The first thing you have to do in order to climb Black Butte, is find the trail head! To make sure we did not waste time looking for it in the dense forest at the base of the mountain, my son and I did a trial run to find the trail head the day before. (The reader can find the exact GPS co-ordinates, and driving directions, on the Forest Service website at www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stnf .) My son took this photo of me the next day, just before we started our ascent of the mountain, on August 31, 2016.
He is pictured here on the Spring Hill Trail, in the city of Mount Shasta. I included the photo because it gives the reader an idea of the conical shape of Black Butte. By the way, a butte is generally defined as an isolated hill with steep sides, and a small top.
When the trail begins, there is a gentle climb through the evergreen trees of the Shasta/Trinity National Forest.
Upward, ever upward, the hiker will ascend. In fact, this image reminds me of a verse in the Bible from Proverbs 15:24 that says, "The path of life leads upward for the wise...." . Likewise, if you are a wise hiker, you will need to take plenty of water, as there are no water features along the trail or at the trail head. The distance from the trail head to the summit is 2.56 miles, making for a total distance of about 5 miles. So while this is not considered a long hike, it is still rated as "difficult" by the Forest Service because the total vertical climb from the trail head to the summit is 1,845 feet.
At some spots along the trail, there is no easily discernible path. That is when I relied on my son to show me where to step.
One can see from this photo that Black Butte is actually a cluster of overlapping lava domes. A lava dome is defined as a roughly circular, mound-shaped protrusion, resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano. Wikipedia calls the rock dacite, which just means igneous volcanic rock. One type of igneous rock we saw a lot of was "hornblende", which has dark flakes in it, made from a complex series of minerals.
I was very excited to get to see the expanse of valleys and mountains and farmlands and big sky, in a way I had never seen them before!
Although I am used to hiking with a single hiking stick, it was extremely helpful to have TWO trekking poles for this particular hike, One's legs and knees get very tired from the constant upward movement, so the extra support provided by the trekking poles can take some of the pressure off of the knees.
This photo of two hikers who summited before we did, shows the foundation of the USFS Fire Tower that used to be there. The first tower was built in the 1930's, but destroyed by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. It was rebuilt in 1963, and operated until 1973. After being taken out of service, the fire tower was removed by helicopter, in 1975. All that remains now is the square foundation.
I was delighted that someone else was at the summit, because I wanted to get a photograph of my son and I with the Arkansas flag, and the Arkansas Razorback logo. The guy that took the photo had two teenage young men with him, and as one of the teenagers was helping my son get me across the precipice leading to the fire tower foundation, the young guy said to me, "You are the oldest person I have ever seen up here." WOW, thanks a lot!
Once we had taken plenty of photos at the summit, we climbed down a few feet to have our lunch on a somewhat flat surface beneath the fire tower foundation. My son took this photo of me, with the camera pointed to the north. By that time, smoke had started rolling into the area from a large forest fire, about 30 miles from our location. I was very thankful for the blessing of a clear viewing of Mount Shasta, when we had been at the summit a few minutes earlier. As the day progressed, the giant mountain was completely obscured by the smoke from the forest fires.
The reader is probably tired by now of seeing photos of hikers with uplifted hands, but I was so incredibly happy to have this experience of summiting Black Butte, I am plastering the image below, of me at the summit, in my brain, so I can use it as a motivation to keep on trying to live a healthy lifestyle, so I can keep on taking these expeditions, because they keep on giving me----- "MILES OF SMILES! Tricia