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I started out at 8a, following the good trail as it snakes its way through the forest, ever upwards. Mt. Bailey can be seen occasionally through the trees for fleeting moments, but a real view wasn't available until after the first hour. The Diamond Lake area is open year-round, a Snow Park plowed for paying customers at the lake. The trail is signed with blue diamonds for cross-country ski travel and would make for a wonderful winter ascent, I'm sure. With a few miles left to go, the views begin to open up, most notably to Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielsen behind to the east. The smoke made the views poor, however. By 9:30a I had reached the South Ridge with only 15min left to go. There is an interesting cinder crater at the south end of this ridge where the trail skirts around it. A bit of snow and ice still lingers deep on the south side of the crater pit. The trees are completely gone on the hike up the ridge with views are open in all directions. There are some pinnacles along the ridge that the trail conveniently works around on the west side. A keyhole provides a small viewing portal to Diamond Lake.
By 9:45a I had reached the modest summit, a broad, rocky top marked by a small pile of rocks. No benchmark or register to mark the highpoint. In fact, I would find no registers on any of the peaks I visited on this trip - maybe Oregonians aren't as fond of them as in California? On a clear day one could easily see 75mi north to the Sisters and probably beyond. Today their fuzzy outlines could barely be discerned. Even Thielsen, a mere 8mi away, was a blur on the eastern horizon. To the south I could make out nothing for certain, though McLoughlin might normally be visible about 50mi in that direction.
On my way back down the trail I took about 20min to make cross-country detour to visit the bonus summit of Hemlock Butte. There were three small cairns found at the summit and a modest view of Thielsen and Diamond Lake, though views in other directions were blocked by trees. I was back at the trailhead shortly after 11:30a, the whole outing taking barely more than 3.5hrs. On my drive back out around the south side of Diamond Lake I paused at the lake shore to get a photo of Mt. Bailey, probably one of the better vantage points from which to view the peak.
One of my peeves about Oregon is the speed limit. Interstate 5 is the only road I know of in the state to have 60mph sections, and these are mostly limited. US97, straight as an arrow for many miles is limited to 55mph, much as most of the state highway system. Even where US97 turns into a divided highway with two lanes in each direction, the speed limit stays stubbornly at 55mph. It's like living in a 1978 time warp as someone apparently forgot to tell the Oregon legislature that Ronald Reagan had done away with the national 55mph speed limit back in the 1980s. Sigh. As I was driving east on SR138 back to US97, I was wondering if the highway patrol are strict about enforcing the speed limit. I kept to my usual 5mph over the posted speed limit and was not about to test it. The cars with Oregon plates all seemed to mind the speed limit, so I guessed they must really care about it. As I was mulling all this over I saw a car come up in my rearview mirror, passing me doing about 70mph. It had Arizona plates (I'm still wanted in that state for unpaid speeding tickets) and didn't seem the least concerned. It probably should have been. In a caravan of cars going the opposite direction was a state trooper. I watched it slow down in my rearview mirror, eventually pull a U-turn and then chase down the unsuspecting Arizona driver who hadn't slowed in the least. Just before the junction with US97 he was caught up and had to pay the piper. I'm going to stick with my 5mph rule of thumb in Oregon, thank you very much...
The trail turns out to be worth the effort. It's just two miles in length to the top and though the first mile has nothing to differentiate it from a hundred other Oregon forest hikes, the second half has some great views. Here the trail breaks out onto the caldera rim with fine views to be had along the way. One can see north to Paulina Lake (East Lake is out of view until reaching the summit), the Big Obsidian Flow to the east and the cliff features of the rim on Paulina Peak's north side. I reached the summit in 50min, finding the highpoint in a collection of rocks on the west side of the large bulldozed lot cleared to hold visitors and their vehicles. The views are far-reaching though today they were obscured badly by smoke. After walking about the summit area and reading the various placards, I started back down, stopping at a pair of pinnacles to the north just off the trail. A use trail leads the 1/5mi distance to a highpoint across from the pinnacles. The pair can be accessed by a class 3 chimney on the south side between the two, making what looks like a difficult rock climb a mere scramble. It provides even better views to the north than the summit itself, and a good view of the highpoint, too. After climbing to the higher of the pair, I also visited the lower brother briefly before scrambling back down and returning to the trail. The small diversion was worthwhile as much as the trail itself was better than driving to the top. It was 3:15p by the time I got back to the van, with still a lot of daylight to kill.
I drove north to Bend where I stopped briefly to pick up a few supplies. I then drove on to Sisters and the gravel Pole Creek Rd that we would use the following day to access North Sister. There were plenty of free camping spots on either side of the road, all part of the Deschutes National Forest. I found a place off the road to park, make dinner, watch a movie and spend the night. Good cell service, too. This latter came in handy to find out that Bob Sumner was in Oregon as planned, spending the night at a motel in Bend. We would meet up in the morning back in Sisters for the big adventure the next morning...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Bailey - Paulina Peak
This page last updated: Wed Sep 10 15:58:40 2014
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