Friday, July 10, 2020

Cowhorn Mountain

At the Windigo Pass Trailhead, we were getting ready to begin hiking, collectively performing our customary and usual pre-hike rituals such as lacing up boots, hoisting backpacks, and calibrating GPS units, all of us eager to begin hiking on a quiet Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Cowhorn Mountain. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, would-be PCT through-hikers have been asked to postpone or cancel their epic trip from Mexico to Canada and try again in some future year when it can be done safely. So, it stood to reason that the PCT, normally busy with through-hikers this time of year, would be somewhat more calm and sedate. However, a hopeful and helpful "trail angel" had stocked the trailhead with water jugs for the through-hiking crowd and there were two such through-hikers availing themselves of the precious life-sustaining liquid when we arrived.

Trail angels show some PCT through-hiker love
We exchanged greetings with Fiesta, who was given that trail name because of a piƱata ornament hanging on her pack. Her friend had just joined her mid-trip and did not have a trail name yet, so I suggested Hey You until such time as she earned a proper trail name. While we were conversing, the mosquito scourge made their horrendous bloodsucking biting presence known to all of us and Fiesta let it slip out that neither one of them had anticipated so many mosquitoes and as a result, had no repellent on hand. "See this?" she said, pointing at her face which was well pimpled and welted with mosquito bites upon mosquito bites "This is Braille for 'Help!' "

One of two Windigo Lakes was visible from the PCT
As it turned out, I had an extra bottle residing within the dark depths of my day pack and I quickly dug it out and handed it to two very grateful human beings. They offered to give it back after applying a layer but I need the Karma points for my free pass into Hiker Heaven so I told them to keep the bottle and pay it forward. This little episode is one of the things I truly appreciate and love about the hiking community. We are all brethren and sistren out on the trail and we take care of each other, no questions asked. I've been on both the receiving and giving end and this would not be the first or last time trail assistance will be given or received by me. At any rate, it was really cool to commence hiking festivities by doing a good deed, every hike should begin that way.

Penny stops to admire the view
Walking in a figurative cloud of feel-good, we set out on the Pacific Crest Trail which immediately angled uphill through a shady forest. I'm sad to say the cloud of feel-good was woefully ineffective in warding off the thick clouds of mosquitoes pervading the forest. The trail was basically following a ridge crest that was the actual Pacific Crest of the Pacific Crest Trail. Because of our vantage atop the crest, breaks in the forest cover served up large west-side vistas of Mount Bailey, Mount Thielsen, and Crater Lake's rim. On the east side, one Windigo Lake was visible while generally flatter forested terrain rolled off into the desert country of central Oregon.

Patti: Looks kind of far
Cleve: Looks kind of tall, too
Penny: It's probably really steep
Me, Edwin, John: Yep
As we continued to gain elevation in the mosquito-infested forest, we could catch occasional glimpses of Sawtooth Peak, Diamond Peak, and Cowhorn Mountain, today's object of desire rising demoralizingly high above our current elevation. It seemed so far away too, we still had a couple of uphill miles yet to go. Best to duck back into the forest so we could avoid seeing the visual bad news in that regard.

Pasque flower beautified the rock gardens
As we gained elevation, the trees began to thin out a bit and we hiked in and out of small rock gardens festooned with scarlet paintbrush, purple penstemon, and showy white pasque flowers. The pasque flowers, a member of the anemone (or windflower) family, morph from eye-catching bloom into small orbs of fuzzy seed heads that resemble so many hairy-headed hippies from the early 1960s. Along the trail and in the open places too, were patches of snow totally at odds with the warm sunshine vibe.

Now the real work begins!
After four'ish miles of steady uphill hiking, it was time to jump off the PCT and do the actual climb to the summit. Oof, all that uphill hiking to get here was more like level grade hiking by comparison. The trail steepened considerably and legs quickly began screaming in the soft volcanic soil on Cowhorn's shoulders. About halfway up, my legs went wobbly (damn diabetes, anyway) so Patti and I sat on a rock bench atop a rusty red saddle and began enjoying the day and view while my friends continued on to the summit.

