Union Peak - August 23, 2008
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

"Are we going to climb that?" asked George with awe and a trace of panic in his voice. 

But Union Peak will do that for the initiates. Union Peak is kind of the younger sibling of Mt Thielsen, sharing it's needle-like pyramid shape and being slightly lower in elevation. Unllike Thielsen, though, you have to do a little work to see it. It is only visible briefly on the drive to the southern entrance of Crater Lake National Park. It is prominently visible to the southwest when you are on the Crater Lake Rim on the west side or if you climb Mt. Scott.

Unlike Thielsen, it is not easy to get close to the mountain unless you get out of your car and hike it, and one plus is that you don't have the thundering hordes on the trail; in fact, you are not likely to see anybody. It's too bad because this is one of the easier trails going up a tall mountain and the trail is an engineering marvel. 

The first two miles are through viewless forest on a relatively level Pacific Crest Trail. The uphill begins just before the Union Peak Trail junction but the grade is gentle, taking one through pumice barrens with increasing frequency. 

Suddenly you come out a clearing and there is the mountain in all its craggy glory and stiff necks result from craning heads upwards. It really is an inspiring view, triggering George's comment.

You'd swear there is no way a trail can go up the sheer slopes but the trail is marvelously constructed with stairs and rock walls keeping the trail visible. The grade naturally steepens but surprisingly doable the whole way up due in large part to the 40 or so switchbacks. The views get more and more expansive the higher you go.

On the summit you can see forever. Or you could, if there was not so much smoke from the recent spate of lightening caused fires. We could see smoke from the Middle Fork, Bessie Rock, and Rattle complexes. Klamath Falls and its lake was visible, and we could see as far north as Diamond Peak. Most prominent was Crater Lake to the east.

We had a nice lollygag and lunch at the summit, content to admire the view for an hour or so. The dismount is interesting as we had to pick our way carefully down the switchbacks, I think it was easier heading up than down. 

The turnout was light as there was only 6 of us; everyone else missed a great hike.

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