Wildcat Mountain & McIntyre Ridge

After a long 12+ mile hike to McNeil Point on Saturday, Greg and I were ready for something short and sweet on Sunday. So after sleeping in and chilling out in the morning we headed out to the McIntyre Ridge hike in the afternoon.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this hike, the old trailhead used to be at the end of Wildcat Creek Road at the north end of the ridge, until the Forest Service gated the road in 2005 due to its deteriorating condition. At that point the easiest access was to park at the old gravel pit/quarry at the end of Road 150, then hike the Douglas Trail up to McIntyre Ridge. That quarry was a scary place, though. It was totally trashed and there were shotgun shells all over the place. An ad hoc “trailhead” was established around 2009 at the end of spur Road 108, which dead-ended just a short ways downhill from the McIntyre Ridge Trail. Following an old skid road up the hill brought you to the trail, and it was a nice 4.5 mile round-trail hike to the viewpoint bench and back. Unfortunately, the OHV crowd liked this access as well and they were actually driving on the trail.

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So the Forest Service gated that access too. But they also closed the old gravel pit and decommissioned Road 150, establishing a new trailhead further back. TKO helped build a connector trail from the new trailhead to the Douglas Trail so you don’t have to walk the decommissioned road, which now looks like this:

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There is not a lick of signage at the trailhead (probably because it wouldn’t last long thanks to the numerous target shooters in the area), but the trail is easy to spot:

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The trail skirts around the edge of the old gravel pit then connects up with the Douglas Trail where there is an old shot-up trail sign.

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On the Douglas Trail (accompanied by the sounds of target shooting):

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This is a lonely forgotten corner of the Mt. Hood National Forest and I bet this trail receives little to no maintenance. So we were surprised to find it in excellent condition. This was the only blowdown:

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We hiked 2.5 miles up to Wildcat Mountain. No sign of course, but the trail is fairly obvious and there was also some flagging:

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The rhododendrons are THICK up here:

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The summit is just a jumble of rocks surrounded by rhododendrons and trees:

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There is almost no evidence of the lookout that once stood here, not even the usual concrete footings. But there are lots of bits of melted glass:

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I’ve never come across a photo of this lookout, which was burned down in 1953. Panorama photos were taken here in 1933 and boy, have things changed!

North:

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Southwest:

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Southeast:

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And today the summit views just look like this:

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We pushed through the rhododendrons on the east side (it looked like someone at one point had cleared a path here) to a semi-viewpoint. Not really a good place to hang out since the slope is steep here. Some dope actually tried to build a campfire here!

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But if you carefully move around you can get some views. Mt. Hood:

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Mt. Adams:

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Mt. Rainier:

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Back down the Douglas Trail to the intersection with the McIntyre Ridge Trail (again, no sign), which we followed north:

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After 0.7mi we reached the fabulous viewpoint with the memorial bench, which is now a recliner:

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The view was fabulous, with Mt. Hood presiding over the clearcut-free Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness:

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One more minute down the trail past the bench is another nice meadow where the daisies were going gangbusters:

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Along with some other wildflowers:

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The target shooting had continued off and on throughout the whole hike (boy that sound really carries), but shortly after we arrived at the viewpoint it mercifully ended. We had brought a picnic dinner and some wine with us and sat in the shade enjoying the food and the peace and quiet.

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On the hike back down the target shooting started up again. At least we got a reprieve at the viewpoint.

Video:

Silver Star Mountain Flower Bonanza

Greg and I braved the godawful Road 4109 to access the north trailhead on Silver Star Mountain on July 9. We’re glad we did, but it’s the last time we’ll take our car on that road. More on that at the end of the post.

