Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mount Bailey

Dollie and I had hiked to the Mount Bailey summit several years ago and what I remember about that hike was it was totally awesome and we gaily skipped up to the summit holding hands while singing "Kumbaya". Ah, memory is so selective about what it remembers and what it forgets. What I had forgotten about and was painfully reminded of on a recent revisiting to Mount Bailey was how long (10.3 miles) and how much elevation gain (3000 feet) was involved. I figured I'd put this all down in the first paragraph as a future reminder should I ever again decide to re-hike Bailey because sure as beans make farts, I will only remember how totally awesome this hike is.

Steep trail
Beginning at the Silent Creek trailhead, just off of iconic Diamond Lake, the dusty trail wasted no time in heading uphill through the lodgepole. There were a couple of other hikers starting out the same time as me: Tom from Springfield, and a younger couple from Corvallis with a short-legged dog. We would leapfrog each other all day long. The day was gloriously sunny yet slightly on the cool side unlike the charcoal oven that is Roseburg. And did I mention the trail was steep?

Just when it couldn't get steeper...
There weren't a lot of views other than me watching my feet on the slog up. Near the one mile mark, there was a temporary respite as the trail followed a blessedly flat roadbed for about a mile or so. The level fun fest ended at Road 388, after which the trail really began climbing in earnest, the previous climb to the road being just a warm-up. It was at this point the Corvallis dog was carried on his master's back, lucky dog.

Looks more like a volcano, now
The forest became thinner and thinner and intermittent views to Crater Lake began to grace the breath catching stops. Dead whitebark pines were strewn about the rocky slopes where they died, their bony fingers reaching up in futile supplication to the hiking gods to make all the bad uphill stop. The path wandered through a world of rock, the landscape tortured and blasted as befits a volcano. At an overlook of an avalanche basin, I could see the Bailey summit, still demoralizingly high above me.

There's a hole in me mountain!
There is a crater off to one side of the moutain, making Bailey about as symmetrical as a painting by Picasso. The trail rounded the crater, with a small patch of snow caked down in the bottom of the pit like lint in a belly button. My friends from Corvallis turned around and headed back and I did a good thing. Blocking their way down, I pointed out the mileage (0.7 miles to go) and elevation left (400 feet to go) and gave them a rah-rah pep talk "Go hike this for the Gipper!" Grudgingly, they turned back towards the summit and continued on. They did make sure to thank me when we were all atop the summit.

Mount Bailey
Speaking of summits, it was less than a mile away with a whole bunch of stuff to go through before getting there. First off, there was a false summit to climb. From the false summit, a jagged lava dike crested the ridge connecting all summits, be they false or true. The trail rapidly dropped away from the false summit, losing all that hard earned elevation. Before we get mad at trail designers, bear in mind the unpalatable alternative would be to hike on top of the jagged lava crest.

But who washes your windows?
The trail (more of a goat path, really) hugged the base of the lava wall and hands were used to steady hikers while loose rocks rolled down the 2,000 foot scree slope. A window in the wall allows for a nicely framed shot of Mount Thielsen and I briefly let go of my handholds to snap a picture. At the far end of the wall, the trail headed steeply to the ridge crest on treacherous footing with some more use of hands required, a short scramble then delivered hikers to safety atop the ridge.

Why we hike
Now it was all about the views. Mount Thielsen, Bailey's pointy neighbor dominated the scene, rising up in all its needle glory to seemingly poke a hole in the heavens; while Diamond Lake reposed at Thielsen's feet like a starstruck groupie. All the peaks of Crater Lake's rim surrounded the hole in the ground that is the lake and to the north was Diamond Peak with South Sister faintly visible in the smoky haze. Forget about a view further south, both Mount McLaughlin and Shasta were lost in the wildfire smoke emanating from California. Or maybe it was just normal California air, I'm not really sure.

Hey buddy, got some nuts?
After an enjoyable view soak with puffy clouds floating above like giant helium-filled cotton balls, it was time to pick our way down Mount Bailey as shadows lengthened in the late afternoon. Going downhill is in some ways harder than going up and I was a tired sore-kneed puppy when I arrived at the trailhead. But by the time I reached Winston, the memory of the pain and misery had faded and what stayed with me was the sweet memory of an awesome hike.

Last push to the summit
For more pictures, please visit the Flickr album.

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