August 22, 2014.
So. Breitenbush Tr > Bear Pt. Tr > summit and back| 7.4 mi. | 3000′ ele. gain | 6 hr.
Since March, I’d stuck to my goal of leading one hike per month for the Mazamas. It was a tricky endeavor to coordinate hikes from Corvallis and appeal to hikers from the Portland Metro area. Often I’d end up just taking a few local friends and picking up people from somewhere between the two cities. Today I’d pick up just one hiker at the meeting location in Salem.
Official Mazama hikes require three parties, but I wasn’t going to turn this lady away and I was damn sure going to take a hike today. So, off we went.
Our hike began around 9:30 and we ambled up the lovely South Breitenbush Trail. We took a pretty casual pace and enjoyed the cool forest scenery. It took about an hour to reach the turnoff for Bear Point, which was marked by a cairn and a sign balanced on top of the rocks.
From here the character of the trail changed abruptly. We climbed up steeply, stopping often to rest. It was a bit much for my hiking companion, but we had all day so we took our time.
I enjoyed the interesting shrubbery, berries and fall leaves. One bush in particular caught my attention. It looked like a rhody, but it had clusters of yellow micro-flowers and peach-colored berries. The bush grew prolifically near treeline and seemed to be in its prime.
Stalks of dead beargrass poked up between the unusual bushes. I also noticed some weird spiky things that appeared to be growing on salal plants. A parasitic invader? An alien life form? It was a day that I wished I’d had a botanist on my team.
Most importantly though, the huckleberries were in season. The bushes were simply loaded with the dark purple, juicy fruit. We stopped many times to pick handfuls of berries and stuff our faces with them.
At the summit we relaxed and imagined what Mt. Jefferson would look like from there. The clouds were in the way of our view. Still, we could see pretty alpine lakes, forested hillsides and mountainous cliffs. It was clear why this was formerly used as a forest lookout site.
It was quiet; we hadn’t seen a soul all day. Eerily quiet. This was, after all, the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. A place with trails and campsites so popular you need to pay for advanced permits. A place where parking lots are packed to the brim with cars. And yet here, no one. On a beautiful summer day. Incredulous.
The hike down was slow and peaceful, as if we wanted to extract as much time out of this day as we could. I’m glad that someone showed up to my hike, even if we didn’t reach critical mass. We both had an enjoyable day and got to see a very special place in the wilderness.