We needed to get out and burn off a few of the excess calories we’d consumed on Christmas Day. And, for whatever reason, we thought (or didn’t) that a snow hike up to Squaw Peak would be just the thing to do the metabolizing. We knew there would be snow but (hopefully) not too much snow. Going with the hopefully theme, we didn’t take snowshoes. Figuring, I guess, we’d post-hole to glory if necessary (which we did).
After a later than usual start waiting out the chance of freezing fog, we got to the trailhead at 3,100 feet to find about 4 inches of soft new snow.
About a mile up the trail, the day had cleared completely, the sun was out, and the views started – here toward the Red Buttes Wilderness and the Siskiyou Crest.
By 3,500 feet, the snow had gotten deeper (6 to 12 inches),
and there were some struggles.
But our objective – the old lookout atop Squaw Peak – came into view to offer encouragement, so we pressed on.
At about mile three, the trail passes through a forest,
and the sun was just warm enough to loosen the wads of snow that had accumulated in the trees – forcing us to dodge (not always successfully) mini snow storms as we hiked along.
After four miles, we reached the upper trailhead of the Little Grayback Trail where it disgorges on to Forest Road (FR) 300, which is what we then followed to get to the lookout.
We hadn’t brought snowshoes because the trail is a little too narrow for them and, up to this point, the snow hadn’t been deep enough (except in a few spots) to justify carrying them. The road to the lookout was another matter – 12 to 24 inches of fresh powder over a deep crusty – but breakable – base. Not exactly post-holing but darn close to it. So we slogged on, feeling those excess calories dwindling with every step. FR 300 runs downhill for a bit,
to FR 2010, where the service road to the lookout starts. The service road passes a locked gate, then starts climbing for the longest 0.75 miles we’ve done lately. Slog, slog, slog…
But then, just as our hearts were being gripped by despair, there it was – our goal, the lookout –
where some of us were able to avail ourselves of its deluxe relaxation facilities,
and chew on a cold lunch. There’s a weather station on the summit (RAWS), so we knew exactly how cold this lunch was – air temp 29ºF, wind speed 12 miles per hour (mph). On December 3rd, the station recorded a (possibly anomalous) wind speed of 107 mph! 😮
We found out that the Forest Service may make the lookout available for rental in 2016. Let’s hope they do because in summer it seems like it would a great place to spend the weekend.
Today, we had some big views too.
We had just gagged down the last of our slightly frozen sandwiches when clouds ahead of the next storm starting rolling in, signaling that it was time to descend. So off we went, with Squaw Lake below,
back to the trail.
We’d gotten a late start and slogging had consumed a lot of time, so for the first time in a long time we were racing darkness (and valley fog) back to the trailhead,
which we managed to reach without having to pull out our headlamps!
This hike (11 miles round-trip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain) – which is fun summer or winter – definitely qualified as strenuous on this particular occasion. But with those Christmas calories now gone, we’re ready to bloat again come New Years! Win, win! 😀