Eagle Mountain (Kalmiopsis Wilderness) 14-Jun-2015

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon

After a week spent adventuring – hiking, rafting, beach walking, wine tasting – with family visiting from the East, we needed a short hike in a new area to regain our senses. Eagle Mountain seemed like a good choice (Hike #83 in Bernstein & Urness’s Hiking Southern Oregon (2014)). The peak can be reached via the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail #1124, sits just west of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and so would give us a chance to see how the wilderness looked 10+ years after its devastation by the 2002 Biscuit Fire. One of my few regrets in this life (other than not buying Apple shares in 1992 for $5 each) is not having found the time to visit this wilderness before the Biscuit Fire, despite having driven past it numerous times. A hiker’s mea culpa for sure. The Kalmiopsis Rim Trailhead was readily accessible via 12 miles of good gravel Forest Road 4201 [which is also access to the popular Babyfoot Lake trailhead and the trail down to the Chetco River] but seemed a little naked.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Kalmiopsis Rim Trailhead (with amenity)

While the little sign near the trail itself didn’t send out waves of hiking happiness,

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
And never is spoken a discouraging word…

it didn’t dissuade us from heading down the trail through the forest.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Starting off on the #1124

The trail soon passed out of the snags and we could see Whetstone Butte in the distance, under the requisite bluebird skies.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Looking north toward Whetstone Butte

This part of the trail runs along the rocky, open part of the ridge, with expansive views all around and different colors of serpentine under foot.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Along the ridge

The Rim trail goes to the west of Whetstone Butte, then over Eagle Mountain, and used to continue on to Pearsoll Peak but the fire did heavy damage to that part of the trail.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
(L>R) Pearsoll Peak, Eagle Mountain, Whetsone Butte

We went toward Whetstone Butte (which is another scramble opportunity),

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Whetsone Butte

then down the trail along its west side.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Along the west side of Whetsone Butte

It’s our understanding that local volunteers have labored to keep this trail open and they’ve done a good job on the southern half below Whetstone but it’s been awhile since anyone got to the second half.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Trail maintenance was good to the white arrow and missing from there to the yellow arrow

This meant plowing for a mile (out and back) through long, sharp buckbrush thorns nastier than razor wire. Too bad we were both wearing shorts. After this short trail of tears, we came out of the brush at Eagle Gap,

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Crossing Eagle Gap

and were able to continue our climb to Eagle’s summit on rocky, open slopes.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Climbing toward Eagle (arrow)

From the broad, open summit,

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Topping out on Eagle

we got an expansive view to the west of the almost 500,000 acres burned by the Biscuit Fire. Its burn severity was highest in this area of the wilderness.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Forest Service burn severity map for the Biscuit Fire

500,000 was just a number until we looked southwest from summit into the heart of the wilderness, with its mile after mile of burned, dead trees.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Looking southwest from Eagle

The little pockets of trees that remain gave us a sense of what this area was like before the fire. To the north is Pearsoll Peak,

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Pearsoll Peak

with its still extant fire lookout. The cupola style lookout from the 1920s was replaced by the present L-4 style structure in 1954. In 1994, the Illinois Valley Ranger District and the Sand Mountain Society completed restoration of this structure.

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
The white dot on Pearsoll Peak is the lookout
Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
The Pearsoll Peak lookout today

After a quick snack on the summit, we headed back, glad for the good weather and great views but more than a little sobered after seeing what a big fire can do to a forest (5.6 miles round-trip; 1,700 feet of elevation gain). Unfortunately, yet another fire – the 1,100 acre Buckskin – is currently working its way into the southern end of the wilderness, where old snags from the Biscuit fire now pose a threat to fire crews. {In 2017, large parts of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness would be burned again by the Chetco Bar Fire.}

Eagle Mountain Kalmiopsis Wilderness Oregon
Our track to and from Eagle Mountain

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