It was the Fourth of July and I was flying solo. My girlfriend’s in Italy for the summer, so our tradition of fireworks in the park was a no-go. Friends from work had invited me to join them for bombs and BBQ, but I felt antsy for a new adventure, so I decided I’d figure out something on my own.
I brewed coffee, made eggs and toast, and grabbed William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades from the bookshelf. On page 204, I found Bohemia Mountain, an easy 1.6-mile round-trip hike that lands you atop an impressive summit 5,990 feet high. This trek involves a bit of a drive, but the summit of Bohemia Mountain is worth every mile and dollar. Besides, the drive is beautiful, and your friends can chip in for gas.
Winding along Brice Creek with the windows down, I knew I was entering some beautiful country. Almost every side canyon had a gurgling tributary flowing down into Brice Creek and the smell of the trees and rushing water filled my nose with sweetness.
About thirty-five miles from Cottage Grove, I turned off the pavement onto gravel Road 2212 and my heartbeat quickened with both excitement and nervousness. I was by myself and was well aware of it. Before leaving my apartment, I sent my girlfriend’s mother a detailed email of my itinerary, including every forest service road on which I’d be driving, my time of departure, and my expected time of return. I said I’d call her around seven in the evening and that she shouldn’t contact the authorities unless I failed to call by ten. This of course scared the hell out of her.
The buddy system is always advisable, but I like doing things by myself too. I just try to cover my ass by limiting risk as much as possible. Sullivan recommends these ten essentials and I’ve put together a small pack that includes all of them: A warm, water-repellent coat, knife, first-aid kit, matches in a waterproof container, butane lighter or candle (to help start your fire), extra food, extra water, compass, flashlight, and a good map (topographic preferred) that includes forest service roads.
Bohemia Mountain is a mining area complete with a ghost town of Bohemia City. One of the town’s original buildings is still standing in the valley. There’s no trail, but you can walk to it by heading due east from the parking lot, but don’t wander onto private land and don’t crawl into any old mine shafts. Bad idea.
To get to the summit trail, walk down the road to the left about seventy yards watching the right side for a weathered, hard-to-see Bohemia Mountain trailhead sign in the trees. The trail has a 700-foot elevation gain through beautiful forest and jagged rock outcroppings with many photo-worthy vistas along the way. As I was getting near the top, I passed three hikers heading down. I said hello and the one in front told me I’d have to bushwhack around snow-fields to reach the summit. Cool.
Sure enough, near the top, the trail disappeared into an impressive snowfield, but to the left I could see a snow-free route up to the lava cliffs and the summit. With only one leg scrape (lava is sharp) and two minor dings on the body of my Nikon, I made it up about twenty feet of steep rock to what felt like an island rock-garden in the sky. Patches of violet wildflowers and thick, low plants clung to pockets and cracks in the lava. Diamond Peak crowned the eastern horizon and Fairview Peak Fire Lookout Tower punctuated the skyline to the north.
There are cliffs on three sides of the summit–real cliffs–with dizzying elevation drops down into the surrounding valleys. And there’s a great view to the north, looking almost straight down, at the one remaining building of Bohemia City. I had the summit to myself for about forty minutes. I took some photos, ate lunch in the sun, and had a little catnap until another group of hikers arrived.
Bohemia Mountain can be a one-hour round-trip hike, but considering the drive, plan to make a day of it. There’s plenty in the area to explore.
Getting there (from Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades):
***Do not rely solely on these directions. Take a map that includes forest service roads and stop at every intersection to make sure you know exactly where you are. If you use GPS, make sure it includes forest service roads and bring a paper map as backup.***
–Take I-5 south to exit 174 in Cottage Grove and follow signs to Dorena Lake
–Continue on the main paved road through Culp Creek and Disston
–Continue straight on the main road along Brice Creek
–Around 30 miles from the freeway, the road name changes from 2470 to Forest Service Road 22 (you will cross a one-lane bridge to the left at this point)
–At a pointer for Fairview Peak, turn right onto gravel Road 2212 and follow it 8.4 miles to Champion Saddle
–There, turn left onto Road 2460 at another sign for Fairview Peak (road becomes narrow and rough)
–Continue 1.1 miles to a parking lot and four-way junction called Bohemia Saddle
–Park and enjoy!