Grasshopper Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 27-Aug-2019

Today was forecast to be the hottest day of the year in the Rogue Valley. 105°F (40°C) was on offing. So, of course, I had to go hiking. Yes, I’d certainly get sweatier than a tree fungus but so it goes. The LovedOne wisely decided to stay home instead and work on a sweater (in anticipation of winter).

It’s just over a two hour drive to the Skimmerhorn Trailhead at about 3,600 feet on the edge of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. If I thought altitude was going to save me from the heat, that notion was quashed as soon as I stepped out of the truck into what felt like a warming oven. Fortunately, much of this hike is in deep forest and that took the bite out of the warmth. Later there would even been a reasonably cool breeze at my goal – the old lookout site on Grasshopper Mountain.

From the trailhead, I climbed up through the recovering burn scar of a 2002 fire on what seemed, judging from its width, to be a pretty popular trail. Sweating occurred while traversing the relative open ground in the scar. But then it was into the deep forest and on to first Buckeye and then Cliff Lake.

Up through the old burn scar
Bright white Quartz Mountain (Q) is easily visible through the remaining snags

In the distant past (some say 1,000 years ago, others 6,000 years) the northwest face of Grasshopper Mountain collapsed, damming the flow of Fish Lake Creek, and creating a sheer cliff southeast of Cliff Lake.

Buckeye Lake with Grasshopper Mountain looming in the distance
Buckeye Lake
The outlet from Buckeye Lake
Cliff Lake
Cliff Lake
The sheer cliff of Grasshopper over a field of thistles at Cliff Lake

After its initial climb through the burn scar, the trail had been mostly level as it passed the lakes. But beyond Cliff, the climbing started – some 1,300 feet in the next two miles. The trails were clear and well-graded [except for a short bit just below the summit] so it should have been easy. Except… Except for the sensation of being a PopTart in a microwave. The forest cover (and a little breeze) helped a lot but it was still HOT – hotter than a Costco rotisserie chicken hot. But by combining tough with stupid, I was able to slog on to the summit where I was refreshed by the views, the site of an old fire lookout, and another quart of Powerade. 🙂

A meadow along the Grasshopper Mountain Trail
The trail is vague through here, just 500 horizontal feet from the top
Summit! No more climbing!

A fire lookout camp had been set on top of Grasshopper in 1912 and a cupola cabin built there in 1925 (photo to the left). This was followed in 1933 by an L-4 cab which was replaced in 1958 by a 10-foot R-6 flat cab (the parts of which were lifted to the summit by helicopter). All the structures were removed in 1977. All that remains today are the four concrete foundations of the 1958 lookout.

The 1933 lookout in 1942 (USFS photo)
The 1958 lookout in 1964 (USFS photo)
The 1958 lookout foundations with Highrock Mountain in the distance

The lookouts may be gone but the big views remain, as no trees have grown-up in the intervening years to block them. Aside from the fire history, the views are well worth the climb.

Quartz Mountain (Q) to the northwest
Buckeye Lake (L) and Cliff Lake (R) below
Highrock Mountain to the east

After making a determined, but somewhat futile, attempt at complete hydration on the summit (and a small snack), it was time to head back. Let me just note that downhill went a lot quicker and easier than did uphill on this oven of a day. After 8 miles round-trip and 1,900 feet of gain, the nearest cold soda proved to be on Highway 62 some 40 miles away (Tiller may look like the closest town but today it’s almost a ghost town). That soda didn’t rise to the level of pie but it was still good… 😀

Cool leaves on the forest floor
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2 comments

  1. Thanks! I was tempted but I didn’t have time to look for a deeper, less muddy entry point. Nice thing about “tough and stupid” is that you’re unlikely to out-smart yourself. 😉

  2. “Tough and stupid” has been our credo for quite a while. It works for a multitude of occasions!
    Great pictures, as usual. You weren’t tempted to take a dip into the lakes?

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