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Hiking Telephone Flat is good call

Photo by Lee JuilleratA hiker looks down to Upper Klamath Lake from the Telephone Flat area.
Photo by Lee JuilleratVarious buttercups are emerging from fields in the Telephone Flat area.

What’s in a name?

The usually reliable book “Oregon Geographic Names” reports Telephone Flat, located in the Fremont-Winema National Forest between Klamath Falls and Chiloquin, “is named because an important long-distance line crosses this ground. The many wires on multiple cross-arms are a distinct feature.”

Oops. Maybe that should be updated to, “the many wires on multiple cross-arms ‘were’ a distinct feature.”

Telephone Flat is also marked on Forest Service maps, but we flat-out never did see any evidence of wires, multiple cross-arms, a telephone pole and certainly not a Clark Kent/Superman telephone booth while driving and hiking the area earlier this week.

We drove to the Telephone Flat area, the starting point for what was planned as a three- to four-mile hike on forest lands in the Modoc Point region east and above Highway 97 and Upper Klamath Lake. After some unplanned twists and turns, by the time we zigzagged back to our cars, GPS units recorded the distance at 6.5 miles.

What we were looking for, and what we found, was the area’s mixture of forests, flowers and isolation.

The forests range from noble Ponderosa pine to various firs and aspens, some dead and grizzled, others with names carved by earlier visitors. A sprinkling of early season flowers — buttercups, biloped larkspurs, yellow bells, shooting stars and more — added sprinklings of yellow, purple and red.

We hiked alongside and sometimes briefly slopped through water-filled meadows, bushwhacked, but most often we followed lightly traveled roads. We made our way to an overlook where, appropriately, we looked down to the highway and, more delightfully, watched as slowly retreating clouds allowed us to gaze across Upper Klamath Lake and, as more peeled away, peaks in and near the Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area.

We learned why this month is named “May.” As this week’s fickle, flip-flopping weather has shown, some days it May be sunny, some days it May be snowy. Likewise, some days it May be toasty warm, and some days it May be wise to zip up a rain coat or retrieve a down-filled jacket.

In the course of a few hours we experienced a spring month’s variety of weather. There were brief periods of sunshine. But more often it was breezy and chillingly cool, occasionally with flaky, dandruff-like snow, while other times the skies spit graupel, which is also defined as soft hail or hominy snow.

We didn’t always know exactly where we were going or exactly where we were. After the hike, Linda Andersen used her GPS to create an outline showing the route we took. With some imagination, our impromptu trail looks like a badly dented pair of eyeglasses, with two seriously eroded eye frames connected by a bridge.

But what the map doesn’t show is the simple pleasure of being outside and experiencing varying moods of spring weather. The telephone lines and wires have possibly gone the way of wireless, but a hike in the Telephone Flat area is a good call.

To reach the Telephone Flat area from Klamath Falls, drive north on Highway 97 about 20 miles to Forest Service Road 9715, just south of the Jeld-Wen windows and doors factory. Take FS Road 9715 to FS 9713, a distance of about two miles, and in another two miles or so, park off the road. It’s possible to drive farther, but some sections of the various network of dirt roads are muddy and/or impassable because of downed trees.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.