August 6, 2005 I started the day in Medford, Oregon. I stopped at the Marble Mountain Wilderness and climbed Boulder Peak on my way to the Russian Wilderness. I followed the directions in the Route Description to arrive at the Trailhead about 4:00PM. I was surprised that there were about 8 cars parked at or near the trailhead. I found a place to park along the road near the end of the road and loaded up for my hike into the Russian Wilderness. I marked my car location on my GPS and I headed out.
The trail starts down an old roadbed and is fairly level. The views were impressive right away. The mountains are all granite and have been glaciated. The view down to Jackson Lake was impressive with its dark blue waters. It looked to be a long way down, so I was glad I didn’t have to climb down this steep hillside. It was a warm day even at 7,000 foot elevation, so by the time I traveled the ¾ mile to the end of the roadbed, I had loosened up and was starting to sweat.
At the end of the roadbed I marked my position again with my GPS, just in case I needed the information later. The trail that starts up the hillside trending to the north is not marked and is not very good. It is hard to follow but it goes up over a ridge and then drops down to Bingham Lake. The hillside is forested, but easy to walk through, so I welcomed the shade.
At the top of the ridgeline there is a view of Russian Peak and Bingham Lake. I could hear people talking down at the lake and a dog started barking too. It looked to be a long way down to the lake, so I thought it may be easier to traverse to my right and follow the ridgeline up to the summit of Russian Peak. This was NOT a good decision.
Traversing over to the ridgeline wasn’t too bad. Once I arrived there the ridgeline was a problem. It is comprised of large granite boulders that you have to go around. What I had to do is traverse mostly on the west side of the ridge line, climbing over boulders, rock hopping and bushwhacking. There is lots of brush on this slope and I had to break through it while rock hopping and trying not to break an ankle or fall. My progress was very slow and the further I went the worse it got.
I made my way closer to the peak itself and slowly inched my way up the south ridge of Russian Peak. I was taking a breather about 400 feet below the summit when another hiker, Don, caught up to me as he was coming up the same ridgeline heading for the summit too. To prove it is a small world, the hiker was from Medford too and he used to give my daughter tennis lessons.
He went on ahead of me and I eventually joined him on the summit. My legs had fresh cuts from banging into rocks and dragging them through the brush. I relaxed a while, ate an apple, and drank some Gatorade. After signing the register and taking pictures, I decided to go back to the car using a different route. It had taken me 2 hours to cover the 2 miles to the summit. I knew there must be a better way.
I decided to head down to Lake Bingham from the summit. I climbed down off the summit boulders and then headed off the ridgeline to the west. This was a lot easier than the way coming up. I stayed under the tree cover and headed southwest towards the lake. The slope is steep and there was little brush and the footing was ok. I kept heading down and traversing towards the lake at the same time.
It didn’t take long before I was on the shore line on the east side of Bingham Lake. I asked a fisherman if he was having any luck and he grumbled a “not really”. I could see and hear some people diving off the rocks on the far shore also. I picked my way along the shoreline to the south end of the lake. Here, I picked up the trail that led back up over the ridge and to the car. It was a steep grind getting up the trail to the saddle, but it was under tree cover so I had some shade.
Once at the saddle it was easy to get back to the roadbed and back to the car. It had taken me less than an hour to return from the summit. Altogether, with the bushwhacking, it took me 3.5 hours for 4.0 miles and about 1,800 ft of elevation gain.
This is a really beautiful area to hike in and I would recommend it to everyone.
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