New York Hill
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Masonic was a gold mining town east of Bridgeport founded by Freemasons in 1860 but deserted by the 1920s when the ore ran out. Located in the northern part of the Bodie Hills and featured in Zdon's Desert Summits, Masonic Mountain rises above the townsite located on its northeastern flanks. The wide and well-graded Masonic Rd rises from Bridgeport Reservoir at its junction with SR182 to the townsite in about 8mi. We'd spent the night camped a short distance up this road, then driving in Daria's Suburu Forester in the morning. Our main goal was Masonic Mountain, but since we had most of the day available, we made a large loop of our outing, visiting a number of bonus summits in the area. The cross-country hiking here is generally easy, though some brushy parts were encountered. We covered about 9mi with almost 3,000ft of gain over the course of our five hour outing.
We drove up Masonic Road about 4mi, then turned right onto a rougher road about 4/5mi SW of Masonic Mtn West. This was not in the directions described by Zdon, but it would work for the loop I had in mind. In half a mile we took a left fork heading east, a much rougher road heading to McMillan Spring. This road had seen little traffic of late and it was necessary to get out move a fallen trunk lying in the road. Rather than push our luck, we decided to park here at the spring and head off.
We started uphill to the north, hiking cross-country from the aspen grove that surrounded the creek and spring below. We climbed about 1,000ft over 3/4mi to reach the summit of Masonic West in about half an hour, the brush proving no real obstacle on this south-facing slope. There is a fine view of Bridgeport Reservoir to the west with the snowy Sierra summits north of Yosemite framing it. At 9,000ft, the windswept plateau between Masonic West and Masonic Mtn is comprised of low grasses, gravel and small shrubs, making our hike both easy and quite pleasant. Though Masonic Mtn lies only 2/3mi east of Masonic West, we bypassed it to the north, heading instead to New York Hill. We picked up a road northwest of Masonic Mtn and followed it northeast for about a mile to the summit of New York, passing by a higher, unnamed hill that seemed would have been a more worthy candidate. New York Hill has a mere 80ft of prominence, making for an easy ascent. We found nothing but a flat, open summit with nice views overlooking the surrounding Bodie Hills and north to the Sweetwater Range. Still, it was nice to get to a named summit in this area that Bob Sumner hadn't been to (which is exceedingly hard, btw).
Now 9:20a, we turned our attention back to Masonic Mtn, following the road we had taken to New York Hill, and climbing Masconic via the road from the northwest side. The highest point north of Bodie Mtn and Potato Peak, Masonic Mtn has almost 900ft of prominence, a USGS benchmark, and a small communications tower powered by a bank of solar panels. It also has the best views of this small collection of summits at the north end of the Bodie Hills. There was no register found here, the only summit of the day we might have expected to find one. We had no better luck on any of the other highpoints we visited as well.
After a short break we headed southeast off the summit, down a steep, somewhat loose, dirt road that would be a challenge for any vehicle to drive. We shortly reached a junction at a saddle with a better road going NE-SW over the saddle. Peak 9,047ft was just about a mile due east at this point, without any roads leading closer. About a third of this distance was across low-gradient slopes with surprisingly heavy brush - not the impenetrable stuff, but it was up to waist level and required a good deal of route-finding and meandering and what not, and still we did not escape without some tearing of cloth and flesh on the stubborn branches. Elsewhere the brush was of the more benign variety, a most welcome change after wading through the heavier stuff. It was almost 11a by the time we made our way to the top of rocky Peak 9,047ft. Our last summit on the agenda was Peak 9,015ft, two miles to the southwest, an effort that would require another hour and a half's time. We ran into more of the heavy brush variety heading southwest off Peak 9,047ft. There were lots of animal bones scattered throughout this area, a graveyard of sorts for wayward cattle and perhaps other mammals I couldn't identify. Daria and I diverged and took different routes through this mess, hers proving a better choice as she found her way to the road we were seeking several minutes ahead of me. After brushing off and checking for ticks, we headed off on the road and several of its branches over the next mile and a quarter, reaching a saddle north of Peak 9,015ft less than half a mile from the top. A fairly brush-free route up from this side saw us to the summit by 12:30p.
Having wandered all over the area over the past 4hrs, it seemed like we could be far from our car, but in fact it was only 3/4mi away to the north, most of this downhill. We followed the Northwest Ridge of Peak 9,015ft down almost 1,000ft, getting separated a second time. While Daria continued to follow the ridge down towards a road we could see below, I wandered right across a gully to then traversed around towards where I knew the car to be at McMillan Spring. Though slightly shorter, my route proved no faster than Daria's more straightforward effort. We finished up by 1p, enjoying some chips and salsa sitting on the side of the road before starting back. It was still fairly early, but I had used up the list of peaks in the area I was prepared for. This wasn't so bad though, as we both had several hours of driving ahead of us, Daria back to Big Pine and myself north to Reno. She dropped me back off at the van where we'd spent the night before saying goodbyes. I took some time to shower and change before heading back down the road myself. I would end up parked off an old road near US395 at the southeast end of Reno that night. Though not far from the highway and some of the neighborhood homes, it was a pretty quiet spot and I spent the night undisturbed...
This page last updated: Sun Jun 5 22:19:01 2016
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