Sunday, April 6, 2014

Little Grayback Mountain Trail

Sometimes, two words just go together just right, like "mountain" and "trail". So, Little Grayback Mountain Trail gets my attention after reading just half the name. However, the name Little Grayback actually refers to the lice that drove early gold rushers batty, which goes to show you need to read the fine print when looking at a trail name.

A perfect day for hiking

After meeting up with Medford hiking buddies Glen, Carol, and Katie the banana-eating dog in the itty bitty town of Ruch, we set our 10 feet on the Little Grayback Mountain Trail. The contrast between this hike and the North Umpqua Trail from the day before was illustrative of the difference between hiking in the Cascades and hiking in the Siskiyous. Where I had to contend with water in all its liquid states on the North Umpqua, there was nary a drop to be found on the steep slopes of Little Grayback Mountain.

Shady forest

The trail alternated between shady forest and sunny slopes covered with stunted or dead growth. In the shady parts, snow queen, shooting star, avalanche lily, and Oregon grape were all blooming away.  The shade was cool but just as we started to shiver with exposure, the trail would spit us out onto dry and warm slopes. And just as we started to get overheated, the trail would take us into the shade again.  It sort of reminded me of a long car trip with Mrs. O'Neill and I cranking up the heater or turning on the air conditioning every 5 minutes or so, only with considerably less discord.

View to the Red Buttes 
The Little Grayback Mountain Trail is a close relative of nearby Mule Mountain Trail and the Stein Butte Trail, except the Little Grayback Trail angles uphill at a steady but never overwhelming grade. No blood gets shed, unlike the other two trails, and the scenery is remarkably similar what with open slopes with great views all day long of the snowy Red Buttes and other Siskiyou Mountain friends.

Lunchtime panorama

We ate lunch at a meadowed slope dropping steeply away from us into the Squaw Creek Basin. At the bottom of the valley lay the larger Squaw Lake, nestled in a forested bowl among the surrounding mountains. Snowy peaks surrounded us and the warm sun made us feel all fuzzy and mellow. Katie was happy too, although her happiness had more to do with shared sandwiches and bananas than with the awesome vista.

My trail name is Runs From Ticks
So there we were, totally relaxing when Glen found a tick on his pants leg. After rolling up the seam on the zipper (not that zipper!) halfway up his pants leg, several dozen ticks dropped out of where they had been surreptitiously hiding. Glenn apparently had not paid enough attention in Man School, erroneously hearing "tick magnet" instead of "chick magnet". Carol found a couple too but I had nary a one on me, thankfully. On the hike out, Glenn continued to harvest the eight-legged disgusting little buggers no matter if he hiked first, last, or any point in between. Apparently ticks find him to be quite the tasty Glennchilada and please pass the hot sauce.

Oregon, the Tick State!
Well, back to us relaxing at lunch: After Glenn found tick after tick after tick after tick, I could just feel little tick feet crawling all over me. Eeeh! After we performed a tick check, removing clothing and searching bodies as much as decorum allowed, we vacated the meadow and headed back, relaxation time over. Walking  in shady forest and on open slopes with awesome views just hammered the point home that we live in one of the most beautiful places on our planet. Aw, who am I kidding, I can still feel imaginary ticks crawling on me!

Intruder alert!  California red bell, in Oregon
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Just as an update, Glenn did have one more tick that Carol had to remove with tweezers once we got home. Not to be out done, Katie ended up with at least 5 ticks on her - 3 of which stayed on almost a week before discovered! Yuck!! Love the hike, hate the ticks.

    1. In all my years of hiking, I have never seen it where the ticks favored just one hiker out of a group to the extent they did with you, Glenn. I walked in front and in back of you at various times and did not see a single tick all day. Yes, I am bragging!