I’ve wanted to climb Preston Peak for several years and I finally made the decision to check this one off my list. Early Saturday morning, September 24, 2005, I got up and headed to the trailhead from my home in Medford, Oregon. It took me about 2 hours to get to the TH. There were a couple small tents pitched in the middle of the parking area, so I drove around them and parked. I guess I woke up the occupants of the tents, because they started stirring and getting dressed. I got my stuff ready and hit the trail about 7:00AM.
The trail is an old roadbed that headed southeast towards Youngs Valley. It was cool this morning and the miles flew by quickly. After a few long switchbacks, I got down to Youngs Valley. It only took about an hour to go this first 3.5 miles, but most of it was down hill. I caught a few glimpses of Preston Peak on the way down to the valley and it appeared to still be a long way away. This was going to be an all day hike.
I followed the roadbed trail as it left Youngs Valley and started to gently climb towards Preston Peak. There is some nice old growth trees in this area and it is easy to see why this is part of the Siskiyou Wilderness. The trail climbed past the fork that goes to Cyclone Gap. I continued straight towards the old chrome mine. At the mine there was a big arrow made with rocks and sticks in the middle of the trail that pointed the way to go. I took the left fork up through the mine and then the road ended and a real trail began. The trail was good and easy to follow.
The trail went up to about 5,300 ft elevation and then switchbacked down to Raspberry Lake. Raspberry Lake looked fantastic, cool and refreshing. I could also see the north ridgeline that leads up to Preston Peak. There were lots of rocks and obstacles. It was going to take a while to get to the summit.
I got to Raspberry Lake in less than 3 hours from the trailhead and I felt good. I crossed the lake outlet and continued around the lake to the west side. Here the trail disappeared and I picked my way through trees and brush and then some scree. I climbed the 300 ft up to the ridge. I could see some of the route up the north ridge of Preston Peak. This wasn’t going to be a simple walkup.
I followed some “use trails” whenever I could find them, but they kept disappearing. I would continue a few more feet through brush or over rocks and then find another short trail. As I climbed, I noticed there were cairns placed occasionally to mark a route. These cairns continued all the way to the summit. They gave me a feeling of comfort that occasionally, I was on the right track.
There is a subpeak labeled 6121 on the topo that I traversed around the right side. The further up the ridge line I went the more the route was on rock. At about 6,500 ft there was a little snow (less than ½ inch) in places. I continued up, in places I had to use my hands to climb up large rocks and this was fun. I noticed up on this ridge there are Brewers Spruce trees. I know these are very rare and only grow in a limited area.
Eventually, I reached the summit on a gorgeous day in Northern California. I could see from the Pacific Ocean in the west, to Mt. Shasta in the east. Countless peaks surrounded me in all directions. What a beautiful day. I signed the summit register and ate my lunch. It took me nearly 5 hours to get to the summit, so I took a little extra time and just relaxed.
Descending the north ridgeline of Preston Peak back to Raspberry Lake took a long time. I couldn’t go very fast down the ridge because it was steep, no real trail, and hands were required in several areas. At Raspberry Lake I met the 4 campers that I had seen at the trailhead. They were fishing and filtering water. I didn’t linger long because I still had 7 miles back to the car. The rest of the trip back to the trailhead was uneventful. The total trip was 17.5 miles and took 10 hours. I think the total elevation gain was about 4,600 ft.
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