Surveyor Mountain (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 22-May-2018

Surveyor Mountain Fremont-Winema National Forest Oregon

Surveyor Mountain (not to be confused with Surveyor’s Ridge near Hood River) is a long, high-elevation ridge capped by Surveyor Peak (~6,200 feet) in the north and Summit Rock Point (6,542 feet) in the south.  The Casacde-Siskiyou National Monument’s expansion now protects the ridge, whose snowpack feeds headwaters streams of Jenny Creek, a candidate for Wild and Scenic River status that flows south past the Box O Ranch, over Jenny Creek Falls, and into the Klamath River.  The area is popular with birders who can look (or listen) for Dark-eyed Junco, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Swainson’s Thrush, Clark’s Nutcracker, Spotted Towhee, Steller’s Jay, Scrub Jay, White-headed Woodpecker, and Northern Goshawk.  The mountain is also important habitat for higher-elevation birds, such as Red Crossbill, Cassin’s Finch, and Gray (or Canada) Jay, that may be threatened by regional climate change. The Monument is near the southern limit of the Gray Jay’s range. This knowledge made exploring the ridge seem like a worthwhile way to spend a morning before the thunderstorms struck, so we did.

How to get to the ridge wasn’t abundantly clear, given that part of it is on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and part is on a piece of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, and maps of the various forest roads involved aren’t necessarily up-to-date. So, from Dead Indian Memorial Highway, we drove east on paved Keno Access Road to a right turn on to Johnson Creek Road (BLM Road 40-5E-2.0), then a left fork on to gravel Surveyor Meadows Road (BLM Road 38-5E-28.1), and lastly a left turn on to dirt BLM Road 38-5E-28.1 to its end at a bright red cinder quarry.  Our sole guiding principle was to take whichever road went uphill.

Surveyor Mountain Fremont-Winema National Forest Oregon
The quarry at the end of the road

This cinder quarry (or pit) is an excavation of a volcanic vent that formed between 5.3 million and 11,000 years ago.  From the quarry, we headed southwest up,

Surveyor Mountain Fremont-Winema National Forest Oregon
Scrambling up the Rock Slide

and on to a feature mapped as the Rock Slide. Surveyor Mountain was built over tens of thousands of years by eruptions of pyroclastic material, ash, cinders, bombs (the lava kind), and extrusions of relatively fluid basaltic andesite lava. The jumble of broken boulders we were scrambling over is that lava.

Surveyor Mountain Fremont-Winema National Forest Oregon
On the Rock Slide

Climbing the Rock Slide took us over one of the elevations along the ridge, where we found open meadows nestled in the trees.  Only a few wildflowers were starting to appear in these openings.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
One of the meadows near the Rock Slide

After about 0.5 miles, we scrambled down off the elevation to a saddle,

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Dropping down into the forest

and came under the forest canopy. Somewhere along in here we crossed off of the Fremont-Winema and on to BLM land.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Walking through the forest

It was pretty easy going under the trees, mainly because it was obvious the area had been selectively logged – primarily for larger, older growth trees – a while back. The undergrowth hadn’t fully recovered from this, so we were able to move right along. After a mile, we came to another jumble of exposed lava rocks, these ones being the northern edge of Summit Rock Point.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Starting the scramble to Summit Rock Point

This high point is positioned at the end of a ridgeline of these boulders, so we dutifully scrambled along and over them as clouds built in the distance.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Clouds appeared as we scrambled
Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Along the rocks to Summit Rock Point

The point itself is just a slightly higher pile of these same rocks, with no particular distinguishing characteristics. But it got us just high enough to see the top of Mount McLoughlin under the gathering clouds.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Mount McLoughlin from Summit Rock Point

After a snack, we decided to return through the forest rather than along the rocky ridge, so we dropped directly down from the high point,

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Leaving Summit Rock Point

and started back, catching a glimpse of Buck Lake and Aspen Butte along the way. This view was possible because Surveyor Mountain is cut on its east side by several predominantly normal faults trending northwest-southeast forming a classic fault-block mountain analogous to the Grand Teton Mountain front in Wyoming. The east-northeast sides of the faults form the lowland in which Buck Lake and the Spencer Creek drainage reside.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Buck Lake (flat meadow) and Aspen Butte (A)

We couldn’t avoid the Rock Pile without detouring way downslope, so we had to do some more scrambling,

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Scrambling across the lower edge of the Rock Pile

during which my eye caught a spot of bright green down in the mottled gray rocks. This was a Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla), the smallest and most commonly seen and heard frog in Oregon (but the state amphibian in Washington).

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Pacific Treefrog
Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Nothing to see here, just move along…

Right after that, we regained the quarry and came to the end of our short (2.5 miles round-trip; 400 feet of elevation gain), but fun, cross-country hike along Surveyor Mountain to its high point.

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Returning to the quarry

We heard lots of birds but, as is often the case with us, didn’t actually SEE many (and we’re not good enough birders to identify them by their calls alone). Thus we’ve tended toward wildflowers because they don’t hop or bounce or fly around while we’re trying to identify or photograph them. If wildflowers were to start doing that, we’d just have to switch our attention to rocks…

Surveyor Mountain Fremint-Winema National Forest Oregon
Our out-and-back track to the high point

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2 thoughts on “Surveyor Mountain (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 22-May-2018

  1. Thank you for your great posts! If you ever decide to leave GPS coordinates to help us rookies, that would be mightily appreciated.

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    1. Thanks! Early on, I thought about adding GPS files to accompany the posted maps. But, unfortunately, WordPress does not support attaching GPS type files (.gpx, .kml, .kmz) as media to a post. However, if our hike was on an established trail (or trails) or a known use trail, then try looking on REI’s HikingProject (https://www.hikingproject.com/) – access is free, no registration is required, the moderators have edited the offerings for accuracy, and you can download .gpx files directly from there.

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