Kapka Butte


It snowed in the mountains last week. I had great plans to hike Tumalo Mountain early in the morning and see the snow but it just didn’t happen. The early cascade storm prompted the busy squirrel in me and my one free day was spent winterizing my shop and property. By my next available day higher temperatures had returned and the snow had all melted. I set out to hike the mountain anyway but quickly lost all motivation when I encountered two tour busses in the parking lot. I wanted majestic inspiration, meditation and inflection, not a group exercise class and a muddy looking mountain. I sighed and headed towards Todd Lake. The parking lot too, was full. I narrowly avoided being side swiped by a Jeep rolling in at highway speed. This just wasn’t at all the experience I was after.

I remembered pulling over in an empty snow-park to go the bathroom….there had been a butte adjacent, I wondered if it had a trail. I pulled up my satellite and found the butte’s name (Kapka) as well as a snowmobile trail leading close to it’s base. Why not, I thought?


I drove Snowmobile 45 into the Power Lines, parked and hiked from there. The official road seemed to skirt the base of the butte, 3/4 of the way around. I figured as soon as I got close enough I’d just start going up. Bushwacking up a butte used to be a wicked difficult thing for me. I’ve got a really good method now and, like anything, it just get’s easier the more you practice.


My method is to go straight up from one tree base to another (for stability) until you find a deer trail. Usually deer trails go up or down a butte horizontally for 50-100 feet before dropping off very steep or just stopping all together. So, you just head straight UP again until you run into another deer trail. So, essentially I’m just creating switchbacks out of an existing trail system. On remote buttes, like Kapka and Bates, the trails almost look man made.


I should also probably mention that if I am hiking any sort of incline, I carry a pole. I didn’t when I was younger but now it is a crucial part of being able to go up and down mountains safely. I just love Kapka Butte and not because of it’s impressive views or strenuous output (it doesn’t really have either.) No, I love it because it is a snapshot of a manless place. It is also unique in it’s proximity to Mt. Bachelor. It is apparent that this little butte sees a lot of tumultuous weather. Almost 80 percent of the trees on the Western Slope (facing Bachelor) are topless. Some of the trees have been struck by lightning, the shattered fragments of the tops lay in circles at the trees base. Others have been snapped off by the wind. Some ruins are nothing but gray bones, half eaten by the Earth.


No one has been here for a while, the animals around are startled by my presence. Deer jump and crash away, crows send up an alarm over half a mile. There is no view to be had at the top, everything is obscured by the tall trees. The sun shines through though and it is hot. I sit and soak it in for a bit, I begin to feel sleepy. I close my eyes and think of nodding off, it is so quiet here….

Then I am covered in tiny black ants and I can no longer sit on the ground! I jump up and head down the way I came. I find a deer trail that isn’t too steep and that continues all the way down to the base of the butte, jackpot! I am down in less than ten minutes and the journey is over. I arrive at my Jeep and all is well, I drive out Snowmobile Road 45, onto Road 45 and back down to Sunriver. (impromptu) Mission Accomplished!


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