Kalmiopsis Rim - July 10, 2010
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

The 2002 Biscuit Fire burnt up the southwest corner of Oregon and for me, it's always a fascinating visit to observe not only the vast area of destruction but also the forest in recovery. And with all the trees removed, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness geology is exposed and views abound. There's a positive in every situation and it's like my abuelita used to say "Mi hijo, cuando tienes ceniza..." OK I'll translate: When you have ashes you make ashcakes!

Anyway, after a short walk stepping over dead trees we arrived at the ridge constituting the Kalmiopsis Rim. Shockingly, there is a clump of live Jeffrey pines that survived the fire. Shockingly, because nothing else did. Attaining the rim, we were greeted with an expanse of rock and nothing else, the fire here burned hot enough to destroy everything including seeds in the ground. Shards of orange and black serpentine rocks littered the moonscape, the scenery was definitely on the stark side. Still, some life thrives in the form of low growing plants, many of them endemic to this area of the Siskiyous.

The first point of interest was Whetstone Butte, a small (relatively) promontory in the dead zone. At Whetstone's base, a 30 or 40 foot rock wall was scaled and from there it was a short but steep scramble up to the summit. We enjoyed magnificent views of the Illinois River valley, the Babyfoot Creek canyon, and various peaks in the Kalmiopsis. Again, the view was all about the Biscuit Fire, we could see for miles and miles and virtually nary a tree was to be seen, the hills and peaks had all been scoured clean by the fire. 

We descended carefully and continued on, dropping into Eagle Gap and the low round mound that was Eagle Mountain as seen from Whetstone now became a very steep mountainous climb, it's all about perspective. It was here that I began to feel the heat. It was over 100 degrees and my legs went wobbly in a hurry and I gratefully plopped down on Eagle's summit where we enjoyed lunch. My first-aid book called for combatting heat exhaustion by coolling off in the shade or by sitting in a creek. Looking over the half-million acres with no trees I just thought to myself "riiiight!" 

From Eagle Mountain it was great views all over again, Pearsoll Peak and the Cheto River gorge being the primary suspects. After lunch it was a long hot trudge back to the car and air conditioning.

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