Diamond Lake – English Peak Revisited

Marble Mountain Wilderness

Hike 14 from Conifer Country

I first visited this area in 2004 when my friend Jay and I attempted an ambitious loop starting from the Wooley Creek Trailhead, to the headwaters at Wooley Lake, back to Hancock Lake, and then laboring along the non-existent trail on Steinacher Ridge back to our car. This was the first major hike I took in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and my encounter with Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) around the Diamond Lake – English Peak region inspired the writing of my first book, Conifer Country.

Since 2004, I have returned three more times. The second was in 2007 while getting serious about writing Conifer Country. The third was in 2009 on my first thru-hike of the Bigfoot Trail, and most recently in 2019 surveying and mapping the silver fir for the Klamath National Forest. While 15 years is not that long, major shifts have occurred in the headwaters of the North Fork Salmon River. Three different fires have moved through the area , new pathogens like the Balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae) have discovered California’s firs, and the climate has continued to get warmer. Technology has changed too with improvements in digital camera technology.

What follows are some before and after pictures from a selection of these trips. Long live the Klamath Mountain Conifers

This Douglas-fir has always stood out to me. It grows around 3100 feet in the lower reaches of the trail. The 2017 Wallowa fire burned the lower bark but the tree is still thriving. It has a 26′ circumference and stands 221′ tall for a total of 550 points.
This incense-cedar is probably the second largest in California with a circumference of 27′ and standing 141′ tall for a total of 483 AF Points.
The climb from English Lake to the Diamond Lake basin includes this epic view. Notice the results of the 2017 Wallow Fire below the highest summit in the image.
Along the ridgeline between Toms Lake and English Peak, the view between the mountain hemlocks has not changed much, minus the Wallow Fire burning the montane chaparral behind me. My pack has gotten smaller with age too.
From the English Peak lookout, the fire damage is much more dramatic. The unnamed peak, in the right foreground, has seen multiple fires over the pas 15 years and now no forest remains.
The most dramatic fire destruction is seen south of the lookout toward the Chimney Peak – Tom Taylor Meadow area. Here, the Wallow Fire engulfed most of the white fir forests of the higher elevations and the ponderosa – sugar pine forests of the mid-elevations.

11 Replies to “Diamond Lake – English Peak Revisited”

  1. I love the repeat photography. And that 2004 trip must have been epic. I gather that even then the Steinacher Ridge trail was a little hard to find?
    A few quibbles with your descriptions: The 2017 fire was Wallow, not Wallowa; and the view from English Peak can’t be of Tanner Peak, as Tanner is about 8 miles to the southeast, and if that’s English Lake on the left, you’re looking northeast down the North Fork Salmon.

    1. Thanks Jeff. That 2004 hike was life changing in both good and bad ways. Steinacher was bad then and apparently worse now. Thanks for the corrections. Not sure what that peak is in the foreground I called Tanner, I guess unnamed. I’ll change it.

  2. Excellent post. I was wondering if you’ve ever visited and calculated points for the large cedars in the meadow below Little Elk Lake in the MM Wild?

  3. Enjoyed the post and photos! “My pack has gotten smaller with age too.” That certainly resonates with me! Barely backpacked for a while mid-career, but returning to it in 2013 (hiking the JMT) it was a pleasant surprise to learn how much equipment has improved, getting lighter & better.

  4. Love the repeat photography, Michael! It says it all. To me, it’s a loss, some may disagree. Time is a measurement in itself! Long live the Klamath Mountains!

  5. I thought it was very hard just to horse pack in there almost a decade ago from Mule Bridge to Hancock Lake.. it would be an incredibly hard hike for sure. But I can tell you crossing the mule Bridge on top of I my horse I kept thinking it would be a bad time for a horse to spook. Wonderful pictures..

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