Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Bolt Mountain

The hiking club was going on a hike to the summit of Bolt Mountain but instead of bolting out of bed (see what I did there?) to join them, I slapped the alarm into submission and returned to a blissful embrace in the arms of Morpheus (meaning I went back to sleep). Afterward, the rest of the day was spent wading in a sad little koi pond of regret, for I had missed an opportunity to get onto a trail on which I'd never been. But while I couldn't undo not hiking with my friends, I could do something about not ever hiking to the Bolt Mountain summit.

A piece of Bolt Mountain looms at the trailhead
A couple of days later on a chilly but sunlit morn at the Fish Hatchery Park trailhead it was only me and the mountain, just a nut and Bolt on a fine day for hiking. Whereas my friends had spent their day hiking in fog, I walked under a clear blue sky and enjoyed great views of the surrounding countryside all hike long. Serendipity! See, I must have known what I was doing when I decided to sleep in!

A forest reflects in a slow moving creek
The trail initially descended on an old road bed through some pleasant woods with trees mostly stark and bare. Oak leaves still sported some of their autumn finery as I scuffed along on a path covered in maple leaves long since dropped from the trees. At a rock-hop crossing of a barely trickling creek, the trail then angled uphill and there'd be no more downhill hiking until the return from the summit.

Still some autumn going on, thanks to the oaks
The trail was well-manicured and groomed for the most part, although the rocky tread did impart an element of roughness to the path. It would be about 1,200 feet of elevation gain and while the trail was uphill the whole way, the grade was mild and not particularly daunting. Occasional open spots in the forest provided ever expansive views of pastoral farmlands surrounding the nearby Applegate River.

The trail angles up through a thin stand of Jeffery Pine
Per the BLM's Bolt Mountain brochure, the soils here are comprised of serpentine, a nutrient-poor mineral that is endemic to the Siskiyous. Accordingly, the woods were comprised of hardier species such as madrone, oak, cedar, and Jefferey pine. On the sunny side of the mountain in particular, the stands of Jeffrey pine were sparse and the slopes covered with only dry grass underneath.

Madrone berries collect some morning dew
Smooth, orange-trunked madrone trees were found all over, happy to thrive in the drier conditions found on the mountain. While madrones are evergreen and as a result, non-participants in the autumn festival of color, this time of year they are heavily laden with grape-like bunches of red fruits as if they were already celebrating the upcoming Christmas season.

Please O sun gods, send sunlight to warm my cockles!
For the first half of the uphill hike, the trail had inscribed a back-and-forth route up the south-facing slope of Bolt Mountain. Eventually the trail rounded the north-facing side and commenced a spiral route to the summit. The north side was shady and the temperature dropped noticeably, sending me into a frantic rummage through my pack in search of a jacket. A nearby madrone giant sent up two large trunks that resembled arms raised to the heavens, as if desperately beseeching the sun gods to send some warm sunlight its way. I too may have done some similar beseeching of my own at that point.

Who says there's no view from the summit?
The trail returned to the wonderful world of sunlight with one last push to the summit. The mountaintop itself was not much to look at, just a bare spot ringed by thorny ceanothus bushes and stunted cedar trees. However, the hike up Bolt Mountain is all about the view anyway and the unassuming summit delivered on that end. Bolt Mountain is surrounded by much taller mountains rising above the river valleys and farmlands, and all are eminently visible from the peak. Grants Pass lay in its valley floor below with the mountains and canyons of the Rogue River extending beyond the city. Clouds clung to nearby high ridges while the sky was mostly blue around Bolt Mountain itself. It was a huge payoff for relatively little work.

Ants have hairy butts
All good things come to an end and sometimes those ends are followed by some more good things. The easy descent down to the trailhead afforded me the opportunity to play around with my macro lens which is something one can do when not having to keep up with friends. Accordingly, much up-close lichen, fungi, and ant photos were taken and thanks to the awesome power of the macro lens, I now know ants have hairy butts. By now, the morning had morphed into early afternoon and winter shadows lengthened underneath the trees which in turn led to the macro lens coming off and going back on with some frequency.

Christmas tree, Bolt Mountain style
Alas, all the hiking fun came to a close upon arrival at the trailhead, and I was quite pleased with my first Bolt Mountain experience. In perusing a trail map post-hike I noticed there is (allegedly) another trail accessing Bolt Mountain beginning from Stringer Gap. Funny, I didn't really notice another trail intersecting today's route to Bolt Mountain but hey, I think I just found another reason to come back. Unlike my friends, I'll just make sure not to do it on a foggy day. 

Sunlight illuminates a madrone leaf
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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