Converse Mountain P750
Redwood Mountain P750 ESS

Thu, Aug 31, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

The time had come to finish the last of the CA 13ers (according to LoJ and Vulgarian Ramblers, anyway), Ericcson Crag #1, a class 4-5 affair that I put off until I could get some friends to join me for what I expected to be a tough little nut to crack. Being Labor Day weekend, it was going to be hard to simply show up and get a permit, so I drove up Thursday to get a permit for the next day. I arrived at Roads End a bit before the 1p time when they start dishing out the next day's permits, so I took the time to eat lunch and otherwise wait out the half hour until the appointed time. I was the second person in line and managed to get the remaining four slots available for Bubbs Creek. Though we weren't doing the ever-so-popular Rae Lakes Loop (which is why Bubbs Creek and Woods Creek pemits are hard to come by), we needed to start at the same TH. Following the permit acquisition effort, I had half a day still and set out for something to climb. Since it was 90F+ down in Kings Canyon, I drove back up to the 6,000-foot elevation around Grants Grove and went after a few easy summits that have been on my radar for some years now.

Converse Mountain

The Converse Grove is the largest grove of giant sequoias anywhere, even larger than the far more famous Giant Forest. It is named for a Mr. Converse who first took possession of the grove back in the 1880s. Unfortunately, Converse had big plans for his grove of giant trees and almost all of them were cut down in the late 1890s and first part of the next century, over a 14 year span. One ancient tree, believed to be the biggest in the grove, was left standing and it was named the Boole Tree after the logging supervisor that granted permission for it to be spared. It is located on the northwest side of Converse Mtn near a shady saddle with a USFS trailhead and trail servicing it. My route would be a little different, first climbing to Converse Mtn via road and cross-country, then dropping down to the tree and taking the trail and road back to the start. The whole route ended up being just over six miles with about 1,700ft of gain. A little-used forest road goes about half of the two mile distance to the summit from where I parked at the locked gate along SR180. I was a bit concerned about the cross-country portion since the satellite view showed what looked to be some painful bushwhacking. As it turns out, a fire burned over Converse Mtn in the past few years, making things much easier. The buckthorn and manzanita are starting to grow back, but it will be another 4-5 years before the stuff becomes problematic. I had some trouble identifying the highest point, with two candidates that I visited both marked by ribbons left by previous visitors. I made no effort to survey things as I hadn't brought my hand level. Dropping down to the Boole Tree was steep in places but not so bad, and only about a quarter mile from the summit of Converse Mtn. The tree is indeed immense (the sixth largest tree by volume in the world), and I took photos of the base and canopy while I was there. The trail was a bit overgrown (it has been neglected this year while the road to the TH remains closed all season) but not hard to follow, about a mile to the empty TH parking lot. On the hike out along the road I passed by Stump Meadow, a large area dense with sequoia stumps and a placard showing the milling operation that sucked the life out of this grand forest more than 100yrs ago. The whole outing took about 2.5hrs, finishing up shortly before 5p.

Redwood Mountain

This one is located about 10mi south of Converse Mtn and is the highpoint of the Redwood Mountain Grove. In stark contrast to the Converse Grove, this one somehow avoided getting chopped down and makes for a delightful walk. The Sugarbowl Trail climbs nearly to the summit in a large, 6.5mi loop that also sweeps down to Redwood Creek before returning to the TH. There are large specimens along almost the entire route, with hundreds upon hundreds of sequoias on display. Only near the very summit was there a noticeable absence of the big trees, the top covered almost entirely in oaks, oddly. Fire scars are everywhere, the latest fire only a few years ago, but the sequoias look to have survived dozens of such fires with their crowns looking as healthy as ever. The summit of Redwood Mtn was better defined than Converse was, but I still found no register, and having forgotten to bring my own, had none to leave. It was almost 7:30p by the time I had finished up this second hike, the sun having set some time earlier. I showered in the fading light and then drove to the Grant Grove Market where I picked up some supplies including a cold Mike's Harder in cherry-lime. The 23.5oz can makes for quite the happy hour...


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