Monday, August 25, 2014

Brown Mountain Lava Flow Trail - PCT

August is our least favorite month of the year here in Southern Oregon due to two things -- heat and smoke.  As a result, August tends to be the month that we hike the least and this year is following that trend.  Since our trip to Cape Blanco back in July, we have hiked a couple times locally -- Jacksonville Woodland Trails and the Roxy Ann Loop.  With August almost done, it was time to head for the mountains and get back to more hiking!
Time to hit the trail again......
So off we went early one morning up highway 140 to the Summit Sno Park between Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail known as the Brown Mountain Lava Flow.  We did this hike a few years ago and it was quite memorable.  That was due to the fact that Glenn forgot to put Carol's hiking shoes in the car - a fact not known till our arrival at the trailhead.  As a result, Carol hiked the trail in flipflops  -- true story -- see picture below. This time Glenn remembered Carol's hiking shoes, so all was right in the hiking world.

Proof of the famous "flip-flop" hike!!
From the parking lot it is a short hike along an access trail to get to the PCT.  It is then another short hike along the Fourmile Lake overflow stream till you reach and cross (carefully) highway 140.

The trail proceeds through a nicely forested area and passes the intersection with the High Lakes Trail - another great hike between Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods. Eventually the trail emerges from the forest and begins crossing the lava flow.  The entire Brown Mountain lava flow covers 13 square miles, but for today we would be hiking through four different portions of that lava flow. It didn't take long for us to notice the very strong fragrance from the Chinkapin bushes along the trail.  Other than a few trees, the Chinkapin was the only vegetation along the various portions of the lava flow.

Chinkapin blossoms and berry
One of many large Chinkapin bushes along the trail

These bushes can grow up to 10 feet tall and were loaded with blossoms and berries.  Eventually the chinkapin grows a spiny fruit known as "porcupine eggs" which contain three sweet edible nuts that the local pika and squirrel population consume.

Chinkapin "porcupine eggs"

We had great views of Mount McLoughlin (no snow) along the trail and even had a quick glimpse of Fish Lake. When we hiked this trail in June 2012 there was still snow on Mount McLoughlin (see below), but either way the mountain is still a beautiful and awesome sight.

Mt McLoughlin last time we hiked this trail.....

...and Mt McLoughlin on this hike.....

We also enjoyed blue skies and a light cool breeze throughout our hike and made our turnaround at the "high point" of this segment - just over 3 miles in on the trail.  It is hard to describe how beautiful the views were as  we hiked along this trail, so we will just let a few trail pictures do the talking.  

After crossing highway 140 to get back to the access trail, we noticed a forest service notice posted on a tree.  It stated that due to fire danger, this portion of the PCT would be closed to hikers today.   So we quickly hiked back to the access trail to avoid arrest and deportation, stopping only to let Katie take a few celebratory dips in the stream.

Now that autumn is getting closer, we are looking forward to getting in more hikes as we try to set a new personal hiking mileage record and maybe even reach the 300 mile mark!  Stay tuned.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol