rfbolton only needed two more counties in Oregon to finish up the whole state which only two others had done before. Baker county was one of the two remaining and its highpoint was Red Mountain which we planned to do as a dayhike. Fellow SP'er Dennis Poulin joined us in our effort.
On Friday afternoon, September 5, 2003, Bob and I met at a rest area on I-84 where my wife had taken me to meet Bob. From there we drove on to Baker City, grabbed some gas and snacks and then east on SR86 toward Richland. Weird as it might seem, Dennis, who was coming all the way from Medford and had taken four or five hours to drive across the state ended up right behind us as we headed up the roads that led to the TH we needed. That was amazing but the timing was perfect.
We camped right in the parking lot, and were on our way at first light. We knew we had a 17 mile day ahead of us and at least 4000 feet of elevation gain and loss to deal with. Add to that it was going to be a warm September day and an early start was important.
About two miles up the trail you drop a hundred feet into a meadow. The meadow was filled with cattle and turned out to be very interesting. At one point we found ourselves staring at a bunch of cattle that we had to walk past and one bull in particular was eyeing us pretty closely. I had my red windbreaker handy though, ready to throw it on Bob's pack in case the bull started to make a move. ( shhhhh, don't tell Bob.)
A superb spring is passed at around the three mile mark as the trail contours in and out of a canyon it sidehills. At roughly 7 miles the trail drops down towards Crater Lake, which we didn't actually go to as we found a trail that headed up a ridge towards Red mountain and past some stagnant ponds. The first solid look at Red mountain was a revelation, it looked like a big slag pile. The talus and scree extended all the way up to a ridge that we needed to get to. You need to pick your line carefully otherwise you'll be in for some nasty effort to gain the ridge at 9200 feet. We chose the treeline on the left and worked our way up via that route.
Finally, the ridge was achieved and the ridge walk to the summit was actually fun now as the goal was in sight. The rock at the higher elevation was red, hence the name of Red mountain (slam dunk thinking here) Upon summitting, we found the register and had fun looking at entries that dated back into the 70's. Many familiar names were noted and we added ours to the collection.
The views from the summit were terrific, and included Eagle Cap, Matterhorn, and Sacajawea. After pictures and lunch, we headed back down, realizing that the real work might lay ahead of us. . On the descent we decided to try the talus/scree slopes south of our ascent route. This worked quite well, but we were extremely happy to be back on solid ground at the bottom of the slope as there wasn't anything that didn't move when you stepped on it. We thought of several names we would like to renamed this mountain, including Pile of Crap Peak, Cairn Peak, since the entire mountain seemed like one huge cairn. The return hike includes a long, low-angle 500+ foot elevation gain stretch of trail that liked to have never ended. I welcomed the spring to give my weary feet a break and helped refresh them with a nice bathing that i'm sure polluted the creek below for several miles.
You could solo this peak with no problem but the fact that it doesn't see many visitors and the injury risk is high, you'd be better off with a companion or two. We were glad to have had the three of us on this one. I was pretty wasted (thanks to the heat) but happy. Dinner was a fabulous pizza at the nearest little town called Half Way. Yummmmm.