Saturday, May 11, 2013

Grizzly Peak

It seems to me that Grizzly Peak should be to all the other Bear Peaks in Oregon what grizzly bears are to a run-of-the-mill ordinary black bear. In ursine terms, a 5.4 mile hike somehow seems to be more of a koala bear of a hike. However, hiking buddy Glenn assured me the hike was worthy and since I'd never been, Saturday morning found me driving down to Ashland.

Oregon anemone
After a pleasant drive through purple stained hills (the deer vetch was in spectacular bloom) dotted with newly leafed out oaks, I was joined at the trailhead (which had a great view of Mount McLaughlin, by the way) by Glenn, Carol (Mrs. Glenn), and Karen (Glenn's sister). And with a fierce grizzly-like "Grrr..." we set off on the trail.

It was a trillium show in the forest
The trail wasted no time angling uphill through a shady fir forest, the quiet of the forest getting interrupted by the heavy breathing of a certain panting hiker from Roseburg. The undergrowth vegetation was still tamped flat by the recently departed snow but the trilliums and snow queen were sending up their early spring blossoms. The heart shaped and fragrant leaves of wild ginger were also spotted but a cursory examination under the leaves revealed none of the brown and hairy flowers.

See the blackfly?  I didn't, either!
Periodically, the trail would break out into open meadows with yet a few snow patches in them. The whole vibe reminded me of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.  Spring was in the air, literally, and each leg was bitten in turn by a welt-raising blackfly which started me yearning for the insect-killing cold of winter. I imagine mosquitoes and hikers will be renewing bloody acquaintanceship before long.

Disco lives!
After an uphill mile or so, we reached the intersection with the loop trail and opted to hike the loop counterclockwise. The trail leveled out and an unassuming  rocky knoll  flanked by thick patches of diminutive glacier lilies marked the official Grizzly Peak summit. Because of the dense fir forest, there were no views to be had but Glenn and I stood on the summit just because.

Smoky view to Medford
Intermittent views were enjoyed while the trail contours the edge of the broad summit; Mount Thielsen, Union Peak, and the Crater Lake rim were all spotted in the smoky haze. Views were somewhat limited due to hazy smoke, presumably from prescribed maintenance burns nearby.  The fires of the non-prescribed variety are coming because this has been a hot and dry spring.

Walking through the ex-forest
In 2002, the East Antelope Fire charbroiled the forest on the west side of of the mountain.  West antelopes were relieved and hikers have since been grateful for the fire really opened up the views by removing all that annoying forest.   The trail hugs the peak's rim under some rock formations with blooming wildflowers.  But mostly, it's all about the views, even on a hazy day.

Emigrant Lake, below Pilot Rock

Ashland lay nestled in a valley virtually 4000 feet below as the slopes dropped precipitously away from our mountain perch.  Rising on the other side of the valley were the snowy Siskiyou Mountains stretching from Mount Ashland to Grayback Mountain.  To the south was ghostly and very tall Mount Shasta with Emigrant Lake reposing below Pilot Rock.  To the east were the peaks marking the caldera of the Mountain Lakes, one of my favorite haunts.

Mission bells, they toll for thee
When not oohing and aahing at the clifftop panorama, we spent some time on our knees and bellies taking pictures of the many wildflowers blooming in the rock gardens.  Notable were coastal delphinium (a low growing larkspur), Hall's desert parsley, Indian paintbrush, and dwarf hesperochiron which incidentally used to be my nickname on the dude ranch...and that's all I'm saying about that!

All good things come to an end, including hikes, and we closed the loop and reentered the forest.  But, hey, at least it was downhill to the car.  So, while this hike logged an un-grizzlylike 5.4 miles, because of the great scenery, I rate this trail at four Tibetan blue bear paws.

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the hike. Pictures are great, except for that weird guy doing a 70's move on the summit!