Wagner Butte - July 9, 2011
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill
The neat stuff started right at the trailhead as we were greeted by beargrass blooming in the forest understory. The trail climbed steeply for a mile or so and it was obvious I forgot to pack my uphill legs, slow and steady was the pace for me. At the mile mark, we walked around a small meadow with grass and hellebore. There is just something about a meadow that just makes me happy and I kicked up my booted heels in joyful exuberation.
Shortly after the first meadow, we entered the massive Sheep Creek Slide, a 3/4 mile grassy gash on Wagner's slopes that marks the site where 3/4 miles of Wagner Butte peeled off and rumbled down Sheep Creek, creating havoc with the Wagner Creek watershed. A couple of decades later, the slide is now a grassy meadow with creeks and flowers under a blue sky.
Climbing steeply away from the slide, the trail continued past a series of meadows before breaking out into "Eastern Oregon", where sagebrush rules the southern side of Wagner Butte. Obviously, the snow had been here recently as there was a notable paucity of wildflowers, we were too early for spring...in July!
The trail grade eased up a bit and the last two miles were relatively level as we traversed a long sagebrush-studded ridge under a cloudless sky. Somewhat out of place, there is a stand of mountain mahogany and quaking aspen. Nearing 7,000 feet of elevation, we stepped over two small patches of snow, and that was it for the winter contingent. Quite a difference from the Cascades!
A small, rocky tor on the ridge is the actual summit of Wagner Butte and a brief, use-of-hands-required climb brought us up to the summit and some outstanding views. There was a little bit of haze but we could see Mount Shasta, Mount McLaughlin, Grayback Mountain, Preston Peak, and Mount Ashland. Mt Ashland is only 200 feet higher than snowless Wagner Butte and there still was plenty of snow on Ashland. We enjoyed bird-eye views of Talent, Ashland, and Medford. Truly a vista for the ages.
After completing this 10.5 mile epic, I popped a tire and being Saturday night in Talent, I could find no tire place open. It was a long trip on the little spare wheel to Roseburg. Oh, well.
Roseburg Oregon Hiking Club