Wellington Butte (Ruch, Oregon) 13-Dec-2018

The collection of short, but view-filled, trails near Mount Isabelle in the Wellington Wildlands west of Ruch, Oregon includes the Isabelle Peak and Spring Trails, the Sundown Trail, and the Heart Trail, the latter planned as a principal part of the central section of the Applegate Ridge Trail (ART). With rain due in tomorrow, I used today’s bluebird weather to hike the Heart Trail and take in the view from atop Wellington Butte (3,710 feet). After yesterday’s snow frolic, The LovedOne decided she needed to stay home and sew another blouse.

I started from the Long Gulch Trailhead and went south on the old mining road (now BLM Road 38-3-7.1) that is the Heart Trail. A half-mile along, I passed the motorcycle trail we’d used to make a loop with the Sundown Trail. I dropped to a saddle north of Point 3298 and then climbed very gently along the steep north side of Wellington Butte. About 1.6 miles from the trailhead, I crested the ridge running west from the butte. This ridge would be my approach to the top of the butte. But first, I continued west on the trail, which got narrower and more hemmed-in by vegetation the farther west I went. The Heart Trail officially ends 2.5 miles from the trailhead at an open area 0.4 miles west of Point 3224. Trying to go farther would have taken me into more encroaching brush and onto private land.  There are some views along the trail and pretty good ones from the open area at its end.  But I was guessing views from the butte would be better, so I turned around here and went back to climb the butte’s west ridge.

Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Long Gulch Trailhead
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
The giant mud puddle
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Despite being an old road, the trail is a pleasant walk
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Thick forest on the north side of Wellington Butte
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Looking southwest from below Wellington Butte
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
West of the butte, vegetation starts to close-in on the trail
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
The open area at the end of the trail; Grayback Mountain is on the horizon to the left
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
The open area; the trail continues (for a bit) through the dark spot in the vegetation

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recreation map for this area shows a camera symbol (indicating a viewpoint) on the butte but doesn’t show a way to reach that point. Once back at the crest of the ridge, I faced a daunting tangle of trees and shrubs apparently blocking my way forward. But I soon spotted a game trail (thus heeding the wisdom of the bambi) that, with just a little ducking and weaving, got me around the brush and up the ridge to a rocky outcrop. It was open meadows from there on, which made easy work of reaching the wonderful views from the butte’s summit.

Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
A rock crop halfway up the ridge leads to open, brush-free ground
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
The view west from the open part of the ridge
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Outcrops and clouds along the ridge
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
There is a superb view of Mount McLoughlin from Wellington Butte
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Looking south from the butte into the Applegate Valley
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Grayback Mountain from Wellington Butte
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Looking west from Wellington Butte

Instead of back-tracking down the west ridge, I continued along the ridge to the east and then descended directly down Wellington’s north face to the trail. The slope was steep and littered with a melange of slippery fallen branches – not hard to descend but I’m glad I didn’t come up this way!

Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
An old madrone along the ridge
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
A steep descent on Wellington’s north side

Once off the slope it was an easy walk back to the trailhead, for a 5-mile round-trip, 800-foot elevation gain morning. As noted, despite being along an old road, this is a pleasant walk with a few viewpoints. But making it up to the open views from Wellington Butte lifts this hike from the good to the very good category. On the drive out, I got a shot of Mount Isabelle, the peak that started our much appreciated exploration of the trails in its vicinity. 🙂

Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
Mount Isabelle from the road to the Long Gulch Trailhead
Wellington Butte Mount Isabelle Ruch Oregon
My track along the Heart Trail and over Wellington Butte
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