Black Mountain P2K
Willow Creek Mountain P2K
Ball Mountain P1K
Goosenest P2K
Miller Mountain P900
Herd Peak
Orr Mountain P1K
Cedar Mountain P1K
Wild Horse Mountain P900

Jun 21, 2019
Black Mountain
Ball Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 GPX


I had moved overnight from the the North Coast area to the CA Cascade, a region shaped in recent geologic time by volcanic activity. Today I was after a collection of prominence peaks, managing eight of them including 3 P2Ks. My hunting grounds were east of Interstate 5, between Mt. Shasta and the Oregon border, an area I had visited only once before, briefly.

Black Mountain

This Black Mtn is found just east of the interstate, about 10mi north of Yreka. I followed the general route from the north described by others on PB, with some improvements. The starting point at the end of Robin Dr is in a rural development that has seen better days. One has to pass through an open gate signed for No Trespassing in order to reach the end of the development. Portions of the summit are on BLM land, but the summit and starting point are private, though there seems to be little chance of discovery. Some properties appear abandoned and where I parked at the end of the road in the early morning hour was out of view from the occupied properties nearby. I followed Dean's description of an old road to a new-ish firebreak that leads to a small telecom installation at the 1,020-foot level. From here I followed another road south then southeast, deviating from the others' routes to see if I couldn't use more road and less cross-country. The mountain is laden with large fields of volcanic rubble that is tedious at best, and to be avoided by those that have encountered them. The road I followed went past an abandoned trailer site, then gave out under an oak forest on the rounded North Ridge. I went up from here through the forest understory, encountering a ducked (and sometimes flagged) route that I followed as best I could up to the summit. I lost it in a few places (I did a better job of following it on the way down), but for the most part it had a minimum of brush and none of the volcanic nastiness. I reached the top in an hour and a quarter where there are the remains of an old airway beacon that once guided planes at night through the area. The true summit is found a short distance to the south of this where a very busy register was left by Bighorn Bill in 1990. There were some 90 pages all told, mostly repeat visits by a Bill White and a few others who came up repeatedly over a period of 20yrs or so. Most of the entries since 2010 were from the usual crowd, including Vitz, Carey, Dodge and others. No real views from the summit, but there are some decent ones looking east and south along parts of the route near the top that are more open. Overall I found it an enjoyable outing (helps that it was the first of the day when I'm freshest!). I was back at 9a, for a total of two and quarter hours for the outing.

Willow Creek Mtn

Lying 15mi to the east of Black Mtn, Willow Creek is a large, extinct shield volcano rising from the plateau between Shasta Valley to the west and Butte Valley to the east. Willow Creek Mtn Rd is a long, winding Forest Service road in the Klamath NF, generally in excellent condition. It climbs to over 7,300ft, passing 500ft below the summit on the east. There were a few lingering snow patches I had to drive over on my way, one of only a few cars that had driven the road this high so far this year. Parking on the side of the road near where another vehicle was parked (a bit of a surprise), it's a relatively easy hike through mostly open forest understory, with a good deal of snow found in places still. I found portions of a use trail higher up on the East Ridge where the forest gives way to manzanita and other low brush. I found a young guy with his dog relaxing in the open ummit area. There was a tall pole erected here, still a short distance east of where the highpoint was indicated on the topo map. I spoke briefly to the guy before continuing west to seek out the benchmark which I determined was not the actual highpoint. It does have a commanding view at this open perch, with fine views of Mt. Shasta to the south (along with Goosenest in the mid-ground), McLoughlin to the north, and west across Shasta Valley. There was a disorganized register here that consisted of a bunch of loose pages from a poorly bound notepad. After signing it, I examined some crags just to the east that proved to be 4-5ft higher. The flat area further east with the pole was about the same height as well, so take your pick as to which is highest. About 50min for the roundtrip effort.

Ball Mountain

Rather than drive north along the way I'd come, I wanted to exit to the south towards Ball Mtn and Goosenest. I hadn't driven far when I came upon a large log across the road. I got out to examine it, but didn't think I had any chance of clearing it. It turns out the dead tree had rotted quite a bit and broke up into smaller chunks as I rocked it, allowing me to clear it in sections. Guessing that no one had yet driven on this section of road this year, I didn't hold out much hope that it would be the only road blockage. Again I got lucky, and found the remaining sections down the mountain free and clear. Ball Mtn is a smaller version of Willow Creek Mtn, a P1K about 5mi to the ESE. A spur road off paved Smith Spring Rd goes to the summit where a lookout and some telecom equipment are located, but gated and locked about a mile from the top. The cross-country here is very easy up forest and grass slopes, and faster than following the meandering roadway. The lookout is abandoned and in need of repair, but open for exploration of its three rat-infested levels. The top level was the living quarters and observation cab, the middle story virtually empty, and the lower level holding some batteries and old electrical gear they once powered. Butte Valley is spread out to the east, Willow Creek Mtn to the west, Goosenest to the southwest.


