Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tidbits Mountain

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! In my many trail miles, I've run into the hiking equivalent of those fearsome creatures in the form of bears, rattlesnakes, cougars, and deer. And after last weekend on Tidbits Mountain, yellow jackets have been duly added to the list. At least the bears and cougars ran away from me, but the yellow jackets buzzed angrily towards me en masse with malevolence in their hearts. 

Either a sinkhole or the world's biggest wasp nest
The hike got off to an interesting start when a sign proclaimed the parking lot was closed due to a sinkhole. Stepping around the small pit, we (brother Don and friend Jesse) set out onto the Tidbits Mountain Trail. I must have left my brain in the sinkhole because I'd forgotten to put a fresh battery into the camera. Of course, I didn't realize it until we'd hiked a half-mile or so, I did a quick dash back to the car to retrieve the spare battery. Gotta get my extra miles in, somehow!

Making movies of the trail kind
Hiking for reals now, the trail angled gently for the most part through some beautiful forest typical of the west-side Cascade Mountains: lots of tall fir trees, lush undergrowth, and sunlight filtering through a green canopy of vine maple leaves. On occasion, the trail went steep, and we got to exercise our heavy breathing muscles.  Don was making videos and I was taking pictures, so it was a stop-and-go hike. 

Reenactment of me running from the wasps
About halfway up, I noticed a swarm of flies buzzing on the trail.  Curious, I stopped to see what the buzzing was all about. My mistake! The flies were not flies at all but yellow jackets nesting on the trail. My first inkling that I might have misidentified the insects was communicated to me by the nerve endings in my calves which reported to my brain that my legs were on fire in multiple spots, like a forest the day after a lightning storm. The darn wasps were stinging me and I got my morning sprint in on this hike. And I didn't even get a picture of the wasp nest!

"Trail" to Road 1509
At a wooded saddle, the Tidbits Mountain Trail intersected with a trail that had been long abandoned. Timber and rusting metal marked the site of a former shelter, also long abandoned.  A sign marked this as the Gold Hill Trail and pointed us in the direction of the Tidbits Mountain Lookout, also abandoned a long time ago.  Too bad those yellow jackets couldn't abandon the trail.

Tidbit gives us a finger
After a short climb through the forest, the trail spit us out like chewed up sunflower seeds onto a talus slope right below Tidbits Mountain proper.  From the slope we could see down the Canyon Creek drainage as it emptied into the Santiam River drainage, also visible.  On the western horizon, Mary's Peak on the Coast Range poked up out of the haze.  And above us, small rocky columns on Tidbits Mountain waved greetings, looking like Three-Fingered Jack's other two fingers.

Just about at the summit
A short and steep climb through a forest spit us out like watermelon seeds onto the summit where we whooped with joy. Well, we might have been a bit premature with the whole whooping thing because the actual summit was behind us, requiring another short but steep push up a rock cliff where mild use of hands was required. Apparently, the lookouts used to climb a ladder and the rotting timbers of the ladder still lie on the mountainside.

But who's taking a picture of me?
From the summit, we could see some more stuff.  Tidbits Mountain had a twin and we watched peregrine falcons soar and float around the sheer cliffs.  On the eastern horizon, we had nice views of the Cascades from Diamond Peak to Mount Jefferson, with the Three Sisters being the nearest.  Way cool, and we enjoyed a lengthy lunch and gawk.

Camera gear abandoned to the yellow jackets
On the way down, I got to share the wasp love with Don as he was tagged just before I got tagged a couple of more times on the legs before I could laugh at his discomfiture.  What possessed these yellow jackets to build a nest right on the trail tread?

The children climb Wolf Rock

After the hike, we drove up the Blue River to visit impressive Wolf Rock which had been eminently visible from Tidbits Mountain. Don wanted to take me scrambling up the 1,300 feet or so of cliff to the top of the massive monolith. Heeding the advice of my inner physical therapist, I declined as my surgically repaired wrist is still not ready for such adventure. Don and Jesse scrambled up a rocky amphitheater on their way to the summit while I stayed behind. At least there were no wasps to sting me as I waited for the two tykes to return.
Tidbits Mountain's twin

For more pictures of Tidbits Mountain and Wolf Rock, stop by and visit the Flickr album.

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