Since 2014, with one fraught exception, Stein Butte has been the hike that closed out our hiking year. 2021, however, ended in the midst of a giant snow storm. Driving was treacherous. Emergency rooms (should a hike go bad) were clogged with plague victims. Even if these hadn’t been concerning issues, there was absolutely no enthusiasm for miles of post-holing up through deep drifts of fresh snow. None. So Stein was postponed.

Time has passed. The virus is still with us. And that big dump of snow? Well, unseasonably warm weather is flushing its water toward the ocean faster than we’d like. But the OMG variant is supposed to peak soon – watch for flying pigs too! And it might even rain and snow again – watch for pigs in GoreTex and puffies! So glass half full and all that. 🍺 Meanwhile, the weather is (perhaps perversely) near-perfect for hiking. So, with The LovedOne busy assembling book-themed displays at the library, I lurched forth (alone 😥) to glory in the sunshine and hike Stein and thus, retroactively, bring 2021 to an “official” end. 😜

Toward the ridge through a forest of old, old oaks
In sunshine on Elliott Creek Ridge
The Red Buttes from Elliott Creek Ridge
Upper Applegate Valley from Elliott Creek Ridge – Little Grayback Mountain on the right
The Red Buttes from farther along the ridge
Clouds from a passing dry, weak frontal system
To the west: Grayback Mountain (G), Big Sugarloaf Peak (B), Applegate Lake (A)
To the southwest: The Red Buttes
To the east: Dutchman Peak (D)
Leaves in the forest

The Stein Butte Trail (#929) is maintained in very walkable condition by the Motorcycle Riders Association (MRA). Today it was dry, snow-free, and clear of all but a few, small, fallen trees. No pigs – flying or otherwise – were sighted. The 9.2 mile (14.7 km) round-trip, 2,400 foot (732 m) of elevation gain hike went smoothly and I even found the geocache that had been placed near the summit in 2021. 😃 Passed two other hikers on the trail and got home before The LovedOne had extricated herself from the library. 😁 Now bring on more rain and snow! 🥶

Along the #929 to Stein Butte