Grasshopper Mountain

Saturday, July 7, 2018

This morning I attempted to make omelettes for breakfast before. They tasted ok, but I had trouble getting them to cook evenly, which I think was due to the fact that the stove was a teeny tiny bit off-level:

Campsite breakfast

We drove up to the Skimmerhorn Trailhead on good gravel roads. A curious side note: In Art Bernstein’s 76 Day-Hikes Within 100 Miles of the Rogue Valley (1987), he says this: “The Skimmerhorn trailhead is the most elaborate I’ve seen, with parking for at least 50 cars, a picnic ground and pit toilets.” It’s not THAT big, and I saw no toilets. I wonder if he’s talking about a larger area next to the road a short distance before reaching the trailhead. It looked like a dispersed camping site and was pretty grassy, indicating it wasn’t used as much.

We headed up the Lakes Trail:

Lakes Trail

After 0.6 miles in the forest we entered a burn. This is from the same 2002 Tiller Complex Fire that burned the Beaver Swamp Trail we hiked yesterday, but unlike that patch of forest, this one got totally roasted. For a long half mile there’s no shade. This section is also very brushy in parts:

Lakes Trail

Lakes Trail

Re-entering the shady forest was a relief:

Lakes Trail

At 1.6 miles this sign was the indication that we had reached the spur trail to Buckeye Lake:

IMG_2268

Calm and quiet:

Buckeye Lake

Grasshopper Mountain, our destination:

Buckeye Lake

Down the trail a bit further, the next lake is Cliff Lake, right at the base of Grasshopper Mountain (the spur trail is unsigned but obvious):

Cliff Lake

Cliff Lake

We met an elderly gentleman here who was backpacking. He planned to day hike over to Fish Lake and said that back in the day before this was wilderness he used to work as a guard at the Fish Lake Guard Station, which is long-gone.

At Cliff Lake there is a very old decrepit dock or raft or something:

Cliff Lake

More brushy trail after Cliff Lake:

Brushy Trail

At 2.7 miles we reached a junction and turned right on the Grasshopper Trail (the trail to the left goes to Fish Lake). We saw this vivid Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea):

DSC_2315

It was obvious that this trail didn’t see a lot of use, but the tread was good and it was in pretty decent shape for a wilderness trail. There were a few spots with downed trees, but it could have been worse:

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Finally after 3.75 miles we reached another junction and turned right on the Grasshopper Mountain Trail, which started out in the trees and then started passing through some nice meadows:

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Wildflowers

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

Incense cedar:

Cedar

4.5 miles from the trailhead we reached the top, where four concrete footings remain from the fire lookout days:

Grasshopper Mountain

A D6 cupola lookout was built here in 1925, followed by an L4 tower in 1933, built by the CCC:

In 1958 the Forest Service used a helicopter to deliver 3,800 pounds of building material to build a new lookout up here:

The lookout was removed in 1977 and in the intervening years a cedar tree has grown up tall next to one of the footings, hiding it from view. We utilized the shade of that cedar on this very warm day:

Grasshopper Mountain

Below us we could see Buckeye Lake and Cliff Lake:

Grasshopper Mountain

On the other side far below us was Grasshopper Meadow (if we had stayed on the Grasshopper Trail and not taken the spur trail to the summit, we would have passed through that meadow):

Grasshopper Mountain

Little Black Rock at center of photo (with exposed rock on its slope):

Grasshopper Mountain

Highrock Mountain, which we saw part of from Fish Lake the day before:

Highrock Mountain

We marveled at the clear blue skies all around us after experiencing such hazy smoky weather on Wagner Butte two days ago:

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

This mountain has some interesting geologic history. About 1,000 years ago half of Grasshopper Mountain fell away in a huge landslide with debris spreading out over four square miles. You can see in these photos how the mountain just drops away abruptly and is still slowly eroding today (I bet that several decades ago the cliff edge was at least 10 feet further out than it is now):

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

There is an option to make a loop on the way back, passing Grasshopper Meadow and Little Fish Lake, but the gentleman at Cliff Lake said that route had a lot of blowdown so we just returned the same way we came up. On the way back we stopped at Cliff Lake again to get photos in better light. We had been way over at the far right up there:

Grasshopper Mountain

Cliff Lake

And we stopped at Buckeye Lake again too. It doesn’t look like the high point from down here, but we were over in the area of open trees at far right:

Buckeye Lake

Grasshopper Mountain

Back through the burn. So hot.