View from Crescent Lake to the Three Sisters
The views surrounding Cowhorn are astounding and we were suitably astounded. Diamond Peak is Cowhorn's immediate neighbor to the north and the forested basin between the two peaks was dotted with dozens of lakes big and small. The two large lakes were Summit Lake and Crescent Lake. Not as obvious as its lake neighbors, Timpanogas Lake (the source of the Middle Fork Willamette River) was also visible perched atop the headwaters of the Middle Fork Willamette's deep and formidable canyon. Beyond Diamond Peak and somewhat lost in the summer haze, were the Three Sisters and other members of that mountain tribe. And of course, there was massive Cowhorn Mountain rising directly in front, making us feel really small.

Cowhorn Mountain
There was lots to take in and photograph but as I ate, my replenished legs felt like tackling the climb to Cowhorn. Just as I was about to join the summit party as a late arrival, we could see our friends picking their way down like so many careful ants on a wall. Oh well, but I'm sort of kicking myself for stopping short.

PCT oasis
So, it was back to the trees and mosquitoes as we hiked the four downhill miles back to Windigo Pass. When you hike, you tend to breathe hard and I inhaled and swallowed four mosquitoes in what has to be some small retribution for the thousands of instances they've partaken of me. On the way down, Edwin and I took a small side-trip to a small pond that is an important water stop for through-hikers. The water was warm, tepid, and muddy, but when that's the only available water for miles and miles, then that's the water you drink. However, the water jugs at the trailhead have rendered moot the necessity of this small pond.

Comparing who's boots are better
We all decided that it had been indeed a grand hike despite the heat, the mosquitoes, and all the uphill walking. It could have been worse though, for Cowhorn used to have a "cow horn" that made the mountain much taller than its present height. In the early 1900s, a winter storm toppled the rock spire and like freshly neutered dogs the world over, it's just not as horny as it used to be. And I just set my quest for Hiker Heaven back a thousand points with that one.

Fuzzy-headed pasque flower, gone to seed
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Waldo Lake (via Betty Lake)

Waldo Lake is justifiably famed not only for its amazingly clear water, but also for it's size. Statistically, it is Oregon's third largest natural lake and its ponderous bulk has certainly impressed me from different summits of various peaks ringing the sapphire blue lake. But just like Waldo of "Where's Waldo?" fame, Waldo Lake is not alone as the lake is surrounded by a crowd of lesser lakes dotting the forest like so many freckles on an overly sun-exposed backside. Any trail excursion leading away from Waldo Lake's immediate shoreline will undoubtedly run into one of these smaller lakes and today's hike would take me past several of them on my own little quest to find the ever so elusive Waldo.

The clarity of Waldo Lake is an attraction in its own right
After yesterday's Fuji Mountain outing was all wrapped up, I bid adieu to my friends and whereas they went back to Roseburg, I made the much shorter drive to Waldo Lake Road. After parking on a gravel turnout, I walked into the woods with a sleeping bag and tent and began setting up. Almost immediately, I frantically ran screaming out of the woods to grab the bottle of Deet sitting on the front seat. The incessant savagery of the winged Dracula spawn made the Fuji Mountain mosquito swarms seem like a peacenik convention in comparison.

Betty Lake in the early morning
Anyway, after a "restful" night listening to some large creature tromping through the forest next to my tent all night long, I set out on the Betty Lake Trail. Right at the start, the forest sloped away from the trail and I caught a glimpse of Lower Betty Lake hiding behind the trees. There is no trail leading to Lower Betty Lake and it would have been only a short bushwhack away, but I had other places to get to. Forgoing the bushwhack venture, I stayed on the upper side of Lower Betty and after maybe a half mile, a small use trail advertised the nearby presence of Betty Lake herself. Betty Lake was placid and serene, the surface lightly ruffled by barely perceptible air currents. It was here that I found out that if you keep walking, the mosquitoes are barely tolerable but when you stop hiking to say, take some photos of a beautiful lake, then its a fresh new hell for warm-blooded hikers, regardless of whether they have slathered on Deet or not. Yikes, I had forgotten what the Waldo Lake area in July was like!

