Friday, April 15, 2011

Crane Mountain-Lake County

Oregon 36 Project
Hiking the highest peaks in all of Oregon's 36 counties
#16-Lake County-SSE Oregon-Crane Mountain-8,456 feet

If it's isolation you want, you want Lake County Oregon. It sits near the border of Oregon, California and Nevada.  
The "urban" area is Lakeview, the County's most populous city (pop.- @ 2,600). The next city is Alturas, California (pop.-2,800) about 60 miles south. The whole county is just short of New Jersey in area size, but has only 0.001% the population-about 1 person per square mile.

Crane Mountain is a jaunt east of the "metropolitian" area and it is desolate in the spring. The one lift ski area 15 miles away is closed. The road to the trailhead is snowed in. The snowmobilers have all but given up the forest roads for the season, yet warmer season travelers have yet to arrive.
This makes April an incredible time to experience an area like Crane Mountain.

It has been a heavy snow year in Oregon. Human powered access this year to the Crane Mountain trailhead in April was via snowshoe only. Check your maps before heading out and be prepared to hike further than you had planned. What I thought was going to be an 11 mile drive on the forest road from highway 140 followed by a 5 mile hike up ended up being a 3 mile drive, followed by a 13 mile snowshoe each way.

Willow Creek meadow...gorgeous.

Forest service trucks, miles from the plowed road await the melt to get back to work.

This was a show stopper. I was heading back down from the summit via my tracks from a few hours earlier. I had seen a few rabbit and coyote tracks, but not this. This was a fresh bear print that was not there when I had passed the spot earlier. Yea, that's really the size of my foot. Ugh. I really thought @ 6,100 feet in April, they'd still be hibernating. It's an important reminder that you always need to take caution in storing your food.

Vista looking north from just off the summit.

Camp set up on the forest road.

High alpine meadow at about 7,500 feet.

5 foot tall snow cave carved by Turpin Spring. I was tempted to crawl in there, but I didn't like the text of my obituary. Somewhat skilled hiker, foolishly crawls into unstable snow cavern in spring, it collapses trapping and suffocating him.

Click the vid' to see and hear the summit.

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