Sat, Jun 8, 2019
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Today's main event in CA's North Coast region was a 16mi out and back hike along the crest of the Kelsey Range, a remote sub-range in the Klamath Mtns between US199 and SR96. Most of the route lies in the Siskiyou Wilderness with open views for most of the hike, an unusual prospect in these heavily forested parts of the state. The hike would take in the CC-listed Bear Peak and the range highpoint found at the far western end. There were two bonus peaks to be included as well, but somehow I missed the unnamed one without realizing it until days later. The latter part of the day saw me pay a visit to two other CC-listed summits about 10mi to the northeast.
Around 8a I left the trail a second time, this time to head up to Red Hill. Though lower than Bear Peak, it took more effort for this one since the trail skirts the summit more widely. The cross-country is easy at first through the burned forest remains, becoming a boulder scramble as one nears the crest and the summit that sits atop it. I found a very large cairn here but no register. Having come up from the southeast side, I headed west along the ridgeline where the going was fairly easy with little brush, rejoining the trail again where it climbs back up to the crest, about 0.4mi west of Red Hill. Another mile further west, the trail drops almost 400ft as it descends into a drainage on the east side of the Kelsey Range HP, officially unnamed peak 5,896ft, before ascending back up the crest. It may do this for the camping opportunities with water in the forested drainage, but otherwise seems like an unnecessary detour. The forest was burned quite thoroughly here and I lost the trail at one point before finding it again just before it starts to ascend out of the drainage. I eventually left the trail again when I was south of the range highpoint in order to reach it by a more direct route through another heavy burn area.
It was 10:30a by the time a found my way to the highpoint in an open, flattish area where the Kelsey Range meets the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains and the Del Norte/Siskiyou County boundary. Preston Peak, a P2K I've yet to visit, could be seen prominently to the north about 10mi away, featuring a bit of lingering snow on its southern aspect. To the east stretched the crest of the Kelsey Range which I had just traversed. Far to the southeast was the snowy crest of the Trinity Alps, with Thompson Peak as its highpoint. Mark Adrian had left a register here in 2012, describing it accurately as the "Possible Highpoint of the Kelsey Range". Because of the subjective nature of range boundaries, Bear Peak might also be considered the range highpoint. From where I stood looking east, I certainly seemed to be outside the range which really just consists of a single, long ridge running contrary to main crest of the Siskiyou Mtns. Seems I may be the first visitor since Mark had left the register 7yrs earlier.
For the return, I decided to head northeast off the summit to follow the ridgeline more directly, avoiding what seemed an unnecessary drop back into the drainage on the south side of the ridge below the Kelsey Range HP. I was a little afraid I might run into a cliff or some nasty obstacle that might explain why the trail was routed so, but was happy to find no such issues. In fact, it was a very enjoyable way to return to the trail where it climbs back up to the ridge and I would recommend it as a better ascent route than following the trail as I had done. The fire had burnt off most of the trees and brush, so in a few years this might become a brushier affair, but for now it was rather enjoyable. After returning to the trail, I stuck to it for the entire return back to the TH, still hours away. I got back to the starting point around 2:10p, not quite as tired as I had expected to be after 16mi. Perhaps I could get a few more peaks in?
I unintentionally skipped Peak 5,720ft just northwest of Red Hill, another bonus peak that would have worked nicely with the others. I didn't realize this until some days later when I was looking more closely at the LoJ database.
I returned to the jeep again, this time driving back down the lookout road and taking another fork that goes to the saddle between Baldy Mtn and Boulder Peak. I was getting kinda tired by this time, so I dug into the cooler to grab some snacks I had recently purchased on my way through Happy Camp. The sugar and caffeine combined nicely to give me just the pep I needed to finish the day. From the saddle, the hike is just a little over a mile to the summit of Boulder, gaining about 900ft to reach the 6,014-foot summit. Dennis Poulin had reported tedious brush on his ascent in 2014, but fire had rendered any such brush a non-issue now. Wildflowers in bloom added color to the charred landscape and one could see the brush beginning to make its usual resurgence. It took about 45min to reach the summit at a measured pace - I was definitely not as fresh as when I started out in the morning. I left another register at the summit when I reached it, after taking in views west to Preston, east to Red Butte, and southeast across Badly Mtn to the Marble Mtns and the Trinity Alps.
This page last updated: Mon Jun 17 08:21:57 2019
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