The change in plans
Labor day weekend did not line up as I had planned it originally. Mt. Baker was the long sought after goal but for some reason, I could not put that trip together. My second alternative was Glacier Peak but again, plans fizzled and I had to come up with a third alternative, one i could do by myself.
I had been working on the Washington and Oregon prominence peaks since the majority of county highpoints of those two states were finished excepting some peaks where I didn't want to be going solo. I still need Mt. Jefferson in Oregon and the likes of Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Olympus, and a few others in Washington. My final decision was to go to central Oregon and chase after a few prominence peaks. I had a list of hoped for ones and it went like this:
1, Bald Mtn south of La Pine Oregon. It had an active lookout and at an
elevation of 7393, looked fairly attractive.
2, Yamsay Mtn, east of Crater Lake Nat'l Park was another one that I just
wanted to get done. At 8196 feet high, it made the prominence list
at #14 and was one of Oregon's 100 highest.
3, Mt. Bailey at 8368 was another peak I had wanted to do for some time so
it was a natural to be on my list.
4, Diamond Peak at 8700+ easily made my list and was one I had no qualms
about doing solo.
5, Bohemia Peak, at 5990 was one that was fairly near Diamond Pk and could
be done either the day before or the day after doing Diamond.
6, Roman Nose, Grass and Prairie mountains were three I thought I could
get on the same day and would make my 4 days in Oregon worth the time
and gas money by making 8 prominence peaks possible. Well, here's the
rest of the story.
The only information I had on both Bald and Yamsay was information given to me by Dennis Poulin and Bob Bolton. Bob had said Yamsay was as lonely a hike as he had done by himself since he saw absolutely no one else at all on the mountain. With the more popular Cascade destinations less than an hour away, few people venture over to the east side of highway 97. Most would be content to stay on the west side, the Crater Lake side.
I thought I'd get an early jump on friday morning but last minute duties conspired to keep me from getting the early start I'd hoped for and it wasn't until noon when I left the house. It is a 5 hour drive to La Pine Oregon and then another hour to get to the base of Bald Mtn. So at 5 p.m., I found myself parking my Tacoma at a bend in the road where a gate stops further travel upward towards the lookout. As I was getting ready to hike the mile of road, the forest service lookout drove past me in her green forest service truck and waved. It is an easy road hike to the top, barely a bit more than a mile from the gate and only about 400 feet of elevation gain and I was up there in no time at all. Unfortunately, the very active hornet and yellowjacket population kept me from spending any time up there, so I took some pics of the benchmarks, lookout tower and touched what appeared to be the highest spots and then moved quickly back to my vehicle. No stings although they swarmed me a few times. Several pretended to use me as an aircraft carrier and made touch and go landings.
I managed to call my wife as I was heading quickly down the road and I wanted to let her know where the heck I was.
From Bald Mtn, I made my way south using my Oregon Benchmark map book and connected with the SilverLake road, highway 76, a nicely paved change from the dirt roads I had been driving for the last hour or two. As I made my way west, I was looking for FS road 49 which would take me to my planned
home for the evening, Jackson Creek Road.
Stopping from time to time and check my map, I finally spied the right road as a sign declaring that the Jackson Creek CG was but 5 miles away. I was looking for a camping spot in less than 15 minutes and dinner was cooked as the light began to fade. Listening to the music of Jackson Creek, I slept well.
Morning got me moving as I crossed off my list of never buy again, the Mountain House Granola (complete with milk and blueberries). I thought it would be simple fare but it was more gaggy than I wanted. Undettered by a poor breakfast choice, I was soon driving up the road toward the trailhead. Interestingly enough, most of the road surface was Utah like, reddish in color. At the trailhead, I put my daypack on, threw in an extra pint of water and headed up the old road which was now a trail. I noticed blue diamonds from time to time indicating that this was most likely a snowmobile
trail when there was enough snow around. Soon I began to encounter trees across the road (deadfall) and not just a few. The road was littered with the trees to the point that I often found a way through the trees (still standing) on the north or south side of the roadbank. The other feature of this road that needs to be pointed out is the significant number of berms.
They bermed the old lookout road about every hundred feet or so. Definitely a case of overkill but probably not enough to discourage a dedicated motorcyclist 40 years ago. However, today, only foolish hikers take this decomissioned road. Whoops, I did see tracks from a mountain bike that extended up the road, dodging all the downed trees for about a mile and a half or so. I also noted several pairs of foot prints indicating that a few others had taken the time to hike Yamsay from the west as I was doing. The hike became a game of route finding either through or around the deadfall that was constant, taking up probably 50 percent of the first two miles. Most often I could find a use path around the deadfall zones by going into the woods on the north side (most often) and occasionally on the south side. This kept up until I reached a big
switchback where I headed due north for a bit and the deadfall diminished
tremendously. A second swithback, heading east, pretty much took me out of the deadfall althogether.
The rest of the road, the last mile or so, was pretty straightforward and pleasant. The berms were still constant but I could stay on the road and didn't need to make the little detours that cost time and effort. The first view of the summit area was not what I had hoped for. No grandiose peak awaited me, but the remains of a once proud lookout that was easily determined by the amount of concrete abutments present and the amazing amount of old rusty nails littering the ground. I quickly found the highest spot, took a few pics, grabbed a snack and made a call to my wife to let her know where in the middle of nowhere I was. My summit stay was a mere half hour and soon I found myself retracing my footprints back to my vehicle. My progress downward went rapidly as there was not much to figure out on how to bypass all the downed trees.
Still, a great hike, all by my lonesome to the top of a mountain where a long abandoned lookout once proudly stood.
Time: 2 hours and fifteen minutes up and one hour and ten minutes down.
Distance was a bit over 7 miles and elevation gain near 1800 feet.
From Yamsay I went on to do Mt. Bailey the same day and Roman Nose the next. A change in family plans had me heading home much sooner than I liked but I really enjoyed my abbreviated trip into Oregon once again and will return to chase down the 25 remaining prominence peaks.
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