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Applegate Trail

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Applegate trail trip 

August 9, 2005


I have lost the photos for this piece, sorry.

Mile 0 Humboldt River

Lat/Lon N40° 40.752 W118°04.238 Elev. 4252

Passed Rye Patch Reservoir 
Once a meadow now a small body of water. Vegetation is inhospitable with sage and creosote vying for space with the cheatgrass.

Spotted a small pyramid to the north of us. Other travelers called it Alpha peak. Crossed a level featureless 10 mile wide plain and began the ascent of a long slope. No creeks, no obvious water except for what has fallen in the form of rain in the past day. Came to a fork. Took the south fork. Today there is poor grazing, mostly sage and creosote. Our Palace wagon, which we affectionately call 'Jeep', is pulled by 6 sturdy tireless cylinders. It climbs steadily uphill; to our south about a mile is a patch of green, which we take to be Antelope Spring. 


Mile 19.4 Antelope Spring.

Lat/Lon N40° 41.313 W118°29.689 Elev. 5494

We ascend the slope, actually an alluvial fan up to the spring, which today comes out of the bluff via an iron pipe, not a large flow, just a trickle. There are other seeps in the vicinity, which allows a fair growth of willows

Our other purpose here is to locate the grave of Susan Coon who died in childbirth here in 1860. We are unable to find her grave.

We leave this spot, looking back over our trail to the Humboldt River. This was not a long haul for oxen without water, if there had been a sufficient supply. There isn't today and surely not enough to water all stock passing through 155 years ago. 

From Antelope Spring our Palace Wagon climbs the long valley

to the west. To the south rise forested slopes, Cedar and Pine. The cedar we know today as Juniper. Above us rise puffy cumuli nimbus clouds; to the east, we can plainly see virga, long streamers of rain that evaporate before hitting the ground.

The final slope to Antelope Summit is a narrow gully. We seem to be able to see remnants of wagon routes, straight alleys through the sparse timber.

This difficult slope while hard enough, the Emigrants knew was just a precursor to what lay ahead. So far on their trip west water was found reasonably often, the 19 miles from the River to Antelope Spring was perhaps the longest stretch so far without water.


From Antelope Summit the pioneers and we had a long gentle decline into an immense broad valley, far across the valley strange fingers of rock stuck into the air. The oxen and

Other stock must have delighted in this easy pulling, firm ground with a decline to help them.

We continued down and across the valley, beginning another climb ascending the far side. Here again, off to the sides of the road were remnant tracks through the sagebrush. Knowing how slowly plants grow in the arid land, we could have been looking at the original wagon tracks. 

Another gully descent brought us into a broad wash, our track climbed in and out of the dry streambed. The sharp steep banks told us that this drainage had carried a lot of water this past winter and spring. 



Painted Canyon


Mile 34.2 Painted Canyon

Lat/Lon N46° 46.255 W118°42.917 Elev. 4800

We found "Painted Canyon" It was quite scenic and it was good to know that the pioneers too found it scenic. At this point, they were not so desperate as to ignore the beauty they passed.



Rabbithole Spring

Mile 36.9 Rabbithole Spring.

Lat/Lon N40° 45.485 W118°45.429 Elev. 4500

The trail led us onwards and down, arriving at Rabbithole spring we found a reed-enshrined pool of water perhaps 30 by 50 feet, far more water than the Emigrants had found. The temperature was high, in the upper 90's and the water had a strong unpleasant odor, no doubt from rotting vegetation, we were happy not to have to drink the water. 

From here we continued around the hill, the Black Rock coming into sight in the far distance. We could see exactly how far we had to go, and we could see the direct route the pioneers would have taken.

We, however, would have to travel to the east to cross the railroad tracks at Sulphur, a hazard the Emigrants did not have to face. Across the tracks, we found a road paralleling the railroad heading west. We took this until we were in a line between the Black Rock and Rabbithole Spring. (our mileages from here will not correspond to the trail mileage because of our jog to the east) A turn to the right here took us toward the Black Rock Desert on The Applegate trail. Our next concern was the Quinn River crossing. If we found mud, we would have to make a long detour to Gerlach and around. I refuse to attempt mud in the Black Rock Desert. 

