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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.
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).
This page last updated: Fri May 2 21:54:58 2014
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