Round and Round Round Mountain – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

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Photo by Lee JuilleratGary Vequist shows good form climbing over a fallen log.

Photo by Lee JuilleratThe view looking south from Round Mountain shows forest and farmland.

Photo by Lee Juillerat Among Round Mountain’s earliest bloomers are plantain-leaved buttercups.

It wasn’t part of the original plan, but when the road to the Bad Lands got surprisingly too snowy, we turned around and wondered where to go next.

The Bad Lands is a little-visited area on a fingertip of the Fremont-Winema National Forest east of Klamath Falls. Remote and rarely visited, it can be accessed from Forest Service Road 22, a dirt and gravel road that begins at Bliss Road (indicated by its former name, Squaw Flat Road, on many maps) off Highway 140 at a few miles east of Dairy south or north of the community of Sprague River. Route 22 begins near Devils Garden, where a trailhead joins the OC&E-Woods Line Trail.

The Bad Lands, spelled as two words on Forest Service maps, is an area ripe for exploration, a geologically interesting area with no roads or trails. Friends and I have visited the Bad Lands other times, but not this time.

After a series of discussions, trip leader Bill Van Moorhem suggested hiking up nearby Round Mountain. He had been there before, but most of us hadn’t. So, of course, why not?

Round Mountain, with a maximum elevation of 5,425 feet, is one of the high bumps seen from Bliss Road. It is possible to drive up Forest Service Road 550 about a mile south of the Devils Garden/OC&E Woods Line parking area, but the noisy road is steep and rocky in 4WD. And, less than a mile up, it’s blocked by a series of fallen trees. To make matters more difficult, the Road 550 sign is not visible from the freeway but is posted a short walk or drive down the road.

We parked off the freeway and walked. More and more. And even more, always staying on the road. Still until Bill and others use their GPS devices to locate the way to the top of Round Mountain, which is not visible from the road.

Because spring has barely arrived, the landscape is mostly colorless. But Gary Vequist, who carried his book ‘Common Plants of the Upper Klamath Basin’, insists it will bloom with a variety of wildflowers in a few weeks. We found and identified a few flowers, including a yellow bellflower, also known as yellow fritillaria, and a plantain-leaved buttercup.

Once off the road there was more uphill, often requiring bush and making a path around brush and trees, sometimes correcting our makeshift trail until we reached the extended, stony and jagged summit ridge.

Round Mountain is not round, but it is a high point among a series of rocks. Some members of the group decided to avoid the steep final climb, which requires twisting through narrow passages, and stay below. The reward at the top, marked by a circle of stacked rocks just below the high point, was long range views to the west and south.

Our retreat was made easier by skirting the top of Round, a route that avoided jagged rocks. As we circled around Round we finally found the trails we had created on the way up. Once back on route 550 it was easy.

The only disappointment was in an open area off Route 550 not far above Bliss Road – a vast field of debris where thoughtless slobs dumped all manner of trash – remnants of TVs, tires and more. Ironically, it took a lot more effort to walk the miles to the spur out of the way than instead of just getting to a dump.

Back at the car, Bill’s GPS said the elevation gain was about 780 feet – “It was like more”, he said – and we covered less than four miles for our Round Mountain round trip hike.

Next time we will head to the Bad Lands. But in our roundabout way, we enjoyed our ride.

Contact freelance writer Lee Juillerat at [email protected] or 541-880-4139.

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