Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mule Mountain

Consider the enchilada from the enchilada's perspective. Roasting in a hot oven, the stuffed tortilla cooks and swelters in the oven pan until the cheese inside melts. I only offer this brief discussion about Mexican cuisine because on a recent hike on the Mule Mountain Trail, I felt exactly like an enchilada with the cheese running out of it.

Shade is NOT overrated
At the start of the hike, the trail ambled underneath shady oaks and later through a mixed conifer forest. While the trail headed unrelentingly uphill, the grade wasn't too bad and the shade kept things quite pleasant. Mule Mountain is a great wildflower hike in spring and there were so many things to take pictures of. The thick and tangled undergrowth was vibrantly green and jungly. Unfortunately, the jungle underneath the trees was mostly comprised of lush stands of poison oak, I did not lie down on the ground to take pictures of low-growing flowers as is my usual custom.

A litter of cat's ears

So at this point, my cheddar was still sharp, so to speak. That would begin to change when the trail attained a ridge crest near the junction with the Mule Creek Trail. The trees thinned out and the vegetation morphed from dense jungle to open stands of oak, manzanita, poison oak, and thorny ceanothus bushes. Along the trail were all the cat's ears you could ever want to take pictures of. These small lilies are fuzzy on the inside, allegedly just like a cat's ear. I can't say that for a fact because my cat does not let me peer down into his ears and he has sharp claws.

Glen dutifully clears the trail
The Mule Mountain Trail basically contours the slopes of its namesake mountain and then leaves the mountain behind altogether, making a mad charge upward to Baldy Peak. The trees simply don't grow here and if you like baking in the hot sun, then you will love the Mule Mountain Trail. Based on past experience, Glen is a tick magnet so we sent him ahead to clear the trail. We need not have taken that precaution because the tick multitudes normally prevalent on this trail were a non-factor.

Some of that 2,581 feet of elevation gain
So it's been a hot and treeless hike so far but on the plus side, the trail gradient now ratcheted up about 30 degrees. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. It was about here where my cheese began to melt and ooze out both sides of the rolled tortilla, figuratively speaking. Like my metaphoric enchilada, I was thoroughly cooked, slather on some hot sauce and call me a chimichanga. The hike became a slow laborious trudge even though we could see up ahead the one lone tree that marked the turnaround point below Baldy Peak. The tree was so close, yet so far.

View from the top
The slopes on Baldy Peak are steep and drop precipitously away from the trail, providing nice views to the valleys below and the mountains above. Of course, the views were only appreciated once we plopped down in the shade under that one lone tree below the Baldy Peak summit. An impressive 2,581 feet below, our car was waiting for us somewhere in the Applegate River valley. Next-door mountain neighbor Little Grayback Mountain raised its forested head over nearby Mule Creek Canyon. Further in the distance stretched a chain of Siskiyou Mountain mountains all the way from Grayback Mountain to Dutchman Peak. The Red Buttes were snowless and glinted a dull orange in the slight haze. The vista was enjoyed as we ate sandwiches while waiting for blood and sensation to return to our legs.

Lupines add colorize the Mule Mountain Trail
Once our cheese was reconstituted by the lunchtime rest, it was a quad-burning, leg-braking, toe-jamming descent on the way down, the exertion being nearly as tough as the climb up. However, silver leaved lupines were putting on a purple flowered show and camera stops provided occasional rest breaks. Once we hit the bottom of the trail, we all agreed it had been a great, albeit difficult, hike. Glen did remark "Now we know why Dollie doesn't hike with you anymore" I laughed, even though it was true.

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

Carol and Glen lead the way (no camera!)

1 comment :

  1. Yes it was one tough Richard Hike, but oh the views and oh the wildflowers. Some things are worth the effort. By the way, I did pick up one tick in my "clearing" duties, but am happy to report that the tick is dead and I am still alive.