The day after Christmas was another foggy day in Medford, so I headed to the hills to get above the fog and get some exercise. Besides, it was a good way to work off the excesses of the previous couple of days. I am surrounded by nearby hills that are listed on the Oregon Prominence List, so I set my sights on a nearby peak that is short enough to not be blocked by snow and tall enough to get out of the fog. Old Blue Mountain fit that description.
Santa Claus brought me a Garmin Nuvi 1490t for Christmas and I was anxious to see how it worked. I took I-5 north to Gold Hill, got off the freeway and continued north on Old Hwy 99. Foots Creek Road is well marked and my new 1490t was right on the money. I drove south on Foots Creek, found my turns easily and then found a locked gate further down the mountain than I anticipated. I thought I would be able to drive to about 3,000 ft in elevation, but this gate is at about 1,900 ft. Well I was out for some exercise, so I started my hike from the gate. I was still in the freezing fog at the start of the hike and I hoped that would improve as I moved up the hill.
The road is in great condition and any 2WD vehicle should be able to drive it if the gate is open. By the time I reached 2,500 ft in elevation I had climbed out of the fog and could see the surrounding timbered peaks. The road was still kind of icy because we had a little snow a week earlier and it hadn’t melted. It was easy hiking and I made good progress. My topo shows the road ending at about 3,000 ft elevation and I anticipated a steep climb through the forest and brush from that point. To my surprise, the road made a sharp switchback to the left at 3,000 ft and continued. I decided to see how far it went.
I was only a couple hundred yards up the road when I came across 3 guys coming down the road in a pickup who appeared to be road hunting out of season. I asked them if the road went to the top of Old Blue and they said it did. I continued up the road as it traversed all across the north side of Old Blue and came to a saddle on the east side of the summit and then turned west directly towards the peak. My luck was holding, the road must go right up to the summit. In about a third of a mile I came around a point and knew the road hunters lied to me. I could see Old Blue directly ahead of me and the road was heading down towards the Applegate River to the south.
I was close enough now to the summit that I could see a route from the road. First, I had to climb this large grassy slope and then find a way through the forest to a saddle on the north side of Old Blue and then up to the summit from there. Hiking up and across the grassy slope was easy and then I entered the forest. There were game trails to follow and then I came across a nicer trail that seemed to lead directly to the saddle I wanted. There were branches and trees down across the trail, but the footing was better than no trail at all. I made it to the saddle and then just headed up towards the summit.
This last 250 ft of elevation up to the summit was a little brushy, but there was always around the brushiest parts. The summit is forested but there was one view to the south and into the Applegate Valley that was pretty. I walked all the way across the summit area and found a little rocky outcropping on the south end that had a pack rats nest on top. I think this was the highpoint. I didn’t stay long before going back the way I came up. The hike back to my truck was uneventful. Total hike was 8.4 miles, gained 2,300 ft in elevation, and took 4 hours.