Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brown Mountain

It definitely was time for some mental floss.  I've been having a crappy attitude that comes with working and not getting paid due to the government shutdown. Watching little men with big egos endlessly bloviate and palaver on TV, posturing for meaningless sound bites while my salary is held in abeyance is just not healthy. It was time to seek peace and enlightenment on the trail where the only things to be held hostage are my leg muscles.

The Pacific Crest Trail calms angry government workers
Starting out at the Summit Sno-Park at the foot of Mount McLaughlin, I followed the shady Pacific Crest Trail downhill towards busy Highway 140. The trail followed the dry Cascade Canal which looked less like a canal and more like a seasonal creek. I'm not entirely sure but I think the canal was a misguided and heretical attempt to drain water from Fourmile Lake down to Fish Lake.  

A tribe of fungi
Autumn has come to the Cascades as the thimbleberry leaves on the forest floor were turning yellow while white snowberries and red rose apples graced their respective bushes and shrubs.  Mushrooms of various shapes and colors sprouted forth from fallen trees, decaying logs, earth, and pine duff. Not even a mile into the hike, and already I could feel mellowness enter my soul.

River of black rock, no diving allowed
After crossing Highway 140, the PCT crossed the High Lakes Trail, a rather utilitarian hiking trail that connects Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods. Shortly after, the trees suddenly ended and spit me out into acres of black basalt.  The rocks had been delivered courtesy of Brown Mountain which was unseen somewhere above me while rivers of rock tractored downhill through the forest.

The Pacific Crest Trail

A lot of work had gone into constructing the PCT in this stretch as the trail had been dynamited into existence through the black lava flows; the trail bed afterwards was filled with red volcanic cinder. The trail tread was brightly visible in the black geology and all one has to do is follow the Red Brick Road, so to speak.

A pictorial metaphor of my mood
Naturally, vegetation is somewhat challenged to gain a foothold in the lava fields but chinquapin didn't seem to have a problem as large tracts of the bushes flanked the trail. Chinquapin is fairly nondescript as plants go but their spiny seed pods are quite distinctive and the trail was littered with the "porcupine eggs".

This is why we hike
Climbing steadily on the flanks of Brown Mountain, the trail soon offered sublimely expansive views of Mount McLaughlin, its cone lightly frosted as a freshly made doughnut. Periodically, Fish Lake (or part of it, anyway) could be seen in a forested bowl below the majestic volcano. Much photography ensued as I gained elevation.  

Thimbleberry, going all autumn on us
At the three mile mark, the trail reached a crest with the last view of McLaughlin before dipping into viewless forest.  It was the logical turnaround point and I enjoyed a lengthy lunch in the cool sun while soaking in the panoramic vista figuratively laying at my feet.  On the way back down to the car, the PCT kept me pointed at Mount McLaughlin and I never tired of the view.  Mental floss, in the first degree.

A glimpse of the future


  1. Incredible trail construction - nice color contrast. Glad the floss was a comfort

  2. What, no summit? I am very disappointed in you. ;)