Black Rock P1K CC
Jackson State Forest HP P300

Sun, Feb 23, 2020
Black Rock
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2

Black Rock

Black Rock is a CC-listed summit in Mendocino County, one of only six I had remaining from this list of 301 coastal peaks. It is located west of US101 near Laytonville, on a small island of BLM land surrounded by private property. The area is heavily forested with ranches found in some of the open areas at higher elevations, isolated homesteads found lower along both sides of the road and mostly folks living on the edge of the grid. Sean Casserly had figured out a way to visit Black Rock two months earlier and it was his GPX track that I mostly followed. The route starts from Woodman Creek Rd, a well-graded dirt road that any vehicle can negotiate. The road is marked as private, but not closed to the general public. The road passes through another section of BLM lands that allows legal access from the road. The two-mile route passes through half a mile of private land at the higher elevations, though no fences or signs indicating property boundaries were ever encountered.

Having spent the night further south near US101, it had dropped below freezing during the night and was 28F when I awoke around 6a. It was a little warmer, about 34F when I started out shortly before 7a but I would have little chance to get cold. The all cross-country route starts off very steep, climbing 1,200ft in about 2/3mi, and I warmed up nicely despite seeing so little sun that I never bothered with a hat the whole outing. The forest understory is not clear, but it is not a real hindrance, either. By favoring the north sides of the ridges the route follows, heavier brush can be avoided. Above 2,800ft the gradient relents some and a few open areas appear on the ridge with some classic views of the fog-filled valleys among folded ridgelines so typical of CA's northern coastal ranges. Old logging roads appear as one passes through the private property section, logging at one time taking place extensively, though it seems to have fallen into disuse now. One can make some use of the old roads and bulldozer paths, but they aren't a significant advantage. The route turns steep once again for the final 300-foot climb to the summit. One breaks out of the forest after going over a false summit with the highpoint found another 400ft to the southeast atop an open, sunny knob. With more than 1,800ft of prominence, it has a commanding view in all directions. It had taken an hour and three-quarters to reach the top, only a tad faster than I had expected. Now after 8:30a, the pervasive fog was beginning to burn off and would be gone completely within an hour. It was chilly at the summit with a light but cold breeze blowing. The remains of a survey tower were scattered about but I was unable to locate the benchmark (I didn't look very hard for it). Not finding a register, I left one with an extra entry for Sean before starting back down. I don't think I was there more than two or three minutes, not wanting to cool down and get cold.

On the way down from the summit I followed a clipped trail through the manzanita, ascertaining that it was heading the wrong way down the south side of the ridge before leaving it to return to the original route. Someone had spent some time building and maintaining the trail so I suspect the summit gets semi-regular visits. They might be surprised to find the register on their next visit. Will they take it as a affront and throw it in the trash? Perhaps. Not surprising, the return went a good deal faster, taking about an hour. That last 1,000-foot descent down the steep slopes was particularly enjoyable, with gravity-assisted slipping and sliding down leaf-laden, loose dirt slopes. Overall, I found the route and summit very agreeable, one I could easily recommend. The private property issues seem to be no real problem - I saw no evidence that there was any regular visits there and the chances of encountering anyone has to be close to zero (hunting season might be another story).

Jackson State Forest HP

I went back to Jackson State Forest west of Willits and US101 for the second day in a row. I had intended to climb the forest highpoint the previous day but had misidentified it. Armed with new knowledge, I headed back for the correct point. The state forest lies along both sides of SR20, a twisting, winding road that runs for 25mi between Willits and Ft. Bragg. Most of the forest is composed of second-growth redwoods, with a network of publicly accessible roads running throughout. Some of these are suitable for any vehicle, others are no longer maintained, and it seems to be hit-or-miss as to whether you'll run into one of many locked gates throughout the forest. The highpoint is found on the southern edge of the forest, south of the highway. I drove up Rd 900, good for any vehicle, to its junction with Rd 810. Here I found the first of several locked gates. Though the roads behind the gate seemed cleared and very driveable, they were currently closed to motor vehicles. This left me with a 2.5mi hike each way to the summit. This wasn't really bad news, as I found the hike in the late morning to be very enjoyable. I had the place to myself and the weather was near perfect, with some sun filtering down through the trees and ideal temperatures, neither warm nor cold. Most of the hike was through heavy forest, but some views looking south opened up when I was on the edge of the forest in the upper reaches. I took a series of roads and some trail to within a few hundred feet of the summit. The road continues below the summit about 100ft on the north side. A trail cutting through brush around the west side seemed promising, but that merely continued below the summit down the South Ridge. I saw no way to get through thick brush on that side to the top. I returned to the road on the north side and went up from there, finding the forest understory easier to penetrate. The summit itself was a disappointment, buried under thick manzanita that required some crawling to get to absolutely nowhere of any importance. No views at all and I couldn't even stand up. That said, the hike itself was enough to recommend it, a very pleasant stroll through the redwoods with only banana slugs for company.

Andrew K comments on 06/07/21:
Your register on Black Rock is missing, sadly.
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