Friday, June 10, 2016

Boccard Point

Did I really say I hated hiking? Me? In my last blog entry? Really? No way! Such a thing is simply not possible, I love hiking, it's the best! Now admittedly, on my last hike on Grasshopper Mountain, I did let several thousand fallen trees sour my attitude just a smidge. But hikes like the one to Boccard Point are so sublime, so beautiful, so enjoyable that faith in my little hobby cannot help but be restored, even following such an epically so un-fun hike.

Chickweed blooms amok next to the PCT
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was created in 2000 and sort of languished in benign neglect for the next decade or so. However, in 2009 the Soda Mountain Wilderness (within the monument) was established and the monument has seen the love since, with obvious signs thereof readily apparent to regular visitors to the Soda Mountain area. All the jeep roads have either been closed or converted to hiking trails, new signs keep hikers apprised of location, and the Soda Mountain Trailhead now sports a gravel parking lot (it used to be you just parked on the side of the road) with a brand new outhouse. The Pacific Crest Trail has been rerouted around some meadows which are now designated and protected as habitat for the endangered Mardon skipper. And, as it turned out, the monument was just the perfect place to rinse out that nasty fallen tree taste left over from my last hike.

Onion spices up the hike

Heading west on the Pacific Crest Trail up a rocky slope underneath some power lines, it was immediately evident that spring was in full song. Although bare and rocky, the slope was carpeted with fuzzy pink balls of onion flowers. Bright red Indian paintbrush, pastel yellow cinquefoil, and deep blue larkspur added to the floral rainbow on either side of the trail. In some of that Monument love I had talked about, the PCT had been neatly stair-stepped with rocks in a few places.

Star-flowered Solomon's seal
After crossing the rocky slope, the trail then in short order passed through a lush conifer forest that had a veritable jungle growing underneath, followed by an open stony area with no trees. And that perfectly sums up the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument hiking experience in that one hikes in a patchwork quilt of vegetational biomes from dense conifer forest to rocky barrens, and from lush hellebore meadows to drier oak woods. At any rate, the forest was carpeted with Jacob's ladder, false Solomon's seal, and star-flowered Solomon's seal. After the intersection with the Soda Mountain Trail, it would be all new trail for me from here on in. And best of all, I only had to step over only about two trees the entire day, what a difference from my last hike!

Dubious water stop on the PCT
The weather was overcast, cool, and windy, but the cloud cover was fairly high. The trail entered a series of large meadows of ankle high hellebore and the resultant openings in the forest provided impressive views of Mount Ashland, Bear Creek Valley, and Grizzly Peak. A side trail led to a stagnant livestock pond that is the only water source within many a mile for PCT thru-hikers, obviously the pond gets a lot of use despite the relative poor water quality.

Shadow on a shady trail
I had been walking on the north side of the crest and at a forested saddle, the route crossed over to the south side where the clime was a little bit drier, judging by the rather sudden transition from conifer to oak forest. At the saddle, Boccard Point first came into view although the trail continued away from the point for several miles before doubling back on an old road bed. Over the next few miles, the clouds dissipated as the trail descended to a mildly confusing intersection of dirt roads southwest of  Little Pilot Peak. Fortunately, there were trail signs to keep me on track.

The trail to Boccard Point
The trail from the PCT to Boccard Point followed an old road bed abandoned long ago. Nowadays, the old road is a narrow path angling gently uphill through tall grass and around boulders that have rolled down from the former road cut. By now, the sky was a glorious blue color, the trail was flanked by dark green trees, and I had a clear view of Boccard Point still demoralizingly high above. Crap, two out of three isn't bad but really, the grade was fairly gentle as it angled across the slope of Boccard Point.

You can see California from here!
After a short walk atop a thickly forested bench on a trail that was hard to follow in the undergrowth, I ate lunch on a rocky mound that I assumed to be the point of Boccard Point. However, I could see another similar mound nearby with one big rocky thing further along the cliff I was perched on. A post-hike check of the map showed that the true Boccard Point summit had actually been hiding in the forest behind me.

View towards Pilot Rock
But quibbling aside over which point was the true point, what a view! The entire Shasta Valley in California was laid out below with Iron Gate Reservoir sparking blue in the brown terrain like a sapphire jewel in a puddle of gravy. Whew, that metaphor makes no sense but let's move on. Pilot Rock was silhouetted nearby with Mount Ashland just beyond. Despite the haze and clouds hiding Mount Shasta from sight, the view was still pretty stupendous. Plus, we Oregonians really enjoy looking down our noses at California. Such a view requires some lazy tarrying but a cold wind was cutting right through my clothing, so a hasty retreat was beat off the point.

Blazing star
On the way back as the afternoon sun slanted through the trees, the cold wind was a constant. Summer has not yet arrived, at least not anywhere near Soda Mountain. I never saw another hiker all day and it was a pleasantly lonely hike back to the car. There were plenty of new bear scratchings on the trail that had not been there on the incoming leg. Fortunately, there were no bear encounters to report...this time. The day remained visually sunny but physically cold while clouds formed and reformed over the monument. The meadows, flowers, and views were enjoyed all over again, recharging both soul and spirit. Hikes like this are why we hike and I love hiking! Really!

A crab spider lurks
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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