Friday, October 9, 2009

Koppen Mountain, October 7, 2009

Koppen Mountain (October 7, 2009)

The Boulder DeRoux trail to Koppen Mountain is a tricky trail; maybe that’s why its lonesome. The first time we hiked the trail was in 1982 and it was about this time of year. There were no other hikers on the trail then, nor were there other hikers on this golden, October day in the Teanaway.

The Boulder DeRoux trailhead is about 9 miles past 29 Pines Campground on Forest Road 9737 (North Fork Teanaway Road). A short spur off No Road 9737 (left) leads to a generous parking area and one of the cleanest outdoor toilets we’ve ever seen.

The trail crosses the Teanaway River almost immediately on a solid footbridge; remnants of an older bridge that was washed out by floods still clings to nearby boulders.

The hike gets off to a gentle start on this trail that is popular with horseback riders; the trail parallels DeRoux Creek though the creek is not always within sight. In spring the trail is lined with sweet vanilla leaf; in October the vegetation is mottled and shrubs are turning from green to orange and red.

In about 1.5 miles we reached a well-signed trail junction; here hikers stay right if Gallagher Head Lake is their destination. Ours was Koppen Mountain (left) – here, we crossed the creek on a bridge and the trail began to climb.

The now-steep trail switchbacks through forest interspersed with open areas where greenish deposits of serpentine compelled us to stop and marvel. As the trail climbs, views improve. We reached a pass at about 5,017 feet; here there are options. For Koppen Mountain an unsigned steep trail leads off (left) through semi-open forest toward the peak. The saddle is also a convenient place to take a break and so we did, commandeering an empty hunters’ camp near the trail junction.

Though it is not signed another trail drops down the other side of the ridge from the saddle; this spur that leads to the Middle Fork Teanaway Trail and other temptations, savvy hikers with route-finding skills may be able to loop back to the Boulder-DeRoux trailhead via seldom-hiked trails (study the map or the out-of-print “Teanaway Country” by Mary Sutliff for additional information, bear in mind some trail numbers have changed since her book was written).

After our break we tackled the steep trail toward Koppen Mountain, soon breaking out into the open. We enjoyed expanding views of Mount Stuart, other Teanaway peaks and Mount Rainier (on a clear day from higher elevations). There are several false summits along the scrabble trail that once served as a sheep driveway (we found old metal signs on trees). Silverback and Maxine elected to take advantage of a lower viewpoint and finish their lunch; Jim and I were summit-bound.

The last stretch of the trail is not user-friendly; the tread is scant in places and in the final push to the summit the path is eroded and exposed as it snakes its way to the summit of Koppen. You will probably want a hiking staff or trekking poles unless, of course, you go early in spring when snow covers higher elevations in the Teanaway (then, bring an ice axe and know how to use it).

We were surprised to find a summit register; we signed it. Murphy, Jim’s black poodle, did not sign the register though it was his first “official” summit. Though this is a lonesome path, the summit register shows there have been a number of visitors in recent years. Incidentally, you can also get to Koppen Mountain via the Johnson-Medra Trail as well as from the Jungle Creek trail; these trails can be difficult to follow, plus the 3-mile Jungle Creek Road is closed (you can also link up to the Jungle Creek trail from the Johnson-Medra trail and make a loop). The Johnson-Medra trailhead is also on the North Fork Teanaway Road just past the Beverly Creek campground.

We didn’t linger; it was sunny but the breeze was cold. A few sluggish bees hovered around the summit but there were few signs of life, the flowers had gone to seed. From our high point we could see some of the Enchantment Peaks and more Teanaway peaks but it was too chilly to get the map out to identify them all.

Jim and I retraced our route back to Silverback and Maxine. After a brief rest we hiked back to the trailhead, surprised how much shorter the trail seemed than it did going in. That’s why I call this a tricky trail – it’s a little less than 3-1/2 miles to the summit but it sure feels like more.

Stats: 6-3/4 miles round trip with 2,290 feet of elevation gain according to the GPS. Map: Green Trails No. 209 Mount Stuart.

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