Dome Rock
Powers Peak P500 ESS

Wed, Feb 26, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Dome Rock

Unable to drive over Sherman Pass the day before due to snow, I needed to come up with some alternative peaks to climb on this side of the pass for the last day of my road trip. With Road M-50 closed near Johnsondale my options seemed somewhat limited. On my GPS I found a summit called Dome Rock about 1.3mi WSW of Johnsondale. Though not labeled on the 7.5' topo map, the summit sports a bit over 400ft of prominence and is not be confused with another, more popular Dome Rock in the area about 7 miles further north. The southern Dome Rock is most easily climbed from a dirt road that runs up from M-50 to a saddle just west of Dome Rock's summit. With M-50 closed, this would be a bit circuitous, so I planned a cross-country route up from the northeast which would make for the shortest route. I should point out that the M-50 "closure" is just a couple of signs put across the road that would have been easy to drive around. I had no idea how often the closed road might be patrolled or whether anyone would have cared, but I chose to not test the parameters of this problem and started from its junction with M-99 just north of Johnsondale, near sunrise.

The hike was not a long one, though not without some interest. The initial 1.5 miles of hiking the roadway were mundane enough and I kept wondering the whole time why I didn't just drive this part of it. When I got to a bend in the road under which flows Packer Meadow Creek, I turned right and ducked into the woods to start the cross-country part. Though steep, most of the slopes on the north side of the ridgeline leading to Dome Rock were forested and not encumbered by heavy brush underfoot. Ten minutes into this portion of the outing I came across the first of the black tubing I found over several acres that once served as a marijuana farm. Some discarded fertilizer containers and other irrigation accoutrements were found over the hillside where a partial clearing had been used to farm the illegal cannabis. Someone had gone to some length to make this a viable concern, but it looked to have been abandoned now for some years. Climbing up past this through the forest, I eventually reached the ridgeline and followed it several hundred yards to the highpoint atop some rocky slabs around 7:30a, little more than an hour after starting out. I found a small duck near the top but no register. Views are somewhat blocked by trees, but to the east can be seen Capitol Rock and Sherman Peak in the background, Speas Ridge in profile to the south. An hour later I was back once again at the van where I'd left it with plenty of time for another hike before I planned to start for home in the early afternoon.

Powers Peak (Harley Mountain)

I had noted the night before while perusing the map Jenkins supplies with Exploring the Southern Sierra: East Side a summit near Kernville unofficially called Harley Mountain. The peak had been named for a prospector who found gold at the summit and spent much of the money derived from this in building a tramway to facilitate the removal of yet more ore from the top down to the base where it could be processed. Eventually a cable snapped, a few workers were killed, and Harley relinquished the claim. Perhaps he was trying to get more blood out of a turnip that had already been squeezed dry. In any event, the summit name was never official, only used locally. In 2008, due to a local campaign, the BGN officially recognized the summit as Powers Peak, named for Bob Powers, the local cowboy historian. Herein lies the rub on this one - if you spent the last half of your life preserving the history of Kernville and the surrounding communities, would you be happy to have a bit of local history erased in order to commemorate yourself? I think not.

Jenkins describes two routes that can be used to reach Harley Mountain. The more interesting one is called the Old Mule Trail and it was to that TH in Kernville that I headed. Much confusion followed as I was unable to find the dirt road off the pavement that Jenkins decribes leading to the start. I eventually concluded that the road has been gated closed and marked as private property, no longer open to public access. So I chose the less interesting, longer, but still viable route starting from the Cannell TH just north of Kernville. This is the start of a very long National Recreation Trail that reaches all the way to Sherman Pass at 9,200ft. I'd wanted to hike this trail for some time, so today would give me the opportunity to explore the first five miles as it climbs out of the Kern River drainage.

A storm system was on its way across the state which is why I had planned to leave by the early afternoon. As I was starting off before 10a there was still plenty of blue sky, but this would change quickly over the next hour. Heavier clouds would move in from the northwest and eventually begin to obscure the higher summits of the Greenhorns to the west. Powers Peak was visible from the west after clearing the first rise ten minutes from the start. A half dozen deer were grazing off to the side of the trail as I passed by, and although they kept a wary eye on me, they did not flee on sight as is their usual practice. I followed the trail as it passed through several gates, the last at a saddle on the northwest side of the mountain before the trail turns northeast then southeast as it circles around to the backside of the peak. The trail climbs to a high saddle east of the peak, along the same Kern River faultline that creates similar saddles at Falls View Peak and Yellow Jacket, also overlooking the east side of the Kern River Valley. I reached this point in about an hour and a half under continued threatening skies.

Some drizzle had already begun to fall and I wondered if I would make it back to the car dry. A use trail heads from this higher saddle to Powers Peak, though it is longer than I had imagined. I thought it was a simple five minutes climb from there, but in fact it took three times that long. Ok, 15 minutes isn't really arduous, but the precipitation was starting to get worse and put me in a hurried mood. I made a dash to the summit ridge where I found the old chimney made of native rock, all that remains of Harley's cabin that once stood here. A minute away to the south is the highpoint atop what would qualify as a class 3 summit block if it was 4-5ft higher. Bolted to the top of the rock is a plaque announcing Powers Peak, the first I had heard of this newer, official name. The register found in a coffee tin at the base had been placed in 2010 at the same time as the plaque. Seems I wasn't the only visitor who might have prefered the old name. It is reported that the views from the summit are quite nice, especially looking south at Lake Isabella 3,000ft below. In the midst of a drought the lake is quite shrunken and barren-looking, but besides that, the clouds had begun to envelope the peak and I had no views whatsoever. Such is life.

I put on a pair of wool gloves to keep my hands from going numb, as well as donning a fleece jacket as the air had chilled considerably since I started out. I made much of the return at a jog in hopes of avoiding a soaking. The rain never did develop as I feared in the hour it took me return to the TH around 12:30p and I ended up mostly dry. I would find the rain later as I was driving back home across the Central Valley and particularly while crossing over Pacheco Pass. It had been a quick three days in the Kern River Valley area, and likely the last visit for a while...

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