Lowell Hill Ridge P1K
Prosser Hill P900
Boca Hill P900
Verdi Peak P1K
Ladybug Peak
Granite Peak

Thu, Apr 24, 2014
Etymology
Granite Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4

On my way to Reno for a weekend of club volleyball, I took a day beforehand to tag some P900s and P1Ks in the Tahoe region just north of Interstate 80. Of the four outings, Verdi was the only one with significant hiking, though all had their challenges. And Verdi became a hike because I didn't have the high clearance that would have allowed me to drive to the summit.

Lowell Hill Ridge

This summit is located off SR20, about two miles north of I-80. The satellite view makes it look like the highpoint is in the middle of a golf course, but it turns out to be a forestry operation. Strips of forest were clearcut in a non-linear fashion giving it the golf course-like appearance. A sign in the area refers to it as a "Plantation", suggesting it was being actively managed. There appears to be no indication that trees were replanted other than through natural processes, but I suppose "Plantation" sounds better than "Logged Area". I'd spent the night sleeping just off SR20, somewhat of a mistake. Just as I was bedding down I was visited by a highway patrolman checking to see if I was in any trouble. I was not far enough off the highway to avoid notice or highway noises and did not sleep as well as I might otherwise have. A second patrolman came by in the morning for the same purpose. It was nice to know that if I had been in any real trouble in the area, I would not have to wait long for help.

After breakfast, I hiked up the gated Last Chance Mine Rd for several miles. There are signs of OHV travel all over the place and a few indications of efforts by the Forest Service and other groups to sign hiking and cross-country ski routes. Little of that appears to have taken as OHVs seem the most popular mode of transportation. Hiking through strips of clearcut forest doesn't offer a lot of inspiration for the Wilderness seeker. Without a GPS it might be difficult to locate the highpoint. There's not a lot of gradient leading up to it with strips of forest offering no help in discerning the lay of the land. I turned off the main road with about a quarter mile to go, dutifully following my GPS as it took me across several clearcut areas and the brushy strips between them. Very close to where the GPS indicated ground zero I found a small duck and a register that John Vitz had left almost two years earlier. By now I had come to expect a Vitz register on publicly accessible P1Ks, so in this I was not disappointed. It was somewhat laughable however, a lonely note sitting in the middle of a logged section of forest, no views in any direction. I added my name to the slip of paper than indicated the spot had been visited by another party in 2013 - John and I weren't the only two pursuing such mundane summits. It was on the return route that I found a brush-free path back to the Last Chance Mine Rd. Blue diamonds attached to a few snags left standing indicated a ski route through the clearings. But that's as much work as was done to develop the route, no clearing or trail building of any sort. The brush growing in the clearing would make skiing it impractical except with significant snows, but at under 6,000ft elevation it is unlikely to get much standing snow in most years. I was back at SR20 and the van shortly after 8a, making for an hour and half's effort.

Prosser Hill

The next two summits were P900s and I had no expectation that Vitz would have left a register on either of these for me to find - he seems to have set his prominence limit at the 1,000-foot mark. Prosser Hill is located about 40 driving miles east of Lowell, just north of Truckee and west of SR89. Paved Alder Creek Rd heading west from SR89 skirts the south side of the hill within about a mile. The hill and its surroundings are part of a large OHV area around Prosser Creek, Boca and Stampede Reservoirs - boating, ATVs, motorcycles and more. A popular place with the carburetor-inclined, there are OHV trails leading nearly to the summit from the east starting at SR89. My route from the west was intended in part to avoid these trails and also because it was a shorter route, albeit steeper. I drove a short distance north on Carpenter Valley Rd, a well-graded dirt road off Alder Creek Rd that got me a bit closer to my goal, about a mile away. It wasn't the best of routes. While the lower portion was through forest understory and some motorcycle trails, the mid and upper sections have a good deal of manzanita to negotiate. At times it looks like an impenetrable thicket, but closer inspection reveals that there are breaks in the stuff and ways to get through without much pain. Bear scat found along the way indicates that the ursine behemoths have taken to using routes they have beaten through the stuff, and if a bear can get through a section of brush, surely a puny human can follow. After 35min I'd found my way to the western of two closely-spaced summits. Shown with equal contours, the GPS indicated the western one was higher by 5-10ft, but the least interesting without views. The lower east summit is the one with a motorcycle track going over it, some views (E - S - SW), and a few concrete blocks belonging to a tower or building that once stood here. On my way back I utilized a portion of the motorcycle track going to the east summit, then more cross-country and eventually stumbling upon a fresh hiking trail that had been hacked directly up the slope through the manzanita. This trail was an interesting find, flagged for some of the route but not otherwise signed or shown on any maps I could find. I followed it down to a clearing near Carpenter Valley Rd, but there were no trail signs here either and nothing to indicate the start or existence of the trail - a work in progress perhaps?