Quinn River Crossing




Quinn River water





Black Rock Desert





Mile 59.5 Quinn River Crossing

Lat/Lon N40° 54.653 W118°55.967 Elev. 4040

We found the crossing dry, although we could see where earlier in the season someone had gotten thoroughly stuck. There was water in the riverbed some distance upstream; we took a photo there. Beyond the crossing, the road twisted and turned among piles of detritus, gravel, silt, and sand. 


Black Rock Spring, abandoned wagon.




The Old and the New. 

Mile 65.5 Black Rock Spring.

Lat/Lon N40° 58.406 W119°00.484 Elev. 4280

We arrived at Black Rock Spring below the foot of the Black Rock itself. The pioneers uniformly referred to it as a volcanic formation. My reading tells me it is metamorphic rock. The ancient wagon that has been there for many years is in poor condition. The spring water is swim able, but we did not enter it. The runoff waters what looked to me to be about 10 acres of meadow, down from the 20 reported by some of the Emigrants. 

We left Black Rock Spring heading north between the Playa and the craggy burnt mountains to our east. The palace wagon has a thermometer, which is usually close to accurate. It began rising to above 100 then above 110, then above 120, it topped out at 127 degrees and stayed there for several miles. The temperature began dropping but stayed at 117 degrees until well past Hardin City. The temperature was tolerable during our out of Jeep photo stops. As some would say, it was a dry heat...


The ditch leading from Double hot, with flowers



Ditch visible in meadow.

Mile 71 Double Hot Springs

Lat/Lon N40° 58.406 W119°00.484 Elev. 3987

We stopped at Double Hot Springs, the Emigrants here had dug a ditch that led off into a meadowland, this allowed the water to cool to the point that it was safe for the livestock to drink. The Double Spring has now been fenced with gates.



Ruins at Hardin City


Mile 77.4 Hardin City

Lat/Lon N41° 06.890 W119°00.142 Elev. 4090

We continued onward to Hardin City site of an ill-fated silver rush, then onto Clapper Creek, upstream from us Peter Lassen met his death at the hands of Indians.





Mile 108.1 Mud Meadow

Lat/Lon N41° 22.380 W119°11.110 Elev. 4500

Onward we continued our Palace Wagon's six cylinders pulled us through a series of deep dust bogs until we reached Mud Meadow, like the Emigrants before us, the green well-watered meadow was a great comfort to us after the long and dusty trail. We bathed in a hot spring and ate a fine supper at nearby Soldier Meadows Ranch. Retiring after supper to our camp by the hot spring we slept under the stars. The lowing of nearby cattle, the song of the coyote (the Emigrants spoke of wolves, I wonder if they were actually wolves or coyotes) and the millions of stars piercing the darkness of night must have been very similar to what the

Pioneers heard and saw. Would the mothers have sung songs to quiet their children before sleep, as we would have done had our children been with us? Did fathers point out the Little Bear and the Great Bear, Cassiopeia and Polaris, the same constellations and North Star we lay abed and looked at? Did they see shooting stars arcing brilliantly across the sky? 

What did parents tell their children the shooting stars were? Was there magic in their explanations? Or were they so beaten down by the travails of the trek that the children were required to bed down and sleep without questions.

In the early morning we woke before dawn, as would the Emigrants, we made coffee and a quick breakfast broke camp and loaded our palace wagon.

Our journey that bright and beautiful morning lay across the green valley to the gentle but stony climb to the wagon slide. 


Wagon Slide

Mile 114 Wagon Slide

Lat/Lon N41° 17.13 W119°13. Elev. 5,000

We hiked down the hill, thinking of heavy wagons, wheels chained, oxen groaning their way to the bottom of the canyon. There is old lumber scattered around the bottom of the hill, surely not 150 years old! If not, what is it doing there? I wondered about their route, it had to be the bottom of the canyon, but today the bottom is full of huge boulders,

It would be impossible to take a wagon up the canyon. Did these boulders fall in since; did erosion bring them to the surface? Soon the pioneers would have had to climb up the side slope to a flat expanse of rock below which lay huge potholes and a cave with a smoke blackened roof showing evidence of long ago habitation. The wagons had to sidehill around a sharp corner, across the canyon on the smooth rock wall was a pioneer inscription.

