Vulture Rock (Southern Oregon) 10-Nov-2016

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Last week we did an out-and-back hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Dead Indian Plateau to the viewless summit of Old Baldy (post), passing a sign for Vulture Rock along the way.  “Vulture Rock” is the local name for Point 6054 and subsequent research showed that it’s the go-to spot for views along this section of the PCT.  So, of course, we had to go see for ourselves.  Unfortunately the LovedOne was busy elsewhere, so it fell to me to confront the Vulture alone (sigh).  Rather than hike north from the Keno Access Road like we did last week, I opted to mix it up some by hiking south from the Pederson Sno-Park trailhead on Dead Indian Memorial Road (USFS).  From this minimalist trailhead (no amenities other than off-road parking),

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

The very basic trailhead at Pederson Sno-Park

it was a few steps over to the PCT for the journey south on that very gentle, well maintained trail.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Heading south on the PCT

Falls colors were well gone now so, once again, I had to rely on mushrooms for colors and texture.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Once more among the mushrooms

It had started clear and as the sun rose, the day became sunnier and warmer – suspiciously warm for mid-November. There was, of course, no snow anywhere. I could have gotten away with shorts and a T-shirt but instead sweated in my Fall weather costume.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

The sun also rises…

I came across a fungus growth on a fallen tree that provided one of the few hints of color on the forest floor at this time of year,

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

A tree fungus

and which, up close, looked like a collection of frozen waterfalls.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Cascades on the tree fungus

This area seems to have been just selectively logged – or maybe just thinned – as there are still some impressively tall trees here.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Tall ones along the PCT

I like to eat mushrooms but I also find them fascinating to look at – something about the subtle blending and shading of muted pastels is really appealling.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

A cluster of ‘shrooms

Just before it crosses north of Old Baldy, the PCT passes from Forest Service land on to land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  There used to be a gate here – presumably to keep grazing cattle on the BLM side – but a massive fallen tree scored a direct hit and the gate is now in a heap at the side of the trail.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

A gate fallen on by a hard tree

Shortly after circling south of Old Baldy, I came to the Vulture Rock sign and headed off into the woods thinking I’d be following some sort of use trail – since there was an “official” sign and all. Well, no. Within a hundred yards I emerged on to a dirt road not shown on any map and from there I was on my own cross-country the short distance up to the Rock.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

The unmapped road at the base of Vulture Rock

There’s a largely brush-free way (which, of course, I found on the way down) to get to the open ground near the summit and then it was a really short handhold & foothold scramble to the top. From there, the view was magnificent – much, much better than Old Baldy, even though it’s higher and once hosted a lookout.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Mount McLoughlin to the north

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Mount McLoughlin (M) and Old Baldy (O) to the north

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Mount Shasta to the south

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Old Baldy (O) and Aspen Butte (A) to the east

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Mount Ashland (A) and Howard Prairie Lake to the west

It was cool and pleasant on the Rock, so I sat there for awhile munching on a snack and enjoying the view. After that, it was off the Rock and back along the PCT to the trailhead, stooping to take in one last non-vascular plant.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

A puffball on the forest floor

Overall, a moderate hike (12.5 miles round-trip; 1,400 feet of elevation gain) on good trail to a very good viewpoint. If you know the quirky forest roads in this area, I suppose you could drive right to the base of the Rock. But hiking it is more fun, whether you come at it from the north or the south.

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

My out-and-back track on the PCT to Vulture Rock (Point 6054)


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