Old Baldy / Colburg Hills

May 31, 2008

By 9:00, everybody was ready to go, including two alternates who replaced two cancellations. Off to McKenzie View Road and the Pasture gate, which was open and waiting for us. Up to the parking area, where we were greeted by Jean Jancaitis, whose official title is Willamette Valley Land Steward for The Nature Conservancy. She was joined by Michelle Murphy who is interested in working for TNC. I had asked Jean to join us a guest speaker, to share with the hikers what Nature Conservancy’s mission is for the area, and what has been done since last year when, TNC became involved with the Coburg Ridge area, through the generosity of the Jaqua family. I made a short speech about the special permission we have to hike, and then Jean talked a little about the history of the area. Then it was time to hit the trail (McKenzie View Road) heading east to the trail up into the East Caves. Up the trail of many steps, to the “Cave” to check it out, past the steep rock faces where there are many climbing routes and, on to Overlook Meadow with views of the valley. Here Jean expanded her talk with maps and pictures, and answered many excellent questions. Then onward and upward. When we got to the old Coburg-Marcolla wagon road things changed from past hikes. The road has been improved to allow equipment access for removal of some trees to restore oak savannah and make a flyway for endangered butterflies. We followed it for a short way, then again turned upward cross-country toward summit of Old Baldy. As in any Obsidian hike there are short stops for flowers, birds, neat rocks, views, and today a herd of Texas long horn cattle. Jean is trying to find the owners, whose cattle are getting free meals. Then the long “Steep” climb to the summit (2000’) of Old Baldy where we have lunch. While the valley view is excellent, the peaks off to the southeast were covered in clouds. After our lunch stop we headed down toward the west. Here we saw the butterfly flyway through what used to be thick woods. The small firs are gone, but the big old trees stay to keep the effects of winds down. It helps the butterflies to fly easier. I was impressed with the logging work, as debris was piled up in small burn piles, or hauled off to chip, plus obvious care had been used to reduce any erosion. Slowly we continued downhill to the big meadow area. Across the Old Wagon Road and down toward the Main Caves area where the Obsidian Climbing Schools where taught for years. Here is where I got caught in not checking the complete route for hike, prior to dragging people along. In the past it has been a nice stroll though the woods on deer trails. I had checked out the lower part, but did not do this section. And here is where TNC had done some work, which made travel a bit of a pain. A lot of back and forth around things, but at last we got to the fence crossing just above the Main Caves. A short visit to an area I spent many happy times teaching rock climbing students, of the Obsidian Climbing School. But it's now again covered in Scotch Broom and moss. Skinners Butte Columns and the Crux Gym are the new rock climbing school yards. Then down to the meadow below, where Jean and Michelle left, to head on down. Jean has had a busy week of hiking and working late and it's time to rest. She left with everybody’s THANKS for making this a very informative hike. We then continued up to the Wall Street Overlook, which I also wanted to share with the others. Then it was time to head on back to vehicles. Down the hill to “The Whale” where in the past we would teach basic rock skills, before taking students to Main Caves. Then slowly down to the parking area where Tom Happy, my excellent “Tail End Charlie” reported all hikers accounted for. All the hikers earned the “Official Cross Country Hiking Badge”. It had been a most excellent day in the hills, the weather while cloudy did not include rain, everybody was in excellent shape for the hike, they all went the distance, and they did not stone the leader for leading them through the slash pile.

Hikers were: Dan Bates, Brad Bennett, Sue Carey, Rob Castleberry, Dan Christensen, Pat Esch, Gary Kirk (leader), Lynne Moody and Doug Nelson; and nonmembers: Tom Happy, John Hartman, Erik Muller and Sally O’Donnell.

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