Gearhart Mountain (Fremont-Winema N.F.) 6-29-18

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Gearhart Mountain (Fremont-Winema N.F.) 6-29-18

Post by bobcat » July 12th, 2018, 7:37 am

This was the last stop on a loop around the southeastern part of the state. Gearhart Mountain, in the wilderness of the same name, is an ancient, very weathered shield volcano with long gentle ridges and large cirque bowls. I camped overnight at Corral Springs (free, no drinking water) after stopping at the Mitchell Monument, which memorializes the only individuals killed in the continental U.S. by enemy action. A group out for a Sunday School picnic discovered a Japanese balloon bomb, or fugo, and accidentally detonated it. Six were killed.

Mitchell Monument, Fremont-Winema N.F..jpg
Campsite, Corral Springs, Fremont-Winema N.F..jpg

It actually froze overnight, and I shook shards of ice off my tent fly as I was packing up. The Gearhart Mountain Wilderness has only two trails, and I began the hike at the southern end of the main route, which runs south to north through the wilderness. The first of the weathered formations is a wonderful rock garden of layered andesite known as The Palisades. They resemble the rock gardens in the Badger Creek area (Mt. Hood N.F.), such as above Fret Creek or on the Little Badger Creek Trail, but are much more extensive.

Wilderness sign, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Rock garden, The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain Trail.jpg
Weathered prominence, The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain Trail.jpg
Nuttall's linanthus (Leptosiphon nuttallii), The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Lichen cliffs, The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Leavings, The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Park in The Palisades, Gearhart Mountain Trail.jpg

Then it was gradually up through subalpine meadows and stretches of shady forests. Another set of ramparts begins at The Dome. These formations would warrant a leisurely scramble if one had more time. Breaks in the trees afforded vistas south to Mt. Shasta. At the saddle near the Gearhart summit ridge, I had to confront a choice: an off-trail scramble up the ridge to the peak itself or stick to the trail, as described in Sullivan, to take in the cirque bowl and meadows at the head of Dairy Creek.

Wavy-leaf paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum), Gearhart Mountain.jpg
False hellebore meadow, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Cliffs at The Dome, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Upper Palisades, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Sticky starwort (Pseudostellaria jamesiana), Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Trail through lupine and paintbrush, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Palisade tower, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
View to Mt. Shasta, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
View from the saddle, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Small-flowered penstemon (Penstemon procerus), Gearhart Mountain.jpg
View to Gearhart Mountain from the saddle.jpg

One look at the diseased forest on the summit ridge, decimated by a mountain pine beetle infestation with snags stacked upon each other like matchsticks, helped me to opt for the more pleasant alternative. These beetles are native, so one could say their destructive powers are as integral to the ecosystem as forest fires. However, milder winters, a drying climate which weakens tree resistance, and a lighter snow pack overall seem to have increased the potential for a population explosion. I dropped into the bowl, which had recently been logged out, and traipsed through a series of lush meadows blooming with shooting stars, buttercup, lousewort, and penstemon. The cliffs of the Gearhart summit shadowed a few small snow fields. I hiked up to the ridge below the summit cliffs, but there were no broad views to speak off, and turned back.

Pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellata), Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Cliffs above meadows, Dairy Creek, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Elephant head lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), Dairy Creek, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
False summit from Dairy Creek, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Red mountain heather (Phyllodoce empteriformis), Dairy Creek, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
False summit from Dairy Creek Meadows, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Gearhart summit from the shoulder, Gearhart Mountain.jpg

On the return, I made a foray off trail to get a better view of the upper Palisades and The Dome from a sagebrush knoll sporting a few mountain mahogany trees. About 12 miles round-trip, no one else on the trail.

The Upper Palisade, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
Upper Palisade and The Dome, Gearhart Mountain.jpg
View to The Dome, Gearhart Mountain.jpg

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Re: Gearhart Mountain (Fremont-Winema N.F.) 6-29-18

Post by jeffstatt » July 13th, 2018, 10:20 am

Great TR on an area I know very little about. Surprised to hear about the frost!

(Ugh between the pine bark beetle infestation and ever-more-frequent forest fires is the new normal. )

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