Bald Jesse P750 CC
McClellan Mountain P300 CC
Hadley Peak CC
Kinsey Ridge
North Slide Peak P500
Bear Trap Ridge West P300
Bear Trap Ridge East P300

Wed, May 29, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Day 3 of a four-day trip to the North Coast was spent chasing down a trio of CC-listed summits. The first two were located north of SR36 in private ranchlands, the third in the King Range of the Lost Coast. The last four summits were easy bonus peaks at the end of the day along the winding dirt road I had driven into the King Range.

Bald Jesse

I had spent the night camped along Kneeland Rd which I'd used the previous afternoon to reach Iaqua Buttes South. Bald Jesse is about 10mi south of Iaqua Buttes, lying entirely within private lands, both ranch and timber interests. I was up early to drive the short distance west on Redwood House Road to where a ranch road forks south to climb towards Bald Jesse. I had to cross the South Fork of Yager Creek at the start, a bit tricky, but managed with only a partial wetting of my boots. There is a locked gate just past the creek which I went over on the hinge side before settling in for the 2.5mi hike up the road to the summit. With heavy fog and all the vegetation damp, it was nice to have the road to travel, even if a bit muddy. The first 3/4mi travels through dense forest before opening up to grassy ranchlands above. The fog would start clearing much earlier today, at least at the higher elevations, and before 7a I found myself with sunny skies in open, grassy hills. There were cattle grazing on three separate properties that I went through, making me a bit nervous about running into a rancher. I was easily open to observation and was simply taking my chances, happy at least that I had gotten an early start. The route turns from southwest to northwest at a first property boundary, roughly following the gentle ridgeline as it makes its way past a small lake, another herd of cattle and then a second property boundary just below the highpoint to the north. This third ranch property had a single steer grazing by itself, paying me little heed as I went through the barbed-wire fence, past the steer watching me all the while, and up to the summit among some large oak trees. The route had been mostly open to nice views during the ascent, but the summit was ringed with trees, leaving no views. I left a register here in a small pile of rocks before heading back down the same way. I was quite happy to see no one on the whole route, returned around 8:30a.

McClellan Mountain

I drove back down to SR36 at Bridgeville, then east about seven miles to a turnoff for McClellan Ranch Rd. This decent dirt/gravel road climb up from the highway to access a number of homesteads and ranches. The road is open to the public but does not go to the summit as the name suggests. A road forks off it that goes up to Dry Lake and a ranch just north of the summit, but it was gated, locked and signed for No Trespassing. Worse, I had just driven through someone's yard before reaching the locked gate and didn't think it safe to park so near the occupied home. I had decided to give up on this one and started driving back down the road when I thought maybe I could make a cross-country route through the forested slopes around any homes since I was less than a mile to the summit. There is an unsigned barbed-wire fence on the north side of the road that was in bad shape, likely meaning no cattle grazing on the other side. I parked at a small turnout and headed up through the forest cover. After cresting a first rise, I caught sight of a house/cabin to the north that I gave a wide berth. It may not have been occupied, but I didn't want to get close enough to see if there were any vehicles. Best not to alert any dogs that might be about. I picked up the old road on the northwest side of the house and followed it up towards Dry Lake. Downfall across the road indicated nobody drives this section any more. I passed through an unlocked gate at the property boundary and continued on the road until I was NE of the summit. Here, I left the road to make my way through forest around a meadow associated with Dry Lake. There is a good dirt road found just west of the small creek I crossed, not shown on the topo map. This is obviously the new way to reach Dry Lake and the ranches north of it. Some old logging roads helped with the final ascent to the summit, but the forest understory isn't bad and cross-country travel is relatively mild. The summit was buried in forest with nary a view, to no real surprise. I was just happy to get out of there without spotting anyone (or worse, being spotted!).

After returning to the jeep, I turned my attention to the far more impressive McClellan Rock that I had spotted during the drive. It rises dramatically adjacent to SR36. It rises more than 500ft from the highway with cliffs on three sides. I parked at a large turnout on the northwest side of the summit and started up an old road that climbs steeply around the north side. The road is gated and locked but unsigned, and seemed to be the perfect way to circle around to the east side where the summit is most easily accessed. I went past a collapsed homestead and was just about to reach the shoulder on the east side when I spotted a home above me. I saw a small dog on the second floor porch and slowly backed down before it saw me. What I didn't realize is that there are several homes up there with access roads coming up from the south. I will have to research this one a bit more before giving it another try.

Hadley Peak

I would spend the next four hours driving about 100mi to get to my starting point for Hadley Peak in the King Range. I drove SR36 west to US101, then north to Fernbridge and Ferndale. I then began driving south to the coast at Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point of California. This poorly paved, narrow and windy road is incredibly scenic as it makes its way into and out of the Oil Creek and Bear River drainages before reaching the coast just south of the cape. Here the road follows the shoreline for a number of miles before climbing back inland to the quaint little community of Petrolia. Not far south of Petrolia a road fork follows the Mattole River to the coast where one finds the northern trailhead for the adventurous Lost Coast route. I continued on the paved Mattole Rd heading upriver to gain access to the north side of the King Range. My first effort was to reach Cooskie Mtn, a P1K about 4.5mi SSE of Petrolia. I had good luck at first finding the gravel Cooskie Ridge Rd climbing up towards the mountain open for travel, but I got stopped by two locked gates at the upper end of the road, both signed for No Trespassing. An occupied homestead near the better gate dissuaded me from giving this one a try. For now, I gave up on it.