Lakes Trail

We went home the next day. I had wanted to do the short Little Black Rock hike (less than a mile one way), but we didn’t break camp until 10am and we had a three-hour detour ahead of to visit Marys Peak near Corvallis so Greg could see the wildflowers. Here is Little Black Rock as seem from the road up to Skimmerhorn Trailhead. Hopefully we can visit this one another time!

Little Blackrock Mountain

On Sunday before we left I wandered down the short Camp Comfort trail by our campground. It ends at a spot where the Black Rock Fork (left) and Castle Fork (right) join and it’s the start of the South Umpqua River.

Camp Comfort Trail

Nice spot for hanging out on a warm day. I also noticed what looked like bridge supports on the other side. They look like they would have been associated with something small like a footbridge. But there’s no trail over there and I didn’t find similar supports on the near side of the river. I wonder what the story is!

Camp Comfort Trail

Camp Comfort Trail

Fish Lake

Friday, July 6, 2018

Last night we left our campground and got a hotel room, so instead of waking up to the sound of birds outside our tent we woke up to the sounds of our AC unit. We walked next door and got in line for a delicious waffle breakfast at the Morning Glory Cafe. YUM!

Morning Glory Cafe

In an effort to escape the wildfire smoke that now blanked the Ashland area, we decided to head to the Umpqua National Forest. After driving for several hours we reached the Tiller Ranger Station and stopped in to get some information and a map. Then we drove Road 28 along the South Umpqua River and pulled in at the Camp Comfort Campground where we grabbed a site. (The Forest Service website says this campground has five sites, but it only has four because one of them has been closed due to safety issues.) We were not happy to discover that we had traded one annoyance (smoke) for another (mosquitoes).

Fish Lake Hike

We had some lunch and then set out for a short hike. We drove good gravel roads up to the Beaver Swamp Trailhead and set off for Fish Lake.

New sign:

Fish Lake Hike

Old singed one:

Fish Lake Hike

This forest was burned in the 2002 Tiller Complex Fire, which consisted of eight large and many small fires. These big trees survived the fire but are still blackened on the outside.

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

This tree’s center burned out:

Fish Lake Hike

Yet it’s still alive!

Fish Lake Hike

The forest is actually pretty lush in many places:

Fish Lake Hike

Entering the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness:

Fish Lake Hike

We saw hundreds of butterflies on this hike:

Fish Lake Hike

There are a lot of incense cedar in this forest:

Fish Lake Hike

After descending the Beaver Swamp Trail, at 1.3 miles we turned left onto the Fish Lake Trail. Another 0.3 miles later we reached the lake outlet and this old broken sign. (Of course, even if the sign was new and in-your-face people would still not follow the 200-foot rule)

Fish Lake Hike

Highrock Mountain towered above the lake:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Another 0.3 miles down the trail we reached a nice peninsula where we dropped our packs and enjoyed a nice long rest. Bonus: no mosquitoes!

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Greg noticed this tenacious fireweed growing on a log:

Fish Lake Hike

Greg stayed by the lake while I went exploring further along the trail. There’s a nice campsite just beyond the peninsula:

Fish Lake Hike

I went another quarter mile down the trail, which was very muddy in spots. I came to an illegal lakeside campsite and was dismayed to see quite a lot of trash that had been left behind:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Someone had hauled in a very heavy cast iron griddle and then just left it here. It was too heavy to haul out, so I grabbed what I could of the other trash and carried it back to where Greg and I were hanging out. I had left my trash bag with Greg or else I would have been able to pack out everything. As it was we had trouble getting everything to fit in the bag, especially since we had also found trash at the peninsula:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

We started hiking out at 5:30. I noticed this log munching on a branch!

Fish Lake Hike

A note: later I would learn that Fish Lake was once the site of a guard station. I can’t tell for sure from the old maps, but I believe it may have been at the east end of the lake where Highrock Creek flows in. I didn’t go that far to explore, although I would have if I had known. Here’s a photo from 1944:

Fish Lake Guard Station, 1944
USFS

Back at our campground I made dinner with my headnet on. We couldn’t get our new Thermacell to work (after some testing at home it turns out you need a COMPLETELY full fuel canister for it to work. Half-full is not good enough.) Throughout the evening the whine of mosquitoes was drowned out by the very obnoxious sounds of dirt bikes racing up and down the road on the other side of the river. It went on for hours.

Tomorrow we hike Grasshopper Mountain!