on the east side of the lake and this January, finished the various trails on the lake’s Latgawa Peninsula. What remained were a collection of short trails (the Viewpoint Trails) on the western tip of the lake’s Squaw Arm. So, with the LovedOne busy volunteering at the library, I took advantage of today’s break in the active weather to head out to the Payette Trailhead and finish these hikes.
The sign at the trailhead says “Payette Trailhead” but the Forest Service website doesn’t give this trailhead its own page and also refers to it variously as the “Squaw Arm parking area” and “Squaw Creek Arm” – ample opportunities for confusion. I could have just hiked the Payette Trail (USFS #970) out-and-back to the Viewpoint Trails but opted instead to go out along the old road/use trail above the #970. So, under a very light snowfall (thank you active weather pattern!), I crossed the robust bridge over now raging Squaw Creek,
went south up Spring Gulch, crossed its creek,
and then went west on the old road/use trail to where it makes a close approach to the Harr Ridge Trail (USFS #947) roughly 50 feet below it. As luck would have it, this was exactly the spot where a huge dead tree had clobbered the reservoir’s perimeter fence, so I just stepped through the gap and was almost immediately on the #947.
Unlike the Payette Trail, which is heavily used and well maintained, the Harr Ridge Trail, while generally easy to follow, was dim in a few places,
obscured in places by ravel, and blocked by several fallen trees of varying sizes. While it offers a good opportunity to see some examples of an old growth Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine forest, it is definitely in need of some simple maintenance.
I followed the Harr Ridge down to its signed junction with the Payette Trail at Tipsu Tyee Camp.
By now, the active weather had run its course (for the moment) and sunlight was breaking-out across the lake.
Fron Tipsu Tyee, I followed the Payette west to its signed junction with the Cut-Off Trail (USFS #946), a trail which provides a connection to the west end of the Harr Ridge Trail and to the Squaw Point Trail (USFS #946A) [note that the description on this web page is for a trail on the Latgawa Peninsula, not the #946A – more confusion]. It was a short way southwest on the #946 to a partially signed 4-way junction (no sign for the #946A) with the #946A and #947 trails.
I followed the #946A to its “viewpoint” but failed to find a view – maybe there was one in its early days, but it now looks as though the trees have grown back to block any good sight lines.
So back to the 4-way junction and then down the Cut-Off Trail to its unsigned junction with the Payette Trail on the west side of the arm. The Cut-Off, like the Harr Ridge, is also definitely in need of some simple maintenance. I then doubled back up the Cut-Off to the 4-way and continued up over the top of the arm on the Harr Ridge Trail, dodging a few large fallen trees along the way.
Up at the top of the arm, I came to (and almost passed) a signed (it’s a very small sign) junction with the faint Culy Trail (USFS #947A),
and followed the Culy out it its viewless viewpoint.
After visiting the Culy view(less)point, I continued east on the Harr Ridge to the Payette and then followed it east under now cheerily sunny skies,
to a lower crossing of the creek in Spring Gulch,
and hence over the robust bridge to the trailhead. A short (6.0 miles round-trip; 800 feet of elevation gain) but worthwhile hike to see some old growth and explore some new trails. I got the feeling that the reason these small trails seem little used is that their primary purpose – to connect with viewpoints – has been outgrown by the forest. Still, they make a nice side trip to see some old-growth forest and, if you’re up for following the old road, a somewhat adventurous loop.