Red Rock BM
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Today had a little bit of everything - long hikes, drive ups, lands owned by timber, ranch and military interests, CC-listed summits, prominence summits, awesome views and no views at all. All of them were located in southern Mendocino County in the stretch of coast ranges between Hwy 1 and US101. Only one of the summits I intended to visit proved a failure, so overall it was a pretty good day.
A locked gate at the bottom kept me from driving much further up the road, making this an outing of some 11mi, roundtrip. The old growth stumps, cut 50-100yrs ago were still quite evident, some as much as 8ft in diameter. Sprinkled around those were the more recent cuts, trees measuring but 3-4ft in diameter. I was surprised to see some of this timber lying on the ground in places, as though it had been forgotten when they were clearing out the harvest. After covering about 3mi of this over the course of the first hour, I eventually reached higher into the forest where the second growth has been left, as yet, uncut. The route I followed was a series of logging roads, old and new, that got me to the summit by the end of the second hour. The summit was devoid of views, but notably there were two old-growth stumps lying in the understory of the forest canopy at the very highest point. I had no luck finding the benchmark nor discovering the meaning of the USGS label "Old Red Rock Place" found on the topo map. Both remain a mystery.
On my way back I made a side visit to Little Red Rock Mtn. It had some very old logging roads that made getting to the top off the main road not so bad. The summit featured some old, rusting weather instrumentation which from the looks of it is minimally maintained. Not so much excitement here, and though the summit areas was relatively clear, trees ringed the perimeter to block much of the views. The overcast skies and uniform look of the surrounding mountain forests suggested I probably didn't miss much.
I was about 4mi down the road on my way back when I was confronted by a white pickup truck driving up the good logging road. Hoping for the same luck I had the previous day, I moved to the side and gave a small wave. The truck stopped, the window rolled down, and a portly gentleman about my age asked in a rather stern voice, "Can I help you?" He was not happy, that much was obvious. Knowing his question to be rhetorical, I offered weakly that I was on my way down. "Don't come back here again," was the reply. He asked if the car at the bottom was mine ("Yes, it is") and let me know he had recorded the license plate in case of any future violations. I asked if he had come up specifically to look for me but he admitted that he was coming up this way for other business. At least I didn't put him out that much. He continued up the road while I continued back down, happy that was the extent of my troubles. It was 11a by the time I got back to the gate and the van. Time now for the easy peaks.
Back down to the Old State Hwy, I drove only half a mile north before stopping to investigate Peak 1,380ft. Though of a rather lowly stature, the summit is the highpoint of the narrow ridge between the Garcia/Gualala River drainages and the sea and features more than 900ft of prominence. Unfortunately its also pretty boring and appear to be where Roseman Creek Rd goes over a slight rise. Yay. In the words of Monty Python, Now for Something Completely Different.
I was happy to find the paved Eureka Hill Rd open all the way to the base at the top at nearly 2,400ft. In fact it was better than that - the gate to the perimeter fence was open though there were plenty of signs telling of ominous dangers for the uninvited. I drove in slowly looking around for signs of the caretaker. It was a ghostly quiet place. From what I could tell, all the buildings were one-story residences set in rows with cracked pavement and sidewalks, grassy turf kept short by grazing deer. An old playground had play structures of rusting metal that were popular when I was a kid in the 1960s. One of the buildings had a black pickup truck parked in front with the driver's side door open but no one visible. I continued driving around the corner to the far end where my van would be blocked from view. I got out and wandered into the woods at the south end of the development. An old road led to a radar installation that appears to be where the highpoint was indicated on the GPS. I was not going to play around on this piece of equipment with a caretaker around and beat a hasty retreat. The door of the truck was still open when I drove by a second time on my way out - seems he may have forgot he left the door open. The whole place had a Chernobyl-like spooky feel to it and I was not unhappy to be driving back down the road.
