Doctor Rock P300 CC
Peak 8 P500
Peak 4,946ft P300
Summit BM P300
Red Mountain P1K
Peak 4,408ft P300
Lems Ridge P500
Muslatt Mountain P900
Four Brothers No 4 P1K CC
Four Brothers No 3 P300 CC
Four Brothers No 2 CC
Four Brothers No 1 P300 CC

Tue, Jun 18, 2019
Doctor Rock
Red Mountain
Muslatt Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX Profiles: 1 2

I was back in Northern California for another extended road trip, this one six days to the northwest corner of the state, to tackle more CC-listed summits and P1Ks in the Six Rivers National Forest. I got through the agenda earlier than expected, so headed east to Klamath National Forest for more fun there the last few days. The weather was a tad warm but still spectacular, with clear skies and only a few brief hours of fog. I had driven north from San Jose the night before, allowing me to get about half the distance to Crescent City before pulling over to sleep around midnight. I was up in the morning for another 4hrs of driving, north on US101 through Eureka and Crescent City, northeast on US199 and then about 17mi southeast up Country Rd 427 (South Fork Rd) and G-O Rd (Forest Rd 15) to the end of the road at the western edge of the Siskiyou Wilderness. I had been on the eastern portion of this Wilderness and G-O Rd on my previous visit, so it was nice to get to see the other side, but it sure is a long drive from just above anywhere. It wasn't until 10:45a that I was ready to do some walking.

Peak 8/Doctor Rock

Along with nearby Chimney Rock, Doctor Rock has been a spiritually significant summit for the indians of this region for ages. The introduction of the paved G-O Rd for timber extraction purposes starting in the 1960s created a partnership of environmentalists and indians to protect the timber-rich Siskiyou Mtns. The Siskiyou Wilderness was established in 1984 but had a provision for the future completion of the road through the Wilderness area, cutting it in two. Court cases ensued over the course of the remaining decade, going to the Supreme Court which sided with the Forest Service to complete the road. It was never completed however, and the establishment of the Smith Wild and Scenic NRA in 1990 protected this last bit of proposed roadway from construction by including it in the Siskiyou Wilderness. There is some great reading to be found online about Doctor Rock and the G-O Rd controversy for those interested.

CC-listed Doctor Rock is located about 2mi south from where I parked at the highpoint of the road. There is an old road that now serves as a trail though there is no signage indicating this. All of the route was burned in the 2008 Blue Fire and then portions again in the 2015 Gasquet Complex Fire. Many trees managed to survive one or both fires so the area doesn't look devastated - in fact it's pretty typical for a California forest these days. Oddly named Peak 8 is a higher bonus peak on the way to Doctor Rock and it was there I headed first. Where the road ends on the ridgeline, I was happy to find a good trail continuing south. I left the trail as it traverses the west side of Peak 8, climbing the NW Ridge through modest brush to the open summit. There is a metal pole at the summit and good views in all directions. Doctor Rock is immediately obvious to the south a mile further. It looks imposing from a distance and I wondered if I'd be able to find a route up (spoiler - I did). I descended the steeper west side of Peak 8 to return to the trail, then continued south until I was just past the saddle with Doctor Rock. Here I turned west to climb what LoJ showed as a higher point to the northwest of Doctor Rock. It was a short, easy climb to an open summit where it was obvious that Doctor Rock was higher (I've since gotten LoJ to move their Doctor Rock location to the proper one). To the northwest rises Four Brothers, more commonly known as Ship Mtn, and from this vantage the name seems appropriate - like a ship with four sails deployed. Doctor Rock to the southeast looked difficult from this direction, too, and it was with a mix of trepidation and adventure that I headed off for an up-close inspection of the feature.

Doctor Rock stands perhaps 60-80ft high, rising out of an unburned section of the forest. The north and east sides are near-vertical with the west and south sides offering the only possible scrambling routes to the summit. In fact, I found one on each side, both stiff class 3. The harder way, and my ascent route, went up the south side after a short fight through brush to get to its base. The volcanic rock is covered in dry lichen that had decent footing - not sure what it would be like when wet, but possibly slippery. A few big steps to start leads to easier class 2 scrambling above, merging halfway with the west side route. I went down the west side which appears to be the "standard" route though I doubt it gets many visitors. There was an empty milk jug with a rope tied to it, purpose unknown, near the bottom of the route. There is an awkward 20-foot sloping ledge traverse that had me a bit uneasy, but the rest is pretty easy. The exit (or starting point) goes through the forest understory on the west side of the rock. The summit is large and open. There was a small circular rock wall built at the top, tucked among some short, weather-beaten trees and shrubs. Though it is not large enough to sleep in, there is enough room to sit and meditate. There was also a small hearth with some ashes built into the wall, for warmth on a cold evening. I left a register here but suspect it won't last long - probably not the sort of thing Native Americans like to find on their sacred summits.

After returning to the ground, I found my way back to the trail and then the pleasant hike back north to my starting point, having taken just over two hours. I considered climbing a bonus peak further west near the end of the G-O Rd, but found the road blocked by a fallen timber. Judging by the amount of rock debris I'd found for many miles of the road, I don't think clearing it is a Forest Service priority.

