Gasquet Mountain P500 CC
Peak 1,060ft P500

Wed, Aug 23, 2017

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3

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Jackie and I found ourselves in the northwesternmost corner of California on our way back from the eclipse in Oregon. Today's adventure had two main pursuits. The first was a CC-listed summit, the first one found on this ecclectic list. Dennis Poulin, who seems to have climbed most summits around these parts had a short TR on PB that seemed straightforward enough. The second part of the day would be exploring around the Redwoods State and National Parks with an adventure to find the highest tree. I had been to this neck of the woods back in 1992 when my pal Eric and I were on our way to Alaska on a 5-month adventure. Back then, the Libbey Tree along the Tall Trees Trail was believed to be the highest and we'd paid it a visit on an overnight trek. Since then, higher trees were discovered, the current king being called the Hyperion Tree. The Park Service will tell you they can't divulge it's location but an easy online search resulted in a coordinate found on the wikipedia page. It turns out to be less than half a mile from the Libbey Tree but requires a creek crossing and a quarter mile of cross-country travel.

Gasquet Mountain

Named for the small town on US199 above which it rises, this peak turned out to be easier than I had expected. Forest Rte 17N49 is a good gravel road rising from 300ft at the highway to 2,500ft in about 5mi, suitable for any vehicle, making the hike to the summit less than a mile in length with little gain. The only difficultly was some minor bushwhacking at the end through manzanita to find what one can only guess to be the highpoint. The summit area is large and flattish and finding an exact point is all but impossible. We left a register in a small cairn that Jackie built specifically to house it. Best of luck to others trying to find it (PRO TIP: can be made much easier by downloading the GPX track).

After returning to the highway we stopped along the Smith River, low at this time of year, so that Jackie could take a swim. She'd been talking about soaking her feet in a creek or river the past few days so this seemed a good opportunity. She swam across the placid waters to dive off some rocks on the other side where the pool was much deeper. Afterwards we continued south on US199 to the Starbucks in Crescent City. Here I did some quick research to find another peak in the area since the first was a little too easy.

Peak 1,060ft

This minor summit lies just southeast of Crescent City in a little-used corner of Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. We drove up Hamilton Rd a short distance until blocked by a gate and parked along the side of the road (for some reason, the large-ish lot just before the gate is signed for No Parking). We never did find out why this access into the state park was closed. Our trailhead was found just beyond the gate, an easy walk to access the Rellim Ridge Trail. The trail and its connecting network of other trails were superbly groomed and made for nice walking, climbing 550ft in about 1.5mi. We then struck off cross-country on the unknown portion of the route since there is no trail reaching to the highpoint. There was a downhill section to start, leading to a trickle of a stream, then a few hundred feet of climbing to the highpoint. The cross-country started easy enough with large ferns covering the ground, easily pushed aside to make progress. Near the summit these were supplemented with spikey vines, downed trees, and mid-level overgrowth that made things more difficult. We eventually found our way to the point indicated on our GPSr, really just a best-guess by LoJ, and called it the summit. We might have left a register here if we thought there was any chance that someone would actually find it at some future date. But there were no rocks to build a cairn for it and I doubt it would last more than a season or two under a few sticks. For her part, Jackie did an admirable job with some tough bushwhacking without complaining. By now, little of this was catching her by surprise and she had a pretty good idea what sort of stuff she was in for.

Hyperion Tree

The easiest way to reach the world's tallest tree is via the Tall Trees Trail, though getting to the trailhead requires some work. You need to stop at one of the Visitor Centers (we used the one in Crescent City) to pick up the gate code. Six or seven miles up the winding Bald Hills Rd from US101 gets you to the gate where the road becomes gravel for four more miles to the TH. The park ranger at the Visitor Center tried to dissuade us from visiting the Tall Trees Trail, arguing the tallest was no longer along the trail and there were plenty of large and tall trees more easily accessed from the highway. We didn't tell him we were after Hyperion, but another guy who walked up behind us with the same idea asked about it. "Can't tell you where it is," the ranger replied. The other guy was more easily convinced and went off with plans to skip the Tall Trees Trail. Not us.

It was after 4p when we finally started off on the trail, somewhat popular judging by the dozen or so cars in the two lots (that can hold maybe two dozen vehicles, all told) there. The trail descends about 700ft over the course of a mile and a half where it meets the Tall Trees Loop, Redwood Creek and the famously tall trees that grow along the alluvial soils found there. Even the hike down had some rather large trees and we were not disappointed after the work it took to get there. Saving the Tall Trees Loop for later, I led us out to Redwood Creek where it was necessary to take off our boots to wade across the shallow but wide stream. Once on the other side, we had a bushwhacking adventure that turned out to be surprisingly fun. The Hyperion Tree is located about a quarter mile up a side watercourse, McDonald Creek. One online description has you wading up this creek to reach the tree but we took an overland route that kept our feet dry and wasn't all that hard. It followed partly along an old logging road that can still be found on the topo maps. We then stuck to the ridge where the brush was minimal until we were almost directly above the Hyperion Tree. Following the GPSr, we then descended about 200ft until we found it right where we expected it to be. The tree is quite massive at the base and it is impossible to see the upper crown through the forest from below, but we were elated to have our little mission turn out successfully. We walked around it and took some pictures in the five minutes or so we spent there. A use trail of sorts went down to McDonald Creek and we followed this, thinking it would be an even easier way back. The trail seemed to end at the waters' edge and we could find no continuation of it on the other bank, so we went back the way we had come. Only later did I find online that one was expected to wade the creek back to Redwood Creek. At the end of the bushwhack return we crossed Redwood Creek once again (we found a bunch of frogs along the shore, too) before taking another half hour to complete the Tall Trees Loop. Now past 6p, we were the last of the day visitors left in the area. We crossed paths with a few backpackers on our way back, not returning to the TH until 6:45p.

We spent the next couple hours driving back out to US101 and then south to Eureka where we got dinner and found a place to spend the night at the edge of town. More adventures on tap for tomorrow...

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