Backpacking Fail

Mountains always look smaller than they really are.  You would think that it would take some astronomical scale like the distance to the sun to escape the everyday human intuitive grasp, but that isn't so.  We can't even understand the size of a small mountain until we try to climb it.  So I seem to have found.

Davis Mountain hiding in the distance

Meet Davis Mountain, which lies right next to Wickiup Reservoir near LaPine, Oregon.  About a week ago, I decided I would backpack to the top of it in one day and hike down the next.  A tidy little two day trip.  The side that I decided to hike up was mostly burned out a while back, so it has the appearance from far away of being fairly thin.  While there are no real hiking trails to the top of Davis Mountain, there is a network of old logging roads scattered about it.  My plan was to use these where convenient and cut across off road where it made sense.

View of Wickiup Reservoir

Soon after venturing off road for the first time, I realized that most of the hill side is covered with thick underbrush varying from knee to shoulder height, also covered with froth encased insect pupae.  As I waded through the brush uphill, I quickly lost strength and became covered with adorable little bug larva.  As I emerged on one of the best quality roads I was to find on the mountain gravelled of red cinder, I was optimistic that I might still make the summit. I planned to make use of the road I was on to take me to the north side of the mountain and weave through the network of logging roads there to the top.

I arrived at the north side of the mountain and started uphill on a somewhat less friendly road.  These roads were quite old and soon turned into an obstacle course of thick fallen dead trees.  The progress on these roads seemed little better than off, so rather than be led up the mountain in a roundabout way on unhelpful roads, I began cutting straight up the mountain through the healthy ponderosa.  This proved exhausting, and I soon realized I could not keep up such a strenuous route.  I pushed through to next slightly navigable logging road and began a route back around the mountain to the south.

Sun hats are great for exposed summer hiking
Emerging from the forest, I saw that I was still only halfway up the mountain.  Low on energy, I realized I would not be reaching the top that day, so I continued on a bit to find a good place to set up camp.  I set up my tent on a windy hillside clearing and took a load off as the last bit of daylight faded.  Davis Mountain is well populated with deer, and I saw many throughout the day as I trudged uphill.  The coolest sighting was at my camp though.  I was resting at the doorway of my tent, hidden from the clearing behind it and decided to stand up and stretch.  I turned around to find two fawns and a doe forty feet or so from my tent.  Two of them bounded off right away, but the younger fawn stood by and stared at me a few moments before trotting away.

After getting over a bout of nausea from exhaustion in the night, I got some good sleep.  In the morning, I followed the logging road near my camp gently downhill until it joined up with a forest service road.  I was eager to avoid any bushwhacking after the previous days' ordeal, so I followed nice gravel roads for about 5 more miles back to my car.  Overall the trip ended up being around 12 miles.

After getting back, I drove around the south side of the mountain on forest service roads to see if I could drive up to the top on what looked to be called "Davis Mountain Lookout Road".  But that proved to be a failure as well!  The road degraded into an undriveable state about 2/3 of the way up, apprently it's not maintained.  Fine, you win Davis Mountain!

View of Davis Mountain on last stretch on Forest Service Road 44

1 comment:

  1. I like your misadventure story. Didn't know we had anything in common. I have had plenty of those. ;)