Goat Mountain P1K
Saint John Mountain P1K CC
Felkner Hill
Sheetiron Mountain P1K
Crockett Peak P1K CC
Kern Point

Sun, Apr 20, 2014
Etymology
Goat Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Profiles: 1 2 3

Continued...

I made my first trip to the Mendocino National Forest to tag a handful of P1Ks and a few CC-listed summits. Until this time, I had actively avoided peakbagging in the northwest part of the state except for a few county highpoints I had done years earlier. Those experiences left me with several impressions: heavily forested and few views, and long, long drives on dirt roads. Others had told me there were exceptions such as the Trinity Alps which are more Sierra-like, but for the most part I had shunned this huge chunk of the state. But as I continued to peg away at the P1Ks and CC summits, it was inevitable that I would inch my way northward into this relatively untouched (by me) area. The Mendocino National Forest would offer a chance to do a bunch of relatively easy summits to give me a taste for the region, a chance to get my feet wet, so to speak. With the exception of Saint John Mtn, all the summits were relatively easy outings. Saint John ended up taking the bulk of the day's time because I found the road too rough for my low clearance van. In most other cases, I found the roads I traveled quite good despite my vehicular limitations. Anything labeled with an "M" (e.g. M5, M10) proved to be excellently graded dirt roads. Roads with just numbers (e.g. 308, 309) were often better, sometimes paved or gravel, but driveable by any vehicle. Those with regular USFS designations like 16N402 were usually not well-suited for low clearance and were sometimes marked as "Not Recommended" on the roadside markers. Some of these I could still drive, but only cautiously, others I found impossible. Overall it was a good experience, more interesting than I had expected.

Goat Mtn

A P1K located in the southern part of the NF, roughly between Indian Reservoir and Snow Mtn, Goat Mtn has several ways it can be approached. My original plan was to drive M10 & M5 out of Stonyford, but as I was driving in the night before from the south via Lodoga, I spotted a road labeled "Goat Mtn Rd" that I hadn't known about. It must go to the summit, right? It seemed a good road, so I drove in a few miles, found a flat spot to spend the night, and resumed my journey in the morning. The road was indeed a good one that I could follow to within a mile of the summit. The road forks a number of times and merges with M5 and Forest Rte 16N03, but by simply staying on the better road at each fork it was easy enough to find my way to the northwest side of Goat Mtn. There was a crossing of Little Stony Creek at one point that had me a little nervous, but it turned out to be no big deal. The maps show a road continuing up to the summit but I found this gated and locked. A 20min hike brought me to the summit shortly after 8a. There I found the crumpled remains of a lookout tower that once crowned the summit. A small shack servicing a single antennae is found nearby. Just below the highpoint are a broken remains of a memorial plaque placed in 2000. The summit has decent views thanks to a lack of forest cover at the summit. Much of the terrain I didn't recognize, one ridge after another off into the distance. Back at the van, I decided to drive out a different route. I headed northwest along the Colusa/Lake County border to M10 which I then drove all the way back down Fouts Springs.

Saint John Mountain

This was the most impressive-looking summit of the day. It is quite striking from almost any direction, a standalone mountain that holds its own and also on the CC list. From Fouts Springs a decent-but-not-great Forest Service road goes all the way to the summit. The last quarter mile is steep and likely requires 4WD, but that is a minor detail. The worst part of the road I found while driving is a few miles from Fouts Springs where it forks and starts climbing out of the drainage of the North Fork of Stony Creek. Guessing the road only gets worse, I decided not to try the moderately steep and rocky section, parking at the fork and hoofing it from there - 8mi one-way and more than 5,000ft. In hindsight I wish I'd continued driving up as the road seemed to get better after that quarter mile section. Oh well. It would take me almost three hours to hike to the summit, but at least I'd feel like I'd gotten a workout in. It's not the most scenic of routes, but it did offer some views as it makes its way up the lower portion of the SE Ridge before swinging west in a 2mi-long switchback and then regaining the ridge. The most interesting find was a snake that had died from a rupture after eating a lizard that was too big for it. Greedy snake. The road follows along the edge of the Snow Mtn Wilderness and about halfway up one encounters a TH for the Bear Wallow Trail (though oddly, there's no parking available except on the road) This trail skirts St John, traversing the southwest and west side before climbing a connecting ridge to road M3. Hours later I would find myself driving by the TH at the other end.