We did our usual hike: follow the old road up for a mile (the hiking trail that parallels it for a short bit isn’t nearly as scenic) then pick up Ed’s Trail. The flowers were totally glorious:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Tiger lilies

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The views weren’t too shabby:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Ed’s Trail connects back up with the old road, which we followed to the summit:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Hood:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters:

Silver Star Mountain

Smoke from the Dry Creek Fire near Trout Lake:

Silver Star Mountain

The hike back down via the old road was spectacular, with lots of wildflowers:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

One last view of Mt. Hood before the trail drops down to the trailhead:

Mt. Hood

Here is a video of the hike:

You’ll see at the very end of that video some footage we took driving back down Road 4109. This road has always been awful, but it’s gotten really bad. High clearance vehicles are required, preferably AWD/4WD for some steep sections where it’s hard to get traction when going so slow. My theory is that the Forest Service deliberately doesn’t maintain this road in order to keep the crowds down and protect the fragile meadows, but I don’t know if that’s true. Next year we’ll start from the Grouse Vista Trailhead on the other side of the mountain. It means a MUCH longer hike to get to the wildflowers, but at least the drive will be easier.

Horsepasture Mountain

Three years ago I tried to do the Horsepasture Mountain hike but was greeted by this sign on Road 1993 where you turn off of Road 2638.

Back in 2014 I thought that the closure was recent and temporary, but the sign was still there when I tried to go up this road on Sunday. Well, I though, it’s only three miles, I’ll drive up there and see if it is in fact closed. About a mile up the road I passed a pickup coming down and we stopped to chat. They confirmed that the road was in fact closed, that it was covered by a massive and enormous landslide. They said they had alternative directions and they invited me to follow them, so I did. (Thanks, guys!) More on the detour at the end of this post.

There was a large group of mountain bikers at the trailhead, but they were headed out on the Olallie Trail. The couple in the pickup had hit the trail already and were somewhere ahead of me. So it was quiet and peaceful as I hiked up the trail, which switchbacks up through meadows with a view of O’Leary Mountain:

Then the trail emerges out onto the open slopes just below the summit:

Plenty of wildflowers around:

There was once a lookout up here. You can still see remnants of the rock wall from that time:

Horsepasture Mountain, 1952

Horsepasture Mountain, 1927

The views from the summit are spectacular. Looking north:

Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington:

Three Sisters:

Mt. Bachelor:

Diamond Peak:

Looking west:

A panorama of the peaks:

Great hike! Fantastic reward for very little effort.

The detour involves driving down 2638, then 356, picking up 1993 from the south end (directions here). When I got home I tried to figure out when this landslide happened, but the best I can determine is sometime between November 2011 and July 2013, based on historical imagery in Google Earth. Any landslide that is big enough to show up in a satellite image isn’t going to get repaired. The Forest Service will never fix this, especially since there is an available detour.

On the plus side, driving Road 1993 from the south is actually quite scenic. I had to be careful not to drive off the road while admiring the views and the roadside wildflowers:

Video of this hike:

Rebel Rock Loop Hike

UPDATE: On August 4 the Rebel Fire started in this area and ended up burning over 8,000 acres, including the majority of this hike. The lookout did not survive the flames. Here is a photo of the area where the lookout once stood.

I’ve wanted to do the Rebel Rock Loop for awhile, so when I saw on the Willamette National Forest’s Facebook page that a crew had logged out the entire loop, I figured now was the time to go, before another winter arrived and brought down more trail-blocking trees. It’s a long one, a good 12.5 to 13 miles (depending on who you ask). But there is old growth, wildflowers, views, and almost no people! We did not encounter snow, but we had plenty of mosquitoes for company.

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We hit the trail at 9am. The trails split very near the trailhead and this was the last directional signage we saw on the hike:

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We did the loop clockwise, hiking up the Rebel Creek Trail. It crosses the creek twice in the first mile.

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A cool old mile marker:

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The shady forest was pleasantly cool on this warm day:

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A wilderness sign that’s seen better days:

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The climb was gradual and the forest pleasant, with some nice old growth:

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We did see signs of the recent trail work. Thanks, crew!

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Took a break at this lovely gurgling creek:

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Although I didn’t do a track on this part of the trail (wish I had), I was watching our progress on the map via the Gaia GPS app. According to the GPS we had already passed the junction, but we had been looking for it and not seen it. We got to this very overgrown meadow with an old signpost and we could just barely make out the trail we wanted. If not for that old post, we probably would have walked right past the junction. I definitely appreciate the log-cutting by the trail crew but I wish they’d had time to brush out the trail as well.

