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Mount Thielsen and Diamond Lake can be seen in this photo from the summit of Mount Bailey. Photo by Lee Juillerat

Climb to the upper world of Mount Bailey

It's a mountain of many names — Youxlokes, Old Baldy, Old Bailey. But for most, the mountain that rises over the west side of Diamond Lake is known as Mount Bailey.

As told by William Steel, who's best known for his successful efforts to have nearby Crater Lake designated a national park, the mountain was called Youxlokes, or Medicine Mountain, by Klamath Indians. According to Steel, Klamath medicine men and priests feasted upon reaching the summit, where they communed with upper world spirits.

With a peak elevation of 8,368-feet, reaching its summit is making contact with the upper world. I was part of a group of spirited hikers who feasted on the views from Bailey during a recent climb.

Reaching the top of Bailey, which Oregon Geographic Names says was also known as Old Baldy or Old Bailey, requires a 5-mile one-way hike with about a 3,200-foot elevation gain. From its trailhead near Diamond Lake’s south shore, the route rises steadily and sometimes steeply uphill, passing through forested stands of lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock, Shasta red fir and, higher up, gnarly whitebark pine, before climbing above timberline. Occasional overlooks along the trail look down at the lake and up at Bailey's broad summit.

Except for seasonal wildflowers just below its two summits — we saw buckwheat, blue lupine and Dr. Seuss-like western pasque flowers — its upper reaches are mostly fields of rocky scree. Challenging but not technical, the trail continues up a lava rock slope, where it becomes a slip-and-slide surface of black cinders as it curls around a 300-foot crater. The trail first reaches the 8,140-foot south summit, a stopping point for some. It’s another half-mile to the 8,368-foot north summit, which is challenging because it descends a cinder saddle before climbing up and over a slippery scree slope, where the once-again well defined trail grinds to the top.

Keep the cameras ready before reaching the north summit. The trail passes by a window in the rocks, with a suitable-for-framing view of craggy Diamond Lake and Mount Thielsen.

Views from the upper vantages, like those along the trail, are expansive and impressive. On a clear day, the 360-degree vista includes mountains that surround Crater Lake, including The Watchman and Mount Scott, and, farther off, Mount McLoughlin, the Sawtooth Ridge and, standing directly behind Diamond Lake, the dagger-like peak of Mount Thielsen.

While Bailey’s humpback summit lacks the visual drama of nearby Thielsen, that proves an advantage other times of the year. Bailey is a shield volcano, and during snowy winter months its upper-slopes are popular for backcountry skiers and downhill skiers who arrive via sno-cat, while its lower elevations attract cross-country skiers.

So, why the name Bailey? Some historians believe Bailey was a drafting error, because there is no record of a person named Bailey associated with the mountain. In 1992, the Oregon Geographic Names Board voted to name the mountain Bailey to honor naturalists Vernon and Florence Bailey.

By whatever name, reaching the top of Youxlokes-Baldy-Bailey is reason to celebrate.

— Lee Juillerat has been writing about outdoor adventures in Southern Oregon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. He is also a regular contributor to the outdoor-travel website High On Adventure at www.highonadventure.com. He can be contacted at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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