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Since my camera met its demise earlier in the week, I sadly have no pictures from this trip.
I still had another day after the Sierra Challenge before heading home, and had originally scheduled a hike to Wheel Mtn with Matthew. But without a rest day to recuperate, I had to beg off that venture and save it for another time. Instead I chose to visit Eagle Mtn in the Twin Lakes area. The peak is on the P2K list of peaks with more than 2,000ft of prominence, in an area I had yet to visit. I've climbed a number of the peaks south of Twin Lakes in the Sawtooth Range on the border of Yosemite, but never the northern peaks that rise sharply above the lake and surrounding development.
I left the motel in Independence shortly after 7a, heading north on US395 for the next several hours. I turned off the highway at Bridgeport, heading for Twin Lakes and looking for the access road to Buckeye Creek. I spotted a white pickup driving slowly along the road I was looking for from maybe a mile away, but it took several attempts to find my way onto this road.
The road leading to Buckeye Hot Springs and my trailhead traverses across a sloping hillside on the eastern edge of the Sierra. The slow-moving truck turned out to be one of half a dozen vehicles plying the road looking for game up and down the slope. It was bow hunting season, and these able-bodied sportsmen were cruising two or three to a vehicle along the road, looking for deer. At a picnic area along the road I spotted two of the lucky ones hunched over their prey (legs of deer sticking up in the air like a cartoon) next to a picnic table, presumeably carving it up. It was all so comical and sad at the same time. Is this what we call "sport"?
The trailhead for Eagle Creek is not well-marked. One needs to drive through the Buckeye campground to the west end where trailhead parking is provided in what used to be a group camping area. The trail heads west down the road through private property (an easement allows access through the property, just be sure to close the gates when you pass through). It was 9a when I started out, not an early start by any means. The road continues west for many miles, now the Buckeye Creek Trail and possibly closed to vehicles (I'm not really sure). After some ten or fifteen minutes on this road I began to wonder if I'd missed my turnoff, and just as I was about to do some better map reading I came cross the junction for the Eagle Creek Trail heading left.
I followed this trail up, an old jeep road for the first several miles until it crosses Eagle Creek at about the 8,600-foot point. From here a sign indicated the trail to the right, and I followed this. There were many smaller use trails leading off of the trail at various points, made by cattle that were actively grazing the area as I hiked through it. I could say more negative things about the cows and their grazing habits, but after watching the bow hunters in action earlier, the cows seem rather benign by comparison.
The trail continues up the canyon following above the west side of the creek for a number of miles. The gradient is relaxed but steady, gaining 3,000ft in six miles. Much of it is forest with plenty of water in the creek, with open pasture/meadow areas increasing as one gains altitude. The trail continues up far higher than the 7.5' topo map indicates, though it gets increasingly harder to follow. I lost it temporarily through a small meadow, but found it higher up by continuing up what looked like the easiest path. I followed the trail as it crossed Eagle Creek to the east side, then higher until southeast of the Eagle Peak, almost directly in line with it and Robinson Peak further to the southeast.
Without any beta to go on, and frankly none needed, I followed a mostly brush-free path up a SE-facing slope heading up towards the ill-defined East Ridge of the peak. The rock was volcanic in nature, not well-consolidated but easy enough to negotiate. Once on the ridge I headed west for the highpoint. The weather had been very pleasant up to this point, but now the winds were increasing as I neared the crest. I had to put a jacket, balaclava, and gloves on to combat the chilled air blowing in from the southwest. I reached the summit at 1p, about 3.5hrs after starting out. There was a register at the top which I carried with me to shelter just over the north side of the peak and out of the wind. I paused here for a break, a snack, and to peruse the register. The peak seemed of interest mostly to the highpointer folks and a few hunters from the area. Barbara Lilley and Gordon MacLeod had placed the register in the 1990s. A fire near Sonora Pass had flared up while I was on the hike and by the time I was at the summit it was obscuring much of the views to the north. Elsewhere one could see for a great distance, but the strong winds kept me from enjoying it.
I had plans to continue southwest to Victoria Peak, little more than a mile away, but the strong winds gave me pause. It was blowing quite strongly and I was having trouble keeping warm and I was almost ready to call it quits and head down. But something made me continue on, and I was glad of it because the winds diminished some even as I started to descend from the nearly 12,000-foot highpoint. The ridgeline connecting Eagle to Victoria is mostly class 1 with a short section of broken ridgeline that required me to drop down on the southeast side a short ways to get through it. There is not much elevation gain from the shallow saddle between the peaks to Victoria, and by 2p I was atop the second peak. This too had a register that I dutifully signed in to.
From Victoria I headed southeast then east, following the ridgeline towards Robinson. There is a fine view of the Sawtooths along this route and swell views looking almost 4,000ft down to Twin Lakes and the surrounding community immediately off to the south. The hiking again was very easy between the two peaks and I managed to cover the two mile distance in another hour. The strong winds had subsided and it was quite pleasant once again.
Though the shortest of the three peaks, Robinson is the most interesting. It lies directly above the Twin Lakes community and is apparently climbed on a regular basis by folks from that side. A flagpole complete with American flag was erected at the summit. Placed in 2006, the flag was half in tatters when I saw it, likely to struggle surviving another winter's harsh winds. Buried in the summit cairn was an old tin, thoroughly rusted with age. Scraps of paper inside dated back as far as 1947 with an entry from AJ Reyman, a notable figure of the post-WWII era. There was a more recent register book as well, and an odd assortment of library cards and other IDs from the 1950s and 60s. I wished I'd had a camera with me to record some of the memorabilia. After perusing all of it for some time, I neatly packed them back in the tin and replaced it in the cairn. Certainly one of the more interesting summit registers I've seen.
I descended the easy slopes to the north, down through the forest and onto the trail not far from where I'd left it earlier in the day. It took a few more hours to descend the trail back to the trailhead where I returned at 5:30p. The bow hunters were still patrolling the strip of road as I drove out. I'm pretty sure the entire area I had hiked in was fair game for the hunters, but it wasn't all that surprising that I didn't see a single hunter or his footprints the whole time on the trail. I don't think they're making hunters like they used to.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Eagle Peak - Robinson Peak
This page last updated: Sat Sep 27 23:39:41 2008
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