September 21, 2012

Triangulation Peak hike offers new sights and sounds

Mt. Jefferson from inside Boca Cave
I hiked a nice trail from road 635 to the cutoff trail ascending Triangulation Peak (5434'), located just inside the Northwest border of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. It is a little over 2 miles from trailhead to Triangulation Peak's summit where, I had read, you can see from Mt. Rainier to the north to Diamond Peak to the south. I could see Diamond Peak, but anything north of Mt. Hood was blocked from my view by summer haze.

From the top of Triangulation Peak, I dropped down onto a saddle and then up again onto a less elevated viewpoint. There, I took a steep trail from the top of a massive block of basalt to its base , where Boca Cave was created by what appears to be the erosion of cinder rock inside a large slab of basalt. From inside, one can hear water running from the back of the cave, where springs seep slowly and wear away the cinder rock.

I continued my hike back down the cave's access trail to the Triangulation Peak Trail and continued east toward Mt. Jefferson. I then took the Devils Peak Trail, which follows a ridge with interesting views of rock outcroppings and Mt. Jefferson. Rock pikas can be heard at every rock field, and flowers dominate the trail near its intersection with the Devils Peak Trail. Turning around on the trail, views of Boca Cave and the massive basalt slab that surrounds the cave exist.
Triangulation Peak and Boca Cave
The sound of falling rock suddenly rang down from the basalt dome covering the cave. It sounded as if a huge slab of basalt had broken from the side of one of the cliff walls making up Triangulation Peak. It was a tremendous clatter that echoed like a rifle shot through the forest. Having climbed and hiked around mountains, I've heard rock slides and the movement of glaciers, but nothing like this natural occurrence.

Numerous discoveries can be made along a mountain trail right at your feet. Beyond animal tracks, small patches of deer hair; owl regurgitation, known as pellets; bird feathers and scat from various animals are some of the more common findings. If you don't think very many animals exist in a particular patch of woodland you are hiking, go back to that area when snow has covered the ground. It is guaranteed that snows not covered recently by new snow will be dotted with animal tracks going every direction. Animals in the wild are everywhere.

Boca Cave Entrance
On this day, the trail offered something I had yet to see, the body of a small animal that appeared to have been still born. Tiny limbs had developed on the approximately three-inch long fetus, but I saw no eyes or distinct facial features. The body was rubbery and looked as if it had just been dropped that morning. Its size and yet undeveloped appearance made it seem as though it had come from an animal with some size. It was clearly a mammal. Was it the fetus of a deer, a bear, a cougar? I couldn't tell.

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