Friday, July 22, 2016

Lowder Mountain

So Richard, where did you go hiking?

I said "Lowder! And why are you yelling at me?" Yeah, yeah, I know...weak pun but that's my tortured segue into a discussion about hiking on Lowder Mountain and I'm sticking to it.

Prince's pine
The night before, I had enjoyed some good music at Sam Bond's Garage, which is rapidly becoming a second home away from home now that I'm retired. So while the concert was pretty cool (even though it was Lowd), it made for a very late night by the time I drove back to Roseburg. And since late nights are not conducive to early morning risings, especially in my retirement years, it stood to reason that any hiking done the day after would have to be late in starting, and moderate in length and ambition. Ergo, I began my hike on Lowder Mountain at the shameful hour of 2:00PM, and why are you yelling at me?

Beautifully shaded trail
After just 5 yards of hiking, it was apparent that the main attraction (for the time being) would be the lush forest. Green vegetation and dark shade was the theme and the forest floor was carpeted with green leaves and delicate accents of foamflower sprays. Fragrant heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger hid the ugly brown flowers underneath, but I knew how to find them. Large clumps of pink woodland phlox and prince's pine were abloom on the forest floor and a profound hush permeated through the trees. Yes, I said hush, there was nary a mosquito whine to be heard and I almost missed the little buggers.

Vine maple provides green-colored ambiance
The trail climbed up through the forest in a series of switchbacks but the grade was fairly gentle. The map said I was walking above Quaking Aspen Swamp which I looked forward to exploring. However, the thick forest prevented access and vision thereof, no swamp or quaking aspen for me. But a dense canopy of vine-maple leaves colored the air green and kept the temperature mild; life was good on the trail despite the lack of quaking, aspens, or swamps. Periodically, the trail would enter open meadows clinging to the slopes of Lowder Mountain, where columbine, tiger lily, and coneflower bloomed the day away under a cobalt blue sky. 

Meadow on Lowder Mountain's slopes

As the trail gained elevation, the trend was toward less forest and more meadows. And with the meadows came views of the deep valleys of the South Fork McKenzie River, one of which contained Cougar Reservoir hiding below. One of the mountains on the other side of Cougar Reservoir is called Deathball Mountain and I would love to know the story behind that name! With a moniker like that, I should climb it and just make up the story of how it got its name. It would save me some tedious factual research!

Zen moment

In a grassy meadow, a worn down trail sign marked the intersection with the trail leading to Yankee Mountain and then down to Cougar Reservoir in a knee-taxing descent. I looked on the map and the trail either loses or gains elevation, depending which way you are hiking it. Either way, the elevation change is 3,300 feet in 1.9 miles: whew! With stats like that, that particular trail just got on my list for future hikes!

Just follow the cairns

Anyway, after the intersection, the Lowder Mountain Trail started to climb in earnest, leaving the meadows behind and entering anew a dark and shady forest. Again, switchbacks kept the grade manageable for the most part. Suddenly, the trail spit me out onto an unexpected pumice barren and my eyes squinted myopically in the bright sunlight. The trail became somewhat faint but there were a series of rock cairns to keep me on track.

The Three Sisters

Horsepasture Mountain across the East Fork
South Fork McKenzie River canyon

Karl and Ruth Lakes
Lowder Mountain doesn't seem like much of a mountain when you are hiking on it as the summit is as large and flat as an Arizona mesa. The trail really became hard to follow in the vegetation as it went around a rather large and sparse meadow ringed by trees. The meadow (and Lowder Mountain, too) abruptly ended at a very tall cliff and the view from that rocky perch is why we hike. The snowcapped peaks of Middle Sister and North Sister hugged each other in permanent sisterhood while South Sister stood by her aloof self . Beyond green and forested Horsepasture Mountain rose Mount Jefferson and a cloud bank on the distant Columbia River hid Mount Hood from view. In between were lesser peaks such as Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, Belknap Crater and Broken Top. To the south, the tip of Diamond Peak was visible. And directly below, Karl and Ruth Lakes lay in a forested basin. A view for the ages, once again!

Thimbleberry was everywhere
As I left, another hiker emerged from a nearby viewpoint and I greeted him with a "I thought I had the mountain to myself!" He smiled and replied "Well, I was here first". He was Brian, from Eugene, and we happily talked trails on the way back from the mountain, making the miles go by quickly. When we reached the trailhead I asked him "What was the name of this mountain, again?"

Golden yarrow

"Lowder", he helpfully replied.

"What was the name of this mountain, again?"

He seemed to be such a nice guy too, but he did leave in a hurry for some reason. He didn't even say good-bye but that's OK, his actions spoke Lowder than words. 

Cow parsnip catches some afternoon light
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Retired?????? Wish I could have retired at 45!!!!!! Now you should be able to get 1000 miles hiked in a year with all that FREE time.......

    1. What free time? I figured I'd be hiking like 6 out of 7 days but going to Sam Bond's and the Axe and Fiddle take away from hiking time, plus I did get a part time job. And I too, wish I could have retired at 45.

  2. Great views of the Three Sisters!

    1. The Three Sisters Wilderness is awesome. One year, Dollie and I backpacked from Willamette Pass to McKenzie Pass which was a 6 day 80 mile trip. Afterwards, I was given two edicts: not more than 50 miles and not more than 5 days. Darn rules and regulations!

  3. My name is Dennis Lowder. My home is in Southern Utah, Parowan, an Indian name meaning "evil water", because of the Little Salt Lake, located at the northwest end of Parowan Valley. The Lowder's came to Utah and Southern Utah as part of the Mormon pioneers, so there are many Lowder families that reside in the state. I am curious about how Lowder Mountain in Oregon was named. I have not been able to find out that information. If there is anyone that can shed light on my inquiry I would be very appreciative. Thank you.