Day 1- The drive, Mt. Scott and The Watchman
I headed back out to I-5 south towards Canyonville, where there was a alternate route that used state routes 1 and 227 that got me to Hwy 62, which heads towards the southern entrance of Crater Lake. At certain places the air was quite thick with smoke, which had me worried that it would be like that in the park as well.
I arrived at CLNP around 2PM, and was happy to find out that the air was fairly clear of the smoke in this area. I headed first to Lost Creek campground to get a site there, it seemed a much better alternative than the Mazama campground. The Lost Creek site is indeed a nice, out of the way place to spend a night. Very comfortable and quiet, reasonably priced at 10 bucks a night as well.
So now it was time for my new first objective, Mt. Scott. I found the trailhead, which had a few cars and a couple of vans there, so I knew I wasn't going to be alone. The sign there said it should take 3-3.5 hours to complete the hike. I headed up the nicely graded trail, passing 2 groups of 10+ people and a couple of smaller groups. After 35 minutes or so, I rounded a corner and got a good view of the lookout for the first time. Continuing up, I passed one last group of people and made the summit in 50 minutes. The view was nice, but since it was around 4:30 and the air was pretty hazy from the smoke, there wasn't very good light for photos, so I headed back down in 5 minutes, getting back to the car 38 minutes later. So one down, and a P2K to boot!
Now I headed north on the east rim road on my way to the Watchman, stopping a couple of places for some photos. Making the parking lot around 5:45, I hung out there for a while, having some dinner and waiting until 6:30 or so to head up. My main objective here was to get some nice sunset photos of Mt. Scott and south towards Union Peak. So starting up at 6:30, I made it to the top 20 minutes later and hung around the lookout and summit rocks waiting for the light to get really good. Unfortunately, that never happened, so after taking some pics of Mt. Scott, Mt. Hillman and Union Peak, I headed down. There was another fire SW of Union Peak, so the photos of that were at least interesting.
Driving back to the campsite now, I went through Rim Village and onto East Rim Drive. The sun had just set and as I was driving up East Rim Drive, I looked at Union Peak and you could see the glow of the fire SW of it. I stopped at a turnout that was less than 10 miles from the fire and got the camera out. I didn't bring a tripod, so I had to handhold the camera using shutter speeds down to a tenth of a second, so I could only shoot wide-angle shots. Several times you could see the flames shooting up 50-100 feet in the air. It was an awesome sight, the first time I had ever seen a forest fire at night up close.
So back to the campsite, where I read a couple of chapters of Ed Viesturs 'No Shortcuts to the Top'. A very entertaining read. He's no Whymper or Bonnington when it comes to writing, but the story is so good that it doesn't really matter.
Day 2- Garfield Peak and Pelican Butte
Now it was time to drive south. Heading south on Hwy 62, it was uneventful until I saw a sign outside of Fort Klamath saying that 62 was closed a few miles ahead. Immediately I think it is because of the fire and that i'm going to have to do a long detour, until I get to Fort Klamath. There I see that it is just for construction and I can take the west side road to Hwy 140 just as I had planned.
There is a good quality gravel road off of 140 that takes you to the Pelican Butte lookout service road. I park here and finally get to take the bike off and go for a real ride. The road is a mild grade for the first mile or so, then gets considerably steeper with more switchbacks after that. I ride probaly six or seven tenths of a mile, then have to walk the rest of the way up. A lot of the 2nd half of the road is in full sun, and as it was getting hotter, I had to stop in a shady spot a few times for a quick rest and drink. I make it to the top in 1:40 and check out the lookout and find the high point. The view here is also limited by the smoke, but I can see McLoughlin fairly well from here. After 10 minutes I get on the bike and head down. The road is a bit rough and loose in most areas, but nothing real bad and I can keep up a good 15+ mph most places. I pass 2 people on quads heading up near the top, the only other people I see up here. Despite the fact that my hands cramp up pretty bad most of the way due to the near constant braking I have to do on most sections, I make it down in 18 minutes, 45 seconds. Not as fun as singletrack for sure, but it beats having to walk down!
After reaching the car, I head to Fourmile Lake to find a camping spot. I've heard this is a great campsite, and this is definitely the case. A very peaceful, beautiful area. And it was free! I'm not sure if it was closed for the season or what, there were no signs to that effect anywhere, but there were no fee evenlopes or signs for money at all. So I wasn't about to pay. There were several other people camped there as well, so I figured it was ok to do so. I spent a very relaxing evening there, hanging out next to the lake and riding around the campgroud a couple of times. Set up camp, then finished 'No Shortcuts...', my verdict is it is a very good book, I can recommend it to anyone interested in mountaineering.
