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It was our last day in Oregon, and to no surprise the other family members weren't much interested in hiking with Dad. Like the previous day, I got up at 4a, dressed quickly, and slipped out the door without waking the family - too much. I wanted to climb a couple of P2K summits off US199, about an hour's distance. I would be driving the same road later in the morning with the family, but thought it would be inconsiderate of me to have them wait around while I spend a few hours climbing marginal summits. So I would get to know this stretch of road well. Eight Dollar Mtn would require a bit of legwork to the tune of about 2,600ft of gain, while Squaw Mtn was mostly a drive up, assuming I could get the van up the forest roads.
From Medford, I headed west on I5 to Grants Pass, then south on US199 to reach the TH for Eight Dollar Mtn on the south side of the peak. The mountain seems to serve the dual purposes of <^%@>radio antenna support and logging interests. A series of roads criss-cross the east side of the mountain starting up from the trailhead, most in fairly poor shape, but nonetheless gated closed to vehicle access. There is a Boardwalk Trail near the trailhead that goes a short quarter mile or so to a meadow teeming with California Pitcher Plants, making for a nice diversion (and far more interesting than the rest of the mountain).
I spent about an hour and a quarter hiking to the summit which is large and wide and difficult to pick out a highpoint. No register, marginal views, not a lot of good stuff to say about this peak. The most interesting thing about it is that it may be the very smallest P2K cell in the country. The Illinois River runs along the west and south sides, Deer Creek to the north, and US199 to the east. Though the origin of the name is uncertain, one story goes that a cowboy made a bet that he could walk around the mountain in a day, wearing out a pair of $8 boots in the process. One hopes his bet was for more than $8.
Upon my return to the trailhead I spent aobut 20 minutes on the Boardwalk Trail to see the pitcher plants. Cool little guys, but kinda creepy that they trap and eat insects. Neat to see them in the wild.
Back on US199, I drove a about eight miles north to the turnoff for Forest Road 25. I followed this up for some miles to Four Corners where the road tops out on Squaw Ridge. I turned left and followed FS2524 and then FS015 to a saddle on the east side of Squaw Mtn. The roads turned out to be in decent shape to get the van up there, though I imagine the conditions can vary with rockfall, downed trees, and wash outs. The area surrounding Squaw Peak is in logging country, and looks to be carefully managed. The area had been logged perhaps ten years ago as a new crop of young trees were uniformly spread out over the hillsides. The lower branches had all been trimmed from the trees to help prevent crown fires, and the detritus had been gathered up in countless piles at safe distances from the trees, ready to be burned. Very little of the forest had a natural feel to it.
The parking spot was less than a mile from the summit, an easy walk to the broad summit. I was weaving my way through the branch piles looking for the high point, but this was a lost cause as it's all pretty flat up there. I took a photo or two and returned to the car. It had been a silly second peak. At least Eight Dollar had a hike involved.
I drove back to Medford, picked up the family, and drove back down US199 to Oregon Caves. It was a fun little vacation thing to do with Mom and the kids, but as caves go I wasn't all that impressed. I've seen better ones closer to home in the Sierra, but somehow this one got the backing of the National Park Service. I think Southern Oregonians were desperate for tourists some hundred years ago when they first cooked up the scheme to make this a National Monument.
Later that day we collected our stuff in Medford and headed to Weed, CA where we were to stay the night. Jackie expressed an interest in a night hike and I had just the ticket, Black Butte, west of Mt. Shasta. I thought this would have some very nice moonlight views of Shasta and the surrounding country, and we were not disappointed.
The only trick to Black Butte was the drive to the trailhead. It is not well-marked with signs. The SummitPost directions were very good, but we still managed a wrong turn. The correct route is managable by any vehicle, starting on the Everett Memorial Hwy and turning left where the pavement begins to turn east towards Mt. Shasta. Stay on the best road at each fork to reach the TH.
It was 9:20p by the time we drove to the TH and were ready to start off. The weather was cool, but not cold, and we were able to hike to the summit in just our tshirts. The western sky still had a faint orange glow over the horizon, but it did not take long before it grew fully dark. The lights of Weed could be seen in the distance off to our right. We used our headlamps for only a short time while going through the forest. The trail opened up to a starlit sky, and with the crushed, whitish rock that made up the trail, it was just light enough to see without using the headlamps. This made the hike all the more enjoyable as we could really adapt our vision to the night scenes around us. The nearly full moon had risen but was blocked by Black Butte itself as the trail wound around the north and west sides of the peak. When we did get to see the moon higher up, it seemed suddenly bright as day, we could see so well. Jackie and I enjoyed it tremendously.
We reached the summit by 11p where we found conditions decidedly chillier. I donned a fleece for our short stay upon the summit which we found crowned by a square of concrete and rock wall that had been some sort of building or shelter at one time, long ago. We found no register.
As we started our descent Jackie was as lively as she'd been all evening, somewhat to my surprise as I thought she'd be getting tired. About halfway down she started to show symptoms, namely wandering from side to side. I watched her carefully, warned her a few times, and tried to keep talking to her to keep her awake and active. It was after midnight before we got back to the van. I thought she would fall asleep in a few minutes as I started driving back, but she perked up and stayed awake all the way back to Weed. As Jackie's first night hike, it had certainly been one of the best I've been on.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Eight Dollar Mountain - Black Butte
This page last updated: Sun Aug 29 20:22:46 2010
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