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Central Oregon Hiking Lakeview Oregon Trip report

Gearhart Mountain – 07/23/2020

Thursday marked our sixth straight day of hiking and promised to be one of the longer, if not longest hikes of our trip. The weather had cooperated and after a couple of afternoons with possible thunderstorms the forecast for Gearhart Mountain was for mostly sunny skies. We were hoping to reach the 8370′ summit of the mountain which is located in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness, one of 6 Oregon wilderness areas we had yet to visit (we are trying to visit all 46 of the wilderness areas in Oregon open to people post).

This visit would also check off another of William L. Sullivan’s featured hikes (we are trying to hike all of those as well post). The hike begins at the Lookout Rock Trailhead. Sullivan’s entry for this hike described the final half mile of the road to the trailhead as rough and steep. The Forest Service website linked above shows the trailhead before that final half mile of road listing it as closed. I had learned my lesson regarding trailhead roads the day before (post) so we parked at a pullout after about a mile on FR 012.
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We set off up the road which aside from one short stretch with a pretty good runoff channel looked to be in pretty good shape and there was nothing to indicate that the road was actually closed (it continues beyond a gate at the trailhead to the Lookout Rock fire tower).
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IMG_1642The gate on the right through the trees.

In hindsight the drive to this trailhead would have been much easier than the .5 miles to the DeGarmo Canyon Trailhead. Regardless we reached the start of the actual trail, filled out a wilderness questionnaire, and set off on the Gearhart Mountain Trail.
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I was momentarily disappointed when we passed a post that looked like it used to sport a wilderness sign (I like to get photos of signs for each wilderness we enter) but a little further up the trail my spirits were lifted when we spotted one of the signs.
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After .7 miles we came to The Palisades, a group of andesite formations of different shapes and sizes.
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It took us quite a while to get through this section of the trail. I’m not sure what we had expected but The Palisades really blew us away and we could have spent quite a bit more time exploring the area. Beyond The Palisades the trail lost a bit of elevation as it began a forested stretch.
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Approximately 2 miles in on the trail we came to a spring in a small meadow.
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We began to see a few more flowers beyond the spring as the trail gradually climbed for .4 miles to a switchback that was not shown on our GPS maps.
IMG_1724Mountain coyote mint and paintbrush along the trail.

IMG_1734Starting the switchback.

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IMG_1744Scarlet gilia

The switchback brought us beneath another interesting rock formation.
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As we walked below the rocks we came to a small stream that was home to some other types of flowers and flowed past a good sized meadow.
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IMG_1763Monkshood and California corn lily

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20200723_075220Orange agoseris

IMG_1772More rocks above the trail.

The trail continued to climb beyond the meadow along more open hillsides where pink mountain coyote mint and white Nuttall’s linanthus were abundant. Other flowers included paintbrush and a few balsamroot blossoms.
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After 4.5 miles we arrived at a saddle where we faced a choice.
IMG_1800Just about to the saddle.

To reach the summit of Gearhart Mountain we would need to strike out cross-country to the east for approximately 1.5 miles. The trail headed NE from the saddle dropping down to a series of meadow before climbing steeply to “The Notch” below the summit and continuing to Blue Lake in 4 miles and it’s end at FR 015 in 6.8. We were hoping to reach the summit and then would decide if we felt up to continuing to the meadows and The Notch. Sullivan’s description of the hike to the summit mentions a “scramble to the left 0.2 mile to the mountain’s long Ridgecrest”. He also says to “look for a break in the cliffs”. From the saddle it was easy to see the cliffs he was referring to.
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IMG_1806Gearhart Mountain from the saddle.

IMG_1807Gearhart Mountain, The Notch to the right, and meadows below.

IMG_1813Penstemon in the rocks at the saddle.

We took a brief break and studied the cliffs before setting off through the white bark pines to find a break in the cliffs.
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We found a reasonable break where the manzanita was our biggest obstacle and climbed up through the rocks.
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Above the rocks the terrain leveled out a bit.
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We made a slight miscalculation here as we veered uphill thinking that we had gotten past the cliffs and were on the long Ridgecrest portion of the mountain.
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IMG_1821A fire pit also made us think we were on the right course.

We were following a ridge but the ridge kept getting narrower and rockier and after .4 miles (from where we had come up through the cliffs) we found ourselves on top of more cliffs. Luckily we only had to backtrack 150′ to find a spot where we were able to scramble down the east side of the rocks to a much easier walk through open forest.
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We began to notice a snowy mountain to the east which after some debate we determined to be Mt. McLoughlin (post).
IMG_1822You can’t make the mountain out in the picture but it was out there.

IMG_1824Now you can sort of see it.

