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Day 2 of our southwest Oregon tour saw us heading to the highpoints of Curry and Coos counties. Neither of these were more than a few miles roundtrip, easy by any standard, but the trick would be in the driving - miles upon miles of windy, one lane roads through the Oregon countryside. We got a late start from our motel in Grants Pass. I had planned that we'd head out sooner, but I got caught up in the drama of the Tour de France and couldn't leave until Rasmussen had beaten out Contador and Liepheimer at the finish of the day's stage (Rasmussen tested positive for doping later in the day).
First up was a visit to Brandy Peak. Our driving started with a short stint north on I5, followed by a drive west towards the town of Galice. Just before reaching the town we turned left onto a one lane road signed for Agnes and Gold Hill Beach. The road (FS23) winds its way along a ridgeline paralleling the Rogue River which lies to the north. There are many side roads that branch off, but if one just follows the main road (entirely paved) signed for Agnes, you can't get lost. Where the road crests at a saddle (20.4mi from Galice) before dropping down to the Rogue River, we turned left on a gravel road signed FS2308.
Ryan had fallen asleep after starting off carsick from the winding roads. He was still asleep as drove down the gravel road looking for our peak. I ended up driving over a mile past the trailhead before determining my error. Luckily I had the peak's waypoint loaded in my GPS, and with a little work I found I had overshot the mark. It wasn't at all easy from driving around to visually pick out the highest peak - at a bit over 5,000ft, it isn't one of the giants of Oregon. Ryan woke up as we turned around and drove to the small turnout in the road. There we found a trailhead signed "Bear Camp Ridge Tr." I had thought this was a cross-country effort, but was happy to use a trail if available.
We followed the trail until I thought we were below the peak, then headed cross-country uphill. We topped out on a small rocky knob north of Brandy, only realizing our mistake as we climbed atop and saw the higher peak to the south. Oops. I appologised to Ryan and promptly led us off the peaklet and towards the correct summit. We had some minor bushwhacking to deal with, but nothing very serious. Before long we found ourselves back on a trail leading to the summit. In all it took us an hour to reach the summit.
In addition to a register tucked in the summit rocks, we found a benchmark and a small plaque to a Walt Schroeder. Ryan signed our names in the register while I took a few photographs of the surrounding views. Haze muted the scenery some, but it was still pretty nice. We had fine blue skies, unlike the fog and overcast reported by others making this visit. Trees covered almost every square mile as far as one could see. Far to the west we could just make out the Oregon Coast and the blue of the Pacific.
Upon our return, we followed the trail back from the summit. It led to a junction with the Bear Camp Ridge Trail, which nicely took us back to the car - no bushwhacking necessary!
Back in the car, we had more driving to do. Two and a half hours to reach the trailhead for Mt. Bolivar, to be exact. Even though the peaks are only separated by 13 miles, the driving wasn't quite so direct. Rather than drive back to I-5, I chose to drive west on FS23 towards Agnes, heading north on FS33 where they join at the Rogue River. Scenic, yes, but not an easy drive. Fortunately Ryan was able to sleep through much of this and avoid getting carsick again.
It was 2p when we pulled into the parking lot for Mt. Bolivar, our second peak for the day. At least we didn't have to drive any more gravel roads to get here. The lower part of the trail went up the east side of the peak through forest that had been burned in 2005. It was reassuring to see the manzanita and other shrubs growing back at a healthy clip from their bases where all had been burned. We found several snakes and lizards climbing around the leafy debris that was already starting to cover the hillside. As the trail winds around to the north side, it suddenly goes through a short fern-jungle section, then under the canopy of an unburned portion of the forest. In about an hour we made our way to the top of the peak. We found no register, but plenty of glass and rusty nails, the remnants of a lookout tower that used to crown the summit. All that remained of the structure was the concrete blocks that held it up. An unusual plaque, from Venezuela to the people of Oregon was placed in 1984. The views were very similar to those we had found on Brandy Peak, to no great surprise.
We stayed about 20 minutes enjoying a snack on the summit and taking in the views in fine weather before starting back down. The hiking was done just after 3:30p, but we still had another hour and a half of driving to get back to Grants Pass. Phew - too much driving!
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Brandy Peak - Mt. Bolivar
This page last updated: Thu Apr 3 07:01:25 2008
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