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The trail traverses the slopes below Rebel Rock, which was hidden above us on the left. This part was all overgrown as well:

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Looking across the canyon of that little side creek we crossed earlier:

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There were bees and butterflies all over the place:

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We crossed some open rocky clearings with wildflowers, including scarlet gilia:

We got our first glimpse of the lookout:

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Further down the trail, an unmarked side trail leads to the lookout. There was a cairn when we were there:

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The lookout was built in 1955, but it hasn’t been staffed in about 50 years. It’s in bad shape, but considering how long it’s sat here abandoned, exposed to the weather, it’s amazing that it’s still standing at all.

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The old outhouse in the woods is still standing:

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The lookout is unusual in that it’s not on a summit with a 360-degree view, but perched on a cliff with a view in only three directions. It looks south out over the South Fork Mackenzie River.

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The only Cascade peak you can see is Mt. Bachelor, although of course back when this was an active lookout that peak was known as Bachelor Butte:

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Chucksney Mountain:

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Back on the trail we continued on through more rocky clearings with wildflowers:

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One of these clearings has a view back into the heart of the wilderness with views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters:

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We kept looking back from this stretch of trail to get a glimpse of Rebel Rock, but we never did see it. Maybe we just didn’t turn around at the right spot. The trail switchbacks down through sloping meadows:

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And there were more meadows like the ones we had hiked through earlier, with head-high vegetation that obscured the ground at our feet, including any obstacles. We’d come across several holes and always managed to avoid them, but then Greg stepped in one and went down. He wasn’t badly injured, but his foot was now hurting and we were still four miles from the trailhead. Yikes.

Greg soldiered on and it was a relief to leave the overgrown meadows behind and re-enter the forest:

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Another old mile marker. Three more miles to go:

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We saw a surprising amount of old phone line from the days when the lookout was active. It was hanging from insulators in the trees along the trail:

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Hiked across the wilderness boundary:

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Then just a short distance from the trailhead, well past the wilderness boundary, was this new-looking sign. Interesting;

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We finally got back to the car at 5:30. I knew this was going to be a workout hike and it was. My feet were hurtin’ by the time we were done. We cooled our aching feet and legs in the creek near the trailhead.

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Here’s a video of the hike:

Sturgis Fork and Boundary Trails

On the 4th of July we did one last hike before driving home from southern Oregon. In William Sullivan’s book, he recommends a nice 4.8-mile round-trip hike up the Sturgis Fork Trail, then north on the Boundary Trail to an unnamed high point at 6,420′. But, as you will see, we were stymied by a meadow:

We broke camp and drove south past Applegate Lake where we stopped to enjoy a nice view that included the Red Buttes:

The last half mile of road to the trailhead is horrible. It’s very rough and very rocky. We made it okay in the Outback, but I don’t see how a low clearance car could ever make it up. I was surprised to see a horse corral at the trailhead. I can’t imagine how one would get a horse trailer up here.

Someone has shot up this sign all to hell. What the….? Why….? 😡

It was a quick uneventful 0.7mi hike up the Sturgis Fork Trail. There was no sign at its junction with the Boundary Trail. Nor was there a sign a quarter mile further along in this little meadow, where apparently the Mt. Elijah trail (#1206) heads off to the left. We did not see any trail at all heading off that way.

Then we came to this huge sprawling meadow. Unfortunately the trail totally vanished at this point.

The GPS said the trail went up a bit, then traversed straight across, so that’s what we tried. We ended up on something that looked like it may have been a trail once. But the vegetation was thick, and it was hard to tell.

We ended up in some brush and some trees. We crossed a gully with a stream. No pictures were taken during this part of the adventure. According to the GPS we were on track, but there was absolutely no sign of trail here. Then we hit this:

With a thick wall of brush in our way, we gave up. It wasn’t worth it. We went back to the meadow, found some shade from a tree, and sat enjoying the view:

It was pleasant in the meadow, with birds and bees and butterflies, so it was not a bad consolation prize.

