Nine hikers celebrated their independence Monday by taking to the trail on our annual hike to Big Red Mountain.
We had a mixed group of Monday regulars, Wednesday regulars and Friday Moderates. And Jennifer, a Traveling Nurse, who was stopping in the Rogue Valley to recreate on her journey from Palm Springs to Newberg, OR. She had brought a Thru Hiker from Croatia down from Callahan's to Ashland; and searching on her phone found the AHG site and was ready to hike. She used my clipboard and signed the waiver to become the newest AHG member.
Still in the Rite Aid parking lot we were waiting for members who live above Siskiyou Blvd to negotiate their way down as streets were blocked off for the 4th of July parade.
This hike to Big Red on the PCT has always been glorious with lots of sun and views from on top and, of course, the main attraction the Bear Grass with white blooms rising on the stocks sometimes over six feet high! But this Monday was not like that. The cloudy weather that brought thunder and lightning and
downpours last Friday still left clouds hugging the mountain tops in the Siskiyou range.
So this became a different sort of hike for Summer in the Siskiyous. After pulling into parking at Siskiyou Gap (5,800') off FS-20, we all donned our rain gear in preparation for the hike. It wasn't actually raining, more of a mist as we had driven up into the low lying clouds.
The PCT starts right up from parking and yields good heart exercise as we quickly rose about 700' in the first half mile.
Immediately we started to see wildflowers lining the trail and going up and down the hillsides. Enjoying the wide variety of flowers became our focus on this cloudy, misty day. Besides all the wonderful flowers identified in Kay's photos, we did find some new Bear Grass sprouting up but only a few feet high currently. We did see hundreds if not thousands of mounds of Bear Grass left over from last season. It seems because of our changing weather that August will be the prime month to see all the blooming Bear Grass.
We all made our way up to the 7,044' summit with the usual scramble up from the trail. It was still sopped in and windy at the top so we used the north facing rocks as a windbreak during lunch. Occasionally there was a brief break in the clouds and we'd get a glimpse of Dutchman's Peak. After lunch we decided to head back down the hillside instead of taking the ridge down since there was no view and the gusting winds made it unsafe.
On our way back we met Kristi Merganthaler from SOLC and her dog, Acorn. Many in the group knew Kristi so we had a pleasant visit with her. We invited her to join the AHG, although she's pretty busy with SOLC including leading hikes on Land Conservancy properties.
Next we noticed a new hiker had fallen in with our queue. She was Gabriele, a Thru Hiker from Switzerland. She had started in Truckee, hiked to Canada and was now heading south towards Mexico.
She was delighted to visit with us and will be arriving in Ashland on Tuesday. Before she headed off with her Thru Hiker's pace, Leslie gave her a bag of sliced apples. Our new hiking friend was absolutely giddy to receive the fresh fruit!
Later back at parking, Leslie told me she always carries fresh fruit during summer, in case she meets a visiting Thru Hiker like Gabriele. I thought that was both a kind and very practical idea. Leslie represents the very best in AHG membership.
On this day, we hiked about six miles RT with about 1,200' of gain. We identified about 3 dozen wildflower species up on Big Red Mountain and finished the hike about 1:30 pm.
Our group was excited for the hike, making new acquaintances and experiencing the flowers on Big Red Mountain.
Happy 4th of July!