The wagons must have sidehilled very well; even today in a jeep the slope would be tricky (I have since learned from reading the text that they were actually unstable with a high center of gravity and it took men with ropes on the uphill side to keep the wagons from flipping).


High Rock Canyon

The route to High Rock Valley was again stony but very little climbing.

Entering High Rock Canyon itself, I wondered about the amount of water they found in the canyon. The size of the creek bed showed it could carry a lot of water, although this trip the lower reaches were dry.


Emigrant Inscription with modern graffiti next to it.

Mile 122.4 Mailbox Cave

Lat/Lon N41° 20.21 W119°20 Elev. 5100

We went to the mailbox cave; inscription and the axle grease cave where the inscription is written on a standing rock within.


Mile 124.3 Wagon Wheel Ruts

Lat/Lon N41° 20.80 W119°21 Elev. 5200

Beyond this, in two miles the road climbs over a grade with ancient wagon wheel tracks cut into the tufa like rock. Beyond, our path took us through a very narrow cut, across a broad meadow area and continued up the canyon. Pole Creek is a curiosity, I want to see what lies up it,,. Another trip. 


Wagon ruts date from the 1850's 


Yellow Canyon and cabin

We continued on up past Yellow Canyon and out to Upper High Rock where we hiked through. 


Upper High Rock Canyon

Mile 138.9 Upper High Rock

Lat/Lon N41° 29.52 W119°28238 Elev. 6,000

Beyond Upper High Rock on the left side of the canyon is a grove of Aspens from which spring out the headwaters of High Rock Creek. The trail itself through the canyon was cool and shady under the aspen trees and the sound of the creek cheerful a pleasant in the desert. This canyon is a small Eden, but the Emigrants apparently did not share our pleasure, finding it a rough and rocky section.

We took the bypass route, climbing high above Stevens Camp onto the great steppe country reaching to Oregon and California. We continued northwest then west through Vya, over 49 pass and down into Surprise Valley. The Warner Mountains rise grandly above the green valley. We headed north along the Emigrant trail to Fandango Pass. Before heading up Fandango we drove through Fort Bidwell, just to take a look. It is really one of the most picturesque villages I have ever seen, beautiful well kept homes, green lawns, and pastures. Not a soul in sight in the entire town.

Fandango Pass Monument

Mile 223.9 Fandango Pass

Lat/Lon N41° 48.084 W120°12.339 Elev. 6153

Back to Fandango Pass. Such a steep hill, it must have been a heartbreaker to already exhausted Emigrants. Double-teaming and working their way to the top was a difficult chore based on my observation of the landscape. Our 6 strong cylinders again chugged sturdily up the steep grade. At the top we stopped to look around and dance a short fandango.

The jeffrey pine and occasional ponderosa pine after weeks of Pinion were a strong indicator they were leaving the Great Basin. The pioneers must have seen Fandango valley as little short of heaven after the previous weeks. Dropping into Goose Lake through meadows of green grass, and downhill for miles.. Goose Lake must have seemed a mirage, this

miraculously huge lake welcoming them with the announcement

that they were out of the desert at last. Impatiently they drove around the south end and north again when they knew the shortest distance to Oregon was straight across.

We followed their tracks and then north along the lake above where they turned west.


Looking east across Goose Lake with Fandango Pass on the horizon

We had to follow the existing forest

roads. We could see the stony nature of the route they had to travel.




We connected with the trail again at Fletcher Creek. 

