Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hiyu Ridge

So, what's up with these mountains named Grasshopper? Several weeks ago, thunder deterred me from hiking to the top of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness's Grasshopper Mountain. This last weekend, just about everything else kept me from reaching a different Grasshopper Mountain in the South Fork McKenzie River watershed. Different Grasshopper, same result. Nemesis, I have seen you and thy name is Grasshopper.

Steer's head
The basic plan was to hike along Hiyu Ridge to Grasshopper Mountain and then continue on to shorter Grasshopper Point. Because we've had so little snowfall this winter, most of the snow pack has melted so the 5,600 feet of Grasshopper elevation seemed doable. However, the Great Hopper in the Sky had other plans for me beginning with the drive up Forest Road 1927. There were plenty of rocks on the road to challenge my poor little KIA and more than once, I had to stop the car and roll rocks and small boulders off the road, . Of course, mere pebbles challenge my pitiful toy car but that's besides the point.

See the trail?  Me, neither!
After lacing my boots up at the trailhead, I set off in a wooded forest as the trail wasted no time heading uphill. The rhododendron understory was lush and bushes grew over the faint Grasshopper Mountain Trail.  The trail has not seen the love lately as it was overgrown, hard to see at times, and the trail tread was tediously uneven and rocky. Fallen trees required me to shed my pack and crawl under them at several spots. Normally I hike about a mile every 25 minutes or so but under these conditions, progress was marked at a painstaking mile per hour.

Columbia windflower
Having duly made my obligatory whine, let it be said the forest was beautiful. Lush green growth sprouted in this Pacific Northwest jungle with prolific trillium flowering everywhere. Coming in second place were oxymoronically colored yellow violets blooming in dense clumps in the trailside moss and shade. Other flowering contenders were calypso orchid, Columbia windflower, and wild ginger. As the trail gained elevation, the small lavender flowers of snow queen made an appearance, indicating the snows had just, and only just, recently melted.

Hard won view to the Sisters
Eventually, the trail reached the crest of Hiyu Ridge and gooseberry vines, replete with thorns, crossed the trail and made sure to rake shins on the pass-by. At a rocky saddle atop the ridge, great views were had to two out of the Three Sisters. Well, to be technically accurate, two thirds of two Sisters were visible as the tops were well hidden in the cloud cover over the McKenzie River valley. Doing the math as only a math major can, that meant 4/9 of the Three Sisters were visible. Trying to make up for the missing 5/9 of the Sisters was Broken Top, which was 9/9 visible unless you allow for the missing top, taking it back to 4/9 like its neighboring Sisters.

One tough fungus

After leaving the rock gardens of the saddle, the real fun started. Across a deep valley, the mountains on the other side were covered with snow and those mountains were lower in elevation than Hiyu Ridge. They were facing east while my trail was on the snow-free west-facing side of the divide. So, when the trail hit the saddle and crossed over to the east facing side of the ridge, snow became an issue despite a rapid drop in elevation.

Hard to hike, here
Everything came to a head here: more storm debris, more fallen trees, more brush to whack through, and snow drifts to wade over. None of these things were insurmountable in and of themselves, but together they made the hiking tedious and the progress slow. The end came when I plunged through a snow drift and could feel my leg snaking its way through a keyhole in the maze of logs underneath. Trail conditions had moved from tedious to dangerous and that was my cue to turn around.

Interesting beetle
Just so I wouldn't feel too smug on the way down, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and it started to rain. Of course, upon arrival at the trailhead and car, the sun came out and I could hear a rumble of thunder, or more likely it was the Great Grasshopper laughing at me.

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

Red currant


  1. Ah, sounds like you had one of those great adventures that you can tell your grandchildren about over and over and over. Remember the words of your fellow employees, hiking is dangerous!!

    1. I've made it a point over the years not to listen to my co-workers!