We also enjoyed these super cool clouds:

Then we headed back:

I later learned from a fellow hiker online that the trail on the topo map is incorrect and that the actual trail is a bit further down the slope from where we were. You can see his map here. He also said that even if you’re on the right path, it’s still hard to follow this time of year when the vegetation is obscuring the trail.

I did a track on the way back, starting from our lunch spot. You can kind of see on the satellite view the trail below us.

When I first learned about the Boundary Trail on this trip I thought it would make a cool backpacking route. But now I’m not so sure. It’s certainly scenic, but signage and maintenance seem sporadic.

Grayback Mountain

We had to change our plans due to snow, after paging through the hiking book and looking over the maps, we decided to spend Monday and Tuesday over near the Applegate Lake area. We got up EARLY so we had time to drive over there, find a campsite, and still get a good hike in. Our early wake-up call meant a lovely morning view of Mt. Shasta from our campsite at Mt. Ashland Campground:

Mt. Shasta View

We planned to camp near Applegate Lake, which would put us closer to our trails, but the person at the Star Ranger Station said all the campgrounds were full. We grabbed a spot at Jackson Campground instead (which we were also told was full), which added an extra 20+ minutes onto our drive to the trailhead, and later when we drove through the Carberry and Watkins campgrounds both had available spaces. It was the second time in one weekend that misinformation from the Forest Service caused us grief.

So off we headed towards Grayback Mountain. It is the highest peak in Josephine County, although there is no trail to the summit. It gets its name from 1850s gold rush miners who named the peak after the itchy lice commonly known as “graybacks.”

We drove to the Upper O’Brien Creek Trailhead, which was mostly fine except for the last stretch was very rough and very rocky. Good tires required! The trail starts out on was once a continuation of the road. It’s so rough and rocky and it’s hard to imagine it was ever drivable.

Then the old roadbed ends and the trail begins. The trail is in bad shape. For one thing it’s poorly-graded and very steep. And it doesn’t look like it’s received maintenance in at least a decade. Lots of deadfall to negotiate. At one point we heard a noise up ahead and realized it was dirt bikes. A few minutes later two of them came down the trail. Here they are detouring around a fallen log:

We saw a snail!

The trail crossed O’Brien Creek, where the ground was all chewed up from the dirt bikes.

Lovely flowers near the creek:

Just after the creek crossing the trail splits. The main trail goes to the right and a spur trail to the left goes to the Grayback Snow Shelter. We went that way to check it out.

According to this article

“The cabin was built in 1944 for surveyors who’d hike up the mountain to measure snow depth and moisture, helping to give farmers and ranchers accurate forecasts for the summer’s water supply. The cabin still serves its original purpose, but it’s also become a sort of communal bunkhouse for weary Grayback travelers seeking shelter from the night.”

Indeed, the logbook indicated that the cabin received regular use, even in the winter. One entry mentioned how the family had tried numerous times to stay at the cabin but always found it occupied, and were glad to finally luck out and find it vacant. The cabin was chock full of stuff inside:

Old sign by the door:

Just around the bend the trail dead-ends at the bottom of a huge sloping meadow that stretches up towards the summit (not visible from down here). We were soon to get better views, but even from down here the views weren’t too shabby:

We found the site of the old Krause (or Krouse, depending on your source) Cabin. All that’s left is this:

Again from the article above: “The stove is all that remains of the Krouse Log Cabin, a famous Josephine County destination that was built by Phil Krouse and his father, and finished on the same 1945 day the Japanese surrendered to the United States in World War II. Five generations of the Krouse family enjoyed the cabin — their small children bouncing through the wildflowers and old men watching sunsets over the mountains — and it also housed equestrian groups, hikers, hunters, and Forest Service employees passing through for the night. But one night in 2001, three teenagers from Medford were spending the night at the cabin when its logs were accidentally ignited. The 56-year-old structure burned to the ground during the early morning, leaving behind only the iron stove.”