Mile 284 Fletcher Creek Crossing

Lat/Lon N49° 18.16 W120°45. Elev. 4957

Here they had to move huge rocks to the side, I imagine with poles cut from junipers on site. We followed their visible road downstream to the creek crossing. Then returned to our palace wagon to seek camp for the night. The camp was a ranch, the owner was leaving as we were looking at the ruts,, once we established our "bonafides" by what ranchers we knew in North California and Nevada, he invited us to stay at his ranch. I would have been happy to stay forever.




immigrant wagon road


We moved on in the morning, took a side jaunt to the Blue Mountain Lookout. The view from here is impressive, miles and miles of Modoc Plateau. We could see the terrain the Emigrants crossed heading to Clear Lake. 


Pothole Spring


Mile 304.2 Pothole Spring

Lat/Lon N41° 49.512 W120°54.995 Elev. 4850

Pothole Spring is in a once lovely meadow, cow fouled like so many unfenced springs. We found a rattlesnake in the rocks around the post, the second rattler of the trip. The Post is missing its label.

The trail went north to Steele Swamp. We had to head west and south around Clear Lake to meet up with the trail again near Horse Mountain.

The fences here prevented us from examining the various routes off the plateau near Bloody Point. We did though, observe the likely descent routes. Our route very nearly followed the original trail as we went north then west to Stone Bridge. It was disappointing to see that the stone bridge is gone, replaced by a dam that could have been placed anywhere. Reading of the significance of this bridge was extremely interesting, even Fremont used it!

Mile 370 Stone Bridge

Lat/Lon N41° 59.00 W121°40. Elev.4100



From here we elected not to circumnavigate the Lower Klamath Lake, a little fatigue setting in. 





Mile 382 Landrum Rest Area

Lat/Lon N42° 00.241 W121°53.368 Elev. 4207

We headed west on the causeway to the Landrum rest area, this is a great rest area, very informative and interesting. My wife said that the thought that Spain once reached all the way to Oregon intrigued her. Oregon was named for Aragon in Spain, according to the information pane

We set off again through Keno to the Klamath Crossing 

then west to Ashland. 


Klamath Crossing

Mile 382 Klamath Crossing

Lat/Lon N42° 00.241 W121°53.368 Elev. 4207

I knew nothing of the Oregon section of the Applegate Trail. This section was extremely interesting. Looking at this terrain from a modern perspective; If I wanted to jeep the actual route the Emigrants took, I would want a couple of Jeeps, a couple of Chainsaws, a lot of saw gas and winches on the Jeep. Today it would be a major undertaking, for the pioneers it must have been a level of labor almost beyond our reckoning.


Tub Springs

Mile 426.3 Tub Springs

Lat/Lon N42° 06.933 W122°26.3536 Elev. 4208

The incredible difficulty of getting the wagons to modern day Ashland is difficult to conceive. The forest and the slopes all must have made the trip extremely difficult.

I think once I had gotten to the Rogue River Valley I would have called it enough. The difficulty of traveling north across east-west running ridges makes the rest of the trip seem easy.


Sunny Valley Interpretive Center

(Jeep is a little dusty)

Mile 504.5 Sunny Valley Applegate Interpretive Center

Lat/Lon N42° 37.982 W123°22.793 Elev. 4316

We made it to the Sunny Valley interpretive center. A very helpful fellow, who was quite proud of being 80 years old, showed us about; after we told him we were teachers. He strongly suggested we bring our students. He did not quite get the thousand-mile bus trip required to do so. As an aside if I were running the center I would pull out the exhibits not related to the Applegate Trail and put in dioramas showing sections such as the Black Rock, High Rock, and the Modoc Devils Garden route.

It is hard to imagine the variety and difficulty of the terrain the Emigrants rolled through unless you travel the trail itself. Our opportunity to travel the trail with the information contained in your book made this trip fascinating. My wife was good enough to travel with me, bouncing along for long hours in the Jeep on bad roads; she enjoyed it as much as I did. 

Continuing to read in the text; the level of difficulty of the section from Sunny Valley to the Willamette Valley made the rest of the trail pale in comparison. We will have to come back to the trail and follow it north from Sunny Valley one day.

We, after driving 500 miles of mostly bad road in three days, were pretty tired, although nothing compared to what the Emigrants must have felt. We turned "Jeep" around and headed for home.


We stopped near Klamath Lake and shot this photo,, rather scenic.



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