Earlier this year, we did an out-and-back hike along the Layton Mine Ditch Trail above Williams, Oregon. That trail is a piece of Southern Oregon’s mining history, as is the Chinese Wall it crosses. After plotting our track for that hike, I got to looking at maps for other possible hikes in the area. One that caught my attention was along the ridge east of Ferris Gulch, with a return via Ferris Gulch Road – about an 8 to 9 mile loop. The LovedOne was up for a not-too-long, not-too-far away hike, so we decided to capitalize on the continuing perfect Fall weather to have a go at this Ferris Gulch Loop (which seemed particularly fitting since one of The LovedOne’s most favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
We went south of Williams on the East Fork Road, turned east (left) on to Panther Gulch Road and followed that, past the Layton Mine Ditch Trailhead, to where it swung north and became Ferris Gulch Road (some maps show a road going straight east from this point – there isn’t). We parked about 0.5 miles north along the Ferris Gulch Road, right where an obvious motorcycle scar joins the road.
From there, we walked up the road, with smoke from the Abney Fire visible in the distance along the Siskiyou Crest. Not a bad walk for a road, with no traffic other than the occasional hunter.
After 1.7 miles, we came to a saddle where the Forest Service map shows Ferris Gulch Road dropping down to the west and another road heading uphill along the ridge.
Well, the “road” going uphill isn’t a road (not yet at least) but rather a deeply-rutted (fortunately only at start) motorcycle track, one of the many that criss-cross this area.
Higher up on the ridge, the deep ruts start to fade,
and at some point it almost seemed like we were walking a regular trail through the forest.
In less than a half-mile, the track started descending the ridge,
to a point where we could look up the Thompson Creek Valley toward the Siskiyou Crest.
It was at this point that the motorcycle track merged with an old road (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 38-4-29), one not shown on some maps.
Despite its being a road, it proved to be a very pleasant way to walk along the ridge. Which is not to say there aren’t motorcycle tracks carved up and over each bump along the ridgecrest adjacent to the road.
Along the way, we spotted a very healthy looking apple tree – with bright red apples – growing up out of a patch of madrones (We got to wondering how long ago someone had tossed a post-lunch apple core off the road here?),
and a 6-inch high oak tree showing its Fall colors.
We ambled along the road, descending gently but continuously to its junction with the Ferris Gulch Road about 4.7 miles from where we parked. One reason BLM 38-4-29 was so pleasant was the presence of a gate cutting it off from the traffic along the gulch road. The walk back up – and it’s was up most of the way back to where we parked – was the only way to make a loop, but it was far from being aesthetic – passing as we did piles of discarded carpet and abandoned (and well shot-up) cars (score two for the douchebags among us).
After 2.5 miles plodding up the gulch road, we were back at where we’d left it for the motorcycle track. An option a little before here is a road that goes west out above the old Layton Mine site and joins to another motorcycle track, which then follows a ridgeline right back to where we parked. We didn’t avail ourselves of this option. On the way back, a nice splash of Fall color helped offset the sight of that pile of rotting carpet.
This loop was, at 8.7 miles round-trip with 1,800 feet of elevation gain, decent exercise. But, despite BLM 38-4-29 being a pretty nice walk, having to return via the much used gulch road seriously deflated the experience. Piles of trash, abandoned cars, and motorcycle tracks carving up the slopes didn’t help either. So, something a little different, but, sad to say, likely not a hike we’ll do again anytime soon.