Day 3- Mt. McLoughlin
At first the trail is smooth with a fairly mild grade and I make good time, connecting with the PCT in 20 minutes and back to the McLoughlin trail in less than 35 minutes. From here, the next mile or so is also fairly flat and within an hour im up over 7000 feet and more than 2 miles in. From around 7200 feet or so, it becomes much steeper and I slow down considerably. Still keeping up a steady pace, I make it up past 8000 feet in less than 2 hours. I stop to rest for a bit around 8200 feet, where it breaks out of the forest almost completely. Still going at a slow but steady pace, I scramble up the last 1300 feet in just over an hour and I reach the summing by 11:55, reaching it in 3:15. The summit is a really cool place with a great view all around. The weather is perfect, probably around 55 degrees and great visibility. The smoke that had been around the last 2 days had mostly gone away due to a switch in the wind direction (now from the east). One drawback to the summit was there were lots of people that had carved out or painted the rocks with their names, some fairy recently. One dude named Greg something spraypainted his name in foot-high block letters! I didn't leave my own name up there, I wasn't able to locate a summit register and I wasnt' about to copy Greg.
I stay at the summit for 25 minutes and head down. About 7 minutes after leaving the summit, I spot 3 people heading up. I talk to them for a few minutes, one of them had been up here a few times but the others were new to this sort of activity. I let them know that it would be better to head up the south side of the ridge as there was less scree there.
I continue on down for another 20 minutes or so, then I realize that I have gone too far south and am about 200-300 feet south of the way I came up. I hadn't actually went down the scree field that it says not to do so I was never thinking I was too far south. Fortunately I had marked waypoints on my GPS on the ridge on the way up and now took a look to see where to go next. Due to it being too steep of a sidehill where I was, I head down probably 300 vertical feet or so before doing the traverse over to the ridge, where it was considerably less steep. I head north and connect back up with the ridge trail at around 8200 feet. From there on it was smooth sailing on this rocky, steep but easy to follow trail.
I reached the trailhead at 2:35PM, for a total of 2:15 for the descent and 5:30 total, minus the summit stay. There were 3 people at the trailhead that had been with the 3 I saw on the way down. They told me the beer they had in the car sounded better than the summit that day! I told them they probably had another hour or so to wait for the other 3 as they were headed up very slowly. It was a very enjoyable hike and scramble, one of the best i've ever done for sure.
So now I head back north, though Crater Lake again, where it is much clearer. I grab some photos there, then head to Thielsen View campground for the night. This is also a nice campground, with great views of Thielsen from Diamond Lake. I did feel very young there, as I think I was the only person there that wasn't on Social Security!
I spent the evening reading and listening to the radio, as the reception there was quite good.
Day 4-Tipsoo Peak, attempt to find Bald Mt, and Paulina Peak
I broke camp at 8 and arrived at the Tipsoo trailhead at 8:45. The weather was again near perfect, and like the day before the smoke was much diminished. Got my bike ready to go and left the trailhead at 8:55. This is one of the smoothest, even graded trails i've ever seen in the Cascades, so I was able to ride more than a mile of the 3 mile trail to the summit. I passed a couple of bow hunters about halfway up who were coming back empty handed, the only others on the trail. Made it up in just over an hour. The view from the top was first class,looking south to Howlock and Thielsen was outstanding. Found the highest point, then got ready for the ride down. The next 12 and a half minutes were probably the most fun of the entire trip. The descent was one of the most fun rides i've ever done, smooth, fast, with good traction and even some cool jumps thrown in. I can recommend it highly.
After getting back to the car, headed south to 138, then east over to Hwy 97 and on to my next objective, Bald Mt. I only had directions from the northwest on Highway 31, but I saw on the map it looked pretty easy to find it from the SW as well. Turns out it wouldn't be so easy to find, due to a lack of a sign where it was needed most. I headed up FS 94 which was good gravel for a while, then turned into a dirt road that got much narrower with spots that were coming close to high-centering my Honda Civic. I reached FS road 2415, and turned right where it looked like it would head to the Bald Mt. road. After going 10 miles or so, I realized it wasn't going to go anywhere near the road I needed so I headed back to that intersection. There was an unsigned turn to the right there that in retrospect was probably the right way to go, but by then I was getting tired of driving offroad, so I continued north to Hwy 31 and to Paulina Peak.
I had never been to Paulina Peak or Newberry Crater before, so I was looking forward to checking it out. But I didn't have too much time left, so I just headed up the summit road to about 3/4 mile from the summit, where I got on my bike and rode to the summit in 10 minutes. Being a popular drive-up, there were probably 30 + people up there. Still a great view of the caldera, lakes and to the Sisters to the NW. Rode back down and headed back home, stopping in Bend for some pancakes, which I had been craving since I was at Fourmile Lake.
Made it home around 7:30, having driven over 1000 miles and enjoyed 4 days of great weather, scenery and 7 summits. Can't wait for the next trip!