Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tipsoo Peak

Earlier this year, I was contacted by the Umpqua Watersheds (a local conservation group) about leading a hike for their organization. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into but since they threw in phrases like " your newspaper articles", "...great blog", and " incredibly handsome" I had no choice but to accept their request. Flattery usually gets you nowhere but it can get you a vain hike leader!

On the dusty slog up
In discussing the hike with Alan of the Watersheds, I told him the road was very doable for small cars as I had taken my KIA Rio up there several years ago.  Oops. The road has really deteriorated and was badly overgrown with deep ruts in it. There was a lot of bottom scraping by the Prius contingent of our little motorcade. This might just be the last time I get asked to lead a hike!

Hey Tipsoo, I see you!

It has been said about journeys in general (and applicable to hikes too) that it's oft about the journey and not the destination. Having said that, Tipsoo Peak is only about the destination. The rather mundane Tipsoo Peak Trail climbs up through a viewless forest for several miles before delivering hikers to a jaw-dropping view atop the relatively inconsequential 8,034 volcanic cone. No technical climbing is required to attain the summit and Tipsoo Peak is probably the easiest climb ever to a peak over 8,000 feet.

Pinesap emerges zombie-like, from the earth
So, after apologizing to the Prius drivers, we headed up the Tipsoo Peak Trail. It was a pretty brisk climb through the viewless forest but at least there was plenty of pinseap sprouting from the earth in a sure sign summer is coming to a close. Pinesap also allows gasping hikers with cameras to surreptitiously sneak in a rest stop or two, just saying.

All about the destination

After a zigzagging climb for a couple of miles up the forested slope of Tipsoo Peak, the forest began to thin out a bit along the path, offering teasing views to the tips of Mount Thielsen and Mount Bailey. As one would expect hiking on a volcano, the soil was pumice based and clouds of dust scuffed up by our boots hung limply in the still air. The trees became somewhat stunted, directly attributable to the winter winds and snow that regularly pummel Tipsoo Peak and neighboring peaks over 8,000 feet.

We should all enjoy hikes as much as a dog does

Eventually, the summit proper of Tipsoo came into view as the trail neared our destination. A large snow drift lay right below the rocky summit and there was a nice view to the lesser twin of Tipsoo's two peaks. And after the short scramble to the summit, it was time to sit down and gawk at one of the world's best views, no other response would be appropriate.

Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey
To the south rose up the pointed spire of Mount Thielsen, seemingly intent on poking a hole in the cloudless sky. In front of Thielsen were a jumble of rocks and peaks that in combination, comprised Howlock Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge. It was hard to distinguish the mountain from the high points on the serrated ridge and vise versa. The round mound of Mount Bailey rivaled Mount Thielsen in stature while sapphire-blue Diamond Lake serenely reposed in between. Behind all this and on the horizon, were some of the peaks of Crater Lake rim. Directly below, a tan colored pumice plain dotted with a sparse forest lay between us and Sawtooth Ridge and we could make out the thin ribbon of the Pacific Crest Trail weaving its way across the plain.

Photo ops

On the horizon to the north, were the huge snow-covered peaks of the Three Sisters with massive Diamond Peak in between. Because all my charges were new (except for one other hiker) to Tipsoo Peak, I showed off my incredible wealth of knowledge by naming all the lesser peaks in the area: Cowhorn Mountain, Sawtooth Peak, Tenas Peak, Tolo Mountain, and Maiden Peak (I'd be hiking there the very next day).

Howlock Mountain

As if the mountain scenery was not enough, there were also lakes to contemplate. Besides the aforementioned Diamond Lake, we spotted Lake Lucille and Maidu Lake, both on the North Umpqua River. In fact, greenish Maidu Lake is the source of the North Umpqua. On the east side of the Cascade Mountains was large and prominent Miller Lake while on the west side and equally prominent was many-armed Lemolo Lake. Way cool, and all the oohs and aahs from the Tipsoo newbies in my group was plenty of reward for one erstwhile jaded  hike leader.

Alex takes the fun way down
After a lengthy lollygag and view-soak, Dollie and I headed back down the trail, capping off a fine hike on a fine day with fine friends. I'm glad to report that no Priuses were further harmed on the drive back to the Diamond Lake Highway, apart from some cringe-worthy undercarriage scraping. And thanks to the Umpqua Watersheds for giving me the opportunity to share one of my favorite hikes with them.

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


  1. Oh wow what amazing views! Another hike to add to my list. (And I'm glad no prius -or is it prii?- were harmed)

    1. Linda, Tipsoo Peak is one of my favorites: Big views and medium hike

  2. Looks like a rugged journey, Richard, both by car and by foot! You had quite a lot of hikers to see those magnificent views. I'm visiting from Linda's blog.

    1. Hello Barb, glad to meet you, so to speak, and glad you enjoyed the blog.