Bald Mountain

I joined Suzanne, Bob, Kollen, Barb, and Darryl for a hike on the Walt Bailey Trail to Cutthroat Lakes and on to the summit of Bald Mountain. Gary and I did the hike as an afterwork trip last October. It was cloudy on the summit and we had almost no views. With a forecast for sun and mid 60s I was looking forward to returning. The forcast turned down the day before and it was now mid 50s and mostly overcast. Oh well, we drove up the Mountain Loop Highway to Red Bridge and on up the road to the trailhead. There is not much parking and 4 cars were already there.

We were on the trail by about 9:35. Some trail work has been done this year on the first few miles. Logs removed and drainage installed. Finally getting caught up after the road was washed out for several years. It was an hour later and warmer than my start the day before. By the first small meadow I was down to shorts and short sleeves. There is a lot of gentle downhill on the way up. It's hardly noticed coming in but the resultant uphill coming out is not appreciated. Berries began at the first meadow and continued off and on all day. Bears were reported the day before and by a group of scouts hiking out. They have been enjoying the berries. Many piles of purple scat proved that. We did not see any bears.

We passed as few groups coming and going then had the trail to ourselves. The day was mostly overcast with some sucker holes. We climbed into and out of the clouds all day. The trail is a little narrow, a little slick, and a little rooty but is never hard to follow. We stopped to wait for the rest of the group at the first tarn. No mountain views over the water this day. No views at all. We followed the trail as it winds through the meadows. Lakes and tarns all around. Offsetting the lack of views was the lack of bugs. Reports just two weeks earlier spoke in terms of black clouds of bugs descending upon the unwary hikers. We had almost no bugs at all. I had one lone skeeter land on my arm.

The trails by the big lake just seem to wind around passing campsites. We finally were on the trail heading up towards the ridge. This trail wanders around through berry meadows and a little forest before reaching an easy to miss sign on the ground. It points to the route to Bald Mountain and eventually to Ashland Lakes. It is unmaintained beyond Bald and the trail is completely grassed over at the junction. No feet seem to go that way.

The route contours around the back side of Bald Mountain with views straight down to the large Spada Reservoir. It might not have been there this day. We saw not a glimpse of the big lake. The brush is all along this part of the trail but enough feet have kept it under control. A few switchbacks brought us up to just south of the summit. Here is the junction. The summit scramble route is much more obvious than the old trail to Ashland. We dropped poles and followed the faint path to the right side of the summit block. Once on the ridge we turned left and scrambled up the slabs to the summit.

To my surprise there was no wind on the summit. Some blue sucker holes appeared and it was actually warm enough not to need a jacket. The largest Cutthroat Lake came into view a few times below but otherwise there were no views. We signed the summit register but I noticed Gary and I had not signed it last October. We somehow missed it. Although the summit is only 4871' the terrain above the lakes is sub alpine. Meadow and small trees belie the low elevation. We took 2:35 minutes to reach the top with a number of stops. It was just after noon when we summited. After a nice long stay we headed down.

On the backside traverse we again passed a group we had passed early in the day. They were not far from the top. Progress was slowed by the berries. This has been a strange berry season. Just down the ridge at Ashland Lakes I found lots of big green berries in mid May. On most all my other trips this summer I have found small green berries that have no change to ripen. Above 5000' it has been especially dismal. The bears along the Mountain Loop Highway should be fine but in most other places they will have a tough time getting fat enough for winter.

Other than that uphill on the way out the descent went fine. We were back at the car some time after 3:00 pm. Although the weather was not perfect we had a very nice day on the trail. No rain and no bugs were much appreciated. I really like this hike and the summit is a fun short scramble. I'll be back in a few years.

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Trips - 2010