Howkum Lake, asking "Howkum?" for all eternity
Anyway, Betty Lake was eminently beautiful and I toughed it out, quickly snapping off some photos of the peaceful lake before returning to the Betty Lake Trail. After another mile or so of hiking, Howkum Lake came into view, probably named that because BecuzIsedzo didn't fit on the trail sign. Or maybe some pioneering explorer asked "Howkum ther R so men E dang mozkitoes?" They spoke phonetically back in those days. The trail followed long and slender Howkum Lake and ominously named Horsefly Lake before coming to Tiny Lake, probably called that because it's really small. Or maybe that's what Betty Lake derisively calls him ever since they quit dating, just saying. Given a few more minutes, I could probably come up with some crude story of how Lower Betty Lake got her name but it's probably best if we just leave that one alone and continue hiking instead.

Numerous ponds supplied numerous mosquitoes
Leaving the small but named lakes behind, the trail went gently up and down through a thick forest that was pleasantly shaded. The track passed all sorts of little ponds and wet spots, which would explain in part, the ample mosquitude tormenting hikers in this part of the world. A right turn onto the Jim Weaver Trail (also colloquially referred to as the Waldo Lake Trail) took me onto a path that went downhill to Waldo Lake itself. For the next few miles, the trail followed the south shore of Waldo Lake, alternating between marshy meadows, shady forest, and open lake shore. The open shore was the most preferable biome to hike in, for while the views were stunning and all that stuff, the main attraction was the brisk breeze blowing across the lake and onto the shore, effectively preventing the little bloodsuckers from being able to motate in my direction.

The meadows were full of shooting stars
This area had obviously been covered with snow until just recently, for the meadows were basically shooting stars, grass, and marsh marigolds growing in several inches of mosquito-spawning standing water. Did I mention there were lots of mosquitoes, already? In some places the standing water completely covered the trail, including one thirty yard stretch of water nearly a foot deep. Needless to say, boots got plenty wet on this hike. They also got muddy too, as there were several squishy sections of trail that had been thoroughly churned up by passing mountain bikers.

Beargrass grew along the lake in places
However, despite my grumbling about marshy conditions, the meadows were just sublime with acres of green grass ringed by tall trees under a deep blue sky. Blooming in the meadows were white and yellow-centered marsh marigolds, sonewhat resembling a floral version of fried eggs. They were brightly counterpointed by bright pink shooting stars and I have no culinary metaphor to describe them with. I also got to see my first beargrass blooms of the year, their feathery white plumes waving gently in the steady breeze wafting off the lake.

The South Waldo Shelter, where
mosquitoes prey on backpackers
I stopped at the South Waldo Shelter to rest for a minute and wax nostalgic. On an epic backpack trip around Waldo Lake years ago, we camped here at the shelter. That three-day trip was also done in July and despite the experience, Dollie is still married to me and John and Jennifer are still my friends. Reminiscing can be a pleasant hiking pastime, but not when that activity leaves you vulnerable to the singularly unpleasant experience of being exsanguinated one mosquito bellyful at a time, So, on with the hike!

Waldo Lake on a breezy day
Waldo Lake is a special place. Motors of any sort are absolutely prohibited on the lake, so the water quality is as pure as a mountain lake should be. The trail hugged the shoreline in places, offering amazing views of the lake made perpetually peaceful by the lack of buzzing boat motors. Nearby forested peninsulas and islands were equally scenic, with tranquil waterways separating islands and shore. The lake is ringed by mountains and across the vast blue expanse rose the Three Sisters and other lesser volcanic peaks. Much closer and on the east side were the symmetrical cones of Maiden Peak and The Twins. If this sounds a lot like the scenery description from my Fuji Mountain hike, that stands to reason for Fuji Mountain was right behind me as I gazed north across the large body of water.

