Big Signal Peak 2x P2K CC
Sanhedrin Wilderness HP
Impassable Rock
Sanhedrin Wilderness PP
Peak 5,100ft
Ericson Ridge
Coyote Rocks
Boardman Ridge
Hull Mountain 2x P2K CC
Yuki Wilderness HP
Bald Mountain P1K CC

Fri, Nov 8, 2019

With: Sean Casserly

Coyote Rocks
Bald Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX
Big Signal Peak previously climbed Sun, Sep 14, 2014
Hull Mountain previously climbed Mon, Sep 15, 2014


Through gross incompetence, the GPX track with this trip report was mostly deleted, and only includes the last summit of Bald Mtn. Someday I swear I'm going to learn how to use this GPSr thing...

I had come to the North Coast of California yet again, this time to join Sean and Daryn the next day for an effort to Brush Mtn. As warm-up, I toured around the Mendocino NF to get a few Wilderness HPs I had neglected, along with a smattering of other summits, some I'd already climbed, some just easy bonuses. The most interesting hike of the day (and the only one with actual mileage) was to Impassable Rock and the Sanhedrin Wilderness Prominence Point, a outing I would highly recommend. In second place was a short outing with Sean to the CC-listed Bald Mountain north of Covelo.

Big Signal / Sanhedrin Wilderness HP

Big Signal is a P2K on the western edge of the Mendocino NF, a long two hour drive from US101. I had visited Big Signal five years earlier when touring the same area with the van. Driving in the jeep was obviously easier, but I couldn't help but wonder how I managed to drive a low clearance, 2WD van up there. I had driven to Pillsbury Lake the night before, camping at the start of Forest Route 20N04 which goes up to Signal Peak in about 13 miles. I started the drive in the morning before 7a, not reaching the summit of Big Signal until 7:40a. The last three miles go up spur road 19N80, steep and rough and really no place for passenger cars. There's a microwave relay and other antennae attached to the decommissioned lookout overlooking a huge stretch of the coast ranges. The Sanhedrin Wilderness HP is located less than 100yds to the southeast, near a junction with a gated, no longer driveable road that descends into the Wilderness to the southwest. The actual Wilderness boundary is 25-50ft back from the road, so to reach the HP one must venture a short distance into some rather heavy brush. I did so for the OCD-ness in me, but you can decide whether it's worthwhile yourself.

Impassable Rock / Sanhedrin Wilderness PP

A slight variation on Wilderness HPs (as with County and other boundary HPs) is the Prominence Point, which is that point within the boundary that has the most prominence. These are most often the same point, but not always, particularly when the highpoint is a liner with no prominence. In the case of the Sanhedrin Wilderness, the most prominent point is about 3mi northwest of Big Signal, along a connecting ridgeline. An old road, no long driveable, runs along part of the distance, and older maps show a trail continuing up and over the prominence point. Neither of these are maintained anymore but they make for an excellent route to reach it. I moved the jeep back down the road to the junction with this old road, giving me about 2.5mi each way to my destination. Impassable Rock is found along the way, though it remained to be seen if it was really impassable.

Right at the start I found some heavy brush and downed trees over the old road, giving me the impression that this was going to be a grind. But almost immediately it improved as the route opened to a large clearing and I had little trouble finding the continuing road on the other side. Soon thereafter I came to a gate, a little unexpected. The road evidently goes through some private property, but not really much to be concerned with considering the state of the road. I turned left at a fork to continue on the branch following the ridge, finding it getting more overgrown. Where the road turns north to drop off the ridge, I found the remnants of the Sanhedrin Trail, at one time maintained by the Forest Service. A William Fitzgerald had tacked a small trail marker to a tree back in 1988, the only signage I found along the route. Though unmaintained, I was able to follow the old trail for most of the distance to the prominence point. Impassable Rock loomed up as I came out of the forest, my first stop along the way. The trail ironically passes Impassable Rock on the east and north sides. I went up a loose class 3 gully (not particularly dangerous) on the east side, a fun little scramble to a pointy little summit rock with open views. A hundred yards to the northwest was another interest rock, Pt. 5,831ft on the topo map, and the prominence point another 2/3mi further. I left a register atop Impassable Rock before descending the easier class 2 on its northwest side. I scrambled up to Pt. 5,831ft, easy class 3, then followed the ridge (more class 1-2) over open terrain to the prominence point another 15min further.

The prominence point is half-buried under some scraggly oaks, most easily accessed from the northeast side where one has fine views in that direction. I left a second register here before reversing my route. I followed the trail around the two intermediate points I'd already climbed and returned to the jeep by 11a, a bit less than 3hrs for the outing.

Peak 5,100ft

An easy bonus off the main road on private timber property. I parked at the locked gate on a spur road and followed it and an overgrown lesser road to the summit, no views.

Little Signal

Not be confused with Little Signal Peak (you knew there had to be one if there was a Big Signal, right?), Little Signal has more than 400ft of prominence and seemed a worthy bonus. It lies within the National Forest boundary but unfortunately is blocked by private property on two sides. A road coming up from the northeast is private timber lands. The southeast route goes through a different private property signed as containing a permanent resident. I didn't really believe that, but didn't want to chance it, so I avoided the good road going up to the Deadmans Flat area, and went cross-country near the forest boundary. Or tried to. I found some signs, but when I got to the South Ridge of Little Signal I had no clue if I was on forest or private property. I could see a dilapidated greenhouse to the south but thought it abandoned. Then I heard a dog barking and looked over to see a trailer above Deadmans Flat. I was following a decent trail where the old road used to be but was in clear view of the trailer and presumeably the dog. I ducked right into the burned forest out of view and considered my case. I was about half a mile from the summit, easy if I'd stayed on the trail. The cross-country to avoid the trail looked tedious at best. I decided to skip it, suspecting the better route is from the north through the timber property. At least you don't have to worry that they'll unleash the hounds on you.

