Posts Tagged ‘Hehe Mountain’

First Look at Symbol Rock and Hehe Mountain

columnar jointing near the top of Symbol Rock

Stunningly beautiful columnar jointing near the top of Symbol Rock

I really don’t know what I’d do without Google Earth. Recently, I was sitting at my computer searching for places I hadn’t been to. I was looking at the higher elevation areas in the Fall Creek drainage (just east of where I live) on Google Earth and came across a monolith called Symbol Rock that I’d never seen or heard of before. While I’ve been heading up to Elk Camp and Saddleblanket Mountain on the south side of Fall Creek and Road 18 quite a bit the last few years, it had been ages since I’d driven up any of the roads on the north side of the creek. Last week when Sabine Dutoit asked if I was going anywhere, exploring that area was the first thing to come to mind. So on Thursday, September 10, Sabine, Nancy Bray, and I headed out Big Fall Creek Road to look for Symbol Rock and anything else of interest. To get to the rock, we turned left onto Road 1832. There was a sign saying logging was going on, but although the area was obviously being thinned—and wasn’t terribly attractive—we didn’t run into any logging trucks or current activity.

Looking straight up at Symbol Rock from down on the road, the rock is quite imposing.

Looking straight up at Symbol Rock from the road below, the rock is quite imposing.

It was almost 9 miles of gravel before we arrived at the rock, but what a sight! It reminded me of a much smaller version of “Mosaic Rock.” At its highest point, it is about 150′ tall. It follows along the side of the road for almost 1000′, and there’s some more rock and a talus slope on the other side of the road. The columnar jointing is gorgeous. With binoculars, we scoured the long, straight cracks for plants. There wasn’t much growing in them except some ferns and cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), but there was enough of the latter to make it worth visiting during its bloom. The rock gets shorter to the east until it becomes a climbable rocky slope. We didn’t check it out on this trip, but it looks as though there are a number of attractive species occupying that area. There were a lot of shrubs along the road as well, including many Fremont’s silk tassel (Garrya fremontii) that had clearly bloomed well early in the season. This is definitely going on my to-visit list for next spring!

Looking west from Road 1832 on the way to Hehe Mountain, there is one brief view of the length of Symbol Rock.

Looking west from Road 1832 on the way to Hehe Mountain, there is one brief view of the length of Symbol Rock.

About a mile farther down the road, we came to Hehe Mountain. The map showed a trail to the summit, but having never heard of it and the trail being so short, I wasn’t sure if we’d find the trailhead or be able to follow the trail. Luckily, I was wrong on both counts. We came to a nameless trailhead marker on the left and decided to give it a shot. The first stretch of trail was quite easy to follow and headed straight through a very pleasant forest with an understory of salal (Gaultheria shallon) and rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum). Judging by the number of seed capsules, the rhodies must have been gorgeous a few months ago. We stopped for lunch in a small rocky clearing with a view to the northeast. Hehe Mountain is only a mile south of the boundary of the National Forest, and, sadly, this looks out onto an area south of the McKenzie that has been ravaged by private logging.

The trail switchbacks a number of times through some beautiful forest with a number of large Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and western red-cedar (Thuja plicata). We had to clamber over many fallen logs and branches, and as we got higher, we had to follow a number of pink ribbons to stay on the trail. As I suspected, it’s not a very well-used trail, but we were thankful someone had been here recently to mark the trail. According to some info on the web, volunteers reopened the trail in 1995. When we reached the ridge, I went off the trail a short ways to check out a large, open, rocky slope with a great view to the west. There were manzanitas (Arctostaphylos nevadensis and A. columbiana, and perhaps even some hybrids) and Cardwell’s penstemon (P. cardwellii), but everything else was too far gone to identify.

The view to the west from Hehe Mountain

The view to the west from the top of Hehe Mountain is largely National Forest land.

The view to the northeast of private timber company clearcuts

The view to the northeast shows a vast area of private timber company clearcuts.

The trail ends at an old lookout site. Apparently the lookout was removed in 1968. The bench mark gives the elevation at 4081′, but the maps says it is 4066’—close enough. The trees have grown up, and there’s not much of a view, but there is still an open rocky viewpoint just a little ways to the north. A few small oaks grace this opening and the previous one. Just before the summit, the remnants of a collapsed structure lay by the edge of the trail. We weren’t sure what it had been as it seemed too large for an outhouse and too small for a cabin. While we didn’t spot any rare or exciting plants, we definitely thought this short (mile-long?) trail was worth a return visit, especially when the rhodies are blooming.

Sabine and Nancy on the old lookout site at Hehe Mountain.

Sabine and Nancy on the old lookout site at Hehe Mountain.

I had some other areas farther east I want to check out at some point, but as we had been successful at finding the first two destinations, we only had enough time left for a refreshing swim in Fall Creek on this hot day. To get back, we continued on Road 1832 for 3 miles. Here it reconnects with Road 18 at its eastern end. In the future, I’ll probably use this more direct route to HeHe Mountain and Symbol Rock, although to go all the way to Symbol Rock, it’s about the same amount of gravel road via either route. If you’re looking for out of the way places to explore in Lane County, check these two out. If you’re elsewhere, use Google Earth—it’s a fabulous tool for adventurous botanists!

Post Categories
Notification of New Posts