During our time in the general Crater Lake area we chose to stay at a few different places just so we could get a better feel for the surroundings. We found our spot above Chemult on our own but then decided to stop in at the Ranger Station and ask if they had any opinions on interesting places to stay and were pointed towards the Jackson Creek Forest Camp. One of the main takeaways from that conversation was that there was an old ranger’s cabin at the entrance of the campground that was a first come, first served free site this time of the year. After our adventure at the old Geologists’ Cabin in Death Valley we enjoy and seek out free cabins to explore.
We drove South out of Chemult on Hwy 97 for 25 miles or so before turning off onto Silver Lake Rd for an additional 25 miles. We passed through miles of Ponderosa and Jeffery pine forest land and drove past a couple entrances to the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge before we reached the campground. The last five miles or so transitioned from blacktop to a nicely graded red dirt road.
After a quick drive through the 12 other campsites which we found unoccupied we circled back to the old cabin and claimed it for ourselves.
Back in the early 20th Century the forest rangers in the area hiked about keeping watch for forest fires, poachers and illegal loggers. Communication between these sorts of Ranger Cabins was by simple telephone line and so the Rangers also hiked between cabins to make sure the thin cable was still in place and effect repairs if it was not. One can imagine what a nice layover spot these types of cabins would have been for those hearty souls out and about all over the forest in all types of weather.
The stairs leading into the cabin were made from wood slats that used to be old Forest Service Road signs.
The inside of the cabin smelled like the last people who left had set off a bug bomb to push back against all the little (and no so little) nasties that are sure to congregate in the old cabin’s nooks and crannies during off months. We opened it as much as possible to let it air out and decided it was only suitable as a storage place for our stuff, we would happily stay in the camper shell.
The carpet pieces had been there for decades and the old purple lounge chair is so old someone has probably been conceived, born and died in it over the eons…probably all three. I was not that tired that I needed to sit down thank you very much. Numerous visitors over the years had felt important enough to leave their mark on the walls or wood furniture and therefore gain a place of disdain in my heart next to those douche graffiti vandals on my Wall Of Shame. The stove was patched together with old pieces of hanger wire and flue tape that looked like it had been chewed up and spit out by a Yeti. It probably worked and might not even kill you from smoke inhalation or carbon dioxide poisoning. Luckily it usually only gets used in the winter as a warming hut for snowmobilers and hunters and it was not that cold at night and even had it been I had a wool sweater. Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.
All of 30 meters from the door of the cabin burbled a little stream which is the only source of water available in the campground. Definitely boil it or use a good filter as it passes through farmland and is sure to contain water-borne little nasties that are incompatible with normal, human digestive functions…you know what I mean.
Hanging near the fire pit and picnic table was a couple of wood poles which we assume are used for hanging and cleaning animals that ended up on the wrong end of a bullet during hunting season. Willow spent a large amount of time enthusiastically sniffing around underneath it and we can only imagine the piles of steaming entrails that have been dumped there over the years.
A short walk away from camp towards private land we found this wood pile which had messages written on the logs indicating this had been used during some group’s 2015 Elk & Deer Camp. The fire pit was pretty large so that must have been quite the nice camp fire.
During our 3 day stay we saw only two vehicles drive by to use the campsites and we thankfully never heard any of them. The camp is open year-round with reduced services from October 16th through May 14th. The Forest Service’s webpage for this campground is here.
For a lightly-used campground within an hour of Crater Lake National Park in one direction and several National Forests and other natural zones of beauty you might well consider a visit to the Jackson Creek Forest Camp.