The season turned, rain and then snow coursed over the hills, and we started tuning-up the snowshoes for another snowy winter. Well, not yet little hikers. Those first snows were badly melted by several days of unusually high (in some cases record-breaking) temperatures. Then high pressure settled in, diverting our snow to the East Coast, and leaving us with a multi-day run of clear, cold, sunny, but otherwise snowfree weather. There’s snow up at Crater Lake National Park and in the High Cascades but not so much closer to home. So time to do some local hikes on dirt while waiting for the National Weather Service’s prognostications about our snowy future to come to fruition. The Ashland Hiking Group had made their recent hike to Porcupine Mountain look interesting, so I headed-out to see it for myself. The LovedOne’s recent ascent to treasurer of the county library Friends has rendered her less available for hiking – so my pride in her accomplishments is mingled with missing her on hikes.
To make this more of a hike, I parked along Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 40-2E-33 where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about one mile west of the Pilot Rock Trailhead. It was a bracing 28ºF when I got out of the truck.
From the road, I went north (actually south, then east) on the PCT. There were patches of snow – particularly where there is shade – but much of the trail was snowfree dirt.
About a mile in, the trail crosses a saddle where I got a good view of Pilot Rock across the valley to the east.
I continued on the PCT past its junction with the trail coming up from the Pilot Rock Trailhead, then past the trail up to Pilot Rock itself, and on around the north side of the Rock to where the snow was more pronounced on the tread.
About 2.9 miles from the truck, I came to a saddle on the ridge with a great view of Pilot Rock’s east face. There had been a lot of human footprints in the snow on the trail up to this point. Continuing on along the PCT, the human prints disappeared entirely and were replaced with lots and lots of deer prints.
I reached signed Porcupine Gap at 3.5 miles from the truck. Here the PCT comes very close to the remnants of BLM Road 40-2E-33. Turning right here would have repeated an earlier trip into the Scotch Creek drainage and on down to the Lone Pilot Trail. Instead, I turned left (north), crossed 40-2E-33, and found an old road going steeply up Porcupine Mountain’s southwest ridge. Soon I passed out of the forest on to Porcupine’s grassy summit – it’s like a long, rounded baguette.
After having hiked largely in forest for most of the morning, the views in all directions from Porcupine were much better than expected – great! By now the day had warmed considerably (40ºF or so) and it was actually quite pleasant on the sunny summit.
I could have gone down to BLM Road 40-E-33 and hiked it back to the truck. This makes for an interesting snowshoe loop when there’s snow, but today it would have been a slog on muddy dirt. So I went back along the PCT, getting a view of Pilot Rock’s west face,
and of Mount Ashland and the Siskiyou Crest along the way. Not much snow up there at the moment. The Mount Ashland Ski Area was supposed to open last weekend but couldn’t, so their anxiety about snow is likely increasing daily.
An easy hike (8.2 miles roundtrip; 1,700 feet of elevation gain) along an iconic trail to a surprisingly view-rich summit. It would be fun – but harder – to repeat this trip as a snowshoe loop hike.