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. 🐻
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.
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…
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.
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.
The view from the top of the point was exactly as spectacular as advertised!
After a snack on the summit, and with the overcast thickening, we headed back.
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.
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! 🙂 🐻HOME