Mount Isabelle (Ruch, Oregon) 25-Nov-2018

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 πŸ˜€ ). 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.

The Wellington Wildlands are an integral part of the Applegate-Rogue Recreation Corridor
The “trail” to Mount Isabelle is the service road to the comm facility on its summit
The road climbs steeply; some 900 feet in a mile
Mount McLoughlin, with fog in the Bear Creek Valley
Mount McLoughlin (m), Brown Mountain (b), and Aspen Butte (a)
Red Buttes (R), Kangaroo Mountain (K), Tallowbox Mountain (T), Whiskey Peak (W), Figurehead Mountain (A), Pyramid Peak (P), Big Sugarloaf Peak (B), and Grayback Mountain (G)
Into open, rocky ground near the summit
Grayback Mountain (center), with fog in the Illinois Valley

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 comm tower on Mount Isabelle today
The fire lookout tower on Isabelle, c1960 (Oregon Department of Forestry photo)

The view from the summit, particularly to the west and north, was, as promised, huge.

Looking due west from the summit; fog fills the Illinois Valley
Looking northwest from the summit

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 πŸ˜₯ if this area is not protected in some way.

Starting our cross-country descent
Working our way across rocky, but otherwise open, terrain
The love affair with old-growth continues…

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! πŸ™‚

On the Isabelle Spring Trail
North end of the trail
Heading back
High cirrus clouds started wafting-in as we made our way back
Isabelle Spring
Return to the trailhead at Isabelle Saddle
Our short, but fun, loop over Mount Isabelle
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12 comments

  1. My mother lives in Medford, I take the kids hiking out in Jackson whenever we visit. Though I am surprised you don’t list Trailforks in your resources links, that is all we used in Medford and it was perfect. But I used Trailforks way back before those project sites copied their site. Better for Mountain Biking, but I heard they are adding hiking.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Trailforks is a site aimed primarily at mountain bikers. Some of the trails they list work fine for hikers but some do not (and some are explicitly not for hikers). For hiking trails, I personally favor REI’s Hiking Project site but also rely heavily on my (too big) collection of new and old local guidebooks. However, in this instance, the trails near Mount Isabella are being developed and cared for by the Applegate Trails Association, so the link went to them. I try to link to local supporters of a trail whenever possible. πŸ™‚

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