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No Bears, no wallow but some beautiful views

Photo by Lee JuilleratUpper Klamath Lake's blue water creates a colorful contrast with Forest Service timberlands and white-capped Cascades.

We saw no wallows and we saw no bears.

In a year when drought conditions are being declared throughout Southern Oregon, Bear Wallow, a low area that normally floods in the spring, was anything but muddy or damp. Except for one pond, the sometimes swampy wet several-acre wallow was dry.

What our small group of hikers did find were two large, where-did-they-come-from boulders, out-of-place anomalies in the otherwise vast open space of the dry field. A few people shimmied their way atop the taller, seven- or eight-foot-high rock.

It was a pleasant hike, but it wasn’t enough.

While completing the loop around the wallow, it was decided that instead of wallowing in disappointment and hiking directly back to the parking area, we’d add something.

More began with a steep hike up a closed dirt road. Remarkable along the way was a long-discarded collection of kids toys, including a small trike and pint-sized scooter, along with a semi- torn adult-sized folding chair and another completely coverless chaise lounge chair.

The climb toward the ridge’s summit area, where some of us had previously visited, continued steadily up an old dirt road. Eventually we veered off the road, heading east through junipers and brush toward a high point. Sometimes we made our own path, other times we followed hints of a trail created by other hikers or wildlife, marked by frequent deposits of fresh elk droppings.

The cross-country trek was worth the effort. Near the top of the summit ridge, one that isn’t named on Forest Service maps, the views were spectacular. The best included unencumbered sweeping sightings of several Cascade peaks — Aspen Butte, Whiteface Peak and Mount Harriman in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness and, farther north, Pelican Butte and a series of mountains in the Sky Lakes Wilderness reaching into to Crater Lake National Park.

Adding a colorful contrast to the snowy white peaks and the endless wall of green forests were watery blue fingers of Upper Klamath Lake. From another nearby vantage higher in the rocks, the views more prominently featured Upper Klamath Lake’s Howard Bay and farmlands in Caledonia Marsh.

Smiles abounded on the hike down, with GPS units showing our round-trip distance at about 6-1/2 miles. Going directly to Bear Wallow and back would likely have shortened the distance by about two miles.

Bear Wallow can be reached by taking what is informally known as the “Gate Trail,” or Aspen Lake Road, that begins at an informal parking area off Highway 140 about four miles past the Doak Mountain toward Klamath Falls. Motor vehicles are not allowed on the road, which is gated. Bear Wallow is about 2-1/2 miles off the road/trail and can be most easily accessed by going to its north edge.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.