Mount McLoughlin dominates the eastern horizon here, but it’s Mount Ashland (7,532 ft / 2,295 m) – with its ski area and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and wildflower meadows and views – that draws the crowds. It’s summit is not as distinctly visible as McLoughlin’s but, if you can pick out a giant white ball, you’re seeing Mount Ashland.
We usually get to Mount Ashland a few times a year for snowshoeing and (later) wildflower viewing. But this winter, for reasons related to personal business and vagarities in the weather, our plans to go snowshoeing up there kept slipping and slipping and slipping. Some snow will still be there in late March and early April we said (optimistically).
But we’d overlooked the fact that the ski area got through this winter season on the strength of just one massive snow dump in December; all subsequent snow storms proved to be frustratingly inconsequential. And December’s snow was now melting away fast. Very fast.
So we didn’t even bring our snowshoes along – just our microspikes – when we drove up past the ski area to the Sno-Park (parking permits are required until April 30th – which speaks to a time when snow could be around as late as June). The ski area lifts closed early this season but there were more than a few skiers around – those willing to trudge up the slope carrying their skis or boards and zoom down on something less forgiving than deep powder.
We opted to just walk out-and-back to the summit on Forest Road (FR) 20 and the service road to the NEXRAD station. No need to do any cross-country and prematurely trample some wildflowers that will likely struggle to emerge this year.
So a simple, easy hike of just 4.8 miles (7.7 km) with 900 feet (274 m) of gain. But the weather – except for some high, thin clouds – was stunningly perfect for this walk: crisp, clear, sunny 😎, with barely a light breeze. Views for 100+ miles (160 km) in all directions! 😁 We put metaphorical sprinkles on our day by having lunch at Caldera on the way home. 🍔🍺😋 And that’s no fooling! 😉