Mount Ashland (Southwest Oregon) 01-Apr-2022

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.

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Upper Bull Gap Loop (Mount Ashland, Oregon) 22-Aug-2021

On the up side, the air temperature here has moderated (for the moment) to a reasonable (for August) 80°F (26°C). On the down (very down) side, we’re still wallowing in thick, near toxic, wildfire smoke from the many (too many 😥) fires burning to our south and north. We’re not even supposed to go outside – or at least not breathe if we do. But, drawing on our considerable experience with tough and stupid, we conjured-up a way to do just that. We didn’t materialize one of the great hikes of Southwest Oregon, but it was a route we hadn’t done before and one that featured thinner air and somewhat thinner smoke (at least for a while).

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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. 😬

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A Moment On Big Red (Siskiyou Crest) 29-Jun-2021

In 1968 – the year I first went backpacking – the atmosphere’s CO2 content was 323 ppm (up from 285 ppm in 1850). Last month it reached 419 ppm. A 96 ppm increase in 53 years may not seem like much but, at the scale of an entire planet’s atmosphere, it’s a lot. More than enough to set in motion natural forces which are going to affect us regardless of one’s political or ideological or religious persuasion(s) or whether one believes in them or not.  In a contest between belief and atmospheric physics, bet on the physics and hang on.

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No Shoes On Siskiyou (Mount Ashland, Oregon) 31-Mar-2021

Siskiyou Peak (7,149 ft / 2,179 m) sits just south of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about 3 miles (5 km) west of the Mount Ashland Ski Area. In the summer months, reaching it is an easy and pleasant stroll along a mellow stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through meadows gushing with wildflowers and big views of Mount Shasta to the south. When it’s snow-covered, as it is at the moment, getting to it is more work, particularly if you’re clumping along wearing snowshoes. So we decided to give it a go today on the not completely absurd assumption that consolidated Spring snow conditions would make the journey doable sans snowshoes. Well, almost…

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Mount Ashland Snowshoe (Southwest Oregon) 03-Mar-2021

March? So soon? One day we’re buying our annual Sno-Park pass and the next the snow is melting. More storms are forecast but they’ll increasingly bring rain (if we’re lucky) rather than snow. Winter isn’t a protracted business here – our local ski area typically closes at the end of April. In just another month or so, we’ll be going on and on about wildflowers – which, although very good things, are not snow. So although we had some longer hikes in mind for today, we decided instead to do a short, but aerobic, snowshoe sprint to the summit of Mount Ashland. Get the blood flowing. Feel a cold wind in our faces. Discover seemingly bottomless voids in the snow cover. Totter over steep slopes with boards strapped to our feet. Take in the view. Further amortize our snow pass. And so on…

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Bull Gap Snowshoe (Mount Ashland) 05-Jan-2021

Finally, finally, 2021 has arrived and the year that will no longer be named is gone. We’re all hoping the year ahead will be better and brighter. And we’re willing to believe it will – in time. But the Big V is still loose in the land, and the vac jabs are running late, so there’s likely to be more suffering to endure before it’s over. We’ll get there. In the meantime, we’re not going to heap so many “wonderful” expectations on still fresh 2021 that it suffers performance anxiety and disappoints. It’s fine with us if it just ends up being – gasp! – boring. 🙄

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Vertically Integrated Smoke (Mount Ashland) 02-Oct-2020

Vertically integrated smoke is all of the wildfire smoke in a vertical column extending high into the Earth’s atmosphere. This is the smoke you see at sunrise and sunset (as opposed to near-surface smoke, which you see all the time).

Vertically Integrated Smoke from fires in Northern California (NOAA HRRR Forecast Model) – Red is not a happy color here 😦
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Siskiyou & Smoke (Southwestern Oregon) 14-Aug-2020

Siskiyou & Smoke sounds like some kind of interesting cocktail (one untainted by a parasol). But, sadly, it’s not. It’s the 10,000+ acre (5,000+ ha) Red Salmon Complex Fire in Northern California pouring smoke northward and eastward into the Shasta, Illinois, and Rogue River Valleys. It is (thankfully) not the biggest fire we’ve ever had in our area but it’s a smoker. Add to that a multi-day excessive heat warning, with air temperatures heading for 108°F (42°C), and you’ve got less than ideal hiking weather (I’m practicing my understatement skills here). But with the right destination one can get above a lot of the valley heat and smoke (choose wisely aging hiker…).

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Mount Ashland Meadows (Southwest Oregon) 30-Jun-2020

The wildflower season is gaining speed in the lush meadows that ring Mount Ashland. From now through August, there will be changing displays of flowers of different heights, sizes, and colors. The bumblebees will be particularly active in August, as would, in a “normal” year, numerous PCT thru-hikers (but probably not this year 😦 ). We started from where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses the Mount Ashland Ski Road about two miles short of the ski area and hiked the PCT west to Grouse Gap and back. This is an easy six miles (with no appreciable gain) through patches of forest and swaths of meadows, with occasional views of Mount Shasta. A Lazuli Bunting and a Western Tanager made colorful cameo appearances, as did a doe with two spotted fawns and a nest of noisy baby woodpeckers. But this venture was about flowers and, by focusing on them, we stretched what’s usually a three-hour hike into a four-plus hour one. This was easy to do on a day that offered clear, sunny, and cool hiking weather. 🙂 We had the trail to ourselves going out but “distance-passed” more than a few hikers on the way back.

Morning along the PCT
Siskiyou Penstemon
Azure Penstemon
Western Wallflower
A doe among the lupines
Along the PCT
Daisy Fleabane
Blue Stickseed
Greene Goldenweed
Western Bistort
Hiking through the corn lilies
California Corn Lily
California Corn Lily
Mount Shasta
Orange Agoseris
Richardson Geranium
Eastwood Daisy
Scarlet Gilia
White Bog-Orchid
Arriving at Grouse Gap

Spring Snow on Mount Ashland 08-Apr-2020

In keeping with the necessary theme of hikes that are local and not too adventurous, we took advantage of today’s gorgeous weather to reprise a favorite snow hike to the summit of nearby Mount Ashland. The ski area there had gathered a good base despite this year’s drought, but its lodge and lifts had to close early because of the Big V. Fortunately, the area and the forest around it are still open and there is plenty of snow to muck about in.

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