Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rattlesnake Mountain

On my last hike, to Whitehorse Meadows a couple of days ago, I gazed upon Rattlesnake Mountain and then turned around as the mountain was a mile or two ahead and about 1,500 feet above me. Forgoing an eighteen miler and being quite content with my eleven miles, Rattlesnake Mountain was filed away as a future destination. When on vacation, the future is now, so Rattlesnake was visited a couple of days later.

When on vacation, sleeping in is a luxury to be enjoyed so a late start brought me to the trailhead just a few minutes short of high noon. Unbelievably, the temperature in late August at mid-day was a chilly 50 degrees. I tell you, winter is coming!

Rattlesnake Mountain was majestically reposed under a blue sky above one of the many meadows that make the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness one of my favorite haunts. The meadows had overgrown the faint path but a series of rock cairns kept me on track as I crossed diminutive Fish Creek before entering a forest.

Leaf with a designer fungus
Heading downhill for a bit above the creek hidden below me, the trail suddenly turned back the way it came and now headed uphill in earnest. The burning in my legs was assuaged as the forest thinned out and I was able to take lots of pictures of the many small meadows and numerous late-summer floral delights as only a camera-toting flower geek can.

Ugh, it's steep!
At forested Windy Pass, the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail headed uphill, making what I previously thought was uphill seem as flat as a pug's face. Complaints about the grade aside, the scenery was pretty cool as the terrain became more open and grassy interspersed with jagged lava formations. Fish Mountain, Rattlesnake's immediate neighbor began to take shape as the trail climbed above the trees on the mountain's lower reaches.

Rocky things

Back and forth the trail went, always relentlessly uphill.  Every time I looked up, the top of the mountain remained hidden from sight somewhere way up there. On the southeast side of the mountain, the forest had been burned by the mountain's namesake Rattlesnake Fire of last year. Grasshoppers flitted about, the clicking of their wings sounding like airborne rattlesnakes, perhaps that is how Rattlesnake Mountain got its name.

This is why we hike

All "good" things come to an end and eventually the trail petered out in a grassy slope; a short walk uphill brought me to the wide ridge that is Rattlesnake's summit. Striding past concrete piers and other remnants of the lookout that once graced the summit, I walked to the western edge and enjoyed an expansive view of the Rogue-Umpqua Wilderness.

Fleeing rattlesnakes

Nearly 3,000 feet below me, Castle Creek had carved out a significant canyon as it wended its way into the South Umpqua River. Across the canyon rose the formidable Rocky Ridge which is my favorite hike in the whole Umpqua National Forest. On my side of the canyon, the turreted fortress of Castle Rock kept watch over Castle Creek. The peaks of the wilderness stretched south in a rocky chain and  I said hello to some old friends such as Hershberger Mountain, Standoff Point, Jackass Mountain (which, contrary to public opinion, is not named after me), and Highrock Mountain.

Nothing but gray skies in my future
Gone were the blue skies as a weather system had blown in while I was sniveling on the climb up. A chilly wind was blowing briskly and I estimate the temperature had dropped down into the mid to low 40's.  Yup, winter is coming, and it nearly felt like today would be the day.

Castle Rock with Rocky Ridge in back

After descending in blustery weather, at Windy Gap I grabbed the tie-in trail from the gap to the Rogue Umpqua Divide Trail for a little variety, closing the loop on this short but strenuous 6 mile hike. While I enjoyed the hike, there was a underlying bittersweet flavor to the trek as one of these weekends will be my last sojourn into the mountains until next year due to the winter snows that are coming.

For more pictures, please visit the photographs in Flickr.

1 comment :

  1. Just the name "Rattlesnake" would be enough to keep me away from this one..lol Glad you hiked it though, so I can see what it's like.Fay