Friday, March 16, 2007 I took off from work at noon just to go hiking. I chose Baldy Peak because I hadn’t been up there in a couple of years and there was a forest fire in the area last summer. I wanted to see what kind of damage it did. The higher mountains are still buried in snow and are not accessible, so Baldy Peak would give me a workout anyway.
The trailhead is less than 30 miles from my home in Medford, so it didn’t take me long to get there and get ready for my hike. It was an unusually warm day for March with high in Medford at 75 degrees. I made sure I had enough water and headed up the trail. I must have been excited to be hiking because by the time I got to the second gate I was already out of breath. It felt warm even in the shade.
The trail was solid and not muddy at all. I made good progress up through the forest and soon I was at the ridgeline and could see Baldy Peak off in the distance. I could see there was no snow on the summit. Once up to the ridgeline, the forested areas faded away and now it was mostly brush and grassy areas. I passed Mule Mountain and observed a few spots where last years forest fire had burned the underbrush. Surprisingly, the old growth manzanita bushes seem to be spared. If anything, the fire cleaned up the countryside mostly burning the seasonal grasses and the leaves under the scrub oak.
I continued on my way. The brush along the trail still needs to be trimmed back. I ploughed ahead and at about 3,500ft elevation started picking up ticks on my pants and shirt. In one nasty little area I flicked 12 ticks off my shirt sleeves and pant legs. I was starting to get itchy thinking every movement of a hair was a tick feasting on me. I continued on even though I was sweating profusely now.
When I finally reached the distant ridge where the Mule Mountain Trail meets the Baldy Peak Trail I rested a few minutes. It is a short steep climb up to the summit from here. The views are great from this location with a large grassy slope to the east and snow covered mountains to the east, south, and west.
I climbed the last 400ft to the summit and the first thing I did was take off my shirt, boots, and pants and checked everything for ticks. I hate ticks. I really hate ticks. I counted 17 that I flicked off on the way to the summit. Now I had to run the gauntlet and get back to the trailhead. I took several pictures and hydrated well before heading back down the trail. The hike back to the car was uneventful and I only found one more tick. My hike had taken about 4.75 hours and measured 8.9 miles with about 2,900ft of elevation gain. It was a slow hike for me, but it was warm and I took a lot of pictures.
On the ride back home I felt something crawling in my hair on the back of my head and sure enough, I pulled off a tick. That one had not started feasting yet. Driving another few miles down the road I felt a twinge on the upper part of my left arm just under my T-shirt. Sure enough, a tick was having lunch. I grabbed on to him and pulled on him for about a minute before he let go. He came out whole, but once they bite you, you are going to get an infection. I will deal with that over the next couple of weeks.
Those mountains around Medford must just crawl with ticks as I think 2skinners mentioned them several times in his reports, even as early as January. I hate ticks too since I've had more than my share of the nasty little buggers make a meal of me.