Soda Mountain (Soda Mtn. Wilderness) 28-May-2014

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

We’re spending part of this week in Medford for personal business and for some hiking. So we thought we’d “warm-up” for longer hikes with two short classic local hikes – Pilot Rock and Soda Mountain. We arrived at the “new” Pilot Rock Trailhead (the one created after this became a wilderness area in 2009) to find it was socked-in, 33ºF, and snowing. The LovedOne noted that marital bliss was not going to be served if she had to hike through a snow storm in shorts. Point taken.

So we headed over to the Hobart Bluff Trailhead {this was before the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) put in a pit toilet and a gravel parking area here} with the hope that the weather would ease a bit while we drove. Miracles! Sorta sunny (but not warm) weather awaited us at that trailhead.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
At the (old) Hobart Bluff Trailhead

From here, we took the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) south through some open meadows that still had lots of fresh flowers – it’s a mile high here and the wildflower season was just starting.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Wildflowers along the PCT

Some of the original forest is still intact and festooned with an amazing variety of lichens and mosses.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Moss along the PCT

It was too warm for the snow to stay stuck to the trees, so it was essentially “raining” as we walked through the forest,

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Along the PCT through a lush, wet forest

past a late season trillium tormented by “Spring” snow.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
A snow-battered trillium

After a short ways along the PCT, we took a short spur trail up to the service road leading to the lookout on the summit. Along the road we had our first big, but cloud-truncated, view to the south.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Looking south from the service road

The lookout on the summit dates from 1933, but is now completely surrounded by a host of 21st Century electronic wizardry.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
The Soda Mountain lookout

We’d hoped for the iconic view of Mount Shasta from the lookout but the clouds weren’t giving us any help with that.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Looking south from the lookout

We could barely make out Ashland to the north.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Looking north toward Ashland

When the clouds closed in yet again, we headed back to the trailhead along the service road.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Enough already – time for food and beer!

We were afforded one teasing glimpse of Pilot Rock on the way down.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Pilot Rock

After our 4.2 mile round-trip, 810 feet of elevation gain hike in 36ºF weather, we went to the Standing Stone Brewpub in Ashland to warm-up with food and medicinal libations. The LovedOne wanted me to add our sighting of a green-tailed towhee foraging on the service road just below the lookout.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Green-tailed towhee

We’d never seen this kind of towhee before, mainly because Ashland is near the northern edge of its breeding range and it’s not found in the Columbia River Gorge. We see the green tail but it could just as well be a “rufous-headed” towhee too.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon
Our route to and from Soda Mountain

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