Ericson Ridge

An exceedingly easy bonus off the main road, completely on public lands. No views on this one, but you can check out the handiwork of someone who'd done some target practice in the area.

Coyote Rocks

I drove back down to Pillsbury Lake and started north on M1. Coyote Rocks are a small collection of hard rock sticking up from the wide floodplain of Salmon and Smokehouse Creeks just north of the lake in Gravelly Valley, about 30ft in height. There are two main rocks, the western one the higher at easy class 3 from the north side. The eastern rock looks class 4 on the same side and sketchy, so I didn't try it.

Boardman Ridge

Back on M1, I started up to Hull Mountain, stopping to tag this easy bonus right off the road. A spur ATV road leads to the top in only a few minutes' time, but no views.

Hull Mountain

This P2K sits on the crest of the range at almost 7,000ft. M1 is in decent but not great shape and again I wondered how I was able to drive the van up this road five years earlier. Maybe it's been longer than that since it's seen any maintenance other than removing downfall. The spur road to the summit of Hull is very rough and only suitable for high-clearance 4WD. A lookout used to stand at the open summit but now only the foundation and a steel staircase remain. There was a young couple sitting at the top when I arrived, having driven up in an ATV from Pillsbury Lake. I took a few pictures in all directions before heading back down, leaving the young couple once again to their (semi-)private summit.

Yuki Wilderness HP

This was the real reason I had made a second drive up M1. I had somehow missed this Wilderness HP on that first visit though it's only a short distance from M1, about 3/4mi northwest of Hull Mtn. An ATV/motorcycle track goes up towards the HP from the north, found a short distance west of the road. I climbed up a few rock outcrops and called it good.

Bald Mountain

I was scheduled to meet Sean and Asaka in Covelo at 4p. I had thought Google Maps had the drive time from Hull Mtn to Covelo as an hour, but came to find later it was about 20min more than that. I had no cell service, so I turned to the jeep's navigation system to get me to Covelo, only to find it wanted 3.5hr for the task, taking me back through Lake Pillsbury, not even considering the route north on M1. It showed I was 24 air miles from Covelo so it seemed highly unlikely I would get to Covelo in an hour via any route. I started heading north on M1, not really remembering how long it had taken me on that first visit 5yrs earlier. On that trip, I had stopped at half a dozen minor summits along the route so it had taken up many hours of time. This time I just drove, sometimes up to 40mph, a torrential dust storm trailing out behind me. I got out my inReach and sent Sean a text letting him know I'd be late by 30-40min. In the end I was only 20min late, but probably almost an hour faster than I could have driven the van on M1.

Bald Mtn lies entirely on private ranch lands with a long, dirt/gravel road reaching within a mile of the summit. Sean had done some research, finding a property at the end of the road that was for sale and contacting the absentee owner about checking it out. Armed with some sales brochure material and a plausible excuse for driving back there, we headed out in his car. It took an hour to reach our starting point on the south side where a spur road heads up to a ranch/homestead that lies within view for about half of our route. We didn't know if the site was occupied, which is why we had planned this as a night hike. It wasn't quite night but the sun had gone down and it would be dark before we reached the summit. Asaka was going to forgo the hike, choosing to wait in the car. We left the literature for the property with her before leaving, but how that would help her should she be confronted by a local was a bit questionable. Luckily, that didn't come up because not a car was spotted on the road while we were gone. We only hiked up the spur road about 1/3 of the total distance until it started to veer off the ridge towards the homestead. We were too far away to see any vehicles and no lights could be seen, so we were of the opinion that it was probably not occupied. After leaving the road, we hiked up steep hills through thigh-high grass, brown and filled with seeds and stickers. We crossed a fenceline, passed a few cows who seemed mostly unconcerned by our presence, and made our way to the top in about 25min. We found a benchmark and nice, though fading views as it was nearly night. Only the western horizon had a band of orange as the stars were coming out to the east.

We contacted Asaka from the summit to let her know we were heading down, so she could expect us in 15-20min. No need to sneak up and scare the daylights out of her. As we were descending the same route, we debated whether the faint lights we saw below were electric lights or just moonlight reflections from the homestead. The question was answered when we heard a single loud bark. We stopped in our tracks as I whispered to Sean, "Was that a dog?" It was, he affirmed. We moved west to get out of sight of the house before continuing down. When we reached the spur road we were once again within view and heard a second bark. By now we were only minutes from our car if we jogged down the road, and since we saw nor heard any further activity in that direction, we just hightailed it back and were off and driving a few minutes later. We were happy with our success, though had to admit some level of sketchiness to the whole affair. It was unlikely we'd ever be back this way again, though...


PJA comments on 12/01/20:
The private land north and east Little Signal is either now part of the Forest or will become part of the Forest in 2021. Also, the area mostly didn't burn in the August Complex (although there was a lot of dozer work done all throughout, unsurprisingly). You should be able to follow old logging roads and dozer lines up from 20N04 now fairly easily on foot since the area is back open now.
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