Sunday, March 20, 2022

Viewpoint Mike

You may find this hard to believe, but I don't particularly like hiking uphill. Ironic, given that I spend so much time doing that very thing, but it sure seems like all good hikes inevitably wind up going uphill at some point. It's a necessary evil, when it comes to hiking. Forbearance is the key to making peace with uphill hiking though, and I've since learned long ago to simply accept the things I cannot change. However, a recent bout with Covid left me a little short of breath and now the struggle is real, the complaining justified and not all that funny. But the trail still calls to me and I chose Viewpoint Mike because while uphill, the short 5-mile hike (my first since getting Covid) would provide some good feedback as to what kind of post-virus hiking shape I'm in.

Brrr...let's go hiking already!

At the start, the temperature was a chilly 34 degrees and the cold air slapped at my face like the flipper of an annoyed seal. There's really only one thing to do in that case and that is to start attacking 1,000 feet of elevation gain between me and the 2.5 miles to the summit. If you don't get warm doing that, then check for the pulse you do not have, you zombie.

Tall trees make me feel small and insignificant

As the trail wound its way ever upward, the whole vibe was definitely Siskiyou foothill. Leafless oaks dotted low growing grassy meadows with occasional rock formations scattered throughout. Interspersed intermittently throughout the hike were shadier woods consisting of a mix of madrone, Ponderosa pine, cedar, fir, and the ever ubiquitous oak. And it almost goes without saying, poison oak grew everywhere underneath the trees, which is why I mostly stayed on trail.

A lone Oregon sunshine brightens up a bed of moss

Spring has just arrived and the early spring wildflowers were beginning to bloom. Yellow seemed to be the color du jour and desert parsley, Oregon sunshine, and buttercup were only too proud to hoist the yellow standard in the low grasses. Not to be outdone by their butter-colored brethren, lavender snow queen bloomed on the forest floor while purple grass widow, arguably the most elegant wildflower ever, gentrified the grassy slopes.

Rail and trail

The route switchbacked back and forth up a wooded ridge where at the edge and summit thereof, sits the actual viewpoint of Viewpoint Mike. On the way up to the overlook, much of the path was flanked on the downhill side by wooden rails and I can only speculate that the rails-for-trails are there to prevent bikers and hikers from shortcutting down the hillside. And I can only rail (pun intended) at the idiocy of going for a hike (or bike ride) while being unwilling to actually hike (or bike) on the trail.

The trail was relatively benign in the middle section

The first third of the route ended at a gravel roadway, where signs direct hikers down the road for a bit before the track resumes on the opposite side. This middle portion of the hike is a relatively level wander through sparse oaks and low growing grassy pastures. Water and mud was a thing though, as the hillside was leaking water through a number of seasonal seeps. My boots and pants legs became wet and muddy and they better have liked it.

Not that bad, unless you've just had Covid

After the brief level respite, the trail began heading uphill in earnest. While I have hiked on much steeper trails, my post-Covid legs and lungs really felt this section of trail. Nonetheless, perseverance won out and legs and lungs kept doing their job, despite the obligatory complaining. 

Viewpoint Mike rocks!

Just like my head, the lush growth thinned out near the top. Here, the trail wandered through an old flow of lava sludge where the only things growing on the black rock were lichen, moss, and the occasional desert parsley plant blooming in the cracks. The thinning woods allowed for ever increasing trailside vistas down the Rogue River valley, tantalizing your merry blogster when just like that, the actual viewpoint was arrived at.

Lost Creek Lake from Mike's summit

And what a view it was! Lost Creek Lake sprawled across the mountainous landscape, the dark blue-green waters contrasting with the dark forested hills and the gray sky above. To the west lay a prominent valley carved out by the Rogue River, and little pieces of the river could be seen here and there. Not quite as scenic but visually interesting nonetheless, were the complex of holding pools and ponds belonging to the Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery, sited just below the dam holding Lost Creek Lake at bay.

The weather made a decided turn for the colder

As I tarried at the overlook, the day definitely became grayer and more overcast and as a result, the temperature dropped noticeably. When I had begun the hike, it was 34 degrees at the trailhead and up here on the viewpoint, it was now 31 degrees. That was my cue to head downhill back to the car.

Grass widow grieves her dearly departed

I must say that the Covid did not affect my downhill legs at all, and I made quick work of the return leg like a veritable King of the Downhillers. If only every hike could go all downhill but then again, it wouldn't really be hiking now, would it?

Natural telescope

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment