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Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2020 6:52 pm
by kpeter
On Sunday I leave for the Marble Mountains. As near as I can tell, there are no reservations or permits required. If someone else knows something, please chime in.

My plan is to drive nonstop to the Lovers Camp trailhead, minimizing any social interaction. (I might need gas on the way back.) The campground there is closed, but the best recon I have shows a paved road all the way and no snow, and trailheads in Klamath National Forest are open. So I am presuming I can enter just by signing in at a register at the trailhead. No one answers the phones at the Klamath headquarters or the Fort Jones regional office, so a lot of this depends on guesswork and the fact that in the past no reservations or formal permits were required.

From Lovers Camp I plan to hike to the Marble Valley and spend a day there exploring and taking in the Sky High Lakes. That area seems to be the most scenic and the most popular. After that I could could use advice from anyone who has been to the area.

I plan on 6 days. There is snow on the north approaches to the PCT that goes along the Marble Rim (meaning I will have to figure out how to pick my way over snow to get from Marble Valley up in elevation to the ridge upon which the PCT runs, but I will take traction and ice axe just in case.) There seems to be no snow on the PCT there (which is a few feet over the ridge on the south facing slope. ) If I can reach it safely, that will permit me to go north (west) or south (east) or both, time permitting.

I could go north to see Spirit, Burney, and eventually maybe Cuddihy Lakes. That would exhaust my time.

I could go south to see Summit, Smith, and Campbell lakes.

I don't think I will have time to do both of these routes, especially if it takes time to labor over the snow to get up to the PCT.

I am convinced from my intel that the Marble Valley and Sky High Lakes are the crown jewels of this area. What I can't decide is whether to aim to go north or south from that location for my additional exploration. Going south would enable me to return via Red Rock Valley, making something of a loop out of it.

Also, what advice do any Marble Mountain people have on stream crossings? The Marble Valley involves no crossings, but coming back via Red Rock Valley would mean crossing Red Rock Creek and Canyon Creek.

I'm pretty excited about this trip. A genuine new adventure into terra ingognita, from my perspective.

Re: Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:41 pm
by Ikan Mas
I've made a couple week-long trips to the Marbles. Having grew up in Southern Oregon, its familiar ground and makes for easy, enjoyable backpacking. I have been out to Spirit Lake and wasn't impressed. Summit, Campbell, and Cliff are much nicer and there is a lot of choice on where to camp between Campbell and Cliff. Better access for fishing at the southern lakes as well. Campbell has brown trout, which makes it interesting.

When you are in the Sky High Basin, make sure you go up to the Marble Gap for the view. Its pretty sweet and worth the detour.

Re: Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:39 pm
by kpeter
Thanks Ikan! That is exactly what I needed to know.

The trip is delayed a day. It looks like it will snow a little and be cold tomorrow, warming up on Monday.

Re: Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:26 pm
by giantbrookie
Sorry I didn't respond early enough (probably). Best wishes for a great trip. I've taken several trips to the Marbles covering the NW and NE parts but missing the southern part (Hancock Lake etc.). My favorite area is NE part (Wooley-Maneaten Lakes to the Little Elk area). The place I always wanted to visit was that series of trailless lakes above Deep Lake (Aspen L. etc). When I visited the NW part It was an early season trip and it was a lot of tromping over snow, but it was enjoyable---like other parts of Marbles I was impressed with the variety and beauty of the conifers but there also some outstanding fields of azalea and it was the first time I ever saw the majestic Lilium Washingtonianum (imagine a lily with huge white flowers that can be head high or taller). I found Snyder L. to be a nice hideaway but it is really lacking in decent campsites. I liked the Cuddihy area. Hooligan L. was one of the most remote places I've ever been to, but I would recommend it unless you actually enjoy thrashing through brush. Anyhow the Marbles are really nice. Have a great trip.

Re: Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:24 pm
by kpeter
giantbrookie wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:26 pm
Sorry I didn't respond early enough (probably). Best wishes for a great trip. I've taken several trips to the Marbles covering the NW and NE parts but missing the southern part (Hancock Lake etc.). My favorite area is NE part (Wooley-Maneaten Lakes to the Little Elk area). The place I always wanted to visit was that series of trailless lakes above Deep Lake (Aspen L. etc). When I visited the NW part It was an early season trip and it was a lot of tromping over snow, but it was enjoyable---like other parts of Marbles I was impressed with the variety and beauty of the conifers but there also some outstanding fields of azalea and it was the first time I ever saw the majestic Lilium Washingtonianum (imagine a lily with huge white flowers that can be head high or taller). I found Snyder L. to be a nice hideaway but it is really lacking in decent campsites. I liked the Cuddihy area. Hooligan L. was one of the most remote places I've ever been to, but I would recommend it unless you actually enjoy thrashing through brush. Anyhow the Marbles are really nice. Have a great trip.
Thanks Giantbrookie! I did not get to your favorite areas but now have a destination to go back to. In looking at the fire history Wooley and Maneaten lakes just missed the last big one--well, fire burned to the north shore of Maneaten. And another giant 2017 fire burned to the ridge to the south of Wooley.