There’s also a snow survey pole here:

We wanted to go up to the Boundary Trail, but rather than go back to the main trail, which switchbacks up to it, we foolishly decided to go straight up through the meadow, which turned out to be way harder than it looked. The hot sun beat down on us as we struggled up the steep slope.

Finally we made it to the Boundary Trail.

The views were pretty great.

Sullivan describes a way to get up to the summit, which was 900′ above us. “Bushwhack straight uphill to the right. Scramble through a gap in the cliffs, follow a ridgecrest, and push your way through the manzanita brush for 0.2 mile to the rocky summit.” It didn’t look passable due to snow, but we scrambled about 150-200 feet uphill from the trail to get a better look. It turned out to be a soggy slog:

We got to a flat rocky area and scoped things out above. It looked to me like Sullivan’s suggested route would take us right where that snow was.

This hike had not been part of our original plan and we hadn’t done any research on this off-trail scramble, plus we’d gotten a late start on this hike and we had already done a tiring 700′ vertical bushwack through the meadow, so I was reluctant to give the scramble a go. (See end of this post for more on the scramble to the summit.) So we sat here and enjoyed the view and the gurgling meltwater creek:

Hiking back down we took the “easy” way: the trail. The Boundary and O’Brian Creek junction had a big dilapidated sign. I’ve never seen trail signage in this style before. Interesting.

This poor sign has seen better days:

We got back to the car at 4:00. I didn’t take a track of our hike, but here is more our less the route we took:

We only saw one other hiker and the two dirt bikes. It looked to us like dirt bikes are not uncommon on this trail, and we were dismayed by the damage done by them.

The dirtbikes have established re-routes around the numerous fallen trees, but unlike a hiker re-route these paths are often a chewed-up mess.

The area seemed neglected at best, and abandoned at worse. The trails here need some TLC. Besides the dirt bike damage and fallen trees there were numerous places where the trail served as a creekbed, further eroding the condition of the trail:

As for that summit scramble, later when we got home and referred to Hiking Oregon’s Southern Cascades and Siskiyous (Art Bernstein), it recommends taking the Boundary Trail 0.7mi from the junction. “You arrive at a saddle with a sharp ridge rising to the right. To attain the summit, merely walk up the ridge. There is no trail. It’s 0.5 mile from the saddle to the hogback summit.”

And in 75 Scrambles in Oregon (Barbara Bond) it says once you enter the meadow on the Boundary Trail “continue on the trail about 10 or 15 yards, then turn right and start heading up the rocky section of the meadow toward the summit ridge. Here, scramble on the rocks to avoid crushing the fragile wildflowers. Scramble up the steep slope, or traverse, until you reach the prominent rocky ridge. Turn right (north) onto this ridge and head up, scrambling over the blocky gray rocks about 500 feet to the summit.”

When I posted this report over on Oregon Hikers, someone recommended the following: “Take the Boundary Trail north to Windy Gap, then go west through the trees for a short ways to the ridge, which is rocky and open with great views. Follow the open ridge south to the summit.” So if we’re ever back in this area, we’ll try that.

Mt. Ashland PCT

We spent 4th of July weekend in southern Oregon doing some exploring and hiking. On Saturday, July 1 we explored a section of the Pacific Crest Trail at Mt. Ashland. The PCT traverses the southern slope of Mt. Ashland, more or less parallel to Road 20. There is a nice hike you can do from one TH to another, then back again. It passes through meadows and has great views, plus it’s pretty level. Later in the day we hiked up to the summit of Mt. Ashland for sunset.

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The trail starts off in a forest that appears overdue for a wildfire, with much fuel laying around on the ground:

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Then the trail enters into the first of many meadows. It was incredibly lush, but we were a tad early for wildflowers. We saw lots of lupine plants, but only a few lupine blooms. We saw LOTS of false hellebore.

