A Brush With Vulture (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 31-Oct-2021

Three peaks straddle the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) due east of Oregon’s Howard Prairie Lake: Brush Mountain (with north and south summits), Old Baldy, and rocky Point 6054 (known locally as “Vulture Rock“). Point 6054 was never the site of a Forest Service fire lookout, while Old Baldy hosted one between 1924 and 1961, and two sat atop Brush Mountain between 1915 and 1930. The lookout on Brush Mountain’s northern summit was probably one of the most unusual ever allowed by the U.S. Forest Service:

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Vulture Rock (Southwest Oregon) 15-May-2020

A few years ago, we were hiking north on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) north of Howard Prairie Lake when we passed a small sign aside the trail that said “Vulture Rock 0.5 mi” with an upward pointing arrow. On a subsequent walk here, we turned at this sign and embarked on a brief cross-country walk and easy scramble to the rocky summit of Point 6054 (“Vulture Rock”). There used to be a fire lookout on nearby Old Baldy but it was removed years ago and trees now obscure the views from that summit. Not so for Vulture Rock where, weather permitting, the views are expansive. Today was forecast (and turned-out to be) a bluebird day between storms so off we went to see what we could see from the Vulture.

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Hiking in the Time of Caching (November 2017)

Geocaching Upper Lower Table Rocks Oregon

Stormy, fractious, blustery, peevish, squally, turbulent, gusty, truculent, garrulous! The current political climate? Perhaps but this humble hiking blog isn’t going anywhere near that. No, it’s the change of seasons here in Southern Oregon as we move from what was a hot, dry summer into what will be (hopefully) a wet, but not too wet, snowy, but not too snowy, winter. This time of year leaves us stuck between too much rain for a long hike and too little snow to justify unleashing the snowshoes. What to do, other than binge watch Blacklist? Well, we’ve started doing some geocaching.

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Cowed Again by Point 5648 (Southern Oregon) 01-Oct-2017

Point 5648 Southern Oregon

A few days ago, I did a loop hike that included a brief visit to Point 5648, a surprisingly interesting rock formation just downslope from Vulture Rock in Southern Oregon.  My attempt to reach the spot elevation on this Point was rebuffed due to risk aversion (or common sense, one is never quite sure which), but a later look at Google Earth suggested that maybe that spot wasn’t the highest point on the formation.  Vows were made to return!  As luck would have it, today’s unsettled weather coincided with The LovedOne’s temporary release from library volunteerism to form the perfect excuse to spend a couple of damp hours conducting further explorations around the Point.  The exertions associated with those explorations would then serve as justification (as if we needed any) for a restorative lunch with beverages at Caldera Brewing in Ashland, Oregon.  So, win-win!

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Vulture Rock Loop (Southern Oregon) 28-Sep-2017

Old Baldy Vulture Rock Oregon

The promise of unsettled weather in the near future pushed us toward one more “summer” hike before we’re hit by wet and cold (and before there’s enough snow for snowshoeing!).  Thanks to the  Hike Mt Shasta website, we’d had a great hike in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest a couple of days ago.  Although other hikes in the Marble and Russian Wilderness areas beckoned from our never diminishing list of hikes to do (our way of bringing the myth of Sisyphus to hiking), the thought of one a little closer to home (that is, one that didn’t involve a four-hour roundtrip drive) was more appealing.  Two that we’d done in 2016 about this time – Old Baldy and Vulture Rock (Point 6054) – seemed like good, close choices that could be fashioned into a loop hike.  With the LovedOne begging off to set-up (after the bomb threat had been cleared) the now monthly library book sale, I was on my own for this one.  I argued that bears and chipmunks rarely try to blow you up, but to no avail.

I opted to start this hike where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Keno Road just northeast of Howard Prairie Lake. It was, as hoped, a beautiful clear, sunny day, crisp in the morning and warming toward pleasant in the afternoon. The PCT in this area is easy going as it heads through the forest slightly uphill toward Old Baldy.

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Vulture Rock (Southern Oregon) 10-Nov-2016

Vulture Rock Southern Oregon

Last week we did an out-and-back hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Dead Indian Plateau to the viewless summit of Old Baldy (post), passing a sign for Vulture Rock along the way.  “Vulture Rock” is the local name for Point 6054 and subsequent research showed that it’s the go-to spot for views along this section of the PCT.  So, of course, we had to go see for ourselves.  Unfortunately the LovedOne was busy elsewhere, so it fell to me to confront the Vulture alone (sigh).  Rather than hike north from the Keno Access Road like we did last week, I opted to mix it up some by hiking south from the Pederson Sno-Park trailhead on Dead Indian Memorial Road (USFS).  From this minimalist trailhead (no amenities other than off-road parking),

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Old Baldy on the Dead Indian Plateau 03-Nov-2016

PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

On Fridays, the Mail Tribune (our local paper) publishes an Outdoor section which usually includes an account of one or more local hikes that might be of interest.  While we were driving U.S. Route 20 back from the East Coast, the Tribune came up with five nearby hikes to view Fall colors.  Four of these we’d already done but the fifth, a hike on a relatively flat section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Dead Indian Plateau, was new to us.  The paper described the attractions of this hike as …the raspberry-colored leaves of the knee-high huckleberries under the big fir-tree canopy… and …a diversity of Fall mushrooms…  After 11 days in a car, being outdoors on this hike sounded like a GREAT idea, so we went for it!

