Johnson Butte Trail #1110

Johnson Butte Trail #1110

Johnson Butte Trail #1110:

Ancient flowers, out of world views and tons of work

for the Siskiyou Hiker
by Gabe Howe, Executive Director

In 2009 my wife, Jill, and I took out a map and traced our fingers along a route through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area that stretched from Babyfoot Lake to Vulcan Lake. We decided we were going to organize an effort to restore it.

Then we’d only seen about 1/2 of the route, and it was in bad shape, full of downed trees killed by the 2002 Biscuit Fire. It was “missing” in sections, where brush woven through stacks of trees completely hid the trail and we’d crawl over and under tanoak jackstraw in a thirst for the Chetco River’s clear, sweet water. That’s what we’d seen.

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Little did we know, what we hadn’t seen was worse. And I don’t blame the folks who thought we’d never get it done. I do boast that they were wrong. Five years later, Jill and I hiked for the first time together 26-miles through the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route, hopping over a few logs. By then the route was finally in good enough shape that I wore Chaco sandals and shorts the entire way.

Last September, on our way up around Valen Lake, I remembered our first hike together to Johnson Butte: It was 2010. We were young. No kids then. It was a late snow year, and we were there in June, I think.

Learn more about our effort to connect a 42-mile loop through the Kalmiopsis

Started from the Vulcan Lake Trailhead. No signs. By then I was used to that. I don’t read the map. I read the land and I look at the map to see where I am. We snuck onto that razor sharp ridge running north-to-south, Moore’s ridge.

This April 27 – May 1, come help improve sections of the Johnson Butte Trail and keep the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route alive.

It wound in and out of leachiana patches and panoramic views. We wrapped around to the north aspect of Dry Butte, and the leachiana patches turned to plots and the plots turned to fields. The hills radiated pink with a bloom so strong.

The bloom was our youth and it was fleeting. For me reading maps is mostly just counting landmarks and I stopped counting because it all became a single landmark. Ended up on this plateau where the lines on the map got wide and we found ourselves.

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Found that trail, and an old beat up sign pointed down a steep path to a gushing spring. Camped at the ridge. The sky was clear and we realized we could see the Pacific’s surf, and as the sun set it lit Pearsoll Peak on fire.

As Jill and I hiked this same section of trail last September, the leachiana was far from blooming. The season’s youth was gone, but in its loss were dried up seedpods. I squeezed one beneath my fingers and felt the tiny seeds smudge out on my flesh and I pressed it onto my notebook and made a thumbprint.

We got to a brushy section beneath Dry Butte, and as the trail wrapped around it narrowed and became too out sloped, twisting my ankles. The hike was a victory, but I was reminded every step of the way how much work there still is, and how much work there will always be to keep this route through the Kalmiopsis a stronghold.

This April 27 – May 1, come help improve sections of the Johnson Butte Trail and keep the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route alive