Piloting to Boccard Point (Soda Mountain Wilderness) 23-Sep-2017

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

While we were hiking in Nevada, a couple of cold fronts swept through Southern Oregon and Northern California, clearing out the choking smoke and bringing rain to stifle the many wildfires plaguing our area.  Although the rain helped a lot, it wasn’t sufficient to put the fires dead-out, so several national forest and wilderness area closures remain in effect (likely till next Spring in some cases).  This required a major re-think of our Fall hiking plans.  Fortunately, the nearby  Soda Mountain Wilderness was still open for business.   It’s adjacent to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which is now under threat from the current administration’s utterly misguided belief that we have too much wilderness and not enough clear-cuts.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is more of a threat to our outdoors – wildfires or politicians?  To assuage this unsettling thought, I headed out (the LovedOne having resumed her volunteer duties at the county library) to visit the various “pilot” rocks and peaks dotting the Soda Mountain Wilderness.


This exploratory loop started at the Hobart Bluff Trailhead where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Soda Mountain Road (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 39-3E-32.3). This trailhead was a mud puddle when we first visited it years ago but has now been upgraded to include a parking lot (which was full when I got back) and an amenity (a pit toilet).

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The Hobart Bluff Trailhead from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

From there, I contoured south on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through a forest redolent with that wonderful moist Fall smell,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Along the PCT

past a tiny unnamed pond, an unusual feature in this area,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A small pond just north of the PCT

and across a meadow. The weather was crisp and cool and would alternate between sunshine and high clouds the whole day – perfect Fall hiking weather!

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A meadow along the PCT

Along the way, I found the last Salsify of the season ready to cast its seeds into the wind,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Yellow Salsify (T. dubius)

and a Baneberry displaying Fall leaves and glistening red berries.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Red Baneberry (A. rubra)

At 2.25 miles from the trailhead, I turned north off the PCT for a short cross-country stroll to the stone “throne” atop Little Pilot Peak,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The “throne” atop Little Pilot Peak; Mount Ashland in the distance

with its view of Pilot Rock (for extra confusion, there’s a Pilot Rock in Eastern Oregon too) and Mount Ashland to the west.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Pilot Rock (P) and Mount Ashland (A) from the summit of Little Pilot Peak

From Little Pilot Peak, I went north down the ridge toward where Little Pilot Rock was marked on the map. Having confused the two in the past, I wanted to set the record straight by visiting both. I intially tried following the ridgeline but soon found it easier to walk through the open forest and grassy meadows on the northeast side of the ridge.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A view of now-snowy Mount McLoughlin from a meadow north of Little Pilot Peak

Little Pilot Rock sits down in the trees north of the ridge I was following – coming at it the way I did, it’s not visible until you get within 200 feet or so. However, I soon found the use trail leading to the base of the Rock and from there it was a short, fun scramble to its summit, which was marked with a huge cairn.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The cairn on the summit of Little Pilot Rock; Pilot Rock (left) and Mount Ashland (right) in the distance

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The cairn on the summit of Little Pilot Rock, with Mount McLoughlin in the distance

To continue the loop, I followed the use trail down past the imposing western face of the Rock,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The western face of Little Pilot Rock is a shear cliff

to where it joined a now abandoned road,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The use trail merges with an old, old road

which I followed down to an unmarked junction with the Baldy Creek Road (BLM Road 40-3E-5). The northern and western cliff faces of Little Pilot Rock are hard to see in their entirety from the ground (they show-up well on Google Earth) but I caught a glimpse of the western face from the Baldy Creek Road.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The western face of Little Pilot Rock from the Baldy Creek Road

The loop continued with an uninspiring 1.3 mile plod up the gravel Baldy Creek Road to where it intersects the PCT and where the Siskiyou Mountain Club has established the start of a trail (along an old, old road prism) to Boccard Point – one we first tried during a snow storm in November 2016 (post). This trail, while presently obscured by tall grasses,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Along the trail to Boccard Point

is easy to follow, past wildlife,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A small rodent’s fallacy: If I don’t move, he can’t see me…

and out to Boccard Point, a rocky prominence overlooking the Soda Valley, Iron Gate Reservoir, and Mount Shasta.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Mount Shasta, with the Iron Gate Reservoir in the foreground

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Pilot Rock (center) and Mount Ashland (right) from Boccard Point

After a snack on the Point, I retraced my steps for about 0.3 miles and then struck due north cross-country along the east side of Point 5900. Once I was north of this point, Soda Mountain (with its extensive collection of communication towers) came into view,

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Soda Mountain

across yet another meadow of tall grass (somewhere in here I picked-up what must have been one of the last ticks of the season; its attempt to bite me ended in disaster – for the tick).

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Tall grasses in the meadow south of Soda Mountain

I wandered on a now much faded old road along the south side of Soda Mountain to where I could discern a path upward through the brush guarding its flanks. A steep, but short, climb brought me to the lookout. There’s a geocache nearby, wherein I left two rare VanMarmot hiker “business” cards.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The Soda Mountain Lookout

On previous trips, we’ve returned to the trailhead via the service road but this time I thought it would be more interesting to descend cross-country via Soda Mountain’s northeast ridge.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Along Soda Mountain’s northeast ridge

Along the way, I passed some unique volcanic rock formations, one of which looked like an Easter Island statue and another which was a bulbous hoodoo.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A hoodoo along Soda Mountain’s northeast ridge

I descended the ridge to a saddle at about 5,700 feet, with its view of an intriguing rocky prominence that has neither a name nor a found point – it looks like a hike to the top would be fun.

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

A rocky prominence on Soda Mountain’s northeast ridge

From the saddle, I went straight downhill – steep but not hard due to the open terrain – to a junction of the Soda Mountain Road (the part that continues south of the trailhead) and a seriously decommisioned old road (formerly BLM Road 40-3E-28). The BLM must have really hated this road!  The road prism had been filled in but the 20-foot wide gap in the trees created by the road was still evident, as was the straw used to control erosion. I could walk it, so I did, back up to where it now secretly joins the Soda Mountain service road. From there it was the service road back to the trailhead. In all, an interesting and varied – trail, cross-country, gravel road, use trail, decommissioned road – hike (10.7 mile loop; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) to the “pilots” and beyond!

Boccard Point Soda Mountain Wilderness Oregon

My track for the Boccard Point Loop

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