Mama Duck escorts her brood to safety
I departed the trail for a bit to explore a meadowed peninsula and was startled when a male duck exploded into panicked quacking flight from virtually at my feet. Just about ten yards later, after my surprised heart  returned to its normal rhythm, the shoreline again exploded into feathery hysteria, only this time it was Mrs. Duck. However, Mrs. Duck only flew about 25 yards away and quacked out a series of sharp and urgent commands. Emerging from their hiding place in the shoreline grass, about eight downy ducklings swam over to her, whereas she escorted them to safety on the other side of the bay, quacking harsh epithets and curses in my direction all the while. After Papa Duck's sorry performance at the threat of danger posed by myself, I bet Mama Duck probably now refers to him as "Tiny" too.

My lunchtime companion
My turnaround point was at a scenic beach located on the southwest corner of the lake, inasmuch a roundish lake can have actual corners. It was time for a leisurely lollygag, taking in the magnificent alpine scenery surrounding Waldo Lake. Waldo's waters are amazingly ultraoligotrophic (that word means really really really really clear), making the bottom of the lake eminently visible, albeit tinted an amazing blue-green color by the crystalline water. A lake-loving bird came by to visit, entertaining me as it splashed and generally frolicked in the cold water lapping at the shore. I don't know my birds so I can't tell you what kind of bird it was but I can definitely state it wasn't a chicken, penguin, or ostrich, which are pretty much the full extent of my knowledge of all things bird.

View in the direction of the Three Sisters
The day had warmed up quite a bit on the return leg, plus there was a bit more uphill in that direction, so I was a sweaty dripping mess of goo when I made it back to the trailhead. It can get pretty humid in the forest on a hot day! Because I had camped pretty much at the trailhead, I had actually started hiking at 6:30 in the morning and as a consequence, my hike was finished just a little bit past noon. Evening would not arrive until another eight hours and the idea of warring with mosquitoes in the interim didn't sound all that appealing, so I cut this little trip short by one day. Bobby Lake and The Twins will have to wait for my next visit here. That's OK though, for on this trip I certainly felt like I had found Waldo.

Mid-day sun, slanting through the forest
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Fuji Mountain

Familiarity breeds contempt so they say. If true, then most of the trails in the Umpqua National Forest had to have become pretty contemptible by now because they had long since become oh so familiar to me and my hiking buddies. In a desperate search for something different, we decided to undertake a very long journey to far off exotic lands and that is the story of how we wound up on top of Fuji Mountain. And no, I'm not talking about iconic Mount Fuji in Japan but Fuji Mountain located instead in the Willamette National Forest near Oakridge. For some people, Oakridge might not qualify as a far off exotic land, but still it's pretty cool to say in a braggadocious way "I hiked to the top of Fuji today".

Drab flower in July, juicy huckleberry in August
The only other time I had hiked to Fuji Mountain was several years back, starting out that day from Waldo Lake Road and that turned out to be a long taxing hike where it was six all-uphill miles through mostly viewless forest from traihead to summit. Today's venture however, would be much kinder and gentler, consisting of the short route beginning from Road 5883, with some extra miles tacked on by taking the side trip to Verde Lake (in the mistaken belief we were at Birthday Lake) after the Fuji conquest.

Snow-covered trail
We'd been having a run of warm weather, so it was nice to begin walking through old snowdrifts laying on the ground in a shaded forest. Thanks to the snow, the air underneath the trees was refreshingly cool, like the air inside the beer cooler at your local convenience store. It was nature's air conditioning at its best! Unfortunately, the cool air went hand in hand with dense clouds of mosquitoes. The miniature vampire swarm was savagely ravenous and it was like an airborne piranha feeding frenzy, where we were the food being fed to the frenzied fish! It was definitely going to be a Deet day and my precious bottle of repellent was kept conveniently close at hand, as it was destined to get plenty of use.

Trail maintenance crew at work
The hike up to Fuji Mountain was not particularly exciting, just a steady uphill walk through woods with little or no undergrowth. The only thrill in this section of trail came from watching John whip out his saw and perform some impromptu trail maintenance. Edwin, Cleve, and Penny all assisted, while I photographed the activity. They will all go to hiker heaven for their good deeds. I'm not so sure I'm going with them because I think you actually have to do work to get into hiker heaven, and photography doesn't count.

