Sunday, July 3, 2016

Coffin Mountain

The second installment of the Short 'n' Sweet Old Cascades Tour 2016 was on Coffin Mountain. Allegedly, if you look at Coffin Mountain from the Detroit Lake area, the peak's outline resembles a coffin. From the Coffin Mountain Lookout Trail, not so much: it more resembles a mountain with a steep trail on it. Sorry, my ability to cobble together a poetic simile escapes me as I trudge uphill through the beargrass under a bright sun. I thought Coffin Mountain might have got its name from a tired hiker who complained, "I'm so dad-gummed tired one more step's gwine to put me into the coffin" Or maybe it was the observation by the same generic tired hiker "This trail's so steep, dangburn it, that it's set me right to coffin'..." And the day I start talking like that will be a day I spent too much time in the sun.  

My view, while eating breakfast
Anyway, the day before, after hiking to the top of Middle Pyramid, I spent the night camped at the Pyramids Trail Trailhead. Bright and early the following morn, I took down my tent and made the short drive over to the Coffin Mountain Trailhead. As I was boiling breakfast on the hood of my car, another auto arrived at the small parking lot. It was new hiking buddy Linda who warned me I would probably pass her on the way up because she takes lots of pictures for her blog (called Linda's Lens, by the way). Boy, could I ever relate and since I too take lots of pictures for my blog, it was doubtful whether I would ever catch up to her. As it turned out, we hiked pretty much at the same slow speed, snapping photos all the while and it was nice to have a very kindred spirit for company on this spectacular hike. 

We're dying, here!
The hike to the Coffin Mountain summit is fairly short, the trail gets there in 1.5 miles while gaining nearly 1,000 feet. Not as rigorous as the Pyramids Trail but tell that to my leg muscles which immediately complained about the brisk climb at the hike's outset. They said something like "Two days in a row? We're dying here..." which is perhaps how Coffin Mountain got its name. Or, perhaps not.

Flowery trail on the climb up

There was very little forest on the east-facing slopes and the trail ambled through some rather lush vegetation. So many flowers to take pictures of, and I was quickly distracted from burning leg muscles by thimbleberry, lupine, columbine, ocean spray, and subalpine Mariposa lily. Since there was very little forest to block the view, I also got to enjoy views of the Three Sisters, Mount Washington, and Three-Fingered Jack.

Beargrass on the hillside

Unfortunately, the view also included a pointy pinnacle that that at the time, I misidentified as the Coffin Mountain summit. Darn false summits do it to me every time. The true summit was still way up there above and beyond the false summit and some anticipatory complaining from quad muscles ensued.  I should learn not to look ahead, it's demoralizing. By now, the massive slopes were all covered with beargrass and even though it was the tail end of the beargrass bloom, the flower show was still pretty spectacular.

Mount Jefferson 
Speaking of spectacular, Mount Jefferson (Oregon's second tallest peak) loomed straight ahead and the trail offered varying views of the snowy mountain rising above all the other nearby peaks under a blue sky. Initially, the mountain was wrapped in a thin cloud shroud that dissipated as the day wore on. To the northwest, Detroit Lake glinted blue at the bottom of a valley while rows of lesser mountains marched all the way to the ocean. 

Trail at the edge of the world
The trail switchbacked to and fro, exchanging alternating views of Mount Jefferson and the Three Pyramids. But no matter which set of mountains were in front, there was always beargrass under a deep blue sky. The sun was out yet the temperatures were as mild as the salsa that Dollie eats. The cool thing about the beargrass was that the higher we hiked, the fresher the blooms in a perfect simile of how my leg muscles felt, now that they were warmed up.

Living room with a view

Eventually, the trail topped out at a wooded saddle with a view of the summit with its boxy lookout affixed to the top like a fez on an organ grinder's monkey. After a short walk from the saddle, I found myself standing atop the summit and oh my, what a view! Mount Jefferson, dominated in terms of proximity and size; the poor lookout ranger, having to live up here with nothing to see! But there was also the chain of Cascades peaks to gawk at, stretching from Diamond Peak all the way to Mount Hood, or "most of Oregon" as we like to call it.

Wave bye-bye to the nice mountain!
Such a view requires a lengthy and contemplative view-soak and the handful of hikers on the summit happily obliged. But all good things come to an end and eventually it was time to head down the mountain. Now, this hike had been rather short, being only a 3 mile round trip. Certainly, a drive up the road for a second hike on Bachelor Mountain was in order. However, after cooking breakfast, brushing my teeth, and washing the prior day's trail dust off my incredibly handsome face, I was just about out of water. That made my decision simple, it was time to head back to Roseburg and lay this weekend to rest in the coffin, so to speak.

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


  1. It was nice meeting you at the trailhead and you were a good hiking buddy! Great photos of a spectacular day.

    1. Thanks, still waiting for your report (hint hint)

  2. This year has been a great year for the wildflowers and your hike looks like it was filled with flowers. Makes the uphill worth it. We have yet to see Beargrass on a hike, but since we finally found Wild Ginger this year, maybe Beargrass is next. Keep on hiking those Richard hikes!!!

    1. Well, we will just have to schedule a "beargrass hike" in spring next year. It can be a bit tricky as they bloom every 2 or 3 years so you can visit a beargrass patch and not see it flowering