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OMG! It's a butterfly STORM! We're all DOOMED! (Mount McLoughlin was AMAZING!)
posted by John : August 6, 2017

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End of the semi-decent trail

Mountains are my weakness. Especially volcanos. I love that they aren't constrained to mountain ranges surrounded by lower peaks. That they tower above the surrounding land. And that they bear the marks of both the slow changes of time and the sudden explosive forces below the ground.

So, no surprise I went for a long drive to climb Mt. McLoughlin. It's just short of 9,500 feet and last erupted 30,000 years ago. Since that's about 16,000 feet short of the death zone and not particularly active, being dormant for the last 2,000 years, and a relatively snow-free climb under 10 miles and 4,000 feet of gain it seemed safe enough to go solo. (Don't worry. Unlike most of the time I suggest it seemed safe this isn't foreshadowing.)

Long drive. Nice walk through the woods. Fun climbing through old rock fall, but always on a trail. Above the trees the way was loose dirt with highly mobile rocks. Tiring, but nothing worse than that.

Hey, look! A butterfly! How pretty.

Another one!

A whole bunch more. Wow. That's kind of weird.

Wait a minute. This is getting a little freaky. Did Alfred Hitchcock make a movie about a butterfly storm? No? He should have.

At the summit, all by myself, the butterflies were amazing. I've since learned they are California tortoiseshell butterflies and they're in the higher elevations of Oregon "probably in the millions." I just happened to get lucky. They only show up in these numbers once every 10 to 15 years. When the sun was out they'd fly up the north face, maybe take a rest on the rocks or the snow, and then head down the south face. The mountain isn't so big they couldn't have gone around, but then I wouldn't have been treated to this:

Pretty amazing, huh?

The views were nice, too, but hampered by the smoke and my fascination with the butterfly storm. Surprisingly, I had good enough cell service to do a little bit of video calling with the family so they could see what I saw and whet their appetites for later. (And it worked. At least for one of them.)

To those that declined the invitation I have just this. Next time someone says, "Hey. Let's drive for like 10 hours to go climb a mountain in Oregon," you say, "YES!"

And that goes double if it's between 2027 and 2032.

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