Sourgrass Mountain

July 1, 1978

Sourgrass ’77 & ’78: I think this trip report is going to be a first of its kind. Every year in late June or early July I like to lead an Obsidian hike to the Beargrass clearing on the top of Sourgrass Mtn. Every year, due to my procrastinating and malingering ways, my trip report comes in at the last minute. Last year, 1977, I didn’t get it in at all. All winter this has been nagging at my conscience. It was getting so I could hardly sleep nights until I hit on this novel idea. In 1978 I will write a dual trip report. So at the Last Minute, here it is.

Sourgrass 77—The day was sunny and warm. Balmy breezes wafted the fragrance of Spring flowers across the meadows and birds were singing from the tree tops. The shade at the upper edge of the first logging unit was cool and refreshing. The hike through the trees on the lower trail that leads to the 2nd logging unit is always rewarding with its displays of Starflower, Windflower, Queen’s Cup and Coolwort. As we stepped out into the logging unit I presented my group with a spectacular view of Diamond Peak.
Sourgrass 78—The day was cloudy and cold. Chilling winds blew the swirling mists through the forest and all the bushes were wet. By the time we got to the upper edge of the first logging unit my feet were wet. As we walked the lower trail we found all the usual flowers, but they were all wet, by the time we got to the 2nd logging unit I was wet up to my knees. Clouds obscured everything except the wild flowers. Beargrass seems to be spreading out in this unit more each year. It makes a beautiful mix with the Rody which is also abundant here.

Sourgrass 77—One of the interesting highlights of the upper trail is the old blazes found on several dead snags. Thirteen year old Owen Cox wanted some experience reading trail blazes so I let him walk ahead of me. He did gain some valuable experience when he overlooked the unusual “V” blaze that marks a switchback on the trail. Don’t worry Owen, I know a Big guy with a beard that puzzled over that one once too. Further along comes the U.S.F.S. trail marker that puts us a mile away from where we really are. Map & Compass students beware!
Sourgrass 78—Several massive windfalls have obliterated the beginnings of the upper trail. The only way is to go around them is thru the brush and when the brush is wet the leader always gets wettest, especially a big leader. By now I was wet up to my waist. A little further along I was cheered up identifying a Parrot’s Beak for the first time on this stretch of trail. Incidentally the misleading U.S.F.S. trail marker is still there. (In 1965 when I first started roaming this area, the top of Sourgrass Mountain was a mass of blooming fragrant Beargrass. Over the years I have seen it come and go thru its cycles.)

Sourgrass 77—I was disappointed. The blooming of the Beargrass on the Sourgrass was at an extreme low. Ten or twelve blooms over the entire mountain top. I identified and successfully photographed an Orange Agoseris for the first time and made another attempt to get the correct exposure on a Cat’s Ear (goofed again). Lunch time found us at my favorite viewpoint looking over the Hills Creek drainage with Kitson Ridge on the left and a shining Diamond Peak dominating all. Parker fell asleep after lunch. He was still exhausted from the Macduff Peak ordeal of the day before. Several of us debated about what his reaction would be if he woke up and found us all gone but the little angels on our right shoulders prevailed over the little devils on our left shoulders and we woke him up before we left.
Sourgrass 78—As we broke out of the dense timber into the Beargrass on the Sourgrass I was wet up to my shirt pockets. Only about 20% of the Beargrass was blooming, clouds obscured the view and I was hungry. So was everybody else. We had lunch right there at the edge of the Timber. It was here that I finally got four beautiful exposures of the Cat’s Ear (after all these years).

Sourgrass 77—The jaws of the terrible thicket closed around us. Devil’s Club clawed at us and the giant Skunk Cabbage of the Sourgrass threatened to engulf us. When my thicket is viewed from a distance it is difficult to believe that there is a way through it, but there is; my secret escape from the mountain. Emmy Dale had heard stories about my thicket. She wore gloves. While resting after the ordeal we found the elusive Wild Ginger blossom and then on thru the Bleeding Heart and Jacob’s Ladder to the shuttle car and back to the trailhead.
Sourgrass 78—We experienced a few anxious moments as we started out after lunch, fearless leader had lost his glasses. After a short backtrack they were found tucked away in clump of Beargrass, where I had taken them off to get the picture of the Cat’s Ear. Then down the slope, past my faithful patch of Owl Clover, and into my thicket. I’m Going to quit calling this thicket “terrible.” Every time I go through it, it gets friendlier. It’s always so cool and refreshing, especially this year. Half way through I was wet up to my ears, whiskers and all. Another flower identification cheered me up though, the unusual Bishop’s Cap. My Sourgrass Mtn. exit through this thicket is an experience I think everyone should have at least once in a lifetime. As they emerge from my thicket I like to watch the hopelessly lost looks on my peoples faces change to looks of amazed relief when they spot the shuttle vehicles gleaming like beacons through the underbrush.

Sourgrass 77—The return to trailhead is never uneventful. This year I found a clump of white Penstemon in a field of Magenta. My attempts to photograph it with a balky camera resulted in double exposures.
Sourgrass 78—The return to trailhead is never uneventful. Twelve people in one old pickup make a heavy load. We found the White Penstemon again, untouched by road graders. Would you believe four beautiful exposures? Old pickup made it!

Sourgrass 77—Congratulations to Paula Vehrs for her 3rd time thru the thicket.
Sourgrass 78—Congratulations to 3½ year old Christy Stuart from Bisbee, Arizona for her first time thru the thicket, and to her mom and big sister, June and Dana. Thanks to Roger Hine for carrying little Chris over the rough places.

No Obsidian trip to the Sourgrass is complete without a visit to old Elk Camp shelter, one of the few way stations of the Old Alpine Trail system still surviving. My thanks to the people who have worked to preserve this haven in the wilderness with its icy spring and the “Throne in the Forest.”

Sourgrass 77 trekkers were Owen Cox, Emmy Dale, Joella Hadland, Parker Riddle, Paula Vehrs, and leader Bob Holmquist.
Sourgrass 78 hikers were Heide Didwiszus, Clara Emlen, Elaine & Roger Hine, Bonnie Ledford, Rachel Major, Guylaine Rabateau, Chris, Dana & June Stuart, Ted Stern and leader Bob Holmquist.

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