Bald Eagle Mountain P2K
Spanish Peak P300
Mt. Pleasant P500

Jul 1, 2018

With: Jackie Burd

Bald Eagle Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profile

My life has become a blur of one short vacation after another. I find myself hiking along a trail thinking about things I need to prepare for the next vacation. I have trouble remembering where I was the previous week. Never is recreation far from my mind as a jumble of competing ideas fill my head while I try to fall asleep at night. This isn't a complaint, of course, just a comment on the fast-paced life of an unemployed peakbagger. Today, Jackie and I were heading to the far Northern Sierra for some P1Ks in the Plumas National Forest. It had been 12 years since I was last here with my son, then only 10yrs old. We'd climbed Mt. Ingalls as a county highpoint before moving on to the Reno area. Now I tend to be a little less precise in my peakbagging and can easily spend days in the same area.

Bald Eagle Mountain

We left San Jose shortly after 5a so that we could get some peaks in after the longish drive. Jackie was awake and conversing with me in those early hours around sunrise, enjoying watching me get all excited about a fire that was burning in the Vaca Hills north of Vacaville. Later she fell asleep as we drove north through the Central Valley and then into the Northern Sierra on the windy Oro-Quincy Rd. The road had washed out two winters ago and has yet to be rebuilt. I had missed the first "Road Closed Ahead" sign near Oroville Dam and was worried after an hour's drive that I would have to retrace my route. Luckily there's a 5mi detour available on a graded dirt road that got us to Bucks Lake without losing much time. A Forest Service road goes from Bucks Lake all the way to the summit of Bald Eagle Mtn, much of it rough, only getting rougher the higher one drives. I was amused to watch Jackie continue to sleep even as the car was bouncing side to side, her right leg thumping into the side of the door with each bounce. Eventually she awoke with a few miles to go and was a bit concerned with the road conditions we were driving on. There were a few easy stream crossing and lots of slow going through rockier sections, but I made it to the summit without bottoming out the entire way. We parked between the two likliest-looking summit areas and got out to stretch our legs and explore the summit rocks. We found the remains of the wooden lookout tower, a large green box (for storage?) and a register left by Dean Gaudet the previous year. Daryn Dodge's entry stated he had only 5 P2Ks in the state to go at the time and I know he had recently finished these to become the 2nd person to finish that list after Richard Carey. I'll probably finish in a few years as I collect these along with the more ambitious P900 project I've been working on these past years.

Spanish Peak/Mt. Pleasant

We spent the next two hours driving back down to Bucks Lake and then on to Silver Lake where we planned to recreate a hike described by Dennis Poulin on PB from 2014. The PCT passes through the area along a high ridgeline above and west of Silver Lake. I was primarily interested in Mt. Pleasant, a Wilderness highpoint found at the north end of this ridge. Dennis had been more interested in Spanish Peak since it lands on the Chico Hiking Club list, one I had only passing interest in. Still, the combination looked like it would make for a fine hike, and indeed it did. Silver Lake and a handful of smaller cousins are nestled on the northeast side of the ridge. There is a popular campground here and while fishing and non-power boats are allowed on the lake, swimming is not, much to Jackie's disappointment. There is a well-signed trail leading from the dam, up past several forks to Gold and Rock Lakes, then climbing up through Granite Gap where it meets the PCT. It was quite warm when we started out at 1p and we would find ourselves with inadequate amounts of Gatorade as the hike progressed. We spent much of the first hour in reaching the PCT where the views disappear as the trail becomes forested on the ridge. We headed south to Spanish Peak first, reaching it via a spur trail off the PCT after an hour and a half. This is a nice summit to sit and take in the sweeping views to the east, more than 180 degrees in three directions. The foundations of an old lookout can be found along with a rock wall built for a windbreak. An ammo box holds a very busy register that was a mess so we didn't bother to sign anything.

After returning to our junction at Granite Gap, I asked Jackie if she wanted to continue to Mt. Pleasant or return back to Silver Lake and take a break. I was a bit surprised that she elected to join me for the second peak, though I think this was partly due to her anxiety over being able to navigate her way back to the lake solo. We continued north on the PCT, running across a number of PCTers during the afternoon. It seems we had timed our visit to coincide with the peak season for PCTers passing through this section of trail. All of the dozen or so we came across were young-ish males, most dressed similarly with lightweight shorts and a light shirt, trekking poles and small-ish packs. Some were smelling a bit ripe, but all seemed nice except for one that was a bit angry about life on the trail and perhaps life in general. When we got to the south side of Mt. Pleasant where the trail comes closest, Jackie elected to start back along the PCT and wait for me on a rock while I went up for the cross-country finish. She wasn't feeling the need for the extra effort and I can't really blame her - it was mighty warm out.

I headed up through forest understory, no bushwhacking needed, about a quarter mile to the westernmost of two closed contour contenders. It was an easy scramble to the top with a modest class 3 finish on the highest block of granite. The views were surprisingly good, though not as open as Spanish Mtn. To the east, buried in the woods was the second, far more impressive rock outcrop. It required some class 3 scrambling to reach both rocks vying for the highest point there. I climbed one after the other, thinking Jackie would have enjoyed this challenge a good deal. Dennis had described the southern of the two rocks as "a foot or two lower" but I think it's more like a few inches. They both made for good scrambles. I returned back to the PCT and made swift progress to catch up with Jackie. She called out from a rock 30yds off the trail as I was going by. Good thing too, because I would have missed her completely. She admitted she wasn't feeling well and I quickly suspected it was dehydration (we weren't really high enough for AMS to be the culprit). We had shared a 20oz Gatorade between us earlier, each having a second bottle we carried with us. I had her immediately drink half of the 16oz I had left and it did not take long for her to start feeling better. I had her drink half of her own supply when we got back to the trail junction at Granite Gap and the rest of it when we got to the Gold Lake Trail junction with about a mile to go.

We were back to Silver Lake and the TH shortly after 6p, where Jackie took some time to photograph the lake and make some short videos to send to her friends. We snacked and drank as we we drove back down to the Oro-Quincy Rd, then northeast to meet SR89 at Quincy. Much of the town had already closed up shop for the day (we had hoped to get dinner there), so we headed north on SR89 to Greenville where we were staying for two nights at the Oak Grove Lodge. It's about as rustic as one might expect for these parts, with peeling paint on the outside, windows that don't quite work and other issues, but it was mostly clean and would do. We had to make due for dinner with the stuff we'd brought with us - soup, canned chicken, fruit cups and the like. It had been a long day and neither of us managed to stay awake much past 9p...


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