Hike Difficulty: extremely difficult
Hike Length: 9.2 mi
Elevation Gain: 1000+ ft ???
My Rating (out of 5): 4.0 – I’m just going to say it from the start — I was trying to make it to the Devil’s Punchbowl, but didn’t quite make it to the right place. The trip actually had a lot of hiccups. It was a little over two hours to get to the trailhead. When I finally got there, there was a sign that said that Doe Flat trail is closed due to forest fires (oh yeah, California’s on fire right now). A friendly hunter told me that the fires have already passed through and he reassured me that neither I nor my car would go up in flames. There were a few hotspots off the trail where fires were still smoldering and it was so smoky it hurt my lungs at times. But he was right and I didn’t start on fire. I guess it’s fitting that I had to pass through a little fire to get to the Devil’s Punchbowl.
I should back up and let you know how I got to this new area. I took I-5 to Grants Pass, then took the Redwood Highway (199) across the Oregon-Cali border. I followed 199 until Little Jones Creek Road, just before Patrick Creek. I think the road is labeled at 17N05 on Google Maps, but the sign is very clearly marked with Little Jones Creek Rd. I followed that road for about 10 or 15 miles until I saw a Bear Basin sign that also mentioned the Doe Flat trail being on fire. After turning left, I followed the winding road until a parking lot. The road was a bit difficult to drive down at times in my car since it’s lower to the ground than a pickup, so be careful about that. There wasn’t really any Doe Flat trailhead sign, so just park when you see the rock border to the parking lot.
The Doe Flat trail was beautiful and provided a lot of different types of scenery. A lot of up and down and up and down. After about three miles, I was supposed to take this steep incline that was poorly marked to go to this gorgeous basin called Devil’s Punchbowl, but I missed the turn and ended up going 1.5ish miles to Trout Camp. Trout Camp sucks. By the time I realized my mistake, daylight was running out and I had no more energy to climb my way up to the punchbowl. There was a lot of climbing to do to get back to my car from Trout Camp and I didn’t want to get stranded in the dark.
In short, this was a fun new area to explore, but I’m disappointed that I missed the punchbowl turnoff — you’ll see in the pictures what I mean. I knew I was getting myself into a seriously long and steep hike, but it really surprised me how much it pushed me to my limit. If I hadn’t missed my turn, I would’ve had enough energy to make it to my original destination. I guess next time…