In the heart of the Crater Lake wildlands
Highlights from a hike up Mt. Bailey, in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness.
There aren't many places left in western Oregon where you can look out from the top of a mountain and see only a few old clear-cuts (with the practiced eye) and maybe evidence of one or two roads in any direction. But you can in the heart of the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness.
That's what a group of Oregon Wild hikers found when we summited Mt. Bailey after 5 miles and 3,300 feet elevation gain. Good thing the view was so great, because the trail was hard! (More photos on Facebook)
Directly to the east we looked over Diamond Lake and the Wilderness surrounding Mt. Thielsen. South of that, we could see Mt. Scott and nearly the entire rim of Crater Lake and the unprotected wilderness backcountry of the Crater Lake National Park. (photo above) Farther south was Mt. McLaughlin near the California border and the Sky Lakes Wilderness that lay between us. Turning to the west, there were nearly unbroken forests for miles as we overlooked the Umpqua National Forest and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide and Boulder Creek Wilderness areas and some large unroaded areas between. Finally, as we turned to the north, Diamond Peak's jagged ridge and the wildlands around Cowhorn Butte confronted us.
While our group of hikers soaked in this spectacular sight - naming what peaks we could and learning some of the geologic history from the volcanologist on the hike (how lucky were we!) - I couldn't help but imagine what a wide-ranging critter like a wolverine might think given the same view. Maybe he would be looking for a good route - free from cars and clear-cuts - to explore new territory...
As we descended Mt. Bailey through gravelly fields of alpine wildflowers, we truly felt like we were in the heart of a vast wild land. The Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal would connect all of these existing protected areas with the roadless areas between - providing a vast corridor for migrating wildlife, stunning vistas for intrepid hikers, and allowing the forests the natural space they need to adapt to climate change. This dream may be years in the making, but it'll be worth it.