Boca Hill

Five miles east of Prosser Hill and across from Prosser Creek Reservoir, Boca Hill rises as the lower sister hill. Eight miles of driving finishing across the reservoir dam to the west side of Boca Hill got me within a mile of the summit. OHVs can more easily motor all the way to the top, or nearly so. The highpoint is found among a collection of rocks that provide decent views in most directions in contrast to the earlier summit. Getting to the summit on foot is much easier too, with your choice of OHV roads, motorcycle tracks, or cross-country travel with much less of the brush found on Prosser. Up and back took only 45min, and in my estimation the more worthwhile summit of the two hills.

Verdi / Ladybug / Granite

With the preliminaries out of the way, Verdi was expected to take the majority of the day's effort. With a high clearance vehicle one can simply drive to the lookout atop Verdi Peak, reachable from either the southwest near Boca Resevoir or from the north off County Hwy S860. The peak is the highpoint of the Verdi Range, a long ridge running north-south dividing the drainages of the Little Truckee and Truckee Rivers. I attempted to see how far I could drive using the northern approach but was disappointed. In sharp contrast to the Mendocino NF which has a whole network of very drivable roads, the roads in this area come in all manner of useability. Despite its name, County Hwy S860 (also called Henness Pass Rd) is a terrible road for low clearance and makes a mockery of the term "highway". It is covered with bone-jarring rocks and it was as much as I could manage to drive it several miles to Henness Pass. From there I turned right onto Verdi Peak Rd which started off decently enough, but soon deteriorated. Having as much of it as I could manage, I parked just off the road with almost six mile to go. The rest would have to be done on foot.

Starting just after noon, I spent most of two hours hiking the road to the summit. The first several miles pass through a swath burned 20 years ago in the 1994 Crystal Fire. Despite an effort at reforestation, it is surprising how little recovery has taken place in all that time. Most of the young trees in this area look only 4-5yrs old. Perhaps the reforestation effort had been delayed or perhaps the area sees too little precipitation compared to other parts of the range further west. The deforestation does have its consolation in that the views are nicer than they would otherwise be. One can see a sweeping view of the snowy Sierra Crest stretching from Granite Chief in the south past Mt. Lola in the north, even to Sierra Buttes. Stampede Reservoir, the largest of the three main reservoirs in the area can be seen below to the west. Snow began to appear on the road after the first hour and eventually came to dominate the highest elevations. It was firm and not very deep, making it easy to walk on, so much so that I bypassed the last stretch of road to the summit in favor of a more direct route up from the northwest.

Cold an breezy across the ridge, I sought shelter on the leeward side of the lookout tower's viewing platform. The tower has been abandoned for some time, the insides littered with broken glass and empty beer cans. I packed up the empties and some of the trash I found, but it would need a lot more TLC than I could offer on my short visit. The views from the summit were the best of the day and possibly the best to be found north of the Interstate. In addition to the Sierra views looking south, west and north, the Great Basin towns of Reno and Verdi can be seen to the east with all places along the Interstate inbetween. I found a benchmark among the summit rocks below the tower (and a great deal more glass shards), but no register - it seems likely that the summit is too accessible to support one.

I next turned my attention north to Ladybug and Granite Peaks, two bonus summits along the ridge in that direction. Neither is particularly prominent. A branch road off the Verdi Peak Rd goes nearly to the summit of Ladybug Peak, the last 100ft an easy hike up a use trail. I snapped a few pictures looking south and north before continuing on cross-country to Granite Peak. Though the lower of the two, I thought Granite Peak a more interesting summit. Where Ladybug is rounded and strewn with talus, Granite is more peak-like with larger blocks and a much smaller summit. Rather than retrace my route back over Ladybug, I headed northwest off Granite's summit, a steep cross-country descent down forested slopes with short stretches of snow. By the time I had dropped down to Verdi Peak Rd, there were only 2.5mi left in returning to the van. It was nearly 4p by the time I returned and would mark the end of the day's efforts. I waited until I had driven back on the worst of the roads to the pavement before showering in the late afternoon on this lonely stretch of mountain road. I met up with my wife in Reno where we had dinner at the Black Bear Dinner at her suggestion. Not the healthiest of dining options, but after about 20mi and 4,500ft of gain, I wasn't minding either...

Continued...


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This page last updated: Tue May 6 21:11:55 2014
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