Getting close to the Fuji summit now
After about a mile of steady uphill hiking, the trail began to switchback to and fro across a forested ridge that was part of Fuji Mountain proper. As we neared the ridge crest, the trees began to thin out and the trail traversed large patches of old snow as the terrain morphed from forest to full-on rocky. There were a few minor slips here and there in the snow but we all thankfully remained upright.

Godzilla hangs over the western skyline
One last switchback and one last uphill push on a bare and rocky slope delivered us to the top of Fuji, and now it was time to ooh and aah in earnest. Fuji sits on the boundary of the Waldo Lake Wilderness and its 7,144 foot height allowed us to peer down into the wilderness area like the hiking voyeurs we are. The landscape below was stunning but unfortunately, the sky above was a little on the dirty side, quite literally. There had been some buzz in the news about "Godzilla", a gigantic dust cloud from the Sahara Desert that blew across the Atlantic Ocean, triggering air quality alerts across the southern United States. Eventually, the monster cloud swung up north and as all good tourists should, made a visit to our beautiful state. All the way from Africa, there it was in its dirty brown glory, parked on the Oregon skyline surrounding Fuji Mountain. And we thought we had made a long journey on our drive from Roseburg!

Speaking of Saharan dust clouds...
So, the views were well hazed over and a tangible layer of brown stuff took away the normal blue color of the sky in places. In fact, to a man (and woman) we were remarkably uninformed about the Saharan dust cloud invader, we all instead supposed there had to be a wildfire nearby, thinking the dust cloud to be acrid fire smoke. At any rate, it was hard to see into the distance but the nearby views were still impressive.

Fantastic view from the Fuji summit
Waldo Lake is the crown jewel of its namesake wilderness, and the sapphire blue waters of Oregon's third-largest natural lake spread out below us in its forested basin while snowy Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Hand, and Mount Bachelor rose up beyond the lake. Nearby Mount Ray was much smaller than Fuji and did not look so formidable from here, although it was large enough to hide Gold Lake reposing behind it. To the east were the symmetrical cones of Maiden Peak and The Twins, while small lakes dotted the forested terrain surrounding Waldo Lake. To the south rose the formidable snow-covered Diamond Peak massif and despite the haze, we could pick out Mount Thielsen and the peaks of Crater Lake, located further at quite some distance. I pointed out Yoran Peak which allowed me to trot out the old line "That peak's his'n and this peak's Yoran!" It's no accident I usually hike alone. Not all the sights were mountainous though, as the deep (and what I assume to be glacier-carved) Black Creek valley went on to join up with Salmon Creek first, and the Middle Fork Willamette River second, each with its own deep valley to rampage through.

We carefully pick our way down the trail
All of this was way cool and we enjoyed a lengthy view soak, taking in the splendor of it all, especially since by doing so, we were postponing an eventual reunion with the mosquitoes impatiently waiting for us to resume hiking in the forest. But alas, it was eventually deemed time to leave. Now, the hike to Fuji Mountain is only a three-ish mile round-trip hike, so clearly some extracurricular hiking was called for in order to justify the two-plus hour drive to the trailhead.

Jacob's ladder thrived in Fuji's rock gardens
We grabbed the Fuji Mountain Trail in the downhill direction, which obviously leads away from Fuji, heading toward the distant trail terminus at at Waldo Lake Road. We weren't going all that way though, our plan was just to hike no further than Birthday Lake. It was mostly downhill from Fuji and we weren't all that appreciative of the drop through the forest, for we were well aware we'd have to regain all that elevation again upon the return to our vehicles.

Sedge pokes through a layer of snow
As mentioned, the intended destination was Birthday Lake and as we walked, the trail took us past numerous stagnant ponds that answered the age-old philosophical question of where did all the mosquitoes come from. At an intersection with the South Waldo Lake Trail, we had a brief discussion about whether to continue on to Birthday Lake or alternatively, make the rather rigorous uphill pull to Island Lakes. It was at this point that my GPS sort of let me down, although to be honest. we can chalk up my little map reading woes to user error.

