Siskiyou Peak (Southwest Oregon) 06-Aug-2021

As the Jack, Bootleg, and Lava Fires sputtered (almost) out, they were quickly replaced by the Dixie (an absolute monster), River Complex, Antelope, Monument, and McFarland Fires, plus a host of other wildfires in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Our valley soon filled with smoke and the air quality index soared into the triple digits (not good). Virus cases in the county have been soaring too. It’s becoming hard to tell which might get our lungs first – the Delta variant or smoke particles. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Then NOAA’s smoke model indicated that shifting winds might…just might…temporarily push vertically-integrated smoke to the south early this morning. This push was also expected to lower the day’s air temperature (before it heads up and up again next week). With The LovedOne immersed in library volunteer duties today (in cool, filtered air ๐Ÿ™„), I considered where to take advantage of this brief respite from pressing heat and cloying smoke. Something close by and not too hard but with a view.

Siskiyou Peak (7,149 ft / 2,179 m) – located just off the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) west of the Mount Ashland Ski Area – eventually came to mind. About eight miles (13 km) round-trip on great trail with only about 1,000 feet (305 m) of gain and with views almost the whole way. I’d done it last August for (sadly) the same smoke-escaping reason, so why not again today? I did have other places in mind, but suspected I’d go to one of them only to find myself mired in smoke.

I drove to where Forest Road 40S15 crosses the PCT near the Mount Ashland Campground. While the valley was embedded in smoke, the air up here along the PCT was cool, clear, and smoke-free. ๐Ÿ˜Ž I hadn’t smelled air this fresh in a month! It looked to be a glorious day to be on the trail! And it was! Others thought so too. Some three dozen PCT thru-hikers, two trail angels, and a dozen or so day trippers passed me as I made my way to and from Siskiyou along the PCT. There were also two people eating their lunch on the summit when I got there. I skipped photos from the summit to talk with them and then headed back. It was a quick but excellent hike in clear, clean air. ๐Ÿ˜ Then I went down, down, down into the smokey, smokey valley. ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Mount Shasta from the PCT before Grouse Gap
Mount Shasta sitting in smoke
Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat under clear skies
A moth among the ferns at a spring along the PCT
Mount Shasta from Grouse Gap
The PCT climbs the ridge southeast of McDonald Peak
The River Complex Fire (arrow) was easily visible to the south
Mount Shasta
Siskiyou Peak below a field of Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat
Mount McLoughlin (1) and Mount Ashland (2) from the use trail up Siskiyou
Wagner Butte (1) and smoke-soaked Medford (2)
A fling of clouds on the way back
Mount Shasta over yellow Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat
Today’s journey above the smoke
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5 comments

  1. Thanks for the hiking ideas! We currently have a basic sedan, so I’m always looking to avoid forest roads at the moment, so really appreciate the different options!

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  2. Thanks! We do too, but if the past is any indication, we might not see meaningful rain until October. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Sorry to say that some of the smoke you’re getting is from the fires just north and south of us. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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  3. Thanks! Out and back to Siskiyou is a good one – you can start on the PCT from the paved ski area road (12 mi RT) or from the parking lot (9 mi RT) or from where I did on the forest road (8 mi RT). You can also switch it up by hiking out to McDonald Peak on the new Split Rock Trail. Another favorite is Big Red Mountain – if your car can handle driving Forest Road 20.

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  4. Beautiful views! Glad you were able to escape the smoke for a short period. Unfortunately for me it has descended on Colorado today and ruined my hiking plans. I hope the west coast receives some much needed rain and cooler weather soon.

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  5. Amazing photos! I especially love “Mt. Shasta from Grouse Gap.” I’m looking for hikes close to Medford, and this is another great one to add to the list.

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