I have been doing some hiking in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness since it isn’t far from my home in Medford, Oregon. On Saturday, October 13th, I got an early start and drove to the Babyfoot Lake Trailhead. I had been here the previous week to hike Bailey Mountain. Bailey Mountain and Josephine Mountain are both long day hikes, so I couldn’t do them both on the same day.
It was another beautiful day and it didn’t take me long to put on my boots and get started south on the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail. It was 9:15 AM. Since I had been here a week earlier, I didn’t’ linger over the first 3 miles where there is a fork in the trail. Here the trail to Bailey Mountain goes right into the heart of the Kalmiopsis, and the trail I wanted to follow today continued straight ahead. I also wanted to climb Canyon Mountain and it was directly ahead of me on the trail.
I continued south on the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail. It started to climb towards Canyon Mountain and led to the east side of the mountain where the vegetation was untouched by the Biscuit Fire. The trail traversed the east side of Canyon, but kept climbing. I could see the Canyon summit ridge off to my right, but as long as the trail kept climbing, I preferred the trail rather than bushwhacking. When the trail reached a small highpoint before it goes down to another saddle on the south side of Canyon Mountain, I stopped and looked around. I knew I was past the summit and then I noticed an overgrown trail almost behind me that seemed to go in the direction of the summit. I took the trail and followed it almost up to the summit ridge where I lost it in the brush. Later, on my way down, I found where the trail made a couple of switchbacks before it reached the summit ridge. After I lost the trail, I just picked my way through the brush the last 40 ft up to the ridge. Here I found the trail again and followed it about 150 ft to the highpoint of Canyon Mountain. I took some pictures and noticed some concrete foundation ruins of what was probably an old fire lookout. I had a long hike to complete today, so I didn’t stay long before heading back down the trail and on to Josephine Mountain.
Once I was back on the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail, I headed south. The trail was easy to follow and it lost lots of elevation. I re-checked my map to make sure I was on the right trail because I had not noticed on the map that it lost so much elevation. The trail lost about 400ft down to another fork in the trail. I referred again to my map to make sure I was supposed to go left here. A few hundred yards further south from the fork in the trail, the trail was blocked by several old growth trees that had blown down. I had to go way off the trail to the right to get around this obstacle and then I came to Cold Spring and a campsite. I couldn’t find where the trail continued, so I just headed up the hill to my left and kept bearing right in hopes of stumbling across the trail again. I found the trail about half way up to the ridge. Once on the ridge, I could see Josephine Mountain off to my front left. The trail was good along here and I followed it up to a burned over, brushy highpoint that is almost directly west of Josephine Mountain. I set a waypoint here in my GPS and left the trail.
From here to the summit of Josephine Mountain it is Class 2 with no trail. I picked my way through the brush and started down the ridge. I could see a saddle below that I had to reach before climbing back up to the summit of Josephine Mountain. Heading down this ridge, there are several brushy areas that are obstacles. Most of this ridge did not burn in the Biscuit Fire, so the brush is bigger than in burned areas. I worked my way down, sometimes on the left side where the slope was steep to the north and sometimes on the right where it was brushier but not as steep of a slope. I was happy to get to the bottom of the ridge and start across the saddle to Josephine Mountain.
There are actually 2 saddles to cross before you get to Josephine Mountain, so I kept to the right (south) of point 3,895. It was easier hiking now because the fire has cleaned off all the brush. It is easy to see a route and to follow it. When I reached the slope that leads up to the summit of Josephine Mountain, I just tried to pick the easiest route that I could see. It is steep and rocky, but nothing technical. It took a while to climb the 700 ft up to the summit ridge.
Once on top, I could see the summit ridge is actually “C” shaped, with the highpoint in the middle. The ridgeline is wide and easy to follow around to the highpoint, where there are at least 2 rockpiles that contend for the highpoint. I tagged them both. The southern one was the home of a little chipmunk that was wondering what I was doing. Apparently, this summit is not visited very often. I found no register or benchmark. I enjoyed the views and even wandered a little over to the west where I could see down into the Illinois Valley and Cave Junction.
While I ate lunch, I calculated how much time it would take me to get back to the trailhead and how much daylight was left. It was already a little after 2:00 PM. It was going to be close. I always carry a headlamp with me, but it is slow hiking in the dark. I headed back down and discovered an old abandoned trail leading down to the saddle to the west of Josephine Mountain. The trail is steep with several switchbacks, but it led down to near the saddle before I lost it. I crossed the saddle and headed back up the brushy slope to the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail. I was happy to finally find the trail again and didn’t take a break.
Now I could make good time back to the trailhead. I hurried along past Cold Spring, past Canyon Mountain, and past the cutoff for Bailey Mountain. The sun was setting, but I still felt good and continued hurrying along. Once I reached the last ridgeline above Babyfoot Lake, I knew I could get to my truck before it was dark. I hiked the last mile and half enjoying the scenery and the colors of the setting sun on the mountains.
I arrived at the trailhead by twilight and within 15 minutes it was totally dark. My complete hike was 16.6 miles with the side trip to Canyon Mountain, gained 4,768 ft of elevation and it took me 8.7 hours plus about 20 minutes for lunch. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful wilderness area.