Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wolf Rock - "Heart of the West Cascades"

"Heart of the West Cascades"
Towering 800 to 1000 feet above the lush conifer forest, Wolf Rock dominates the skyline.
This mammoth of a rock is listed as the largest monolith in Oregon.
Wolf Rock is located northeast of the small mountain town of Blue River on highway 126.  Most travellers don't even know the rock exist...I didn't, and I have travelled highway 126 often and had no idea such a rock existed.
Wolf Rock was the inspiration behind my 2009 New Year's resolution.  Before discovering Wolf Rock for myself, I felt I was very well travelled and knowledgable with the state of Oregon.  For years, I believed Haystack Rock on the coast was Oregon's largest monolith, until one night I was scanning through my well used Oregon map and came across a label that surprised me.  It Read, "WOLF ROCK - largest monolith in Oregon."
Immediately, I made plans to visit this unknown rock to me.
My journey began by taking road 15 and following the Blue River to its headwaters.
The Blue River is not a big river, nor is it very long, but it does hold a significant value to Oregon's ecology.
Gold was discovered in the Blue River area in 1863, but by 1912, most gold mining activity had ended.  Records show, however, that the Lucky Boy Mine had extracted more than $1 million from the Blue River Mining District during the brief gold rush.

I knew that I would be coming upon a "large" rock, but what I actually saw was breathtaking.
My first impression of the rock was..."okay, so it looks like a big rock."...but as the road circled around and approached the south face, it was then when I realized this rock is big!
The south face is so massive, that from the road, I could not fit then entire rock in my camera frame.
In order to fit the entire rock into the frame, I would need to find a photo location much further away.  This would take me to a ridge about a mile away.

It was at this location that I realized the imense size of the rock.  Let's look at the following photo again.  Notice the "arch" in the center of the photo? 
This "arch" is approximately 60-80 feet high.
Now look at the same "arch" from a mile away...
Wolf Rock definately lives up to the title of the largest monolith in Oregon.
This photo, (above), of Wolf Rock was taken from the top of Carpenter Mountain.  The rock's immeasurable dimensions tower above the forest.  Look for the "arch" which is dwarfed greatly.
One can just imagine that Wolf Rock would be a climber of rocks, "Garden of Eden."  But, I am not a rock climber, so check out this link of some climbing enthusiasts making their way up a climb known as Barad Dur.  This climb is located just to the right of the "arch."  Their climb was posted 10/6/2009..around the same time I visited the rock.

Though Wolf Rock is located at the crest of two ridges, it does sit within a large basin.  I drove to the east and up a few mountain roads to get to a higher ridge named Bunchgrass Mountain, which has an elevation of  5,240 feet above sea level.
The view from Bunchgrass Mountain is panoramic.
To the west, Wolf Rock towers above the treeline and valley floor.
This view of Wolf Rock definately shows this ancient volcanic core exposed like the famous Devil's Tower in Wyoming.
Though Wolf Rock is immense in its own right rising to a staggering  4,535 feet above sea level, the rock is dwarfed by its neighboring companion of Carpenter Mountain.

The Blue River begins just left of Wolf Rock in this photo.  The river is believed to have the name "Blue River" for its rock color in the river bed.  Another idea I discovered from this vantage point was the color of the ridge lines.  The following picture was captured between the base of Carpenter Mountain and the south face of Wolf Rock.
 Headwaters of the Blue River

The east view from Bunchgrass Mountain is also outstanding.  On a clear day, one can see the heart of the Cascades including Mt. Jefferson, Three-Finger-Jack, Hoodoo Butte, Sand Mountain, Mount Washington, Belknap Crater, The-Three-Sisters and the McKenzie lava flows and McKenzie River basin.
The Three Sisters received a light dusting of snow the first week of October.  An early reminder that winter is fast approaching.
This photo illustrates the basalt lava flows from the Belknap Crater area that contributed to changing of land of the McKenzie River upper basin.
My adventure into the "Hidden Valley of Wolf Rock" was amazing.  Wolf Rock is a well preserved secret...The Heart of the West Cascades.

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