IMG_1823A little blurry but there is Mt. McLoughlin

We startled a few grouse along the way (and they startled us right back) and our presence seemed to also be annoying a pair of raptors. They were noisily circling overhead and we assumed that they must have had a nest somewhere on the cliffs.
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We did our best to stay as far away from the rocks as possible to lessen the disturbance.

The last couple hundred feet to the summit was very easy walking on a the fairly flat top of the mountain.
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IMG_1846The final little uphill on the left.

IMG_1850Summit of Gearhart Mountain

IMG_1853Survey marker

IMG_1869Summit register

It was a nice day with blue skies overhead but smoke from fires in California and some remaining clouds and haze along the skyline limited the views of the surrounding area. On a clearer day we would have had a good view of Mt. Shatsa and been able to see all the way to Mt. Jefferson to the NW. As it was with the help of binoculars we could just make out some snowy features on the horizon but other than Mt. McLoughlin we couldn’t be sure which of the Cascade peaks we were seeing.
IMG_1854The Notch is below to the right hidden by the cliffs.

IMG_1865West toward Mt. McLoughlin which is still hard to make out.

IMG_1876If you squint really hard you can make out a couple of snowy peaks on the horizon.

IMG_1879NNE view.

IMG_1882South back along the ridge.

IMG_1885East down to the meadows below and a second survey marker.

After our summit break we headed back. This time we stayed below the rocky Ridgecrest remaining in the easier to navigate trees.
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The key with this was not swinging out too wide and getting too far below where we had come up from the saddle. Numerous GPS checks kept us from getting to far astray and led us back to the spot where we had come up between the cliffs.
IMG_1895Getting ready to drop down toward the saddle.

IMG_1897Heading down

At the summit we had debated on whether or not to go to the meadows and on to The Notch. Heather was concerned about mosquitoes around the meadows and from the summit it didn’t appear that there was much in the way of flowers down there. Going all the way to the Notch would have added almost 2.5 miles to the days hike which was already going to be around 13 miles if we went straight back to the trailhead. By the time we reached the saddle though we decided to at least check out the meadows, Heather could stop and turn around if the bugs got bad and we didn’t know when we might find ourselves back here. It also helped that the trail shown on the GPS unit didn’t appear to lose much elevation remaining at the 7900′ elevation except for a slight dip to 7800′ near The Notch. We had talked ourselves into it and down the trail we went.
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We quickly discovered that this was one of those cases where the actual trail was not really anywhere near where it was shown on the map and we had fairly quickly lost almost 200′. It appeared that perhaps most people stop at the saddle as there was noticeably more blowdown along this portion of the trail and it was faint at some points even when it wasn’t passing through the edge of a meadow.
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The good news was that it wasn’t long before we encountered the first strip of lush green along the trail and there were in fact a good number of wildflowers (and not many mosquitoes).
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IMG_1924Paintbrush, monkshood, lupine and California corn lily

20200723_113900Swamp onion

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20200723_113954The remnants of a shooting star.

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IMG_1934Gearhart Mountain from the trail below.

We were pleased to find that even near the largest meadow where water was visible we didn’t have much of an issue with mosquitoes.
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IMG_1947Mountain heather next to the stream.

IMG_1948The last of an elephant’s head.

IMG_1950Bog orchids

IMG_1956California corn lilies below Gearhart Mountain.

We followed the trail to the end of the big meadow which was near the start of the climb to The Notch and sat on some rock beneath Gearhart Mountain.
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We decided that this would be as far as we would go. We didn’t see the point in climbing 200′ in the next tenth or two miles for a view that was simply lower than the one that we’d had at the summit. We had a snack and located a small patch of lingering snow beneath the cliffs before heading back.
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The hike back up to the saddle wasn’t as bad as we’d feared and soon we were heading down the other side. Going in this direction we got a better look at The Dome, another rock feature roughly 1.75 miles from the saddle.
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The Dome from the trail.

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We spent more time admiring the Palisades on the way back and met a couple of sagebrush lizards in the process.
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Despite a couple of tents set up along the road to the trailhead we saw no one all day on the trail. My Garmin put the hike at 15.7 miles. (Heather had less on hers but she also didn’t wander around like a fool while off trail like someone else may have.) It was a good hike to cap off our stay in Lakeview although we were planning on a couple of stops on the way home the next day so it wasn’t the last hike of our vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gearhart Mountain

Categories
Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
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By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
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We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
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Scarlet Gilia
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Lewis Flax
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Prairie Star
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Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
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Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
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and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
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We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
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We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
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It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
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It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
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Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
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Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
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From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
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Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
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Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
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Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
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Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
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And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
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We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
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By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
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We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
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Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
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Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
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A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
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To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
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It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644765557647/
Facebook – Hager Mt.: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204238532710679.1073741885.1448521051&type=1
Fprt Rock: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204238985722004.1073741886.1448521051&type=1