Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fairview Peak (fail)

Not every hike gets to be an epic, but not too many turn out to be an outright fail, either. However, a recent Friends of the Umpqua hike turned out to be pretty much a fail. At least it was a happy fail as we all were in a good mood throughout; but happy or not, it was a fail.

Fireweed dreadlocks
The failure wasn't our fault though, sometimes Mother Nature just has a way of squelching all hiking hopes and dreams for the day. Our Fairview Peak misadventure started with the weather as the forecast was pretty dire, calling for heavy rain and high winds. In deference to the gloomy prediction, the hike to Fairview Peak was scratched and the lower-elevation Calf Segment of the North Umpqua Trail was penciled in as a replacement. However, on the drive to the Calf, the weather really wasn't all that bad so the six hardy hikers on this trip made an impromptu decision to go to Fairview Peak after all. Oops.

All dressed up and nowhere to hike

So, instead of driving to the Calf Trailhead, up Steamboat Creek on paved Road 38 we went for many miles, before making the left turn onto gravel Forest Road 3831. And after more miles we rounded a curve and were suitably awestruck at some massive cliffs above the road. And then we were suitably dismayed to see quite a bit of those cliffs lying across the road in a large rockslide comprised of boulders about the size of my KIA. There would be no hiking to Fairview Peak on this day.

"Trail" shot
Since we were all dressed up and ready to go with legs all quivery with eager anticipation, what to do? Well, in the hiking equivalent of making lemonade when you have lemons, we scrambled past the rockslide and started hiking up the road.

It's still autumn!
Basically, we were walking to nowhere and there was not a lot to see. The willows were turning yellow and we had intermittent views of a mountainous skyline to the southwest. The day was overcast, as befits a day forecasted for rain, and as we gained altitude a brisk wind blew as the temperature dropped. Periodically, a light rain would fall and it felt like snow was only a few less degrees away. Winter and snow are definitely coming, so we were happy with just a light rain..

View to unreachable Fairview Peak
At about the 2.5 mile mark, we arrived at a T-intersection on the Calapooya Divide. We had a nice view to imposing Fairview Peak, another 7 road miles of hiking away. Well, since 5 miles isn't really a hike, we hung a left turn for no other reason other than it would take us in the direction of Fairview Peak. Several miles later, at a saddle below Peak 4909 we sat down and ate lunch, shivering in the wintry breeze.

Eerie sunlight to the southwest
To the north and on the skyline, there was a bright white object that had us all pondering whether it was a snowy peak or a cloud. Turned out it was a cloud, but there were a few other white thingies that actually were mountains and that had us all speculating which peaks we were looking at. The consensus was we were looking at the tips of Diamond Peak and Broken Top but after consulting MapMyHike, I can definitely rule out Diamond Peak. It may have been Broken Top but the other hitherto unknown peak was probably South Sister.  

Thimbleberry leaves
So back down the road we went and the wind abated while the temperature climbed a few degrees as we descended. On the way down, we could see the snowy tips of Mount Thielsen and Mount Bailey to the south. A scramble back over the landslide ended the hike to nowhere.

Time for the second hike of the day

At the finish, we were all feeling unfulfilled, even though we had hiked 7 miles. Not having a real destination will do that to you. On the drive to the landslide earlier, at a road intersection we had noticed a road sign with the magic words "McKinley Rock Trailhead" on it. In a desperate search for a proper destination, we drove the 7 miles to the trailhead and disembarked from our vehicles. It was only a mile to the rock so how hard could it be?

Yikes, the trail was as merciless as Attila The Pilates Instructor. It headed straight up a forested mountainside and about a half-mile in, I bonked. It was a slow and steady trudge on tired legs by myself as my apparently fitter and haler comrades practically ran up the trail, singing happy songs as they went.

McKinley Rock

You really can't see all of McKinley Rock as it rises out of a thick forest. The trail ended at the base and we craned our necks to the sky, looking up a sheer cliff of gray rock. Despite the partial view, one could sense its largeness and we were impressed. 

Generally I approve of places with the
words "Long" and "Ridge" in the name
Down was definitely easier than up and quick work was made of the descent. At least, now we could say we had hiked somewhere that had a name and we all felt fulfilled. For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album. 

1 comment :

  1. Sometimes the hiking "fails" make the best stories! At least you got out into beautiful nature with your friends and that's what's important.