Bonanza King P2K
Slate Mountain P1K
Blue Mountain P1K
Trinity Mountain
Shirttail Peak P300 CC

Mar 10, 2015
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 Profiles: 1 2 3 4 5


Bonanza King

My toes had taken a good beating over the last two days, wet and in snowshoes for more hours than they would have preferred. I had planned to do another day of snowshoeing in the Trinity Alps but decided on a tamer outing in the lower Trinity Mountains. This 40 mile-long range divides the Trinity and Sacramento River drainages between SR3 and Interstate 5. Most of it falls within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest making access relatively easy, aside from the sporadic logging operations (private logging interests own a checkerboard pattern of land tracts across the range). The range's highpoint is at the far north end, the 9,000-foot Mt. Eddy with more than 5,000ft of prominence. It's second most prominent summit, with just over 2,000ft of prominence, is Bonanza King, located just north of Clair Engle Lake. I picked out a route from the south about six miles one-way, all but the last mile on Jeep roads. I did not expect to find any significant snow as the summit reaches to just 7,000ft, so I left the snow gear in the car when I set out around 6:15a.

My route was not optimal. As I had not done sufficient research beforehand, I was relying on the GPS maps to find suitable roads. Some of the data in the Garmin database is quite old and such was the "road" I found myself starting up under headlamp. The road quickly devolved and that first 1/3mi was a mild bushwhack to a good logging road found traversing the slope higher up. A better route would have been to start at a locked gate down the road a little ways, but in the end it didn't make much difference. I soon found my way to the 4WD road depicted on the 7.5' topo after which the route becomes straightforward. The sky began to light up with shades of pink and orange around 7a in anticipation of sunrise around 7:30a. By this time I had climbed high enough to have good views overlooking Clair Engle (Trinity) Lake to the south and the Trinity Alps to the west. There was a sublime sunrise on the snowy Trinities, the only few minutes of sunlight I would have all day before the sun hid behind developing clouds that kept the sky overcast the remainder of the day.

It was 8a by the time I reached the main crest at a saddle. The road continued south to the lookout atop the lower south summit. I might have visited it on the way back as a bonus peak since it was less than half a mile away, but the snow coverage on the north-facing slopes was continuous, hard and slick - it would not be prudent without snowshoes or crampons. I would have to hope I didn't run into such conditions on my way to the north summit about a mile in the other direction. It was an interesting ridge traverse with some fun scrambling, some snow (luckily only short stretches where it was steep and slick) and thankfully no bushwhacking. I spent about 40min getting to the lower south summit, then another 15min for the somewhat harder scramble further to the highpoint at the north summit. Barbara Lilley had left a register on the south summit in 2009 with a question mark wondering if it was the highpoint. The others that signed in were a collection of the usual suspects - Don Palmer, Bob Packard, Richard Carey, Matthew Holliman, Ken Jones and a lone name I didn't recognize - a hunter named Trevor White. Most of these same folks signed into another register found at the north summit with the notable absence of Lilley. The summit would normally provide a good platform for views extending west to the Trinity Alps, north to Mt. Shasta and east across the Sacramento Valley to Mt. Lassen, but today we had haze, overcast skies and very cool temperatures. My return was via the same route, taking me almost 2.5hrs and getting me back by 11:20a.

Slate Mountain

Eight miles SE of Bonanza King is Slate Mountain, a P1K with a USFS lookout tower. The East Side Rd I had been driving turned to dirt/gravel before I reached a saddle with a six-way intersection. I managed to drive the van about 2.5mi on a secondary road before getting stopped by downfall. Within about six miles of the summit, it seemed a good opportunity to make use of the mountain bike I had brought with me. Most of the roads I followed were rideable with the exception of the steepest part just before reaching the summit. It took just over an hour to cover the distance to the summit. The lookout was in poor shape, but still standing. The lower half of the stairs had been removed to keep visitors from the unsafe wooden structure. Without being able to scale the lookout, the views were marginal and I found no register or anything else of interest. Back I went via the same route, a breeze on the bike.

Blue Mountain

This P1K is found about 8mi SSW of Slate Mtn, just off East Side Rd as it climbs and continues its way through the Trinity Mountains. The hike is exceedingly short, about 15min of cross-country with some mild bushwhacking up steep slopes to a manzanita-covered summit without any views. Some searching found the BLUE benchmark (a metal stake helps mark the spot). Not much else to this uninteresting summit.

Trinity Mountain

You might think a summit named after the range it lies on would be the highest or have some significant prominence, but the truth is much the opposite. An unnamed point to the west is higher and it barely reaches to 4,000ft. Located near a major junction, the summit is even easier to reach than Blue Mtn. With high clearance one can easily drive to the top. I parked at a clearing off the main road and made a cross-country excursion up the east side to reach the summit in less than 10min. The summit has a concrete pad that used to hold some sort of structure and has marginal views mostly blocked by trees. The area sees regular logging as in much of the Trinity Mountains. On the drive down the east side of the range to Clear Creek, I was surprised to find an oversized load on a semi being hauled up the narrow, windy road. It looked to be some sort of hulking, rusting piece of logging equipment but I confess to not really knowing what the thing was - I was more concerned with it not hitting my vehicle as it rounded the bend on its way past me.

Shirttail Peak

Once down at Clear Creek, I drove south to French Gulch where I found the gravel Cline Gulch Rd that took me to BLM lands that are part of an OHV area north of Whiskeytown Lake. On a previous visit I had run out of time to chase down CC-listed Shirttail, but today I had no pressing engagements needing attention at home. It was already 4:30p by the time I tracked down the start for the route up from the south side. A dirt road leads to the summit in about 4mi, making the outing straightforward though not easy - there was still some 2,500ft of gain involved. A locked gate at the start keeps most vehicles off the road, though a few determined motorcyclists have managed to circumvent it. The road leads past the Old American Mine, whose entrance is shuttered and locked in no uncertain terms (gaining entry would be exceedingly hard). Rail tracks lead out of the mine to where tailings were dumped down the South Slopes.

Climbing higher, one gains views of Shasta Bally and Bully Choop to the south, though this afternoon's view was more haze than anything as the weather started to threaten with rain. Without views, I took to photographing the pine trees, manzanita blooms and other flowers I found. Lower portions of the road travel through heavy chaparral while further up when it moves to the west and northwest side of the mountain it goes through some nice forested sections. I reached the summit just before 6p after the road makes a spiraling ascent that goes twice around the mountain. I expected to find something of significance at the top to justify the road but found nothing - if it once held some sort of structure it has been cleanly removed. Views from there would have been nice, but again the weather was uncooperative. I jogged much of the route down from the summit, getting me back to the van in just over 45min. I had enough daylight to take a tepid shower and drive back out to SR299 before darkness descended. I still had something like five hours of driving to get back to San Jose around midnight, but I didn't have anywhere to go the next morning and got to sleep in. It had been an enjoyable three days. After my toes healed up from the abuse they had gotten I would make plans to return again in the springtime...

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