As the latest manifestation of this winter’s active weather pattern wound down on Tuesday, the forecast said we would be granted two sunny, clear days during which we could renew our weather-burdened spirits. A not-too-hard snowshoe hike with a view seemed about right, so we selected Hobart Bluff in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as our goal. Hobart Bluff, reportedly named after a local rancher, is part of the first national monument to be protected solely on the strength of its biodiversity. It’s where the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges converge, creating a region of unusual biological diversity and varied landscapes. In summer, reaching Hobart Bluff is an easy, pleasant three or six mile (round-trip) day hike through white fir and oak/chaparral forests and high-country meadows to the Bluff’s craggy basalt cliffs with their expansive views of such peaks as Mount Shasta, Mount McLoughlin, and Pilot Rock. Getting to the Bluff in winter is another matter and our Plan A did not survive first contact with the snow.
Our easier Plan A was to go as far south as we could on the Soda Mountain Road off Highway 66 at Green Springs Mountain Summit, park, then snowshoe up the road to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and then north on it to the Bluff. The road was very narrowly plowed to just past the residences but then there was no place to park. Ack! So our longer Plan B – park at Green Springs Summit and follow the PCT south to the Bluff – was hastily set into motion. There is ample parking where the PCT crosses Highway 66 and we were soon geared-up and ready to depart the trailhead.
After the LovedOne got her brave hiking smile in place,
we followed the alignment to the PCT southward. This has been a BIG snow year in Southern Oregon (and elsewhere in the West), so we never actually say the trail itself as we moved over snow that ranged in depth from about one to several feet, and in consistency from nicely firm to very soft. There were some old ski tracks to follow here and there, but we relied mostly on our maps and the PCT medallions nailed to a trees along the route.
Weather conditions were (as forecast) bluebird perfect from the start and stayed that way for the whole day! After about a mile, we crossed a broad, open saddle studded with oak trees,
with a nice view of snow-clad Pilot Rock to the southwest.
We descended a bit and then started a gradual climb up and around Point 4812. The snow was thicker on this upslope, so we lost the trail for a short distance and had to contour up until we found it again.
By now we’d gained enough altitude to be in snow-flecked avenues of pines, with the trail discernible here as a divot down the center.
About 1.75 miles south, we passed by the edge of a large snow-covered meadow, surrounded by mixed stands of oak and pine,
then went back into the trees,
past an odd shape or two,
then up and around Point 5222 to emerge in yet another big meadow on the north side of the Bluff.
It was less than a half-mile from here to the top but it looked a lot farther. But we’d come this far so we pushed on.
Here the PCT goes around the east side of the Bluff but we were anxious for the summit, so we just went straight toward it, up snow-covered slopes that weren’t too steep to navigate easily with snowshoes (we have mountaineering snowshoes with climbing bails, which makes going up a lot easier).
The climb went quicker than anticipated and we were soon exposed to the big views from the summit ridge and the summit itself.
Mount Shasta was peaking above the ridge to the south,
with Mount Ashland (ringed by the only cloud in the sky) to the west,
the Rogue Valley stretching out to the north,
and Eastern Oregon filling the eastern horizon.
Conditions were so nice (sunny, warm, calm) on the summit that we actually took time to enjoy our lunch!
We considered dropping west off the Bluff to connect with the Soda Mountain Road and then take that back to the trailhead but opted instead to just retrace our steps. Of course by now, the sun had warmed all the snow stuck high in the trees and great wads of wet snow were crashing down all around us as we made our way back through the avenues of trees – close calls but no direct hits.
On the way back we found the piece of the PCT around Point 4812 that we’d missed on our way out, along with the gate that marks the end of public lands and the start of the private conservation easement.
The LovedOne surged ahead on the way up past Point 4750,
and had definitely outpaced me by the time we got back to the trailhead.
A really, really nice snowshoe (6.4 miles round-trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) through varied, interesting terrain culminating in BIG VIEWS! And in perfect bluebird weather! It simply doesn’t get any better than this. We’ve made plans to come back post-snow and enjoy wildflowers and a summer-warmed forest!