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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Tranquility In Paradise Basin

Well, it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me...
A song by Christoper Cross

As it turns out, the road to Paradise Basin is little more than an attenuated, hide-and-seek game trail. Ms Autumn is nye. I can feel the morning chill on face and hands. 

Shadows wax as the sun wanes. Day by day, degree by degree, it slinks into the southern horizon. A low morning sun casts Lookout Mountain in shadow, exacerbating the needled appendage of its summit route. 

Our objective is not a summit on Lookout. Instead we settle for a cross-basin ridge run in hopes that the view might connect a few more dots. 

In the above photo, between the serrated mountain at the extreme left and the Wetterhorn-like peak to its right, lies a grand basin. It goes by the appellation "Paradise," which more and more these days—and I think Chris Cross would agree—is synonymous  with "tranquility."  

Bobbie and I have meant to do this hike for a while now, each time flunked by its secretive, un-signed trailhead. Maybe a third try will be the charm.

Connecting Dots:  Beyond the peaks behind Bobbie lies the blue gem, Columbine Lake. The subject of a couple of recent posts, it is set in a paradise basin of its own. 
 "Game trail" to Paradise 

 A vast moraine of rock ripples beneath sentinel Lookout Mountain, the consequence of ever-abiding erosion, gravity, time and glaciers long gone. The basin exudes pastel hues...gunmetal grays, soft burgundies, burnt umbers...interlaced with slopes of golden tundra.

Our destination is this seemingly easy ridge line saddle.   But the closer we get the steeper it becomes.

Craggy ridges flourish with turret-like formations.

The final push to the saddle.
Bobbie,  swallowed by tranquil open space and hundred mile horizons. 

Steely peaks etched blue skies

Views from the saddle defy description. Note Oscar Pass Trail, zigzagging up distant red mountains, and the sleepy, avalanche-prone town of Ophir, way down valley.

Our crumbly volcanic ridge.

Zoom in and look for the saddle in the far right-center of the above photo (hint: a visible game trail points to it). Readers might recall last years sketchy attempt to climb out of the basin on the other side (Link= On Second Thought). Bobbie and I were fortunate to survive unscathed to a ridge, one that afforded a safer route down. Certainly a memorable climb, one that we'll neither forget nor regret...or repeat. 

We scrambled higher among the crumbles of our conglomerate rock ridge-line in hopes of obtaining a view in the direction of our recent Woods Lake (yet to be posted) hike and 14ers El Diente, Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak, and noted 13,913 foot Gladstone Peak. 

Maybe if we climb up there....
Views of the 14ers were eclipsed by a nearby twin-peaked anonymous mountain. We decided to bail off the ridge, down-climb a couple hundred feet and skirt around the crumbles to a assume a better vantage point.

Ah, much better. Bobbie pulls out the map and orients it to true North. Views fall into place. Note the 3 peaks just right of center and in middle ground. From right to left: 14er Wilson Peak, near 14er Gladstone, Mount Wilson, then the ridge to El Diente, who's view is blocked by Mount Wilson. 

Thirty year-old long-forgotten stories floated to the surface of our memory as we recalled climbing and surviving those three 14ers...especially El Diente, "The Tooth."    

We linger in "Paradise," connecting dots and appreciating our good fortune to still be climbing mountains. 

A few more pics from the ridge and heading down...

Bobbie surveys Paradise for the best route down...

Alas, there is no "best route." Lungs and legs complain going up: Knees and feet complain going down.

Much better...
Panorama: scroll  →

We came, saw no-one, and, excepting our memories, left no trace.

Peace out.
Now go take a hike!
mark and bobbie


  1. Recently I came across A picture we took on one of our earliest trips and we viewed El Diente Mt and I thought to myself, I wonder if anyone ever hikes it? Have never read of anyone climbing it. Might Have Known ....are there any peaks you two haven't hike?
    Lovely post, VERY enjoyable.
    Hope you have a super LABOR DAY WEEKEND.

    1. When we viewed El Diente from a cross-canyon mountain slope last week, above Navajo Lake, Bobbie's remark was, "How in the Hell did we ever climb that?"
      My reply? "One step at a time." It was a long day, starting at dawn and ending at dusk...

  2. Only someone who spends a lot of time in the mountains gets that "connecting the dots" thing. It was one of the things I loved most about soil survey, I got to connect a LOT of dots. Gorgeous mountains gorgeous photos as always, and yes, I can even feel that fall shift here in Southern Oregon, although not quite as dramatic as yours, it is still mostly about the angle of light.

  3. Stunning! This is a feast for city-sore eyes.

  4. I'm glad you are still hiking these amazing, I hesitate to call them, trails so I can see the landscape and connect some dots in places I will never tread. Even in AZ I'm feeling a touch of fall, long before I am ready for summer to be over.

  5. I love connecting dots (although my most common dots are animal trails and marking areas)! Your dots sure are beautiful. We were out your way for a while, enjoying an area closer to Silverton than to you but we paused in your town to order pizza. We saw the same beautiful tundra autumn colors and then departed before it snowed on our campsite. Keep up the fun!!!

  6. What a wonderful post. The route is stunning, the words vivid and poetic. You two are amazing. What gorgeous hiking.


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