The winter of 2015-16 was blessed with an El Niño, which gifted us a normal (and then some) snow pack (yeah!). And now it looks like we’re going to experience a La Niña, which should bring on a normal (and then some) snowpack for the winter of 2016-17 (yeah!). But the storms have been coming in one after the other, with little time between them for the snow to settle or the roads to clear higher up (not yeah!). So we’re stalling on undertaking this Winter’s first snowshoe hike and instead are picking-off a few of the lower-altitude, snow-free hikes we haven’t done yet. One of these is Bolt Mountain, located on Josephine County and Bureau of Land Management land about 5 miles southwest of Grants Pass, Oregon. The 3.2 mile trail to the summit is popular with mountain bikers but is multi-use and open to hikers and equestrians too. It’s also reputed to be a good wildlflower hike in the Spring, and one with great views on a clear day. Today we did it as an exercise hike; a short one we could squeeze in before the next round of storms envelopes us.
We first learned of this hike, not from the BLM website, but from a quirky little trail guide we found in a small bookstore in Ashland. The listed hikes are all well-known local favorites but if you want Bigfoot to be real (but not necessarily breathing heavily right outside your tent in the middle of the night) then this is the guide for you.
The trailhead is at the upper dirt parking area right at the entrance to Fish Hatchery Park ($5 day use fee, portable toilet in the lower parking lot),
and the LovedOne and Blanche (our truck) and I gathered there on a very cold, overcast morning, one riven with only an occasional ray of sunshine.
The Bolt Mountain trail starts out along an old road,
but then quickly shrinks to a trail that crosses a creek and some level ground before starting a gentle climb to the north through a mixed pine,
and madrone forest.
On the way up, there were some views of the weather’s half-hearted attempts at clearing; perfect conditions if moody gloom is you prefered hiking style.
But the moist air and near freezing air temperatures conspired to outline every spider web along the trail with a delicate tracery of frost crystals – webs you’d almost never see if they weren’t highlighted in this way. Beautiful!
There were, of course, no wildflowers so our attention was drawn to a host of miniture mushrooms growing on almost every surface, including the end of a twig – wherever a wandering spore found a home.
We started below the cloud deck and had climbed up into its lower reaches,
just as it started to dissipate a bit,
as we climbed higher through an avenue of moss-draped trees,
past some more mushrooms,
and on to the summit.
The fogs and mists had eased enough by the time we reached the summit to allow us to see a bit of Grants Pass to the east,
and southwest toward Mount Ashland and the Siskiyou Crest on the far horizon.
After a quick, light snack, we headed back.
A good, short (6.4 miles round-trip; 1,200 feet of elevation gain) hike for exercise and views; definitely worth doing again once the Spring wildflower season is upon us. Another plus is that this hike is only 5 miles outside Grants Pass, home to the Climate City Brewing Company. This near magical convergence of hike and brew (but not that uncommon here in Oregon) allowed us to easily obtain the food and refreshments necessary for us to recover our strength before the drive home!