This P2K lies 6.5mi south of Willow Creek Mtn, similar in shape and rise. There is a Forest Service TH on the north side where ample parking can be found. There were half a dozen cars there when I arrived, and was met by two returning gentleman as I was about to start out. They were part of a large party of 20 or so that were on their way down the mountain. I would encounter them in smaller groups as I ascended the first part of the trail, amused my some of the comments:

You're starting out NOW? (it was 1:15p)

We're part of a senior hiking club!

Be careful, it gets REALLY steep!

I was just happy to see a bunch of 60-75yr-olds out enjoying themselves. Once past the last of them, I had the mountain to myself and my jeep would be the only vehicle left at the TH when I returned. The trail climbs gently for the most part, with a few steeper switchbacks. Snow across the trail in a few places offered the only difficulties, minor ones at that. The trail reaches the small summit crater from the southwest where one can go left or right around the crater rim to reach the highpoint on the NE side. There is a large ammo box at a cairn here, filled with a number of log books and hundreds of entries - a very popular summit, it would seem. The views are mostly open and quite nice. I had forgotten to bring my GPSr with me from the TH, so I got no track of the hike, but it's hardly necessary - it's a very well-established trail, this one. I decided to drop cross-country off the north side to avoid most of the trail. This worked exceedingly well as the ground was soft, open and made for a very quick descent. Once I hit the trail again, I followed it back to the start, just under an hour, roundtrip.

Miller Mountain/Herd Peak

By now it was after 2p and seemed like a good time to start drinking the cold mango Mike's I had in the cooler. Mmmmmmm. I would have four of them polished off before I was done for the day. Miller Mtn is a P900 another 5.5mi south of Goosenest. More driving on Klamath NF roads got me to the good road leading to the Herd Peak lookout. A spur road forking off 1.5mi north of the lookout leads to the west side of Miller Mtn, a short distance from the summit. A seven minute effort through modest brush got me to the summit that had only partial views. Bighorn Bill had left a register here in 2011 with Ron Moe the only other visitor to sign it until I arrived. Herd Peak is just a lower summit on the south side of Miller Mtn, but far more interesting. I met Pam at this operational lookout, a fiesty woman with 34 years of experience with the Forest Service. She gave me a tour of the cabin, the views and the history of the land and people in this part of the county. And John owned 1,200 acres off that side - his wife left him in 1956 for the handyman... and such bits of trivia that are both next to useless and pretty darn funny. It took some doing to extract myself from the lookout, pleading I had other summits to visit before my day was through. I think she would have liked if I'd spent the afternoon with her - I'm guessing she's more social than your standard lookout ranger and doesn't get enough visitors.

Orr Mountain

It took me most of an hour to drive between Herd Peak and Orr Mtn, 13mi to the ENE. This, too, has a manned lookout and I knew from Pam that his name was Bob, he was a Vietnam veteran, had 45yrs with the Forest Service and was quite a character. He was out on the observation deck when I pulled up, with a booming "Hello there!" I responded, "You must be Bob," to which he countered, "And likewise." Seems Pam had called him on the radio to let him know I was on my way. Bob was indeed a character. Following his 'Nam experience, he came back to be a smoke jumper for the forest service. Around his 400th jump and 45th birthday, he landed in a tree and broke himself up pretty good, deciding maybe that stuff was better left to the younger guys. He went on with other stories faster than I could absorb them, faster than even Pam had been capable of. Once again it took me some time to tear myself away, but I eventually escaped after getting a few pictures and a few more stories.

Cedar Mountain

Following two easy drive-ups, it was back to the brush for Cedar Mtn. Though less than 5mi NE of Orr Mtn, it would take almost an hour to drive between the two. The forest roads I traveled got me within 3/4mi of the summit on the SW side where the road ended ubruptly. It would take about 25min to cover the distance to the summit, a mix of semi-open spaces and forest tangle that eventually landed me onto some summit rocks that had a partial view looking south. There was a benchmark and the now-expected Bighorn Bill register, this one also from 2011. No other signatures since then.

Wild Horse Mountain

Another hour's drive saw me to within 0.6mi of Wild Horse Mtn at a saddle on its west side. The cross-country here was a tougher affair, starting off not so bad but becoming more tangled the closer I got to the summit. It felt a lot like the peak I'd just come from (but harder) and I got the strong sense that Bighorn Bill must have been here too, and I could almost sense his presence. I hunted around in the summit area which suddenly opened wit sourring views east and south, eventually locating what I guessed was the highest rock, and finding one of Bill's red nested can registers tucked against it. Just like Cedar Mtn, the register dated to 2011 and had seen no other visitors since. It took some effort to get myself out of the thick tangle about the summit, but I was back to the jeep by 8:15p, less than an hour after starting out.

It had been a pretty full day with a lot of driving, so I decided I was done for the day with both hiking and driving. I showered where I'd parked, then moved it to a more level location and spent the night there. It was so far out of the way that there was pretty much zero chance of anyone driving by in the night and I slept quite soundly in this remote location...


Andrew comments on 06/28/19:
The Bill and Janet story in the Black Mt register is a gem.
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