The real attraction was Beckie’s huckleberry pie, but we needed an excuse. I thought of Hershberger Mountain.
Hershberger sits on the divide between the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers, high in the southern Oregon Cascades and just a dozen miles or so from the border of Crater Lake National Park. It is remote – getting there involves nearly an hour’s drive on winding Forest Service gravel roads after you leave the highway – so it gets only a few visitors each year. Those who go are drawn primarily by the flowers. Hershberger is one of the premiere wildflower sites in Oregon, with floral meadows that are often compared to Mt Rainier’s Paradise Park. Peak bloom is always well past by early September, but I thought there might be a few stragglers still around. And the turnoff onto those winding gravel roads from Highway 230 is only a few miles past the Union Creek Resort. Which includes Beckie’s Cafe.
Beckie’s is a treasure. Nestled in towering firs a couple of hundred yards from the rushing Rogue, the small, rustic, immaculately kept cafe is little changed since Ed Becklehymer opened it in 1926 to serve early motorists traveling to Crater Lake. The building has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places; the pies have earned rave reviews since Becklehymer’s wife began baking them right after the place opened. Among those pies, the huckleberry pie is way out in first place. Made from huckleberries picked by restaurant employees and others in the mountains surrounding the resort, it is served only from Labor Day weekend until the berries run out. Last year, that was just two weeks, and we didn’t manage to get up there before they were gone. This year, I was determined not to do that again. Labor Day weekend itself? No – that would be uncool. We would go the day after.
As we backed out of the driveway, I noted that the Bolt’s range indicator was estimating 347 miles. Comforting, even though I knew the real world wouldn’t give us that much. We turned onto the Hershberger Mountain Road around 9:20 AM, and after a brief stop along the Rogue near the road’s beginning and a somewhat longer stop at the base of the twin volcanic plugs known as the Rabbit Ears, we reached the turnoff to Road 530 – the spur off Road 6515 that leads to the Hershberger lookout – at 10:30. I turned onto 530, and immediately wished I hadn’t. We had been warned by the ranger at Prospect that this already-terrible road had been made much worse by the Pup Fire, a wildfire that had burned through the area in 2017, but I had hoped that, with the backwoods-driving skills I’ve honed over 60 years, I could ease the Bolt up it anyway. Within 150 feet, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. We would have needed at least a foot of ground clearance to make it across the ditches and exposed boulders in the roadbed; the Bolt has seven inches. Carefully – torturously – I backed out again. Even with the support of the backup camera, it took about ten minutes to cover those 150 feet backwards. I parked on the shoulder of 6515, on the edge of a lovely green meadow, and we started walking.
The Prospect ranger had told us that the walk along the road to the Ackerman Divide trailhead, which we intended to use, would be about a mile. It was a very long mile – nearly two miles, it turned out, when we checked the distance later at home. The Pup Fire had turned the forest around the mountain and its meadows into a mosaic of burned and green trees. The flowers, as expected, were mostly past, but there were remnants here and there of the glory that must have been present a month ago, including one very special find: Mazama collomia, a rare endemic that is found only in Crater Lake National Park and just a few other places within a 30-mile radius of the lake.
We reached the trailhead around noon. Two trails begin here: the Ackerman Divide Trail, which drops steeply into a meadow called Pup Prairie, and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail, which stays more or less level for two miles before plunging into a cirque named, aptly, Hole-In-The-Ground. We had been planning Pup Prairie, but in our already-tired condition, more or less level won out. We took the Rogue-Umpqua Trail through the burned-over woods for a mile and a half, far enough to get a good view of the impressively rugged hulk of Highrock Mountain. A quick scramble to a ridgetop meadow – which yielded no views – and we headed for Beckie’s. We arrived home several hours later, with 141 new miles on the odometer and just under half the battery still available.
And oh, yes, the huckleberry pie was delicious. So delicious that it disappeared before I thought to photograph it: I had to borrow this picture from Beckie’s Facebook page to show it to you.