Friday, June 14, 2013

Hager Mountain

So, after our Winter Ridge hike, we spent the afternoon huddled around a campfire while snow swirled around. The good news was that by the time evening rolled in, the snow-dropping clouds had broken up and we had no more issues with rain and/or snow. However, the cold stuck around and it was cold, cold, cold. I hadn't been checking the thermometer in the car but each morning we had ice encrusted on our tents; on this morning it was considerably colder and I decided to stay huddled at the bottom of my sleeping bag like a lump of coal in the toe of a Christmas stocking, and believe me, I would know about that.

Hager Mountain false summit
Fortunately, the weather gods showed us some mercy and the sun quickly warmed things up as we drove over to the Hager Mountain Trailhead. The trail headed up a gentle slope of pine trees with sunflower-like balsamroot blooming away in the shade. At the first switchback, we said goodbye to the gentle slope as the trail headed steeply up the slopes of Hager Mountain.

Up, up, up...
"Up" was the operative word as the vegetation transitioned from the relatively green balsamroot and grasses to the more familiar blue-gray of sagebrush. The flowers were putting on a show alongside the trail with the usual suspects: scarlet Indian Paintbrush, yellow balsamroot, blue flax, just to namedrop a few.

Mount Shasta, beyond Thompson Reservoir

The trees transitioned from tall pines to mountain mahogany, all stunted and misshapen like a novice hiker after a Richard Hike. As the trail inscribed long switchbacks to and fro, the views opened up.  Mount Shasta's snow cone rose up on the southwestern horizon above the blue and islanded waters of Thompson Reservoir. To the north, were the handful of buildings that is the small town of Silver Lake. A small horseshoe shaped rock formation beyond the town was famed Fort Rock. We could also see Crater Lake, Mount Thielsen, Tipsoo Peak, Diamond Peak, and the Three Sisters, all cherished and familiar hiking haunts for us. The entire geology was laid at our feet and one could see the path of the massive lava flows that eventually formed the Oregon we know and love today.

The Three Sisters

The views only improved the higher we climbed, and eventually the trail spit us out to a picnic table situated just underneath the lookout affixed on the summit. We paid a social visit to the resident lookout, a delightful woman by the name of Kathi, she'd been a lookout for several decades and she regaled us with tales of lightning strikes and bitter cold nights. In particular, while we were sitting around the campfire the night before, the same storm left about 6 inches of snow on the lookout while she actually slept in all her clothes, blankets, and even dish towels in a vain attempt to stay warm.

View on the way down
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to our new-found friend and head back down the trail. On the way down, we got to enjoy the flowers and views all over again; perhaps even more so as we didn't have to labor up the mountain. And the good news was that it was warm that night, it was a confirmed and balmy 27 degrees the following morning.
Hager Mountain panorama

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

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