The summit is home to a small collection of communications towers. With more than 1,800ft of prominence, it has a commanding view in most directions (eastern views are blocked by trees). There are two highpoints, the highest being the one to the north featuring a wooden cross fashioned from the remains of a survey tower. The summit has a fine view to the south of Snow Mountain which, true to its name, is the only summit in the whole area with significant snow on it. In all I spent just under five hours on the venture. Exposed as the road is to the sun, it would be a much more trying effort in the summertime but today the weather was pleasant and more inviting (but still warm).

Felkner Hill / Sheetiron Mountain After returning, I drove out to Stonyford and then some miles north to the small town of Elk Creek. I stopped at the Stony Gorge Market in Elk Creek to get some cold drinks and had an engaging conversation with the proprietor. As an asian immigrant I don't know how he ended up in Elk Creek, but he loved to talk about anything, particularly the prices of things in the past. Having a few years under the belt myself, I too, could remember when gas was $0.35 and cigarettes were $4 for a carton of 10 packs. He got so wound up that he rang up random prices for my items, recognized his mistake, and did it again, all without pausing in his reminiscing. I was pretty sure he ended up overcharging for the large fountain drink I'd purchased but I didn't really care - he was that entertaining.

After recharging I got back to driving, this time heading up County Rd 308 and M3 for Sheetiron Mtn, another P1K. I followed the approach described by Daryn Dodge in a recent online write-up, which was the primary motivation for getting me to come visit this area. There are two other named summits on the way to Sheetiron, Kern Point and Felkner Hill which Daryn had also tagged. I wasn't paying attention and missed Kern Point near where Road 308 joins M3, but I would visit it later in the day on my return. Felkner turns out to be a near drive-up even in my low clearance van. I turned off M3 at a junction at the head of Corbin Creek, about a mile west of the summit, driving nearly to the top before stopping just north of the highpoint. I Found the rocky summit block in a few minutes along with the benchmark, took a quick photo of St. John to the south and returned to the car.

Continuing south on M3 I soon came to Sheetiron. This one can be driven to the summit with a high clearance vehicle. For those without - no need to despair - M3 gets within a mile of the summit. I simply parked alongside the road and hiked the 15 minutes to the summit. The top has been bulldozed flat to the size of a football field and covered in coarse gravel. There is a lonely antennae here and the foundation of a building that once stood beside it, but little else. On the far west side of the summit among some rocks can be found a summit register. In her boundless devotion, Barbara Lilley was still placing summit registers for the SPS in 2011. To no surprise, Daryn's was the last entry just a week prior, ours being the only entries for 2014. Because of its immense size, the summit doesn't really offer that great of views. St. John was the most interesting to the southeast, Snow Mtn now lying to the south. As it was 5:30p by this time, most of the views towards the west were washed out by the sun heading lower towards the horizon. A careful look around the summit netted the 1933 SHEETIRON benchmark (hint: not all that hard to find).

Crockett Peak

About 5mi to the SSW lies Crockett Peak, the last P1K of the day. Though M3 passes within a mile of the summit on the north side, this one involves a bit of effort, about 1,000ft worth. Daryn had continued further to the West Crocket TH and climbed the NW Ridge from there, but it didn't save any elevation gain nor mileage over the north side approach I used. The climb is steep, up forested slopes with fairly clear understory. Upon reaching Crockett's East Ridge I turned right and followed it up to the summit, taking about half an hour for the ascent. A partial clearing provides a good view of Snow Mtn to the south. Again, St. John looks good to the east, though trees partially block the view. Lake Pillsbury could be seen reflecting the sun's rays about 8mi to the west. To the north, Sheetiron dominates the view, but it looks more like a long ridgeline than a mountain from this aspect. The descent was a somewhat different route down the north side, a fast and easy run down a steep slope cushioned by a mix of loose gravel and forest duff. Less than 15 minutes after leaving the summit I found myself back at the van.

Kern Point

I spent much of the last hour of sunshine driving back north on M3 to tag Kern Point before finding a place to spend the night. From Ivory Mill Saddle north of the summit I drove another 2/3mi on a rough road towards the top before it got too hairy to continue. The remaining half mile took less than ten minutes on foot. I got there not long after sunset. Trees in all directions blocked any chance for a view. Not much of a summit, this one. It was well after sunset but not yet dark when I returned to the van for the last time. I found Ivory Mill Saddle a decent place to spend the night with large flat areas to park undisturbed. I was more than ten miles from the nearest pavement so it would have been quite surprising to find someone driving by during the night. After showering (a quick one - it was 44F without the sun now) I had dinner in the van while I watched a movie. I took in the stars briefly before heading off to sleep. There are almost no lights anywhere to obscure the sky and with the large clearing at the saddle, there were plenty of stars to see...

Continued...


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