Red Rock Mountain
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The heat had chased me to one of the higher THs in the Trinity Alps found at the end of the long, dusty road up Coffee Creek. While most of the THs are around 3,000ft, Caribou Lakes TH found at the Big Flat Campground is some 2,000ft higher. It was in the 50s when I awoke in the morning, cool enough to start the day, but it would warm soon enough. My only strategy was to get high quickly and stay there most of the day. To this end, I planned a nearly 5mi-long ridge traverse between Black Mtn and Preachers Peak, most of which would stay above 7,000ft. Two of the summits along this ridge are CC-listed, one of which is also a P900. I was up early so I could be on my way before 6a.
I had read that there may be some difficulty in finding the trail, but had noted a TH kiosk at the entrance to the campground and just before where the TH parking is located. I was the only one in the campground that night and in the morning shared the TH parking with two cars that had been there the night before. I followed the trail down to the banks of the Salmon River's South Fork where signage is more obvious for those heading to Caribou Lakes. I turned left to follow the less-used trail along the east side of the river heading upstream. There was plenty of water in the river, though much less than I suspect it normally does. I watched a black bear mosey aimlessly down to the opposite bank of the river until it spotted me and ran off. Silly bear. After little more than a mile I lost the trail where it appears to cross over to the other side of the river, a direction I didn't want to follow since I knew I had to come back to the east side eventually. I knew there was a road just to the east of where I had been hiking so I found this and used it in lieu of the trail. Not open to the public, this road leads to a private inholding around Josephine Lake between Caribou Mtn and Black Mtn, most likely a ranching concern. After a second mile I came to a signed trail junction that leads away from the road to two of four passes that cross out of the Salmon River Drainage. I followed the fork up Kidd Creek, a climb of more than 2,000ft in only two miles. Though the trail was thin in places and I managed to lose it at least once, most of the trail is in good condition and not difficult to follow. It rises up through forest, eventually breaking out into more open meadow areas with views increasing accordingly. The meadows were quite lovely in early June despite a drought, vibrant greens carpeting the grounds through which the trail meandered. By 8:15a I had reached the pass on the ridgeline just east of Black Mtn.
It had seemed close, and the cross-country started off easily enough, but Black Mtn is a non-trivial 1/3mi to the west and it took me 30min to manage it, much of it traversing lower on the south side of the ridge to avoid difficulties above. The views are really quite outstanding from the 8,000-foot summit, open in all directions. To the south lay the highest summits of the Trinities - Thompson, Sawtooth, Hilton and others decked in white. More snowy summits can be seen to the east around Gibson Peak, and west to Caribou Mtn and Sawtooth Ridge. To the north and northeast stretches the ridgeline I intended to follow, all snow-free thankfully, and looking like a fine challenge. After returning to the pass I made a diversion to pay a visit to Snowslide Peak which lies lower off the southeast side of the crest. It's an interesting little peak rising above the Swift Creek drainage, but it doesn't have the commanding views of the higher summits along the crest. It was an easy cross-country effort, all class 2 and a nice bit of hiking that consumed a pleasant hour's time.
It was 10a by the time I had returned to the crest and begun the long traverse stretching to Red Rock Mtn. I spent almost two hours along the undulating ridgeline. The most difficult stretches were only class 3 and these could have been easily avoided by dropping lower on the east side of the crest. The rock was not bad for the most part and I enjoyed the short scrambling sections at the south end of the ridgeline. Shortly before reaching Red Rock Mtn I crossed paths with another trail crossing the ridgeline, this one coming up to the head of Gulick Creek before descending east to Sunrise Creek. Less than half a mile NE of the pass and rising high above its surroundings, Red Rock Mtn enjoys views similar to those of Black Mtn. The view to Caribou is particularly nice since its snowy aspects can be enjoyed from this angle better than from Black Mtn. A register found at the summit dated to 1999 and had more than 40 pages filled, its popularity likely enhanced by its proximity to the trail.
I continued north on the ridge, Preachers Peak lying more than two miles further in that direction. Bullards Basin, a fine-looking canyon feeding into Coffee Creek, is on the east side of the crest now, the Salmon River drainage continuing on the west side. It took an hour and a half to traverse between the last two peaks and I was getting somewhat tired by the end of it, but happily the scrambling and hiking here were easier than the southern half of the ridge. Less than half a mile south of Preachers Peak is yet another trail going over the crest, this one forking off the previous trail and dropping into Bullards Basin. I intended to use this for the return to Big Flat Campground after the last summit. Just past the trail the ridge has a jagged rock section that slowed me down as I paused to find bypasses on one side or the other. It was after 1:15p by the time I reached Preachers' modest summit. A register from 2007 held no names that I recognized in the five pages that were used, no surprise since Preachers appears on none of the usual lists and has little prominence.
I had planned to go back along the crest to the trail but thought it might be easier to simply drop west off the summit and pick up the trail lower down. The slopes here are gravelly and a little brushy, but with careful selection of a descent line I was able to avoid most of the brush and find the trail in less than 15min while dropping 1,000ft, cutting off almost a mile of the trail. The last 20min of the hike was spent leisurely descending another 1,000ft back to the TH at Big Flat where I arrived just after 2p. By now it was quite warm again, about 85F and not at all conducive to more hiking. It was a fine temperature for taking a swim in the Salmon River, however, which I found far more appealing. I left the river and the campground half an hour later, clean and freshly dressed and ready to head home. I had planned to stay in the area another day but I'd had enough of the unrelenting heat at the lower elevations and trying to find ways to beat it. I think it was time to turn my attention to the Sierra and save future visits to the Trinities for cooler temperatures...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Black Mountain
This page last updated: Sun Jun 28 11:39:36 2015
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