Grayback Mountain (Applegate, Oregon) 31-May-2014

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon

For our last hike during this vacation in Southern Oregon, we decided on a short, steep one up Grayback Mountain (7,048 feet), the highest point in Josephine County. It’s supposedly named after the lice {“graybacks” 😯 } that infested the miners during the 1850’s gold rush. This is hike #71 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition). (Update: Parts of this area were burned by the 2017 Bigelow and Creedence Fires.)

The unpaved forest roads were a little tricky – potholes mostly – but we were soon heading up the O’Brien Creek Trail (USFS #900) – from the upper trailhead – through thick, old forest.

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Starting steeply up the trail

Along the way, we surprised a junco that was sitting on a nest she’d built in the sidewall of the trail!

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Eggs in a junco’s nest

We kept on until we reached the Boundary Trail (USFS #1207) and then followed it south to Grayback’s southeast ridge. (We would later learn that it’s much easier to reach the summit by going north on the #1207 to Windy Gap, gaining the ridge from there, and then following the open, rocky ridge south.)

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Reaching the #1207

Sullivan suggests you can go directly up a meadow to the summit ridge, but that looked pretty daunting, so we went up the southeast ridge instead. There was some worry about brush – manzanita can be vicious – but there wasn’t much we couldn’t work around and there were a good number of open boulder fields we could use to keep us out of the brush.

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Over boulders and around brush

Looking south, we could see Buck Peak which towers above Azalea Lake, our destination from two days before.

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Buck Peak (B)

There was even on open area, carpeted with bunches of small lavender phlox flowers.

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Crossing a field of phlox

From the summit, we had big views that were somewhat obscured by the haze. From what we could see of it, Mount Shasta looked pretty melted out and we were told the ski area there never opened this winter. 😥

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Mount Shasta (arrow) to the south
Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Preston Peak (with snow) to the west in the Siskiyou Wilderness
Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Mount McLoughlin (arrow) to the east

After lunch on the summit,

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Healthy eating on the summit

we retraced our steps part way down the ridge,

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Back down the southeast ridge

then descended directly down the meadow (lumpy walking, but still much easier going down than up as suggested in the guide).

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
And down the meadow

At the bottom of the meadow are the remains (an old stove) of the Krause Cabin (a line shack from when cattle were grazed here in summer),

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
All that remains of the Krause Cabin

and little to the north of that is the Grayback Snow Shelter which is used by snow survey crews in the winter (but less so now because of satellites and snow models).

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Grayback Snow Shelter

After that, it was back to the trailhead.

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Back on the O’Brien Trail

This was a short (5 miles round-trip) but steep (2,400 feet of elevation gain) hike in beautiful country with great views under full bluebird conditions! 😀

Grayback Mountain Josephine County Oregon
Our track to and from Grayback

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