Old Baldy on the Dead Indian Plateau 03-Nov-2016

On Fridays, the Mail Tribune (our local paper) publishes an Outdoor section which usually includes an account of one or more local hikes that might be of interest.  While we were driving U.S. Route 20 back from the East Coast, the Tribune came up with five nearby hikes to view Fall colors.  Four of these we’d already done but the fifth, a hike on a relatively flat section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Dead Indian Plateau, was new to us.  The paper described the attractions of this hike as …the raspberry-colored leaves of the knee-high huckleberries under the big fir-tree canopy… and …a diversity of Fall mushrooms…  After 11 days in a car, being outdoors on this hike sounded like a GREAT idea, so we went for it!

Going from south to north in this area, the PCT (USFS 2000) crosses State Highway 66 at Green Springs Summit, skirts the south shores of the Hyatt and Howard Prairie Lakes, crosses Dead Indian Memorial Road, goes around Brown Mountain (post), and then crosses State Highway 140 before entering the Sky Lakes Wilderness.  Between Howard Prairie Lake and Dead Indian Memorial Road, the PCT curves around Old Baldy (6,339 feet), the site of a former fire lookout, and thus an attractive destination for our hike.  This piece of the PCT can be accessed either from the south (via the Keno Road, which goes south from Dead Indian Memorial Road just beyond Milepost 18 east of Ashland, Oregon) or from the north (from the well marked turnout, which serves as Pederson Snowpark in winter, just past Milepost 27 on Dead Indian Memorial Road, also east of Ashland).  Old Baldy is about 4 miles in either way, so we started from Keno Road.

On the way to the trailhead, we had a brief, but clear, view of Mount McLoughlin, sporting its first dusting of snow for the season (which we’re hoping will be as snowy as last season).

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Mount McLoughlin from Dead Indian Memorial Road

The PCT’s crossing of Keno Road is marked only with one of the new, large PCT plaques, so we almost drove right past it.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Where the PCT heads north from Keno Road

We found this to be an exceptionally mellow section of the PCT, one with no apparent elevation changes (yet we’d gradually gain 1,600 feet) where you can just stroll along enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the Fall forest.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau

This being the PCT in late season, the tread was in perfect condition, with evidence of heavy (and much appreciated) maintenance.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Keeping the tread clear

Unfortunately, we were a bit late for the promised raspberry-colored huckleberries, so we turned our attention to the mushrooms – more on those later.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

We just missed the colorful huckleberries

The PCT crosses three dirt roads between Keno Road and Old Baldy and just before the last of these (Forest Road 2520, near Griffin Pass), there is a sign pointing to a spring – open water otherwise being hard to find in this area.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

The PCT crosses FR 2520, after passing a side trail to a spring

About 0.5 miles past FR 2520, we passed a sign for a side trail to Vulture Rock.  Neither this side trail or the named Rock (which is Point 6054) are shown on our maps, so we made a note to come back and explore more here. A little further on, the PCT begins a gradual climb up the east side of Old Baldy and enters an area where a past fire has downed the trees and opened views to the south and east. We could easily see Mount Shasta to the south and Aspen Butte, in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness, to the east. We could also see what we hoped were some prescribed (or slash) burns (and not late season wildfires) in the forest to the south.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Mount Shasta from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Aspen Butte (arrow) from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Smoke plumes (arrow) from fires to the south

The PCT goes around to a ridge on the north side of Old Baldy and from there it’s a short cross-country hike through open forest,

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Going cross-country through the forest

to the bare, flat, but viewless, summit of Old Baldy.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

The summit of Old Baldy

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

The USCGS benchmark on Old Baldy

In 1924, the Forest Service constructed a cupola-style fire lookout on Old Baldy, which was in service until 1961 when it was removed by being burned (then a common practice with lookouts that were no longer needed). Lots of pieces of melted glass and old nails can be found among the summit rocks.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

The Old Baldy lookout in 1942

We had a snack on the summit and then started back, now looking for the promised Fall mushrooms, which, if we looked down, paid attention, and didn’t trip, were pretty easy to spot. Formal identification of mushrooms is beyond us (we’re still working on vascular plants and birds), so we just appreciated them for their subtle, but warm, colors.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Overall, a very easy (9.6 miles round-trip; 1,600 feet of elevation gain), pleasant hike (stroll even) through the forest, with some views, and a summit thrown in.  The side trail to Vulture Rock is intriguing, so we’ll be back to investigate that – likely coming in from the north to mix things up a bit.

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Our out-and-back track to Old Baldy

HOME

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s