Looks like best access to that area would also be from Lovers Camp via Red Rock Canyon and the PCT? Did you take in Summit, Cliff, and Campbell Lakes when you were in that vicinity? I know they are popular trailed lakes.

Re: Planning my first Marble Mountains Trip

Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:24 pm
by giantbrookie
kpeter wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:24 pm
giantbrookie wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:26 pm
Sorry I didn't respond early enough (probably). Best wishes for a great trip. I've taken several trips to the Marbles covering the NW and NE parts but missing the southern part (Hancock Lake etc.). My favorite area is NE part (Wooley-Maneaten Lakes to the Little Elk area). The place I always wanted to visit was that series of trailless lakes above Deep Lake (Aspen L. etc). When I visited the NW part It was an early season trip and it was a lot of tromping over snow, but it was enjoyable---like other parts of Marbles I was impressed with the variety and beauty of the conifers but there also some outstanding fields of azalea and it was the first time I ever saw the majestic Lilium Washingtonianum (imagine a lily with huge white flowers that can be head high or taller). I found Snyder L. to be a nice hideaway but it is really lacking in decent campsites. I liked the Cuddihy area. Hooligan L. was one of the most remote places I've ever been to, but I would recommend it unless you actually enjoy thrashing through brush. Anyhow the Marbles are really nice. Have a great trip.
Thanks Giantbrookie! I did not get to your favorite areas but now have a destination to go back to. In looking at the fire history Wooley and Maneaten lakes just missed the last big one--well, fire burned to the north shore of Maneaten. And another giant 2017 fire burned to the ridge to the south of Wooley.

Looks like best access to that area would also be from Lovers Camp via Red Rock Canyon and the PCT? Did you take in Summit, Cliff, and Campbell Lakes when you were in that vicinity? I know they are popular trailed lakes.
When I went in there in 1982 there was no PCT. I went in from the Kidder Creek trailhead to Kidder Lake then off trail to Maneaten. Then we went off trail to Cliff (which was reached by a trail). It was only a 3-day trip. It was early season and Maneaten was 90 percent frozen. It was an odd experience going off trail in the Marble Mtns and finding a ton of folks camped there and fishing the little bit of open water--like the fishing density at a fishing pier. They were all very serious backcountry fisherfolks with great stories. The craziest guy had a raft and he wiggled on his belly with it across the ice to a hole in the ice where we could see a bunch of rises. He returned with a bunch of big rainbows. He had also done this crazy snow climb over to Wooley where he had caught a bunch of big rainbows. I remember talking to this young woman who seemed to have the best track record of them all---she was mentioning 20" class fish out of Wild Lake and Papoose (the latter in the Trinity Alps). It was quite a random convergence of serious backcountry fisherfolk although I wouldn't say I qualified to be in their company at that time. I was very much inspired by the company and conversation even if I had been shocked to see all those folks as I descended there. The next day my buddy and I thrashed through brush to get to Cliff where we camped. I recall it stormed. We caught a bunch of small brookies. The last (3rd) day was a classic adventure. We crested out and had some steep scree talus to "ski" to get to Kidder L and the trail. I led and started jumping and sprinting. Some of the welds on my external frame pack shattered under the stress. We had to tie my pack together with a bunch of cord. Then we got to my car ('73 Dodge Dart that I had gingerly coaxed up the dirt road to the trailhead). It wouldn't start. We considered "borrowing" someone's battery taking my car into town, charging my battery, then returning the battery. Good thing we didn't do that. Turned out the trailhead was occasionally staked out owing to some recent thefts and vandalism there (not sure if that was in fact the case at the time). Anyhow some folks happened to hike out to the trailhead as we were wondering what we'd do, gave us a lift into town (Ft Jones, I recall). We went all over town trying to find someone who'd drive us back and give us a jump. We finally found this kid working at a pizza place who was overjoyed to do the task in return for us getting him a case of beer. In fact his car nearly died on the way up there but all ended well. That was my first trip to the Marbles (had gone to Russian Wilderness in 1976 as my first Klamath Mtns trip) and I would return to the Marbles in 1984 (Little Elk Lake) and 1993 (Snyder-Cuddihy, Hooligan etc.).