Back in the car, I drove another 5mi inland for Lambert Ridge. This P900 is on the north side of the road across from Bear Wallow Creek. My plan was to use a gravel/dirt road and bridge that crossed the creek and then an old jeep track running up the south side of the ridge. Right after I parked and was getting out to collect my gear, a truck drove out the open gate and then east towards Boonville, probably wondering what I was doing there on the opposite side of the road. After he went around the corner I went over to investigate the road. He had left the gate open with the lock dangling from a chain. This suggested he was just going to be gone a short time, perhaps a quick trip to Boonville for something. This, too, smelled of trouble and I turned back.
Once again in the van, I consulted the GPS and noted another approach from the east, utilizing dirt Redwood Ridge Rd that starts at the highpoint where the pavement goes over a saddle between the Bear Wallow and Ornbaun Creek drainages. Though marked "private" on the topo map, the road is not gated and has half a dozen addresses listed on a sign at the pavement. I managed to drive a mile and a half on this not-so-bad road to get me within half a mile of the summit. I stopped when a sign indicated "Last safe turn-around before gate". I parked here and started up on foot. Halfway up a sign indicated the Mannix Ranch property boundary and I was no longer on a common road. Just past this I turned left where another sign indicated "Tanbark" and soon led to the summit area buried in a second growth redwood forest. The place was littered with all sorts of junk and trash from decades of use and abuse. Near as I could figure, the place must have been home to some sort of commune in the 1960s/70s or thereabouts. There were more than a dozen cars left abandoned, an equal number of trailers of all shapes and sizes, everything many decades old. A wooden building appears to have been the main house, its porch and exterior decorated in trashy decor. The windows were broken and the insides disheveled and left to deteriorate in the wet environment. An engine-less bus was in another area, set up for someone's living quarters. An elderly person's walker was left lying on one side, almost as if showing where the last old hippy keeled over and died. It was the second creepy place I had visited on the day, though far different from the first one. No caretaker here, by the way, though the signs I had followed did not look very old - someone probably lived somewhere nearby on the Mannix Ranch property.
My anxiety dropped to almost nothing as I found myself no longer worrying about confronting an upset rancher. Though overcast, the scenery was fine with grassy meadows and hillsides intermixed with pine and redwood forests. At the 3mi mark I crossed a property boundary but the roads I followed beyond it were also infrequently traveled. A passel of three feral pigs were startled out of their rooting exercise when I came around a corner and took off in the opposite direction. One paused to stare me down for a moment but then went off with the others. At 5.5mi I passed through an older property boundary, no longer gated. Now 5:30p, I could finally see Grizzly Peak less than 10min away.
At the top I found an old line shack fallen into disrepair. Power lines ran up to it from the west and down the south side. The summit area was free of trees and open to views in all directions, one of the few places I've enjoyed such vistas in this part of the coast ranges. The highpoint is found behind the shack to the north a short distance hidden in a thick wall of brush. I poked around in here a few minutes before discovering a set of summit rocks hiding in the brush. The highest of these requires a tough but short push through the brush followed by a class 4 mantle move to surmount it. This was quite a surprise and I laughed at the tough little nature of it. It seemed a worthy peak, one of the few in this vast tract of hills, so I scrounged around in my pack for the makings of a summit register. A rusty tin, an empty soda can, a tiny pencil and a supermarket coupon were assembled and left on the summit rock - a treat for its next visitor which almost certainly would have to be someone who's read this report - finding the register by accident would be highly improbable.
I spent most of the next two hours retracing my steps back along the very same route, one I found highly enjoyable and in no need of improvement. I was back at the highway shortly before 7:30p, just after the sun had set and while it was still lighting up the sky with a splash of color before dropping over the horizon for the night. After so many questionable summits on the day, it was nice to have a good finish to make me feel satisfied with the results. I had burned through most of the routes I had planned to last me until Wednesday and would be cutting the roadtrip short, but not before I had one more peak to go after the next morning. I spent the next hour driving about 20mi back down to Anderson Valley, south on SR128 and then up towards the top of Fish Rock Rd, the same one I had driven in partways from the west earlier in the day. I found a patch of flat ground off the road near the saddle and spent the night there. It was a lonely stretch of road that saw not a single vehicle pass by in the night...
This page last updated: Tue Jun 9 10:30:36 2015
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