I went back down to Mattole Rd and then continued east for about nine miles to Smith-Etter Rd. This rough dirt road (high clearance recommended) is open to the public, climbing some 9.5mi up to the crest of the King Range to gain access to the North Slide Peak and Kinsey Ridge THs. Hadley Peak is found 0.6mi south of the road and requires a tough cross-country bushwhack. Sean Casserly and Asaka Takahashi had visited the summit three years earlier, with Sean describing it as "Thickest brush I've ever encountered." They spent about 4hrs covering about a mile and a half, which suggests some very tough going. In a text exchange with Sean as I was driving to the start, he commented that it probably wasn't as bad as he described it, since he wasn't as seasoned a bushwhacker three years ago. It wasn't yet 3p, so I had plenty of time to do this one and I have to admit I was kinda looking forward to it - it's been a while since I've taken a good thrashing in the bush.

The route follows along a ridgeline labeled as Big Mountain on the topo map, with Hadley Peak at the southern end. I parked off the side of the road northwest of this ridge where it looked like the forest understory was pretty clear. This worked nicely to start, but didn't last long. It would take me an hour and ten minutes to reach the top, a pretty good pace considering the difficulties. The top of the ridge is covered in thick manzanita and other brush. The west side has more trees and for at least one section I found easier going there. The east side drops off steeply but has some open slopes that can allow bypassing some of the hardest parts on the ridge. The real trick and saving grace of this route is that someone had at one time clipped a route to the peak. I found ample evidence of old cuts in the manzanita and one can see a path cutting across the ridge in places. It's not easy at all to follow, but where it is evident, it is the easiest way to go. In a few places my progress ground to a near halt as I had to climb over heavy brush or grind through the stuff. The old trail favors the ridge and east side for the most part, and I slowly followed along it to avoid getting beat up, deliberately spending extra time to try and stay on the trail. The pants I wore had already been patched and beaten up over the past six months, but they were destroyed before I was done with this one. I noticed that I tend to lead with my left leg through the narrow places and it was this pant leg that got ripped along the entire length. This left my leg with several lacerations and bruises before I was done, my right leg not fairing much better. The summit was nothing special with shoulder-high brush in all directions. Still, it had neat views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and up and down the rugged terrain of the King Range. I made a small clearing and piled up some rocks to leave a register in. When the slope burns over in a future fire, the register might be spared a scorching, but I wouldn't bank on it. It would take me almost as much time for the return as I found knowing most of the route did nothing to speed things up. I was in a great mood when I got back, despite the thrashing, and will have to recommend this one as the classic bushwhack of the King Range. With more visitors, I imagine the route could be reclipped, taming the peak once more, not necessesarily a bad thing.

Kinsey Ridge

With well over three hours of daylight remaining, it was time to move on to the bonus round with four additional summits within a short distance of the road. Kinsey Ridge is found northwest of where I'd parked for Hadley. The road continues downhill over several short switchbacks to reach a saddle where the Kinsey Ridge TH is found. The road forks here, with the Kinsey Ridge fork gated before descending 2,500ft to the beach below. The other fork continues for a few miles before ending at Moorehead Ridge. The highpoint of Kinsey Ridge is found about 1/3mi northwest of the TH so I simply parked there. I walked a quarter mile past the locked gate before climbing steep, grassy slopes to the open summit, an easy 10-min hike. The summit is fairly clear with no brush and scattered trees.

North Slide Peak

This is the highest peak in this part of the range, about a mile and a quarter northeast of Hadley Peak. I parked on the edge of the road on the north side of the summit and went up the steep forest slope to the summit in six minutes. Nice view of King Peak to the east from the partially open summit.

Bear Trap Ridge West

These last two summits are found on the north side of the range, further down the road towards the Mattole River. Bear Trap Ridge West was a quarter mile hike up through forest understory with no views at all at the top. At least there was no brush to deal with, just lots of downfall.

Bear Trap Ridge East

This was a surprising little find at the end of the day. I parked at a saddle half a mile west of the summit and followed grassy slopes along the edge of the forest up to the twin summits. A pair of deer were grazing just below the higher east summit as I approached. The highpoint has two large trees, one a giant oak, the other perhaps the largest madrone I have ever seen. There are nice views of the King Range looking east and south, trees blocking views in the other directions.

It was nearly 7:30p my the time I finished up. I took a shower to freshen up before starting the long drive back out to US101. Rather than return to Petrolia, I continued on Mattole Rd as it climbs up from Honeydew, through Panther Gap and down through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I ended up camped along the Eel River at the edge of the state park in the same place where I'd camped two nights earlier. It was well away from the highway and I slept quite soundly that night...


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