Grayback Mountain P2K

Tue, Jul 24, 2007

With: Ryan Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

Given a choice of options for our third roadtrip this summer, Ryan chose do some county highpointing in Oregon. Of course he hasn't finished the county highpoints in California, but Dad has, so we picked a place that would be new to both of us. I picked four counties in southwest Oregon that we could do in three or four days that we would have to spend in the state. Today's peak was Grayback Mtn, the highpoint of Josephine County. At just over 7,000ft, it is highest peak for almost 100mi in all directions, and is said to have very fine views when the weather cooperates. The whole route is about 5mi roundtrip with 2,400ft of elevation gain which would make one of Ryan's hardest hikes to date.

We took the shortest route available, the O'Brien Trail that climbs up from the east side of the peak. The road was a little rough for the last mile to the trailhead, but the van was able to negotiate it without incident. We started up the trail at 9:45a, reaching the summit 2hr15m later. The hike was very nice, with overcast skies to start, but partial clearing before we reached the summit. The trail portion of the route climbs fairly steeply through fir and pine forest, crossing several small creeklets. Ryan was trying his best not to complain and was able to do the first two miles with hardly a rest. He was definitely improving. He picked up sticks along the way, using them as a hiking aid, dragging them along the trail, whacking stuff and then tossing them aside periodically. It was amusing to watch his boyish interactions with his environment as I hiked along behind him. When we reached the junction with the Boundry Trail, we headed cross-country in a pretty direct line up to the summit. It was quite steep (we had thought the trail steep, but it was mild by comparison), but went through some delightful hillside meadows that were alive with many types of wildflowers. Insects of all descriptions were buzzing and fluttering about the meadow in what must be a heavenly smorgasbord to the insect world. Thankfully there were no mosquitoes, and the other critters were more interested in the flowers than in bothering us. Ryan might have actually enjoyed this part a good deal more if he wasn't so tired by this time and kept calling out, "Dad, wait up!"

Above the meadow we found the gray-colored boulders for the last several hundred feet that gives the peak its descriptive name. To our surprise we found another hiker already at the summit. Ours had been the only car at the trailhead, but this elderly gentleman had come up the much harder Grayback Trail with more than 4,000ft of elevation gain. Ryan was thrilled to find a summit register to sign his name in. It looked like a mayonaise jar stuffed willy-nilly with wrinkled scraps of paper, but Ryan didn't care - he found a blank side of paper to write our names on. The views were quite nice, the clouds having cleared over much of the surrounding area. We could see Mt. Shasta and the Trinity Alps in California to the south, the Oregon coast far to the west, clouds to the north and east.

After signing the register, Ryan turned to me and asked, "What did you bring for snacks?" My response, "Nothing," was particularly unappreciated as Ryan watched our summit companion happily munching on bits of goodies he had carried with him to the top. I went on further, "When we climb McLoughline I'll bring snacks - that's a real mountain." Ryan wasn't sure what to think of that, but now he was interested in getting down as fast as possible in order to secure the beef jerky he knew was waiting in the van. Down we went. It had taken just over 2hrs to reach the summit, and took a bit under an hour and half to return to the trailhead. The jerky was good, I'm told.

On the drive out we stopped at the Applegate River to try some fishing in a shaddy spot under a bridge. We saw many fish, but none more than about 5" in length. Ryan was more interested in trying to capture one of the many tiny crawdads we saw at the river's edge, ranging from half an inch to one and half inches in length. He didn't want to bother going back to the van for his swim trunks, so he stripped to his underwear to allow him to wade in the shallows. I had to promise not to take any pictures. I tried casting for fish while Ryan went after the crawdads (he was unsuccessful, partly because he was afraid they might pinch him with their tiny little claws). I had no luck either. But then I noticed there were ripened berries in the tangle of blackberry bushes that lined the creek. Yum! I ate a bunch, but was unsuccessful in getting Ryan to try them. They were quite sweet. I smashed some up and tossed them into the river to see if the fish would go after them. They did! Ryan suggested I put them on the hook and try using them as bait, but they were too ripe to stay on the hook after casting it. Oh well, it was a fun hour to round out our first day in Oregon.


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