Collings Mountain - March 16, 2013
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

This was a tough one.

We had all gone doughboy soft as we've been hiking on flat beaches and namby-pamby creek hikes. A recent run of springish weather caused us to head to the Siskiyous and reacquaint ourselves with a mountain hike.

The problem with mountains is that one generally has to walk uphill, a trail aspect that is more pronounced in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains. Even though we were climbing up and over lesser peak Collings Mountain, the climb up was anything but lesser as it climbed at a challenging 10% or more. It wasn't long before we were all huffing and puffing and moaning and groaning and crying and dying.

Lest we complain too much, a forest of Ponderosa pines, madrone, tan oak, and laurel, kept us shaded and we got to enjoy the blue sky and sun filtering through the trees. About halfway up, the forest thinned out and the trail offered prodigious views of Applegate Lake in a bowl below the snowy Siskiyou Crest. The Red Buttes, colored white with snow, dominated the views across the border in California.

We lunched on a flat spot on what we thought was the Collings Mountain summit. However, the map showed that we were on merely the high point of the trail, the real summit was hidden from view in the forest. Regardless, we enjoyed the rest in the warm sun.

Leaving the high point we dropped down on a rocky path with nice views of Grayback Mtn, the Carberry Creek valley, and Baker Flat. When we re-entered the forest, we had to work our way through a number of downed madrones, snapped off by either high winds, snow, or both. And unfortunately, we were not done walking uphill.

Attaining a wooded ridge crest, the trail headed uphill for no apparent reason. I later compared the map with the route plotted by my GPS and apparently there used to be a trail that contoured levelly across the face of the ridge. So, why was the trail diverted to the ridge crest? I hate sadistic trail engineers!

Speaking of trail sadism, the trail dropped off the crest and headed down hill at a 14% grade. Legs, already tired from the 1,400 feet of elevation gain were absolutely done in by the steep descent. At least it was pretty with twisted oaks and smooth orange-trunked madrones covering the hillsides as we dropped to the bottom of the Grouse Creek canyon.

There were a couple of side trips of note as we explored a cave which actually was a prospector's adit and the Bigfoot Trap. Originally built to actually trap a Sasquatch, the trap disappointed as it only attracted bears. But nowadays it serves as a tourist attraction of sorts as it is just a short walk from Applegate Lake.

We were beat at the finish but spirits were buoyed by Glenn and Carol who plied us with gourmet chocolate treats. Glenn and I have corresponded through my blogs for several years and this was the first time we met in person. He and Carol and the chocolates are more than welcome to hike with us again!

  • Grouse Creek
  • Red Buttes looking white this time of year
  • Forest on the trail
  • Manzanita squiggles
  • Epic view of Applegate Lake
  • Lois and the Iguana Rock
  • The Richard pose
  • Admiring madrone giants
  • Madrone trunk
  • Bigfoot trap


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