Friday, August 19, 2016

Four-In-One Cone

Regular readers of my blog (if I have any regular readers, maybe I'm being presumptuous) will note a recent preoccupation with the month long run of hot weather. And why should this blog entry be any different? It was 110 degrees in Roseburg and I thought about running away to the coast but the coast was an uncharacteristic 90 degrees itself. Wherever can one go to escape the heat? Well, the Three Sisters Wilderness was running about 25 degrees cooler than western Oregon and by golly, that was an excellent reason to pay the McKenzie Pass area a visit. Especially since I placed the weather cursor right on Four-In-One Cone and got a forecasted high of 75 degrees!

Small meadows flanked the Scott Trail
From the Scott Trail trailhead, the path crossed Hwy 242 and then ducked into a lodgepole forest on a dusty trail. McKenzie Pass sits in the middle of like a million volcanoes and lesser cones so the fact the trail was comprised of dusty pumice is not surprising. The trail was flat and passed past several open meadows hovering in that weird color between green and brown. Enjoy the flatness while you can, Richard, because after a half-mile, the trail turned to the left and let the climbing begin! 

Ah, blessed be the shade!
The trail would gain about 1,500 feet over 5'ish miles so while steep in places, the grade was not all that daunting, just steady and non-stop. But at least it was in a shady forest which was welcome because it would have been a lot warmer without the shade. I don't have any empirical data but based my skin-o-meter, I'd guess it was about 85 degrees or so.


The forest was pleasantly lush with a leafy undergrowth comprised of huckleberry bushes. Huckleberries? Did somebody say huckleberries? The bushes were laden with plump black berries and all hiking came to a screeching halt while I grazed, purple juice running down my chin. Eventually, after I consumed enough berries to ensure purple poop for at least a week, hiking resumed as I mastered scooping the berries on a walk-by without breaking stride (too much). 

Blueberries! This was a berry yummy hike
This late in summer, all the wet spots were dried up but the path did pass through some low-growing ankle-high blueberry bogs. Blueberries? Did somebody say blueberries? Hiking again came to a sudden and fruity stop while I grazed on my hands and knees like an ungainly, yet incredibly handsome elk. Blueberries AND huckleberries? This hike was a whole other fruit salad of berry awesome.

Abrupt end to the forest
As the trail climbed, it sadly left all the berries behind and entered a decidedly drier and less lush forest before a 20-foot high wall of rock put an abrupt end to all that forest stuff. The extensive lava flows in the McKenzie Pass area are byproducts of numerous small and relatively insignificant cinder cones. The rock wall the trail was running into was from both Collier and Four-In-One Cone(s). And unerringly, the trail found a small seam between the two flows as it crossed over to the east side of the Collier flow. Good thing the seam was there, because the flow would have been nigh impassable without some serious engineering and dynamite.

Hello, North Sister!
The trail would, for the next mile or so, hug the east edge of the flow, meaning there was a 20 foot wall of jumbled and jagged rock on my right hand side. Straight ahead and above the flow, both North and Middle Sister showed their pointy heads with Collier Glacier perched precariously between them.

Black Crater rises above the cinder
plain below Four-In-One Cone
The trees on the left side of the trail gradually thinned out until I found myself walking in a barren cinder plain, with a sun-bleached trail sign as its only feature. On the left hand side of the plain was the indistinctly shaped pile of volcanic cinders that is Four-In-One-Cone. The cone got its name because it sports four distinct vents and a corresponding lava flow for each vent.  With the chaos ensuing from having four vents, Four-In-One never had a chance to form a nice symmetrical cone; it's more like an elongated amorphous blob.

North and Middle Sister from the cone's rim
My boots crunched in the cinders as I walked up the slope of the cone, and a stupendous view greeted me as the rim was attained. North Sister was the closest and biggest peak while Middle Sister demurely stood at her sister's side. To the south was the tan cone of Belknap Crater, followed by Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, and a ghostly Mount Jefferson (the view was somewhat limited by smoky haze from several small wildfires burning nearby). Below the mountains were rivers of black rock cutting large swaths through the forests. The rivers of black rock were old lava flows, courtesy of small cinder cones such as Collier Cone, Yapoah Crater, Little Belknap Crater, and Four-In-One Cone.

Hazy view to the north
Such a view requires a lengthy contemplation but I didn't stay all that long, I still had 5 miles back to the car and besides which, there were still some berries needing my attention.

Sickletop lousewort, also known as parrot's beak
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Wonderful views and berries too! I'd say this hike was a winner!