Josephine County High Point Trip Report

Grayback Mountain

Date: May 28, 2002
Author: Mike Coltrin

I entered Oregon from California on Interstate 5. Leaving the Interstate at the Phoenix exit, I worked my way through Jacksonville to Applegate. Ken Jones' directions to the trailhead in O'Brien Creek made the drive in easy enough. My hike began at about eleven o'clock.

The trail was well maintained and it took only a short while to arrive at the junction to the side trail to Grayback Snow Shelter and Krause Cabin. Being in no hurry, I decided to take a look at the cabins. The snow shelter was a small cabin and in pretty good shape while Krause Cabin was no more. It apparently burned to the ground in the fairly recent past. Above the cabin site, an open meadow stretched skyward. It looked like an inviting option for a return route from the summit.

Returning to the trail junction, I continued my trek to the peak. The grade remained steady with a gradual rise. As the trail climbed higher, more and more snow packed the trail in the thick forest. At the two major southward switchbacks the trail grazed the meadow above Krause Cabin. The last swing to the north toward Windy Gap caused the first difficulty in the route. The snow drifted into packs two to three feet deep and the trail was hard to follow account lack of blazes on the trees.

About halfway to the Gap, I decided to leave the trail and climb straight for the summit ridge. An opening in the forest below highpoint 6966 provided an almost snow-free route most of the rest of the way up. Once on the ridge, it was a simple matter to traverse to the highpoint. There was a benchmark and cairn but no register.

The return was a thing of beauty. Wanting to make use of the meadow route to the cabin, I picked my way down the five-foot deep drifts. After descending a hundred feet or so, I got a little careless and slipped off my feet. Being an old desert rat, this was my first glissade. (I didn't like the feeling!) In anticipation of problems in the snow, I had my short hiking stick with me. Plunging it into the snow for all I was worth, I managed to arrest my fall in short order. Having had enough of this type of adventure I was more careful for the next few hundred feet until I was finally out of the snow.

I was back at the trailhead at about 2:00pm.