Our persistent search for yet another new hike eventually took us to a short loop on Mount Isabelle, in the Wellington Wildlands near Ruch, Oregon. The views were reported to be spectacular (and they were 😀 ). The Applegate Trails Association has developed several trails in this area, in conjunction with their work on the still evolving Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) system. Since the route to the summit is only a mile long, we added a short cross-country section to connect with the Isabelle Spring Trail, which we used for our return. These trails are at the north edge of the Wellington Wildlands, one of only two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roadless areas over 5,000 acres in the entire Applegate Valley. Local efforts are underway to save and preserve the wilderness characteristics of these wildlands. The walk up to the summit is short but steep, so we managed three miles, with 1,000 feet of elevation, for our morning’s work.
Today the summit is home to a huge, new microwave communications link. But from 1933 until 1967, it boasted a 50-foot wood pole tower with a 12-foot by 12-foot cab (until 1959), with an L-4 cab thereafter. The lookout was intentionally destroyed in 1967.
The view from the summit, particularly to the west and north, was, as promised, huge.
After a short visit on top, we started the cross-country portion of our loop by dropping off the summit. The original plan had been to descend the crest of the northwest ridge directly to the north end of the Isabelle Spring Trail. But dodging around (or pushing through) various brushy obstacles forced our line into a due west direction. The going was steep but not too loose or brushy and we soon intersected the Isabelle Spring Trail just short of its north end. One thing this cross-country excursion did was reveal the many huge old-growth trees on this side of the mountain. Several that we passed had been marked with blue paint, which usually means they would be destined for harvest 😥 if this area is not protected in some way.
We soon intersected the Isabelle Spring Trail and followed it for a short way to its end at BLM Road 38-3-6. We then turned around and headed back, passing five motorcyclists (we offered to step aside but they were already stopped, so we edged on by) and Isabelle Spring on the way. This box spring was developed in 1940 to serve the lookout. It was still putting out a few drops of water despite the lateness of the season and the drought! We couldn’t have timed this hike better, given that when we got back to town the in-coming high clouds had pretty much killed the views. A good day on a new trail for us! 🙂