Monday, September 7, 2015

Fuji Mountain

I finally got around to climbing Fuji Mountain. No, not THAT Fuji (the iconic Japanese peak renown the world over). Nowhere near as majestic as Japan's Mount Fuji but still pretty darn cool, Lane County's Fuji Mountain provides a fantastic view of Waldo Lake while doling out a whole bunch of exercise. And by way of explanation, Fuji Mountain was so named to honor Eugene's sister city, Kakegawa.

All the way to the Coast Range
But me, I really could care less about the cultural explanation about how Fuji Mountain got its name. It could have been named Mount Flaming Moose Poo and all I would care about was that there was a mountain and trail that had not yet been graced by my awesome presence. And since the wildfires in our area called for judicious selection of trails, if one wanted to avoid breathing in smoky air, the narrow window of hiking opportunity said I must go hike in the relatively smoke-free central Cascades.

Ready for 6 uphill miles?
Fuji Mountain is a fairly popular destination as the trailhead is only about 1.5 miles away from the summit. What, a three mile round trip? Not in this blog! There is a longer route that begins from the Waldo Lake Road, making for a more reasonable 12 mile hike. And best of all, the six miles from the trailhead to the summit are all uphill!

Fall has come to the Cascades
From the Waldo Lake Road, the trail wasted no time in heading uphill and I'd wind up gaining 2,200 feet or so in the six aforementioned miles. There were no views to speak of as the trail wandered through forest for about 5.99 of the 6.0 miles. This being late summer, the temps were cool, mosquitoes were not present, and the huckleberry leaves were blushing as red as an abashed tomato.

Birthday Lake
At about the three mile mark, it was time for a birthday celebration of sorts at a brief rest stop at Birthday Lake. Birthday Lake is a typical Cascades lake in that it is shallow and ringed by firs. The air was still, totally devoid of of the thick swarms of mosquitoes that devour hikers in early summer, and the lake's surface reflected the surrounding trees nicely. It wasn't my birthday but it still felt like I had just been given a present.

Verde Lake
Just past Birthday Lake was Verde Lake, a short stretch of level trail was much appreciated on the walk by the small body of water. Just past Verde Lake, the trail then angled upward at a more serious grade and intersected with the trail heading to the south end of Waldo Lake. Looking at the map later, I found out there's a nice network of trails in the area with many combinations thereof available for backpack loops. Because I did look at the map later, thoughts of backpacking routes percolating in my brain will keep me warm during the long, cold, and dark winter. From past experience though, I'll not return in mid-July, the height of mosquito season.

Trail, heading uphill
At any rate, after climbing steadily, the trail intersected with the short and popular trail to Fuji Mountain at approximately the 5 mile mark. Even though it still looked like the same old trees, I was now hiking on the slopes of Fuji Mountain proper. At one point, the forest opened up and I could see a formidable tree-covered wall that was part of Fuji Mountain and I really need to quit looking ahead when I hike.

View to Odell Lake and Maiden Peak

After inscribing several long switchbacks in the aforementioned forested wall of pain, the path broke out into an open and rocky slope and just beyond, the path crested at the Fuji Mountain summit. I gaily skipped up the trail, doing a happy dance at the impending end of all the uphill hiking. Freaking false summits do it to me every time! Yup, I still had some more work to do to reach the summit but the false summit did provide some ample views of Maiden Peak, Odell Lake, and Odell Butte. Lots of pictures were taken and the false summit was somewhat forgiven.

Waldo Lake
One last push up another 100 yards of rocky slope yielded the actual summit and I uttered an awestruck "Wow!", to the amusement of a Chilean family who were already on top of Fuji. Waldo Lake is Oregon's second largest natural lake and I could see all of it about 2,000 feet below. Beyond the lake were Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters (only South and Middle Sister were visible, though; North Sister was hiding behind Middle Sister). A massive canyon which I presume was cut by glaciers contained unseen Black Creek and from there it was hills and mountains rolling all the way to the Coast Range. To the south, Diamond Peak was eminently visible with pointy Mount Thielsen peeking from behind Diamond's shoulder.

Trail shot
Such a view required a lengthy view soak and I obliged, chatting with the steady stream of visitors coming up from the nearer trailhead. I and two college students from Corvallis were the only ones opting for the longer route that day. Eventually, after I had eaten all my sardines and crackers it was time to go. There isn't much to report afterwards, except for some reason the six miles back seemed much longer than the six miles of the incoming leg. All in all, a pretty cool hike, even if it wasn't to the summit of THAT Fuji!

Trail to the summit of Fuji Mountain
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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