Macduff Peak (McLennon)
August 21, 1982
The Macduff plaque on McLennon was as elusive as ever again this year. Another 20 to 30 minutes would have brought us to the top of the peak, but I am getting ahead of my story.
Although departing time was set for 7:30 a.m., we didn’t get away from the parking lot until 7:50, putting us late right at the start. We were on the trail at the west end of the O’Leary Trail (near Cougar Reservoir) by 9:30, some of us dressed down to shorts and short-sleeved shirts. (It was already quite warm.)
The trail starts out gradually, but soon starts up the hillside at quite a steep pitch which lasts for about 12 miles. At mile-marker 8 (the count is from the east end) or about a mile up the trail, there are some spectacular rock pillars. They would be suitable for practicing rappelling if one wanted to go that far and trudge a mile up the steep trail, plus climbing to the top of the pillars over moss-covered rock. After the steep pitch the trail undulates some, then levels out along a narrow ridge, crosses some meadows on the south-facing slope, works its way through knee-high brush, then crosses to the north-facing slope and eventually drops to a crossing of Cougar Creek three miles from the trailhead (mile-marker 6).
The trail/switchbacks above the creek, as it works its way upward, then crosses the creek again. The trail supposedly winds its way up the slope to the ridge, but we lost it at the creek as blazed trees were confusing, and some must have fallen as they couldn’t be found. At that point we climbed straight up the side hill and found the trail near the ridge as it plunges into the bear grass. Trees were blazed, but by that time—1:30 p.m.—everyone was hot, tired and hungry so we stopped for lunch. (Earlier, we had decided to eat on top, but hunger pangs forced us to eat sooner.) After lunch the majority wanted to return to the car, so we didn’t pursue the summit although it was close at hand. It had taken us four hours to this point, and we expected it to take us equally as long to return because of the condition of the trail. As it turned out, it only took us 3½ hours to go down, but we were mighty glad to see the trailhead at 5:30 p.m. on this hot, grueling, yet challenging hike.
The O’Leary Trail is unmaintained so was covered by lots of twigs and branches of various sizes. Along the route we climbed over a few logs, but nothing bigger than 12–15 inches in diameter. Some of the trail is overgrown with knee-high plants and somewhat difficult to find. Also, the trail becomes impossible to follow in the upper reaches where blazed trees have fallen and the trail is not discernable. On the ridgetop leading to the summit the trail hikes under acres of bear grass, making each step difficult as you step on clumps, then into what appear to be holes, but is just the ground around the plants. (This would be a challenge and good workout for your committee, K.C.) The steepness of the beginning of the trail is even more difficult to descend with so many branches criss-crossing to roll under your boots, or to trip you at every step.
Trail finders (and losers) were Helene and Tom Johnston, Kathy Ryan and leader Lois Schreiner. (This is Lois’s eighth or ninth try at the summit; she has succeeded three times.)