Monday, January 20, 2014

Mount Bolivar

MOUNT BOLIVAR OREGON Mount Bolivar is a simple rocky peak that lies in southwest Oregon. Though simple, it is very complex when it comes to its boundary location. Mount Bolivar is not only the highest point in Coos County, but it also holds a controversial title of being the highest point on the Coast Range. Some claim the title belongs to Mary’s Peak near Corvallis. The dispute is NOT over which peak is the highest because Mount Bolivar wins that by just a few hundred feet. Mount Bolivar is 4,319 ft. while Mary’s Peak is 4,097 ft. The dispute is over Mount Bolivar’s geographic location. (Mount Bolivar is the distant peak in the center of the photo below)
Mount Bolivar lies within the northern boundaries of the Klamath Mountains, the southern boundaries of the Coast Range, and a portion of the peak lies within the northeastern boundaries of the beautiful Wild Rogue Wilderness, the BLM industrialized property, and the Siskiyou National Forest, and Siskiyou Mountains. How can one peak be in all ranges and zones you ask? All of these ranges merge, and even collide in this southern Oregon location. An easy way to illustrate the complicated topography is to take Neapolitan ice cream and cut a block out. The Chocolate will represent the Coast Range, The Strawberry will represent the Klamath Range, and the Vanilla will represent the convergent zone.
Take your finger, start in the center, and begin making circles. Let the circles get larger to where your chocolate and strawberry start to blend with the vanilla.

You have now created the unique landscape that makes up the southwestern corner of the state of Oregon.

Man made boundaries also complicate the dispute. Curry County is considered to be in the Klamath Mountain, Coos County is a part of the Coast Range. The boundary between the two ranges is the Rogue River. Mount Bolivar is in Coos County, and north of the Rogue. But Klamath geology is also in Coos County as well as Coast Range geology is in Curry County. Technically, Mount Bolivar doesn’t lie within either boundary of the Klamath or Coast…or the Siskiyou Range for that matter. It lies within a merge zone of these ranges…making the geology formations and plant life unique to the area, and rare to any other place. Now that the science lesson is over…let’s go enjoy the journey to Mount matter where it may actually lie. My buddy Brian and his dog, Lakota, joined me on this trek. They are both from Montana. While they visited Oregon this last summer, my goal was to take them to as many places I could throughout Oregon. Mount Bolivar was just one of the many adventures. You'll see more of where we went in later BLOG entries.

The trek to the top of Mount Bolivar is only a 1.4-mile hike, but has an elevation gain of 1,160 feet. The trail, with several switchbacks, hikes you through a multiple array of vegetation. I’d like to say the hike was a piece of cake, but I would be lying. Brian, at 29, is very fit, and he could have run up the trail if he wanted too. But for me, I had to stop at almost every switchback and catch my breath. On these breaks, I’d photograph whatever was interesting, and near me. Brian was kind enough to wait for me on several occasions. The Mount Bolivar area is a plant lover’s paradise. The air was perfumed of that you’d smell if in the Cascades, and yet we were nowhere near the rugged range. Similar plants can be found here. Several summer blooming wild flowers were everywhere. Water loving trees like the Big Leaf Maple and the Douglas fir were found growing next to drought tolerant trees such as the Knobcone Pine, Incense Cedar and the Sugar Pine. The rain forest loving Sword Ferns and the Coastal Rhododendron were growing next to high-elevation Alpine Bear Grass, and the Scrub Oaks were seen next to Vine Maples. We even found several Ponderosa Pines mingling with the Western Hemlock. In the region surrounding Mount Bolivar, over 70% of the Oregon native species of plants and trees can be found here. There is no other place in Oregon where so many species survive in one place. In the summer 2005, this rare ecosystem was almost completely destroyed when lightning started the Blossom Fire. The fire burned 14,908 acres. Most of the south and east sides of Mount. Bolivar were burnt. But not all was lost. The Knobcone Pine, which grows throughout the lower reaches of Mount. Bolivar will easily reforest the chard land. So will the aggressive growing Manzanita that dominates the entire peak help in the natural recovery process. The last portion of the trail leaves the cool shade of the dense forest behind and walks out into a parched rocky garden full of color. The summit is arid and the plants are stunted, but the view is spectacular. Mount Bolivar rises to an impressive 4,319 Feet above sea level. The 360-degree view from the summit stretches from Mt. Shasta in the south to Mt. Hood in the north, but due to the fires ragging in California, our distance views were hazed over. The most impressive view from the summit was the steep scared canyons and the sharp ridges to the south that comprise the northern border of the Wild Rogue Wilderness area. The Mount. Bolivar summit’s geology is derived of the Coast Range, while nearby Saddle Peak and Diamond Peak's geology is that of the Klamath Mountains. (Saddle Peak is in the photo below...on the left, Diamond Peak is on the right) To the north and northeast, you see the work of BLM and the patches of clear-cut hillsides through the Coast Range. The Eden Valley lies directly below. To the east and southeast, one can see mile after mile of forested hills, ridges, and mountains that make up the Siskiyou Range and the Rogue Wilderness. The summit of Mount Bolivar once had a fire lookout tower, but like many other lookout summits, only cement foundations and remnants remain. Mount. Bolivar was named in honor of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan-born liberator. Simon Bolivar was one of South America's greatest generals. His victories over the Spaniards won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. He is called El Liberator (The Liberator) and the "George Washington of South America," (1783-1830). The country of Venezuela donated a bronze plaque to be placed on the peak named after their liberator. It reads; “The United States was the first to teach us the path to independence.”-Simon Bolivar Jamaica, 1815 The plaque was given to the people of Oregon in 1984. Mount Bolivar, in the upper left corner of the photo above, is an oasis, a peaceful island amongst a natural geologic merge zone and man-made boundaries. A place all its own.

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