Yamsay Mountain is a huge, sprawling (and fortunately now dormant) shield volcano with a glacier-carved crater on its northeast side. It sits 35 miles due east of Crater Lake National Park, at the border of Klamath and Lake Counties. Yet, despite its height and size (it covers 75 square miles), Yamsay is barely visible above the surrounding hills and forests. What makes it interesting as a hike is its size: it’s #73 on the list of Oregon’s highest peaks, #15 of the peaks that share a history of Cascade Range volcanism, and #14 on the list of Oregon’s most prominent peaks (where prominence is the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain). All this listing makes the peak attractive to peakbaggers and view-obsessed hikers (like us). It’s also a popular winter cross-country ski route. And the recent placement of a geocache near the summit has attracted yet another group of visitors (Yamsay geocache). So it’s a bit obscure but not unpopular.
In early June of this year, just prior to our rafting trip down the Rogue River (post), we took our friends Wayne and Diane on a short hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) above the Silver Fork Basin in the Siskiyou Mountains – part of a hike described by Coogle and Sathre in their Favorite Hikes of the Applegate. The big views we got from the exposed ridges and across the expansive meadows enticed us to do the hike again (post) later in June but this time continuing on to the summit of Observation Peak – through fresh snow dropped by an unusually cold late season storm (Thank you El Niño!)! Then we came across the Ashland Hiking Group’s (AHG) description of an out-and-back hike from Observation Peak to Dutchman Peak. A quick look at the map suggested we could connect Dutchman Peak to Forest Road 20-819 and, with a bike assist, design a hike that looped around the Silver Fork Basin, going over Observation and Dutchman Peaks along the way.
In 2015, I did two dayhikes in Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (details): an out-and-back on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (USFS #1470) and Rocky Rim (USFS #1572) trails (post) and a loop hike around Fish Lake (post) on the Rocky Rim, Rogue-Umpqua Divide, and Fish Lake (USFS #1570) trails. Highrock Mountain (6,195 feet) is a prominent feature visible from various points on all of these trails. While not the highest point in this wilderness (that honor belongs to Fish Mountain, at 6,789 feet, about 4 miles to the northeast), it stands out from other peaks in the area because of its hulking rockiness and nearly treeless summit. It’s such an obvious, exposed peak that I fully expected to find a route description for it in one of the usual places – Summitpost, Peakbagger, Peakery (where its listed as the 561st highest mountain in Oregon), etc. – but there was nothing. When a Google Earth-based survey suggested that there were no obvious cliffs or drop-offs blocking a Class 2 scramble to the top via its southeast ridge, we decided to go see for ourselves if its summit was accessible as a non-technical dayhike.
We occassionally happen upon an engaging (to us at least) topic or activity that does not fall readily within the outdoorsy, non-motorized focus of this blog. This is one such “diversion” from that life on our feet.
The recent run of 100+ ºF days on the valley floor has been sapping our enthusiasm for hiking, even at altitude. It hasn’t been cooling off as much at night, so even elevations above 6,000 feet have been getting pretty warm before noon. So, if actual hiking wasn’t an appealing option, then we could at least drive around and look for places to hike once the weather moderated. The drive we chose is called (at least by the U.S. Forest Service) “The Siskiyou Loop” (USFS brochure). The most interesting, and largely unpaved, part of this loop is Forest Road 20 (FR 20), which runs along the scenic crest of the rugged Siskiyou Mountains between the Applegate Valley to the west and Mount Ashland to the east. Because FR 20 provides access to several trailheads along the crest – including the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in several places.
Southern Oregon Happy Trails (details) is the meet-up group for hikers in our area. We learned of it shortly after relocating here but, being unfamiliar with the meet-up group concept, thought we’d watch and wait until we’d gained some of our own experience with the trails in this area. Time passed. Then this week we finally decided it was time to give “meet-up” a try when a hike to the summit of Grayback Mountain was posted. At 7,050 feet, Grayback Mountain is the tallest peak in the Josephine County, Oregon. Back in the days of the Gold Rush (1850s-60s), miners were often hygenically challenged and thus irritated by lice, which they referred to as “graybacks.” The mountain is composed of a Paleozoic schist (formed by the metamorphosis of mudstone, shale, or some types of igneous rock) that is gray in color so, from a distance, it looks a little like a gray lump – hence the miner’s name for it (oh, those romantic devils!). We’d been there before, via the southeast ridge (post), it was short enough so we’d be done before the day got really hot, and the group size was small (some meet-ups are just too big for our taste). When we signed up, there were seven people going. By the time I got to the meeting location, it was only myself and the hike organizer (the LovedOne having bowed out because of the heat). Still, the organizer – Joe – was keen to do the hike, as was I, so off we went.
Mount Ashland is our local ski area and this winter – thanks in large part to El Niño – there was plenty of snow and it was open on its regular winter schedule. On the two days of the week it’s normally closed, we used the Sno-Park next to it as the starting point for three snowshoe hikes in the snow-covered forests and meadows to the west: one out-and-back to the Grouse Gap Shelter (post), one just to the summit of Mt. Ashland when a storm was rolling in, and, finally, a loop over the summit, out to the Shelter, and back partially cross-country on some steep snow (post). But we’d never been up there in the summer!
Tenas Peak (6,558 feet) is an ancient cinder cone that sits just west of the Cascade Crest on the northern boundary of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness (details). The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a short distance to the east and Cowhorn Mountain (also called Cowhorn Butte by some), a somewhat better known hike and short scramble, lies a few miles to the north (post). What drew my attention to Tenas was a write-up about it by Oregon Wild (post), presumably to build interest in either expanding the Thielsen wilderness or creating a larger Crater Lake wilderness (details). It sounded like an interesting loop hike in an area I hadn’t visited before (it’s off the Windigo Pass road as is Cowhorn Mountain, but sooner). The clincher was that Tenas used to host a Forest Service fire lookout and supposedly has excellent views (yes, but not in all directions). So, I got myself to the Kelsay Valley Campground and Trailhead (USFS) early in anticipation of the hot weather forecast for later in the day. Kelsay is also an equestrian trailhead and camp. Yes, horses can make a trail extra dusty BUT many equestrians also voluntarily undertake trail maintenance tasks – such as clearing small downed trees that are a pain for horses and hikers alike. That seemed to be the case here since the entire loop was in good condition and entirely clear of irritating fallen trees (and not too dusty)! So an extra ration of oats for all concerned!