The Lake on Mt Ashland

If you know where to look, there is a small lake on southern Oregon’s Mt Ashland.

Top: the lakebed this year. Bottom: the lake full of water on July 4, 2011. The two pictures were taken from about the same place.

Let me qualify that. It’s not actually a lake, it’s more like a large vernal pool. And it isn’t directly on Mt Ashland, it’s on the west wall of Grouse Gap, the big meadow-filled basin that lies just west of Mt Ashland. Mt Ashland forms Grouse Gap’s east wall. But if you get to the right place at just the right time – most of the way, but not all of the way, through the snowmelt season – there is, in fact, a lake there.

Wednesday of this week wasn’t the right time. We were too late: the lake had come and gone, which is the way we commonly find it. We’ve been able to get there when the lake was full only once. But it’s always fun trying.

Yesterday’s hike started early, with breakfast at The Breadboard in Ashland shortly after 7:00 AM, followed by a drive up I-5 and the Mt Ashland Ski Road to Forest Road 20, which heads west from the ski area along the crest of the Siskious, a high landscape of rocky peaks, lingering snow, and wildflower meadows – but very few lakes – to Dutchman’s Peak. By 10:00, following a couple of stops and some really slow driving along heavily-potholed Road 20, we were ready to walk.

Mt Shasta from Grouse Gap.

We began on the Pacific Crest Trail, heading west from the Grouse Gap trailhead through meadows and woods to the rocky opening, near the big switchback on the gap’s west wall, where we knew we could see the lake if it was there. It wasn’t, but we decided to go down to look at the lake bed anyway. From the dry lake, we worked our way cross-country to the real goal of the day – a large rock outcrop on the west ridge of the gap we’d been to once before. The combination of rock scrambling, flowers, dramatic dropoffs, and huge views dominated by the double white cone of Mt Shasta make it one of my favorite spots in the Siskiyou range.

Flower photos and granola bars dominated the next hour.

The outcrop, with Melody seated at its base.
Clockwise from upper left: showy polemonium, cliff penstemon, bitter cherry, Nuttall’s violet.

We kept to the ridge on the way back, climbing up and over the unnamed rock knob at its crest and coming down to the high saddle that’s converged on by both the PCT and Road 20 to cross the ridge – the trail and the road are perhaps fifteen feet apart at that point, so you have a choice. We chose to walk the road for a bit. There’s a spring full of buttercups, on a steep, open hillside of small streams lined with kalmia, in the bend where the side ridge we’d been on joins the main east/west backbone of the range, and we often use that hillside to drop from the road to the trail, some distance below. A deep draught of the good juice of the Earth from the spring, a visit to the kalmia – the blooms were fading but still lovely – and we were soon back to the car, ready to head down the mountain and rejoin the rest of the human race.

Kalmia

This is an electric-car blog, so I’ll put in a word here about the great advantage of an electric car over an ICE – internal combustion engine car – for mountain driving. It is 36 miles from our home to the Grouse Gap trailhead, with a 5600-foot elevation gain, most of it in the 20 miles between the Highway 66 freeway interchange in Ashland and the trailhead. Climbing those 5600 feet requires extra energy, in either an electric car or an ICE. What’s different about electric drive is that, on the descent, you gain a fair amount of that extra energy back. An ICE will just burn more gasoline – if only enough to keep the engine turning over and available.

The screen that reports a running total of the number of kilowatt-hours drained from the Bolt’s battery pack since its last complete charge holds the key figure, here. That screen read 16.1 kwh at the trailhead. It read 13.2 kwh at the Highway 66 interchange, meaning that almost three of those depleted kwh had been put back in – the car had only borrowed them. By the time we pulled into our garage, sixteen miles further along, we had used up those three regenerated kwh plus one more – the screen reading was 17.2. We’d used a net of just over one kwh to travel 36 miles. That’s the equivalent, roughly, of 750 mpg in an ICE, on cheaper fuel. Add the Bolt’s rough-road cred – full torque available at all speeds; clutchless application of that torque (allowing finer control for dealing with potholes, puddles, and rocks); and seven inches of ground clearance (two inches more than a typical sedan, and only a little over an inch and a half less than a Subaru Outback), and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to drive anything else.

The Bolt at the Grouse Gap trailhead, with Mt Shasta in the background. Lead photo: Mt Shasta over meadow larkspur in Grouse Gap.

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