I was camped at Little Grizzly Flat along Soapstone Ridge Rd in the Stanislaus
NF west of Yosemite. After tagging 16 summits the previous day, I had plans
for another 9-10 today, centered around Big Grizzly Mtn, the P1K that had
brought me to the area. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned.
Yesterday's overcast weather that I had enjoyed was transforming into
a foggy, drizzly mess that isn't all that much fun for peakbagging. I didn't
even make it until noon before calling it quits and heading for home.
Big Grizzly Mountain
This is the most prominent summit between SR120 and SR140 in the Sierra
foothills west of Yosemite. I had only a few more miles to drive along the
somewhat brushy Soapstone Ridge Rd, most of which I had driven up the evening
before. I parked at a turn in the dirt road on the southeast side of
the summit, in a spot just large enough to get me off the road in the unlikely
event that someone else might come driving down this little-used forest byway.
I had only about half a mile and 500ft to climb from the roadway, but it was
not the open, grass-covered slopes one might hope for. While there were some
grassy sections, most of it was steep and draped in manzanita
and other tough brush. It made for a fun and interesting climb, half in fog
that was rising up from the valleys below. One needs not rush this one, instead
carefully looking at the various options to avoid more serious bushwhacking.
I found some pink flagging in
a number of places, not all that helpful, except where it goes through a thick
section of manzanita just before the summit, a tunnel nicely clipped through
the middle of it. I somehow missed this on the way up (which shows the clipping
wasn't really needed), but it was nice on the way down to save a minute or two.
A summit register had been left by John Vitz in 2011,
Richard Carey visiting a few months later. The only other entry was from a Tim
Trail (real name?) in 2017, likely the person that left the flagging and
clipped the passage through the manzanita. The summit might offer better views
on nicer days, but today it was in and out of the cloud layers and what
views I had reminded me more of the Pacific Northwest.
The whole outing took just under an hour, getting me back soon after 7a.
My next effort was to reach Trumbull Peak, about 3 air miles to the southeast
but more than an hour's driving time. There is a lookout located on Trumbull's
lower south shoulder with a road reaching to the lookout. I expected (hoped)
that the various roads to get me between the two would be open, but this was
not the case. Things started off well - I had only to drive another mile or so
to Big Grizzly's SE Ridge where the Grizzly Quarry is located, to find
the road improved considerably. I drove this better road north to Domingo Flat
where I found the first of several roads closed due to washouts. After much
driving around the various roads in this area and around Anderson Flat, I
found that the only open route was to follow the Bull Creek Rd west, back out
to Briceburg Rd where I'd been the previous day. I re-drove the cutoff road
up to McCauley Hill and the old Yosemite Rd. Who knew that the next person to
benefit from the clipping I'd done on the cutoff road would be me?
can be reached from Old Yosemite Rd via a spur road which I used to
drive myself to the highpoint. There wasn't much to it and I eventually found my
way back to Old Yosemite Rd, having added this one merely as shameless
I was still trying to get to Trumbull Peak, but my very roundabout way of
getting me there was taking me by other summits I figured I ought to consider
while I was in the neighborhood. With almost 800ft of prominence and a lookout
tower of its own, Pilot Peak seemed like one such summit I should drop in on.
Forest Road 2S04 branches off from Old Yosemite Rd on the
east side of the summit, winding its way to the top in a couple of miles. I
drove up this road, finding myself engulfed in the clouds hovering around the
6,000-foot level - it was not going to have the scenic vistas others had
reported on PB. More disheartening was
the sign about a quarter mile from the
top that said the remaining road was closed to all traffic, motorized and
non-motorized. The gate was open so I figured I'd drive up to see what reason
might be given for the closure. The road is steep and narrow, but the Jeep was
able to manage it easily enough. As I neared the top and spied the lookout
through the fog, I also spied a white USFS truck parked outside. Dang. What to
do? As I sat there idling, I noticed a set of legs climbing down the stairway.
Seems I was busted. I made a feeble attempt to back down the road, but the
rear window was covered in dust and the fog made the rear camera unusable. The
only way down was to drive up to the top and turn around (and take my lumps,
too, I suppose), so I went forward instead. Upon driving to the top where I
could turn around, I saw no sign of the ranger I'd seen descending. Had he seen
me after all?
Perhaps not. Maybe he'd just come down to use the outhouse. I figured I better
not press my luck, so after snapping a photo I descended back down.
Pretty much a bust of a visit.
I wasn't yet through, spending another hour and a half wandering the backroads
of the forest. After leaving Pilot Peak I returned to Old Yosemite Rd and
made my way to a 5-way junction. A sign here indicated Trumbull Peak 9mi down
one of the forks. I headed off that way, happy to find the road in good
condition. In a few miles I found out why - my way was blocked by a large
vehicle with a crew tasked with clearing the road. Two sheriff's officers came
over and explained what was going on. They kindly offered to move their truck
and gear aside to let me pass, but that wasn't going to do much good - I'd
simply have to wait for the guys with chainsaws to catch up and unblock the
next section of road with my vehicle simply getting in the way. The officer
that had suggested this
looked sheepishly embarassed for having done so. I went
back to the 5-way intersection and tried another road option that runs closer
to the Yosemite border and SR120. When I concluded the road was too brushy to
reach Trumbull, I tried exiting to SR120 but found a gate at the park
boundary closed. Drats. I went back to the 5-way for a third time, found one
of the exits to SR120 blocked due to a washout, but another one, longer perhaps,
that would do the trick. By this time the low-level drizzle had made the roads
more muddy and, combined with the persistent fog, I decided I wasn't having
fun anymore and decided to head home. There would be other opportunities to
come back at a later date. Drier, I hope, and perhaps with better views,