Ascent of Strawberry Mountain on 2004-07-29

Climber: Scott Surgent

Others in Party:Beth Cousland
Date:Thursday, July 29, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Strawberry Mountain
    Elevation:9040 ft / 2755 m

Ascent Trip Report

Beth and I were on the tail end of a two-week tour of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, now driving south through eastern Oregon back toward Reno, where we would catch our plane home. But we still had a couple days and enjoyed it hiking a couple of interesting summits and exploring the deserts of Oregon.

Yesterday we had driven from Moses Lake, Washington, to John Day, Oregon. We didn't do any hikes. The drive itself was very interesting, meandering through the hills, ranges and high deserts of eastern Washington and Oregon. We arrived in John Day in the late afternoon and stayed at the "Budget 8" hotel, which turned out to be a very nice place.

We planned to hike Strawberry Mountain today, a landmark mountain southeast of town. We left John Day around 7 a.m. and made our way south via US-395 for 10 miles, then followed a series of paved and dirt forest roads another 25 miles, generally east and north, eventually coming up to the "Roads End" trailhead arriving about 9:00 a.m. in pleasant conditions. This route has an excellent trail and is short (3.2 miles one way) but is pretty far from town. We started hiking around 9:30.

The first 1.2 miles is along a dirt road. The elevation gain is minimal, maybe a hundred feet. Along the way, the road and hillsides were carpeted in beautiful wildflowers. At the end of this section, the road makes a quick bend right and ends, splitting into two trails. Also, for the first time, we had a great view of Strawberry Mountain, still a couple miles away. We stayed right and followed a trail for another 1.3 miles north. The trail gained slightly and dipped slightly, eventually dipping down to a low saddle area amid a scape of burned trees from a big fire (2002, I believe). Despite the burn, there was much green and new growth so it wasn't all totally grim. The peak was above us now.

We continued up the trail as it steepened for the first time on the whole hike. It gains to a high saddle and intersects another trail coming up from the north. From here, the route traverses the bare slopes, then enters into a thin stand of juniper and pine. The trail makes a hard left and momentarily ascends out of these trees. The summit was now just a few hundred feet above us. We followed the trails etched into the rock and quickly, made the top, about two hours after starting, and a total net gain of 1,300 feet.

The top is a long, narrow ridge but the summit is well-defined and obvious, albeit not very big. The south face of the peak is steep cliffs. We were immediately bombarded by swarms of butterflies! Monarchs, we think. Papillons, Mariposas and Schmetterlings! They were everywhere and relentless, but not annoying. They never land on anyone anyway. I had never seen butterfly swarms as thick as we saw here. Where did they come up with "Strawberry" Mountain anyway? We relaxed for almost 45 minutes, watching the flutterers. There was a small windbreak with a tarp rolled up in it ... but no register.

The hike out went quick and very easy. We were back to our car by 1 p.m., where we changed and rested before driving down. From here, we drove south along US-395 another hour to Burns, where we stopped at a Mexican Food restaurant for lunch. The waiter dropped my plate of food as he brought it out. There were beans, cheese, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, burrito-parts everywhere. So he goes back into the kitchen and I can hear some talking, when his boss says "get him another plate". Was I not going to get another plate had not the boss stepped in?

We stayed the night at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs Resort west of Burns, and the next day drove up Steens Mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1300 ft / 396 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Trailhead:7740 ft / 2359 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country

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