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Crossed up searching for the cross

Photo by Lee JuilleratSearching for Hayden Mountain's cross.
Richard Jameson photoA historical photo shows a log-loaded train on a long-gone trestle near Camp 3 on Hayden Mountain.

Not every outing goes as planned.

Our goal was Hayden Mountain, a 5,134-foot hill — it’s not really a classic “peak” — off Highway 66 about 39 miles east of Ashland. Led by Gary Vequist, our group of five plus one peppery puppy went bushwhacking up and around the mountain. A secondary goal was to find a small wooden cross Gary said he’d come across on an earlier outing.

From the closed gate at the well-signed Hayden Mountain Road, we followed Gary along an overgrown dirt logging road, sometimes doing limbo moves under fallen trees or fancy stepping over, around and just simply stumbling on manzanitas, tree limbs and other obstacles.

That was the easy part.

From the fading road we punched uphill through often dense brush and bushes, wandering and meandering up a mostly easy-graded, mixed conifer forest of pines, firs and spruce. It was a don’t-walk-too close together bushwhack, where a major goal was not getting whacked when the bush the person before you fought through slapped back, and not doing face-plants when boots got snagged in hidden, thin, unbreakable wire-like roots.

Hayden Mountain, as mentioned, isn’t a classic mountain, with a defined summit. Instead, there are a series of high points among a scattering of basaltic rubble. We weaved up and over, trying not to stumble or tumble, sometimes free climbing up occasional steep sections.

Gary said the cross, which has a name inscribed on it, is near a section of a crusty rock wall near Hayden’s high point, although he couldn’t remember exactly where. From a false summit we hiked to a taller series of ragged rock walls. At openings between the trees, distant mountains — real mountains like Mount Ashland and peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness with only their summits showing evidence of snow — occasionally came into view. Only a few wildflowers colored the forest landscape, including budding pink-hued manzanitas and some undetermined plant, possibly a moss.

At one point our group of five unintentionally split into three groups, all of us searching for Gary’s cross. At times we stayed in contact through loud shouts and hard, high-pitched blows on whistles before eventually crossing paths and regrouping.

The cross? Never came across the cross.

After a short snack break it was back on the search, trying again and again.

Gary said he’d return to Hayden Mountain, resume his search for the cross, take notes on where it’s located, and lead another trek. He insists it’s there. He just got crossed up.

We didn’t find the cross, but directly across Highway 66 from where we parked is a well-groomed dirt road alongside mostly hidden Hayden Creek. In a little more than mile, after staying right at a junction, the road leads to an open field and pond. An Applegate Trail marker indicates the area is the former the site of Weyerhaeuser Company’s Camp 3. According to the marker, Camp 3 at Hayden Mountain Meadow operated from 1929 to 1937.

Weyerhaeuser and other lumber companies established camps where crews stayed while logging forests in western Klamath and eastern Jackson counties ripe with Ponderosa pine. Tracks were built so that locomotives towing rail flat cars stacked with logs could go between the mill in Klamath Falls and logging camps.

According to “Railroad Logging in the Klamath Country,” by Jack Bowden, the cabins were built on skids so they be transported on railroad flat cars, and many moved several times as logging moved from one area to another.

We saw only a short section of the road to Camp 3, but the road to the camp along with the existing rail bed and network of other roads look ideal a winter-time ski — cross-country of course.

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