Peak 3,940ft
Peak 4,325ft

Thu, Feb 1, 2018
Etymology
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On my way out to Death Valley for a short desert trip, I stopped in the Southern Sierra along SR178 to tag a few unnamed summits. My first effort, to reach Peak 4,752ft on the north side of South Fork Valley, didn't get very far. In fact, I didn't even get out of the car. I drove onto the Doyle Ranch property and asked if it would be OK to hike the BLM lands on the north side of their property. They responded that there is a private campground there, owned by the Rio Bravo Country Club located down in the Valley, just east of Bakersfield. And no, they couldn't let me drive there without permission. Hmmm. After thanking them, I looked for other access points around Doyle Ranch Rd, but private property seemed to block all possibilities. I'll have to go back and do more research on this one.

Peak 3,940ft

I ended up hiking two other summits on the south side of SR178 near Onyx, both located in the Kiavah Wilderness. The first one, Peak 3,940ft, is located above Onyx to the southeast. I drove through the rough-living community, eyed suspiciously by at least one resident as I slowly went up and down the dirt road adjacent to the Canebrake Ecological Reserve. I saw a sign for this on the fence surrounding the property between town and my peak, but saw no access points. I spied a woman hiking on the other side and after she returned to town I asked her about it. She seemed to think I was trying to get her in trouble because she was very quick to point out her family had permission from the guy who maintains the fence. After she realized I wanted to hike there too, she warmed up and told me how beautiful it was, eventually leaving me with, "If I were you, I'd just go in." And so I did. Later I learned that the Canebrake EC is managed by the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife. If one doesn't have a valid fishing or hunting permit, you're supposed to obtain a CDFW Lands Pass ($4.32 daily, or $25.10 for an annual pass). Oh well. I parked outside one of the gates to the property away from the barking dogs of nearby residents and went over the fence. The EC property basically covers the lowland portions of Scodie Canyon, the peak I was after and higher ground part of the Kiavah Wilderness. For an ecological reserve, I saw almost no wildlife, but there was considerable evidence of cattle having grazed here over the years. The cow paths through the brush make cross-country travel a snap and it took only 15min to cross the EC to the base of the peak. Another 30min was needed to climb 1,000ft up to the summit in about half a mile. There has been little rain here as yet this season, and the hills and valleys are still mostly brown and dry. Still, it made for a rather nice scene overlooking the higher peaks and the lower valleys. The Onyx fire of 2016 swept across the peak and wiped out everything. This made for no brush, little wildlife (as yet) and easy travel up and down the sandy slopes. On my way back I dropped into Smith Canyon to the north before following cow trails back out to the start. I came across at least three liter bottles of water that had been stashed by someone along the route at various points. Seemed rather funny since none were more than a mile from Onyx. I finished up just before 2p.

Peak 4,325ft

I drove back out to the highway and then a few miles to a small development east of Onyx where I parked in a paved cul-de-sac that abuts a water tank on the lower slopes of Peak 4,325ft. This one had no easy warm-up section, just steep uphill hiking from the start. There is a fence for the EC here (another section of the same one), but it ends a short distance above the water tank. As I was hiking up the hill I noted a trio of local residents coming out to see what I was up to. They hiked up as far as the water tank, but must have decided I was not trying to poison the water system and they eventually walked back to their respective homes. I was up and down in about an hour and a quarter, a tougher workout than the first with 1,300ft of gain. The views were similar to the first peak, the extra 400ft giving a bit wider view. These would be very nice peaks to hike later in the season when (or perhaps, if) the hills are green.

I showered there in the cul-de-sac before heading to Ridgecrest for the evening. I had a few errands to do there (Shoe Goo, wiper blades, gas and dinner) which would occupy me for a few hours before driving out to Trona Pinnacles to spend the night...

Continued...


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