Winema National Forest / Sky Lakes Wilderness
Activity: Backpacking, Peak Bagging
Fish Lake to Mount McLouglin Summit: 9,495’ elevation, Distance: approximately 17 miles, over 5,000’ elevation gain, 12 hour duration, rated VERY HARD
Mount McLoughlin is located in Southern Oregon. It lies south of Crater Lake and well North of Mount Shasta in Northern California which can easily be seen from the summit. Mount McLoughlin is a steep sided dormant volcano, part of the High Cascades Volcanic Arc and dominates the Medford Oregon horizon.
The area is heavily forested, and the journey along the well kept trail is absolutely gorgeous. It is a steady incline which becomes steeper and rockier about a third of the way in, but let me assure you that is only the beginning. The last 20% of this adventure is rock scrambling up talus broken boulders and at the very top portion of this trek add scree, which at least made the climb something different.
The altitude was beginning to affect me making it more difficult for me to catch my breath, and tiring me out quicker, making it necessary for me to take frequent breaks for a moment or so. However, this provided an excellent chance to enjoy the breathtaking views. (Breathtaking… notice my choice of words there?) Once above the tree line a blanket of green lay out before us with multiple blue lakes dotting the landscape.
We made it to a view point that provided stunning views of wilderness far and near. We were filled with awe and delight of the bowl area with it’s hues of beige, tan, and brown. We then cast our eyes on high, above the bowl to the massive jagged peaks of Mount McLoughlin. At that point I found looking up at the lonely rugged peaks quite discouraging as it made it quite plain just how far we still had yet to go.
My Through Hiker buddy Ahmed fresh from a few weeks on the trail, plus much younger than I, was starting to realize that this pace was not what he was accustom to. I finally signaled him to just go on ahead, and take my iPhone mostly for picture opportunities, but also GPS Location and what normally would have been GPS Tracking.
You see in an effort to introduce me to the ulta-lite world of a Through Hiker, all well intended I might add, costly errors were made. One such mistake was my two battery packs were shed from my pack. Ahmed’s iPhone died and he did not have his ultra light battery as it turned out, so we were rationing the usage of my iPhone only turning it on and checking my GPS APP occasionally. To see the other hardships emptying my pack put us in go to my ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure Hiking and Backpacking 101’ post ”When a Through Hiker Repacks Your Pack”.
It seemed no matter how much climbing I did the peak was only getting further and further away. Disheartened I signaled Ahmed on the rocks up above that I was done. However… I hate quitting so I thought I might as well continue on at a more meager pace in the mean time as Ahmed kept climbing for the summit. After awhile I saw that the boulders changed to scree, while not optimal hiking it was different and I needed the break of at least different both mentally as well as physically.
Finally I came up over a rise hoping this wasn’t another false top with still further to trudge, but there was Ahmed setting up a summit photo shoot. We celebrated that we had both accomplished the mountain top goal! He made a point that because it was hard it felt like we had done something special. Of course, we were only half done with the adventure and since the footing was treacherous going down it would still be slow going until the path leveled out far below. (For the rest of the story and the difficulty we placed ourselves in see: “When a Through Hiker Repacks Your Pack.”)
The views from the summit of this rugged mountain were superb, shadows of mountains in the distance including Mount Shasta, multiple blue lakes, and wonderful wilderness, as far as the eye could see, filled the senses. We had indeed done something special.
Thanks for joining Ahmed and myself as we found ourselves ’Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ atop Mount McLoughlin. Ahmed purposely made our trek more of an adventure adding miles on, but when that was coupled with a few unforeseen errors, (See “When a Through Hiker Repacks Your Pack”), it fell just short of an Ordeal. I discovered that the difference between Ordeal and Adventure is Attitude. As I struggled up the mountain I did not always have the best attitude, but I never gave up and because of this I found some of that needed balance that we seek when stepping out of the anxiety of our everyday existence and into a world of wonder that profound experiences in Nature provides. For more journeys into the wilderness, and thus journeys into ourselves stay tuned by doing these simple tasks: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. For other locations that PBTA travels to please see the menu above. Each is location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. For high quality adventure wear please see the PBTA Store SHOP APPAREL.
Pursuing Balance Through Adventure