One small place of birth for millions of mosquitoes
I had purchased a new map program for the GPS, one with more detail than what I had been previously using. More detail meant it was hard to make out landmarks without unduly zooming in a lot closer. On the GPS screen, our trail was clearly visible, denoted by a square hiker symbol that was neatly pasted over the Birthday Lake area, preventing me from seeing important data like the name of the lake. So, when we reached the first lake, we all assumed it was Birthday Lake when in fact, it was much smaller and less scenic Verde Lake.

Verde Lake made for a second lunch stop
Oh well, the small lake made for another nice lunch and laze, where the only physical exertion came from slapping at persistently annoying mosquito clouds. When we resumed walking, all that nice downhill hiking became a tiring uphill slog through a mosquito-infested forest, made somewhat more taxing as the day had warmed up considerably since our morning start. There weren't enough snow drifts to cool us off at this point but I'm glad we persevered and made it to the finish, all of us happy with the day's work. Plus, each one of us can brag to our non-hiking friends "Hey, I hiked to the top of Fuji!"

Beautiful forest full of mosquitoes
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Grizzly Peak

Let's raise our hiking poles in revererntial homage to the memory of Old Reelfoot, a notoriously crafty grizzly bear that terrorized cattle and stockmen in southern Oregon in the mid-1800s. Because of a paw injured by a bear trap, his unique footprint distinguished him from all the other grizzlies hanging around the Siskiyou Mountains and because he managed to elude hunters for so long, he became somewhat of a local legend. His range was mostly in the Pilot Rock area although he made many a hunting foray down into California, making him a wanted bear in two states. He had a good run but in 1890, time ran out for the elusive bear and he was finally hunted down and killed. Posthumously, he enjoyed a brief career as a stuffed and mounted touring exhibit in various museums, expositions, and fairs in the nation, although maybe "enjoyed" might be the wrong word here.

Every time skyrocket blooms, a retina dies

Anyway, in Old Reelfoot's honor, a smallish mountain near Ashland was given the name Grizzly Peak which coincidentally enough is the subject matter of today's blog missive. Grizzly Peak is a short hike, totally incommensurate with Old Reelfoot's fame as a terror of the Siskiyous but on the other hand, I'd hate to run into a grizzly on the trail, no matter the mileage of the hike involved. Deer are scary enough, never mind the bears.

It's a jungle out there!

Because it's a long drive for a short hike from Roseburg, I don't do this hike very often. In fact, this was only the second time I'd ever been to Grizzly Peak. Medford buddies Glen and Carol exposed me to this spectacular hike several years ago and while I was impressed then, I think I was even more appreciative of the rugged beauty this time out as the vegetation was a lot more lush than on my first visit, and that's the difference between hiking on Grizzly Peak in early summer instead of late spring.

But where are the poison oak and ticks?
The trail wasted no time heading uphill at a moderately brisk rate and the first thing I noticed was the lushness of the forest undergrowth. It was a veritable jungle underneath the tall trees what with all manner of plant specie, from tall delphinium to lowly wild ginger, flourishing in riotous exuberance. Orange columbine nodded next to the trail, their dangling tassels reminding me of a graduate's mortarboard. There were so many flowers, like thimbleberry and larkspur, just to namedrop a couple. All this and I hadn't even reached the meadows yet, where the real flower show would take place. Needless to say, my pace was relaxed and slow as I enjoyed the shady trail and wildflower display.

Alien-looking cow parsnip bud
This trail sees a lot of use because of its proximity to Ashland and Medford, and because of its relatively short length. Accordingly, the trail was wide and well kept, almost like a park path. For someone like myself accustomed to scrambling over fallen trees and wading through poison oak bushes, the civilized nature of the trail was most refreshing. 

The ever present Columbia windflower

The actual summit of Grizzly Peak is rather underwhelming, to say the least, looking like a rocky cairn in a sparse meadow surrounded by tall trees. No view, no epic barehanded scramble to the top, no sir. But then again, this hike is all about the meadows, at least immediately after the summit. The pattern for the next mile or so was to walk through alternating low-growing grassy meadows and lushly shaded forest carpeted with thick patches of candy flower. 

