We have had a lousy Spring in Southern Oregon this year. Constant rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains for months. I needed to get some exercise and noticed that Thursday, April 13th was going to be a nice day between 2 storms that swept through the area. I took off work and headed to Brown Mountain.
The summit parking area on Hwy 140 is only about 35 miles from Medford, so I took my time at home and didn’t get to the parking area until about 9:30AM. I wanted to get more experience in my mountaineering boots and snowshoes, so it took me a few extra minutes to get ready once I parked. The day was looking good with some high clouds and no wind. I had picked a good day to hike.
Snow was only about 2 ft deep next to the road, so I headed out without wearing my snowshoes to start. It didn’t take me long to get tired of sinking in almost to my knees that I decided to put on the snowshoes. What a difference they made! I was only sinking in about 3-4 inches now and was making good progress. My GPS told me I was less than 2 miles from the summit, but I couldn’t see it through the trees. I headed uphill following in tracks of crosscountry skiers and snowmobilers. It looked like there had been plenty of activity on the mountain the previous weekend. On this Thursday morning I was all alone and loving it.
The footing was good with the snowshoes so I just kept heading directly at the summit following the arrow on my GPS. Soon, I could see Mt. McLoughlin with its headed hidden in clouds looming behind me. The snow was kind of soft and not icy at all. It was fairly warm for the mountains in the mid 40’s.
Without any problems I continued up the slopes until I could see the summit area ahead of me. It looked steep the final 500 feet or so and I hoped the snow was going to be hard enough for me to climb the slope. I headed directly at steepest part and quickly ascended up to the summit area. In one spot my snow shoes were sinking in almost to the knee, but it was a short enough area, that I struggled through.
Once on the summit plateau, I noticed some big holes in the snow and wandered over to see large lava rocks. There must be steam escaping in these areas to melt the snow cover. I aimed myself to the highpoint ahead and after wandering through some short Hemlock trees, I came to a spot that seemed to be higher than any other. I looked around and could see the crater vent just to the south and determined that I had indeed reached the summit.
Looking around, I could see that both Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods were still frozen over. Klamath Lake was clear, far in the distance. Aspen Butte and the Mountain Lake Wilderness were heavy with snow. Pelican Butte also had lots of snow. The crown jewel, and worth the climb all by itself, was the view of Mt. McLoughlin. Is there a more beautifully shaped mountain in the northwest?
I ate my lunch and enjoyed the snow packed trees of the summit area. Soon it was time to head back down. Since it was a beautiful clear day it was easy to follow my tracks back down the mountain. Just below the summit area, I came across 3 other snowshoers enjoying the day. These were the only other people I saw on my hike. It took me about 3 hours for the total 4 miles and 2,250 ft elevation gain.