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I found the summit is a semi-clearing, with some views to the south towards English Mtn and partial views northwest towards Sierra Buttes. In the tangle of brush among the modest summit rocks was a glass jar holding a 2yr-old register by John Vitz. Mine would make the second entry. The absurdity of what John and I were doing was not lost on me and provided some laughs. The return went much quicker, only half the time it had taken for the ascent, and by 10a I had returned to the campground, Haypress Creek, and my car at the nearby TH.
The area seems to be signed for cross-country skiers and backroad enthusiasts. I followed Road 09 for a bit less than two miles to its highpoint west of the summit before it begins to drop to Chapman Saddle. I left the road here to head east up easy cross-contry, reaching the highpoint 20min later. No cairn, no register, no view, not much of anything other than a large boulder I christened as the summit by placing a smaller rock atop it. Yay. Heading down a slightly different route to the southwest, I came across a small rocky outcrop that I scaled because I thought it might offer the views I didn't get from the summit. Though weak, it was better. As I scurried down the slopes through the forest I couldn't help but notice the profusion of cut timber lying about the forest. It appears that folks had come in to thin the forest, cutting trees 6-12" in diameter in order to provide more room for the others to grow big and strong before they, too, are cut down and turned into lumber. Only the stuff that was cut earlier wasn't even turned into toothpicks - it was just cut up into 6-foot sections and left lying on the ground. It looks like a lot of fuel that might someday help make a wildfire worse than it might otherwise be. At any rate, it made walking through the forest less pleasant. Less than an hour and a half after starting out I was back at the van - two down and not even noon yet.
Now that it was afternoon, the snow had softened some, leaving me almost wishing I'd brought the snowshoes with me. "Almost" because the coverage wasn't uniform, at least along the roadway I traveled for two miles, as it would have been a nuisance taking them on and off. The snow was a nuisance regardless, putting my waterproof boots to the test and failing. The most interesting thing was a series of bear prints I found along one section of the roadway. It had probably been days or weeks since it had been along this part of the road. When it was time to turn off the road for the last mile and a half, the snow coverage was continuous but at least better consolidated, making it possible to make good time in boots. Somewhere under the snow was a road, judging by the various flaggings I found on some of the trees as well as the old snowmobile tracks I was following. The summit proved disappointing, a large flattish area that made it difficult to even identify precisely. I wandered around the area to make sure I had covered it sufficiently. At the eastern edge I managed to find a small gap in the trees that allowed a view northeast to Sierra Valley, the only real view I had on this summit. Reversing the route by following my bootprints back to the roadway, I was back at the car sometime before 3p. My new waterproof boots were thoroughly soaked. Now I know why they were in the bargain bin at Big 5.
Though no rain was in the forecast, the weather had steadily deteriorated during the afternoon. The sky was completely overcast and there were visible signs of rain off to the west. I wasn't so much concerned about getting wet myself as what it might do to the road - I could be stuck in a muddy quagmire should it rain any significant amount. With this in mind, I headed out before 4:30p at a steady pace, hiking up the road overlooking Portola and views to the north. I reached the gate in half an hour, continuing past that for another 30 minutes to the summit ridge. Here the road turns southwest as it reaches to the radio towers located in that direction. The highpoint is to the northeast, cross-country through some modest brush before reaching the volcanic talus piles and boulders that mark the highest point. I found the second John Vitz register of the day among the rocks in a glass jar, dating to 2011. As peaks go, it was the most interesting of the four I visited on the day. The rocky perch has a commanding view of Sierra Valley to the east and the Feather River drainage to the north, with Portola nestled in among the trees adjacent to the river. On the way back I was happy to find a shortcut trail that had been cut through the heavy brush in the lower half below the locked gate. This direct route cut at least half a mile off the long switchback the road makes as it makes its way up. It was 6p by the time I returned to the van, making for a total outing well unde 2hrs.
Back in Portola there were few dining options I found open, but I was happy to find the Portola Frosty open until 7p. After delivering my order of a Papa Burger and onion rings, the teenage crew closed up shop and took off while I was enjoying it on the patio outside, the only customer they'd had in the last half hour of business. Afterwards I drove out to US395 and the Fort Sage Mtns where I found a lonely stretch of sandy dirt road to spend the night, enjoying some wine with a movie after a fine sunset - not a bad way to spend a Thursday night...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Beckwourth Peak
This page last updated: Wed May 21 09:17:18 2014
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