An ornate checkered beetle on a fleabane
In the meadows, much photography ensued, for the meadow were chock full of salsify (among many other flowering species), a yellowish sunflowerish bloom attracting a multitude of bees and butterflies. Not to be outdone were salmon polemenium (a salmon-colored Jacob's ladder), mountain-owl clover, sulphur flower, and patches of skyrocket, the brightest colored flower ever. As the trail looped around the broad and flat summit of Grizzly Peak, views of the surrounding terrain awed as they appeared through breaks in the forest cover in a taste of things to come. Although clouds took away the view of nearby Mount McLaughlin and the distant Three Sisters, I spotted Mount Thielsen, Union Peak, and the collective peaks adorning Crater Lake's rim to the northeast of Grizzly Peak.

The trail went through a series of meadows
In 2002, a wildfire started by a sparking power line raged on the west side of Grizzly Peak and nobody really cared, because Oregon's collective attention at the time was focused on the massive Biscuit Fire. The fire here on Grizzly Peak must have burned fairly hot because during the subsequent decades, a forest has yet to return to the western slopes. However, Grizzly's arboreal loss is our hiking gain, for the views here are simply astounding.

That little pimple is Roxy Ann Peak,
overlooking the city of Medford
The hike's flavor transitioned from parklike stroll through the meadows to rugged goat track on the edge of a rocky ridge. Below the rough trail was a lesser mountain which was basically an extension of a west-side ridge of Grizzly Peak. This "little" high point dominated the near view, its rocky ridge and acres of ghostly white snags commanding our attention and respect. The ridge continued north in a series of subsequent high points, culminating in the cone of Roxy Ann Peak, looking puny from here. As an aside, Roxy Ann Peak does not look so puny when hiking up to its summit.

Quite the view of Bear Creek Valley
Beyond Roxy Ann Peak was the wide Rogue Valley with Upper and Lower Table Rocks eminently visible at the edge of the valley. Immediately to the west was deep Bear Creek Valley with the towns of Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix all safely ensconced within. The Lord of all Mountains to the South, a.k.a. Mount Shasta, rose up like the awesome snow-covered volcano it is, while local landmarks Emigrant Lake and Pilot Rock were dwarfed by the giant cone rising over all. 

A bee gets a pollen bath
This was and is my favorite part of the hike. The topography is rugged, the views astound, and on a late June day, the flowers and insects put on a show in the low meadows thriving in the old burn zone. Balsamroot, golden yarrow, common yarrow, and bright red paintbrush were all in full spring song and the winged set of insects such as bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths all flitted and buzzed from flower to flower. Longhorn flower beetles and other horny beetle species waded in the pollen as they fed and frolicked in and on the numerous blooms, and not necessarily in that order. On bare ground baked hard by the sun, dwarf onions waved pink and purple flower pom-poms at the blue sky overhead.

Dwarf onion thrived in the hard, dry soils

The trail crested at a craggy overlook atop the high point of this trail and was a perfect place to eat lunch, sit, admire the view, and generally just ponder the meaning of life or go to whatever happy place your thoughts may take you to. After a totally enjoyable lunch 'n laze, I gathered up my stuff and continued hiking. The path returned to the familiar pattern of meadow to forest to meadow before closing the loop and bringing this short, but totally epic hike to an end.

A salsify captures a hoverfly's attention
Looking at the map of this hike, I noticed that to the north, Antelope Creek does a flow-by of Grizzly Peak. That would be appropriate because what's in my head (which is not always accurate) is that the 2002 fire was called the Antelope, or maybe the West Antelope Fire. However, my copious Internet research performed for this blog post failed to confirm my suppositions one way or another. Also, I searched for anecdotes about Old Prong Horn, the feared antelope scourge of the early pioneers of the Rogue Valley and yes, I'm making that up. Since antelopes live in the southern Oregon desert on the east side of the Cascades, naturally there would be no lore about fierce antelope living on Grizzly Peak, although they could have given Old Reelfoot a literal run for his money.

Oregon geranium was locally common in the burn zone
Fore more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.