Going from south to north in this area, the PCT (USFS 2000) crosses State Highway 66 at Green Springs Summit, skirts the south shores of the Hyatt and Howard Prairie Lakes, crosses Dead Indian Memorial Road, goes around Brown Mountain (post), and then crosses State Highway 140 before entering the Sky Lakes Wilderness.  Between Howard Prairie Lake and Dead Indian Memorial Road, the PCT curves around Old Baldy (6,339 feet), the site of a former fire lookout, and thus an attractive destination for our hike.  This piece of the PCT can be accessed either from the south (via the Keno Road, which goes south from Dead Indian Memorial Road just beyond Milepost 18 east of Ashland, Oregon) or from the north (from the well marked turnout, which serves as Pederson Snowpark in winter, just past Milepost 27 on Dead Indian Memorial Road, also east of Ashland).  Old Baldy is about 4 miles in either way, so we started from Keno Road.  The PCT’s crossing of Keno Road is marked only with one of the new, large PCT plaques, so we almost drove right past it.

Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Where the PCT heads north from Keno Road

We found this to be an exceptionally mellow section of the PCT, one with no apparent elevation changes (yet we’d gradually gain 1,600 feet) where you can just stroll along enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the Fall forest.

Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau
Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau

This being the PCT in late season, the tread was in perfect condition, with evidence of heavy (and much appreciated) maintenance.

Cut logs on the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Keeping the tread clear

Unfortunately, we were a bit late for the promised raspberry-colored huckleberries, so we turned our attention to the mushrooms – more on those later.

Leaves PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon
We just missed the colorful huckleberries

The PCT crosses three dirt roads between Keno Road and Old Baldy and just before the last of these (Forest Road 2520, near Griffin Pass), there is a sign pointing to a spring – open water otherwise being hard to find in this area.

Along the PCT on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
The PCT crosses FR 2520, after passing a side trail to a spring

About 0.5 miles past FR 2520, we passed a sign for a side trail to Vulture Rock.  Neither this side trail or the named Rock (which is Point 6054) are shown on our maps, so we made a note to come back and explore more here. A little further on, the PCT begins a gradual climb up the east side of Old Baldy and enters an area where a past fire has downed the trees and opened views to the south and east. We could easily see Mount Shasta to the south and Aspen Butte, in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness, to the east. We could also see what we hoped were some prescribed (or slash) burns (and not late season wildfires) in the forest to the south.

Mount Shasta from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy, Oregon
Mount Shasta from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy
Aspen Butte from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy, Southern Oregon
Aspen Butte (red arrow) from the PCT on the southeast side of Old Baldy
Smoke plumes PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon
Smoke plumes (yellow arrow) from fires to the south

The PCT goes around to a ridge on the north side of Old Baldy and from there it’s a short cross-country hike through open forest,

Going cross-country through the forest, Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Going cross-country through the forest

to the bare, flat, but viewless, summit of Old Baldy.

The summit of Old Baldy, Dead Indian Plateau, Oregon
The summit of Old Baldy
The USCGS benchmark on Old Baldy, Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
The USCGS benchmark on Old Baldy

In 1924, the Forest Service constructed a cupola-style fire lookout on Old Baldy, which was in service until 1961 when it was removed by being burned (then a common practice with lookouts that were no longer needed). Lots of pieces of melted glass and old nails can be found among the summit rocks.

The Old Baldy lookout in 1942, Oregon
The Old Baldy lookout in 1942

We had a snack on the summit and then started back, now looking for the promised Fall mushrooms, which, if we looked down, paid attention, and didn’t trip, were pretty easy to spot. Formal identification of mushrooms is beyond us (we’re still working on vascular plants and birds), so we just appreciated them for their subtle, but warm, colors.

Mushroom PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon
Mushroom PCT Dead Indian Plateau Oregon

Overall, a very easy (9.6 miles round-trip; 1,600 feet of elevation gain), pleasant hike (stroll even) through the forest, with some views, and a summit thrown in.  The side trail to Vulture Rock is intriguing, so we’ll be back to investigate that – likely coming in from the north to mix things up a bit.

A map of our track on the Dead Indian Plateau, Southern Oregon
Our out-and-back track to Old Baldy