July 29-31, 1983
Three of us left Eugene about 8330 a.m. July 29; one driver going south to Myrtle Creek to pick up another hiker. We met again for lunch at Collier State Park near Chiloquin. It took five maps to get from there to Gearhart Mt.: A State Highway map to Bly. A Fremont National Forest map from Bly to Road No. 3618. Then the Gearhart Mt. Wilderness map on up (and we do mean up) to the trailhead. A couple of quadrangle sheets marked by a BLM botanist from Lakeview showed us how to find our goal near the summit. We took a break along the way at Sprague River Park near Bly to avoid Friday afternoon log truck traffic. There we got acquainted with golden currant, sparkling in the sun and tasty.
The last five miles of driving was by way of two ruts over dirt and boulders, grade no more than 15%. The Dodge Colt made it to the trailhead, but the Subaru (with 13 inch wheels) had to stop a half mile below. Finding strawberries and babbling brook down there, we camped together, spending the night tentless. our sleeping bags on level (!??!) ground under more stars than are ever seen west of the Cascades.
Saturday morning, after waiting till 9:00 a.m. for a guide who was not able to join us, we hiked that extra half mile to the trailhead and started up the mountain. The trail is little used but in fine condition. We met one other party who turned out to be from Eugene! Occasional outlooks showed plains and mountains, including Mt. Shasta. Starting at about 6500 feet, the route climbs steadily through dry lodgepole pine and white pine forest, with snow patches above 7900 feet to the summit at 8370 feet or higher, depending on which map you read. Three of us reached our goal, a trail junction at about 8000 feet. One went on to the foot of the lava plug peak, which requires some rock climbing. For some reason the hiking got sort of tiring. We later learned that that was the hottest day of the year so far, 97° in Lakeview, and probably 100° on the mountain.
The flowers we came to see did not mind the heat, though. There were fine displays at camp, halfway up on a lava outcrop and then on the sweep of lush meadows along Boulder Creek. There, cliffs against the sky, aspen along the edges, crowds of larkspur, mimulus and columbine surround a swampy trail. Every square inch was covered with miniature “belly-flowers” — the ones you have to lie down to photograph.
The Penstemon we came to find (a rare and endangered species growing nowhere else) were not blooming yet on top, but several lovely clumps showed up on the lava flow part way up.
Clouds and thunder, but no rain, followed our party downtrail; lightning flicked all night. Two of us stayed on the mountain for more exploring and a late return on Sunday. The leaders had to return earlier. They drove out to spend the night on softer grass at Spring Creek Forest Camp just north of Collier State Park, where springs boil out to form a 100 foot wide stream of very clear water.
It was a long trip for a 9-mile hike, but well worth it. Those making the trip were Judith Moore and Charlene Simpson, non-members; Robin Lodewick, and Kenneth Lodewick, leader.