Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Last (?) Visit To Owls Head Peak

Summit view toward Cascade Mt.

I revisited Owls Head yesterday with very mixed feelings. It is unquestionably my favorite small mountain but they are closing the trail because of abuse. I was dismayed at the condition of the trail when I climbed it last year and it is even worse this year. In recent years it has become extremely popular, especially with families and casual hikers because the summit experience is huge relative to the effort required to climb it. 

But the real reason for the closure is not the condition of the trail, as bad as it is. The reason is that the trail crosses private land at the start and this year on Memorial Day weekend there were so many people climbing Owls Head that their parked cars blocked the landowners from getting to their homes. They hit the limit of their patience with inconsiderate hikers and immediately closed the trail on weekends with a permanent closure to take effect after Labor Day. The closure saddens me but I totally sympathize with the landowners having been through a similar situation myself.

When I arrived there were more cars there on a Wednesday than I had ever seen before but I found a spot near the trailhead that had been vacated. I was met by a couple just coming down who told me that there was a crowd on top along with numerous dogs. I was to see dog poo on the trail going up (bag it out people) and smell other leavings that were obviously human and much too near the trail. 

When I first visited Owls Head at least 20-30 years ago the trail was a single narrow path. No more.

Large sections are trampled to the point that no vegetation is left except the trees. As much as I hate to see the trail closed, Owls Head is in need of an intervention.

I took my time climbing, taking photos as I went and many people passed me on their way down. I had arrived at the trailhead and begun my climb shortly after noon and I find that most casual hikers tend to time their hikes to summit at noon or shortly before so they were already on their way back down. I took a couple of side trails to photograph the views and woods.
A side trail that hasn't been trampled to death.

An oak sprout.

A venerable pine.

Gnarled roots of a fallen pine.

View toward Giant of the Valley from a lower outlook.

A glacial erratic, a remnant of the last ice age.

Somewhere along the trail (the boundary isn't marked) you cross from the private land to state land which includes the summit. 

An open rock stretch before the summit.

The last stretch skirts the left of a cliff that is popular with rock climbers.

Life is rough on a mountain anyway and hordes hikers make it rougher. 
This tree looks more like an oversized bonsai.

A climber setting the route for his companions in the woods below.

In spite of the negativity of the situation and the condition of the trail, it was an awesome day to be in the woods and to stand on top of a mountain. D.E.C. has proposed to create a new trail up the other side of the mountain but bureaucracy moves slowly. I don't expect that it will be in place by next year or even the following year. I'd be pleasantly surprised if it happens within 5 years based on past experience with D.E.C. action while I was a lean-to adopter. 

A panorama looking East from where I ate a late lunch.

 A pair of young ladies who were joined by the rest of their family a few minutes later.

A broad panorama looking South including (left to right) Giant of the Valley, Porter, Cascade and Pitchoff Mt.

On my way down I shot one last view of Giant framed by a pair of boulders. I had spent nearly 4 hours on the mountain, climbing enjoying and then descending. The time spent on top was a wonderful escape from the current turmoils of our sorry excuse for a civilization. When I got back to the parking area only 4 cars remained including mine. I have two more weeks. I may be back but I am thinking of arriving and climbing in the dark to see the sun rise over Giant then leaving when the crowd starts to arrive.

As always the photos are copyrighted. Be sure to click on them to see a larger version, especially the panoramas. Share by referring your friends to this URL. 

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