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It was a GORGEOUS day, with clear blue skies and beautiful green trees. 😀

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The trail continues on, going in and out of forests and meadows, with the occasional views:

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A number of little seasonal streams cross the trail. I love little streams like this; they sound so pleasant. 😀

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We passed beneath the summit of Mt. Ashland, with the ugly white orb of its weather station coming into view:

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The trail passes through a stand of aspen trees:

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After about three miles of hiking, the road and the trail meet back up again at a spot called Grouse Gap. We sat in the shade and enjoyed the view:

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Saw this tiny low-growing purple flower:

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On the way back we passed beneath a feature known as the Rabbit Ears. I can see why it’s called that!

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Later in the evening we went up to the summit of Mt. Ashland. On the way up we stopped at the base of the Rabbit Ears where we saw some unique wildflowers:

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The evening light was SUBLIME:

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Up at the top we got an up-close view of the ugly weather station:

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And the radio tower:

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Mt. McLoughlin:

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The rocks are covered in graffiti from people carving their names and initials into the lichen. 😡

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Next to the weather station is the rocky true summit of the mountain, at 7,532′, where a lookout once stood. It was VERY windy up here:

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Mt. Shasta again:

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We looked down and saw our campground and our tent, which was cool:

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Here’s the view looking up from our campsite earlier in the day:

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The white speck in the middle is the lookout on Dutchman Peak. We thought we were going there the next day, but Mother Nature had other ideas.

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The next morning, on the way to the Dutchman Peak area. Drat!

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See the shadow of Mt. Ashland on the left? Cool!

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Fabulous light on the hike back down:

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Great area, and very pretty! We hope to go back someday during peak bloom.

Soda Mountain

Our Sunday hike took us up to Soda Mountain and a wildflower bonanza:

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This had not been our original plan. It had been our intention to explore around Observation Peak (southeast of Mt. Ashland) and to check out the lookout on Dutchman Peak. But just 1.5 miles past Grouse Gap we encountered this on Road 20 at 6900′:

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CRAP. We still had three more days here and everything else we wanted to do was down that road. I was incredibly annoyed because on June 27 the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest had posted on Facebook that the gate on Road 20 was open, saying nothing whatsoever about snow still being on the road. And when I called on June 28 to ask about access to the Wrangle Campground (beyond that snowdrift), they didn’t say anything about the road being impassible.

So we sat here on the road, pouring over the books and maps, trying to decide what to do. I felt annoyed at having wasted time planning a weekend itinerary that was never possible, and annoyed at the Forest Service for yet again leading me astray. At least we had a nice view from this spot.

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We weren’t sure about Monday and Tuesday, but for today we decided to head over to Soda Mountain in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. It was pleasant and warm up in the mountains, but as we descended down into Ashland the temperature shot up. We wound our way east over to the monument and parked at the trailhead. The PCT crosses the road here and we’d be heading south on the trail.

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We quickly hit a wildflower bonanza. Yowza!

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Mt. Ashland in the distance. Our campground is right below the summit.

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We could see ahead to the summit of Soda Mountain:

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The trail entered the cool shady forest, which felt great because it was really hot out.

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After a mile an unofficial trail heads uphill from the PCT and joins up with the rough dirt road that accesses the summit. This short little connector doesn’t appear to receive much maintenance.

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Then it was a hot trudge up the road to the summit. This part was just under a mile.

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The summit is rather ugly, crowded with all sorts of towers and equipment. There’s so much of it that the lookout itself is dwarfed by it all. The mountain for which the wilderness is named doesn’t feel like wilderness at all:

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Mt. McLoughlin:

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Looking northeast:

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Pilot Rock:

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Summit wildflowers:

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And of course, Mt. Shasta:

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Are those the Trinity Alps, the snowy mountains to the right of Shasta?

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We crawled under a deck by the radio tower for some shade while we ate a snack. Then it was a quick hike back to the car. It was really hot so we stopped in at Caldera Brewing for some Plan B research and some cold beers before heading back to our campground.

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Back at our cooler high-elevation campground we enjoyed the vistas from our campsite:

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And at midnight I got up to check out the stars. It wasn’t the best star-gazing conditions because of the BRIGHT moon, but it was still pretty cool. Mt. Ashland behind our campsite:

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Looking south with Mt. Shasta barely visible on the left:

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