Beginning point: Natural Bridge
End point: River Bridge
Total Miles: 8.1
Hikers: Steve W., Mary K., Dianne K., George H., Marian C.
We gathered at Mary K.’s house in Ashland at 9:00 AM and carpooled up to River Bridge on Highway 62 north of Prospect, where we again carpooled to Natural Bridge to facilitate a shuttle. Thanks to Marian and Dianne who shared their vehicles to make the shuttle happen.
We hiked south on the Upper Rogue River Trail, which closely follows the east bank of the river. Fall colors were past their prime, although dogwoods were still showing some red. Quiet pools reflected foliage. Takelma Gorge was its usual spectacular self. We saw only a few mushrooms.
Our starting elevation was just over 3200 feet. Cumulative elevation loss for the trip was 400 feet over 8.1 miles—although the distance seemed shorter. The grade of the trail was nearly level with a few steep uphill pitches and rocky sections.
We started hiking down the trail about 11:00 AM and finished by approximately 3:00 PM. We had a short lunch break at the Woodruff Bridge picnic area which was about 3.5 miles from the start of our hike. We watched a water ouzel in the river and heard others as we hiked. The weather was spectacular Indian summer at its height—temps in the late 60’s to 70’s and a cloudless sky.
After four years of trying to backpack through a stretch of the Three Sisters Wilderness, west of Bend, OR, we were finally going to succeed in September 2013. To accommodate Maria’s schedule, we shortened the trip to 5 days and 30 miles.
Alan P., Maria G. & Tysen M. started from Obsidian Trailhead (TH) after spending the night before at nearby Scott Lake Campground. Our trails passed through forest, lava flows and meadows. After we left the forest, we got our first view of North & Middle Sisters. It was sunny but became overcast toward the end of the day.
Since, we did not have a reservation, we could not camp above Obsidian Falls in Sunrise Meadow. Instead, we camped near Obsidian creek having climbed 1700 ft and covered 7.8 miles on the first day in the Wilderness.
The next morning it was foggy as we continued heading south on the Pacific Crest Trail, passing through beautiful alpine meadows. The sun eventually burned off most of the fog but left the Sisters peaks hidden from us.
We had lunch past Reese Lake and then continued on south with a goal of spending the night at Mesa Creek meadows. Around 1:30, we heard a distant thunder clap as we were passing a small sheltered pond. We took advantage of the level area at the north end of the pond to hurriedly set up our tents. Just as we finished , the thunder storm passed over us. While the thunder storm lasted only an hour. the rain would last for 17 hours with heavy rain throughout the night. We had covered 6 miles while maintaining nearly the same elevation today.
The next morning we had a cold breakfast, folded up our wet tents and continued on south in a light rain. Shortly thereafter we reached Mesa Creek meadows and took a break, enjoying a cup of hot coffee & tea. Then we continued on south passing through Wikkiup Plain.
Around noon, we reached a trail fork. One fork led to Moraine Lake, our planned destination that night, while the other led to Devils Lake TH. The latter trail would allow us to abort the rest of our trip. It would also place us within 2 miles of where Alan’s car was parked at the Green Lakes TH near Sparks Lake.
While it had stopped raining and a hazy sun had come out, it was still windy and we still could not see any of the Sister peaks. Hence, we aborted the trip and headed out to the Devils Lake TH. We had hiked 7 miles that day and lost 1000 ft in elevation.
Alan managed to get a ride to his car with a couple of ladies heading back to Bend. After he returned and picked up Maria and Tysen, we drove on to the nearby Elk Lake Resort for a warm snack and warm running water in the bathroom.
In July, Maria G., George H. and Tysen M. drove to the Shackleford Trailhead (TH) in the Marble Wilderness. We drove south to Yreka on Highway 5 and then took Highway 3 to Greenview where we turned right to reach the TH after several miles.
After our customary TH photo, we started our 5 mile, 1500 ft elevation gain, hike to Cliff Lake. We took the fork toward to Log Lake, rather than to Campbell Lake, and had lunch there. As we approached Log Lake, we were serenaded with a cow bell concert by a herd of cows grazing in the flower-covered meadows off the trail.
The weather was in the high 70’s or low 80’s and it was getting overcast when we continued. In the middle of the afternoon, it rained for about an hour and we heard a few thunder claps in the distance but continued hiking.
We reached the trail fork at Campbell Lake, turned right and started our ascent up to Cliff Lake. Except for the cows, we had seen no one during this mid-week hike.
As we approached Cliff Lake, we saw a mother with 2 children without packs. They were either day hikers or camped at one of the two lakes.
We finally reached the north end of Cliff Lake and selected one of several available campsites. There, we set up our tents in this spacious campsite. By this time the temperatures had risen into the mid 80’s.
The next morning, after a very warm (mid-70’s) night, we had breakfast and took pictures of this beautiful alpine lake. The full moon, which had come out during the night, was receding to the southwest.
After breakfast, we explored the trail to the south end of the lake. While we saw several other campsites, none of them were occupied.
We returned back to our campsite and then continued on down to Campbell Lake, past a small lillypad-covered lake, to Summit Lake. As the pictures show, Summit Lake was another beautiful lake, although much smaller. After lunch, we returned to our campsite at Cliff Lake where Tysen took a swim, while George just got his legs wet in the cool water.
In addition to a few chipmunks near our campsite, we saw a few dark brown salamanders in the lake. These were more curious than afraid of us as we replenished our water supply.
That night we celebrated Maria’s birthday with a toast of spirits that George had brought along. After dinner, we taught George how to play Farkle using 6 dies. We heard someone chopping wood at one of the campsites toward the south end of the lake, indicating that someone was camping there now.
That night it was a little cooler (mid 60’s) which was refreshing. The next morning, we packed up after breakfast and headed back down the mountain. Our return route took us past Campbell Lake. Again, we saw very few people nor any occupied campsites. However, several groups of backpackers were heading in as we headed back to the TH.
At the TH, the temperatures were in the mid-80’s. As has been our custom in the past, we headed down to Etna on Highway 3 for lunch and a cold one at the Etna Brewing Company since the temperatures were now in the high 90’s.
Shackleford TH to Cliff Lake Topo Map