It was a smoky summer in much of Oregon, especially in the Cascades. The silver (or gray) lining in that was looking for a new place to camp and finding one in Gearhart Wilderness. The drive to this eastern Oregon destination contains a bonus—the Mitchell Monument. As the pictures below explain, this was the only place on the continent where there were casualties in World War II.
To get to the monument and the south trailhead of Gearhart go to Klamath Falls then go about 50 miles east on Hwy 140 to Bly. About a mile past this tiny town you will see a sign directing you left to Mitchell Monument in 10 miles. In less than half a mile you will be directed right by another sign to the monument. The roads are all paved.
After paying your respects and enjoying the picnic area with an outhouse, proceed 5.4 miles to a big gravel road (NF212) on your left. It will be very shortly after a big gravel road Y's to your right. Pass Corral Creek Campground in a quarter mile, then continue almost 2 more miles to the end of the road and the trailhead.
Gearhart Mountain was named for James P. Gearhart and William H. Gearhart, two brothers who raised and traded cattle in the area from about 1873 to 1882. During the two days I was there I did not see any cattle, but there were plenty of white firs and whitebark pines along with ponderosas and lodgepoles.
From the parking lot nestled in the trees, you can circle a quarter mile around to the east then north on an abandoned rode leading up to an old lookout tower. The room is locked, but you can walk around the deck for a 360 degree view.
I set out to go 13 1/2 miles end to end on the main trail from the Lookout Rock trailhead to the North Fork trailhead. However, there are at least two other good options.
If you only have time for a short day hike, you will not regret the mile up to the Palisades. This is an area of very interesting rock formations that remind me of tall stacks of pancakes. A pleasant Sabbath afternoon can start with a picnic at the Mitchell Monument, followed by visits to the lookout and the Palisades.
Another easy option is an overnight backpacking trip to the meadow at the foot of Mt. Gearheart. It is about another four miles beyond the Palisades. It has two creeks with good water and several good campsites.
My destination for the first evening was Blue Lake. This required me to go through the meadow and up to the north pass. It was then a long, sandy ridge walk over hundreds of blow downs. Thankfully, a crew had cleared all but the upper mile. Just before dark, I turned right, went down through a marshy area, then arrived at the south end of the lake.
The trail splits and goes both ways around the lake then rejoins on the north end. I asked God if it mattered which way I went. I felt impressed that He wanted me to go on the west side. This was definitely the right call! The next day I went to the north trailhead and then returned via the the east side. It was a mess and I saw no campsites or good lake access.
The next day I had sun and time to appreciate the 18 acre Blue Lake. It is fed by ground water and so it fluctuates very little. Because it is only 3 miles from the North Fork trailhead, this could be another good late-season option when other lakes are low.
After exploring for a while and meditating on various things by the lake, I returned to the meadow where I camped the second night. This was an incredibly enticing spot. There was no wind because of Gearhart's giant wall and so it was so peacefully quiet with only birds for company until sunset. It felt kind of like the Sierras or the Rockies.
Even though it was approaching mid-August in a dry summer, there was still lots of green, and the meadow still had a few tiny trickles running through it. I spent half of the morning chasing birds with my camera before returning up, over, and down to the trailhead.
There is always so much to do
and so much that ought to be done
and so much I want to do
to help someone,
but I get tired.
I stretch myself farther than I should.
It is good to lose sight of self
in the effort to make things better,
but breaking myself is not helpful.
There is One who broke Himself
to give life to a dying world
and I am to live in His brokenness
according to His will.
Becoming part of the problem
to solve the problem
is not good.
So I here rest
with my ears open
and my ears clear
and my heart in tune.
A bit of the earth made new
pulsates with life around me.
Trees rustle in the swirling currents.
Robins sing and doves coo.
Flowers eminate reds and blues and yellows.
God is active all around me
and comforting me
and strengthening me
and renewing my soul.
I stop asking what I should do.
I stop planning the next move.
I simply look to Him
I rest in the moment
and let them string together
into a pleasant path through time
with my Shepherd.
Thank you, Jesus,
for making me thankful.