Point 5321 & Hey Bear! (Southern Oregon) 28-Nov-2020

Our last hike to Rhyolite Point (Point 5401 on the map) west of Pilot Rock was in April of this year. The first wave of the Big V had just broken over Southern Oregon. There was confusion about whether you could go outside and, if so, where and when and with whom. Eventually outside was deemed acceptable. But it was judged best if you stayed local, distanced, and didn’t try anything epic where rescuing your sorry ass might tie-up resources needed elsewhere. So we did a short loop around Rhyolite Point on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for wildflowers and views. We saw lots of wildflowers but only three people (at a distance) and had a nice hike. 🙂

Fast-forward seven months. We had been warned, but we didn’t listen. Or we listened to idiots who told us falsehoods and nonsense about what a tiny piece of nearly inanimate protein was truly capable of. So now an even bigger Big V wave is crashing down on Southern Oregon and across the nation. A really big wave. People who don’t like math are having to live (and die) the hard reality of an exponential growth curve. Hosea 8:7 comes to mind. It’s almost too much for us to think about how a lot of this pain could have been avoided or mitigated. But it wasn’t. 😥 So, once again, our time outside the house is confined to brief trips for essential supplies and short, local hikes. So it goes.

Another positive thing (aside from the hike itself) that came out of our April foray was a comment by Hans Stroo that alerted us to spectacular views to be had from Point 5321 just south of Pilot Rock. So today’s short and local hike was a 5-mile (8 km) out-and-back involving the PCT, Rhyolite Ridge, and Point 5321. This got us above the freezing inversion fog that has been filling the valley lately and into some sunshine moderated by a pearly overcast. There was a little snow around – not enough to impede our walking, but enough to let us know that we were not alone in the woods. 🐻

Not an anti-virus mask; just a cold nose and not wanting her picture taken
On the old road (now trail) west of Rhyolite Point
Clouds coming in way ahead of the next storm
Mount Shasta from Rhyolite Ridge, under an opalescent band of high clouds
Pilot Rock on the left and Point 5321 on the right
Mount Shasta with wood smoke wafting in the valleys
Almost to the Lone Pilot Trail
Ice on the trail

From the PCT, we circled around the west side of Point 5401 (Rhyolite Point) and down to the Lone Pilot Trail which we followed a short ways south to where an old road branches-off to the east. We were now inside the Soda Mountain Wilderness and a short piece of this old road had been decommissioned into a meadow as a step toward restoring the wilderness.

Pilot Rock from the restored meadow

We found a well-worn use trail leading across the meadow to where the old road was still intact. This is also where another old road branches-off to climb to a saddle between Pilot Rock and Point 5321. From there it’s any easy climb to the point’s rocky summit. There was enough snow on this piece of old road to show us that we weren’t the only ones using it. And not just Bambi and a cast of cute squirrels. No, there was more…

Hey, bear! Hey, bear! 🐻
Not a person in a fur suit with size 20 EEEE feet

Bear! And not just one set of tracks, but a lot. They followed the old road. They circled off the road and into the forest and back. They went here and there, hither and yon. There were many of them. Many. We found ourselves vocalizing the “Hey, bear! Hey, bear!” we’d internalized hiking among grizzly bears in the Yukon. We got to the saddle, with its good view of the south face of Pilot Rock.

The south face of Pilot from the saddle

From the saddle, it was a short cross-country walk to the top of Point 5321. We found ourselves following bear tracks almost to the summit. The “Hey bear!” continued.

Almost to the top

The view from the top of the point was exactly as spectacular as advertised!

The LovedOne surveys her domain, with Soda Mountain (S) in the distance
Mount McLoughlin
From this direction, Pilot Rock looks like an upward-pointing face, with a forehead (L), nose (C), and chin (R)
Yellow lichen striations on Pilot’s south face
The “face” of Pilot and Mount McLoughlin
Mount Ashland (A) and Rhyolite Ridge (R) from Point 5321

After a snack on the summit, and with the overcast thickening, we headed back.

Leaving Point 5321
Back into the snowy forest

Once back at the saddle, we noticed that the old road continued eastward – a fact not shown on the map. So we followed it (and more bear tracks) east to where it became chocked with brush. We might have been able to push on around to the PCT on east side of Pilot Rock, but the sunlight was fading and the bear tracks were abundant, so we passed on giving this a try. Back down the old road, north on the Lone Pilot Trail to the PCT, and that back to the trailhead on Pilot Rock Road.

Finally, our tracks were going in opposite directions
Across the restored meadow
North on the Lone Pilot Trail
And south on the PCT under the watchful gaze of Mount Ashland

Last year we actually saw a half-dozen bears. This year I saw one – just outside of Ashland. So while all those tracks were a bit unnerving, it was nonetheless good to know those large, furry shag rugs are still out here, roaming around. We heard people talking in the distance but passed only three on the way back. But there were four other cars parked at our little trailhead. So we weren’t the only ones blessed with the ability to get outside. Then it was back under the inversion fog and into home confinement. But this was, although short, a good hike to big views as promised! And unseen bears added something extra to the walk! 🙂 🐻

Our track to Point 5321, past Rhyolite Ridge (R) and Rhyolite Point (Point 5401)
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4 comments

  1. I think we sensed that trying to contour eastward was going to be sketchy. We did pass an even older road – more of just a blade cut really – going down from just before where we turned back. We briefly considered seeing where that went. We didn’t partly because it was getting late but mainly because that’s where the bear tracks went. But it would be interesting to find a way to loop Pilot Rock. 🙂

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  2. excellent! glad you tried it :). I have tried the eastward road and even pushed on around the clogged section. But just past that, there is a serious cliff running north-south that prevents going around Pilot Rock without going wayyy downhill and around. The topos do not show it very well, but it is more dangerous than I would want to try.

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  3. For grizzled hikers like us, seeing these sort of tracks always gives us paws. However, during this time of pandemic hibernation, being able to be in the outdoors makes things bearable. 🙂

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