Peak 4,946ft/Summit BM/Peak 4,408ft

These are three bonus peaks on my way back down G-O Rd, before the turnoff for the Red Mtn Lookout. Peak 4,946ft is an easy 10min climb from the west where the brush has not recovered significantly since the 2015 fire. The summit has no views and little of interest. Summit BM is a much better bonus. Starting near the saddle with Peak 4,946ft, The Summit Valley Boundary Trail climbs up along this ridgeline heading north, about a mile to the top. An old logging road serves as the trail for the first part, but a good trail branches off as it passes within a short distance from the summit on the west side. There are open views from the top, with much of the Siskiyou Wilderness visible to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Peak 4,408ft is found about a mile and a half west of Summit BM. Requiring a bit more work, I took 20min to reach the summit starting from where G-O Rd makes a U-turn on the east side of the peak at a gated spur road. The East Ridge offers a clear forest understory to make for easy cross-country. No views from the summit, just trees.

Red Mountain

This P1K is located at the western edge of the national forest, a 10-mile drive along a spur road off G-O Rd. There is a locked gate 1/4mi below the summit from which one can walk to the top where a fire lookout and telecom installations are located. One can see down to the Klamath River and the gap through the mountains into which it empties to the Pacific, 9mi to the west. The observation deck of the lookout can only be accessed from inside the structure, sealed with a locked door. It does not appear to be in use anymore. There is another P1K located along the road as it continues northeast, another 8mi further. Unfortunately the road is gated four miles from Red Mtn and passes through private property. The low-slung ridgeline that forms Rattlesnake Mtn just didn't seem interesting enough to start an eight mile hike in the afternoon. I decided to leave this as a future exercise when I had my bike with me.

Lems Ridge

After returning to G-O Rd, I continued downhill, back towards the Smith River, stopping for this bonus peak with more than 700ft of prominence. The topo map shows an old logging road going to the summit from the northeast. It still exists but has been extensively covered in slash to make using it a chore. Still, the road made a better route than the very brushy cross-country would have been. I took about 20min to reach the summit with open views looking west and north.

Muslatt Mountain

I next drove back down to the Smith River and County Rd 427, turning right to start back uphill after descending below 600ft in elevation. This is pretty characteristic of peakbagging in the heavily convoluted mountain region - drive up and down one road, then do the same on another. County Rd 427 is also called the Ship Mtn road as it climbs up and over that mountain. On its way, it passes by another P1K, Muslatt Mtn. A rough spur road can be driven another 3/4mi to get one within half a mile of the summit. This spur sees little traffic - I cleared one section with a saw I carry, but another was too much work to bother, and close to the end of the road anyway. Because of the low elevation (3,400ft) I expected it to be a dry, brushy affair that would bring me little pleasure. It turned out to be somewhat brushy but not terribly, and I enjoyed its unexpected adventure feel. The mountain is forested with a mix of oak, madrone and pine. Moss grows on the trunks and hangs from the branches, with the forest understory mostly clear but busy with many small trees. The route follows up the North Ridge which has an interesting rocky line under the forest which I traveled along, ducking under one tree branch or another, but having fun. I found a small rattler along this ridge to keep me on my toes. The summit itself is buried in the trees with nary a view, so this isn't one of its features. I left a register here under a small cairn of rocks placed on the highest boulder because I felt it deserved one. I don't expect it will see more than a few visitors in a decade.

Ship Mtn (Four Brothers)

After returning to Ship Mtn Rd, I continued north, driving to the top of Brother No. 4, the highest of the four and where the lookout is located. The lookout was locked, but the place was obviously in service and lived-in. I think I had passed the Forest Service employee an hour earlier on the road before my climb of Muslatt Mtn. Brother No. 4 is a P1K, but the other brothers all have elevations within 80ft of it. They are stretched out to the north over a distance of 1.6mi. For no good reason, all four were put on the original CC-list. Probably only one deserves to be, and my vote would be for the furthest, No. 1. A Daryn Dodge party had visited the four brothers a year earlier, reporting no difficulties following the ridgeline. So despite the late start (6:30p), I figured I had enough time to get to the other three peaks. I drove back down the road a short distance to a clearing on the crest where I parked and started north along the ridgeline. I found portions of the trail Daryn describes in his PB trip report, using it in places, but only until it started skirting the east side of Brother No. 3. Class 2 scrambling leads to the top, as it does for the others as well. A dispersed pile of old red bricks was found at the summit of No. 3, purpose unknown. The summit is almost the same height as No. 4. I followed along the ridge to No. 2 and No. 1 in succession; there is even a sort-of No. 1.5 between the last two that I almost left a register on, just for fun. It was nearly 7:30p by the time I reached No. 1. I found the register left by Daryn, Sean and Asaka a year earlier, and signed it while enjoying the views.

I could see portions of the road heading north from Ship Mtn on its way to Bear Butte Basin and eventually its end at Doe Flat, some miles to the north. It had taken me an hour to traverse the ridgeline, so I knew I could reverse the route and get back by 8:30p, almost half an hour before sunset. The thought of striking off cross-country towards the road intrigued me. Partly I thought it might make for a faster return, but the evening stroll through unknown brush issues got a grip on me - seems I hadn't done enough bushwhacking today to dissuade me. And it was brushy, but since it was mostly downhill it didn't suck like it would have in the uphill direction. I enjoyed the cooler temps of the late afternoon, pushing through brush while looking for bear runs that make it easier to get through the stuff. It took me about 20min of such silly nonsense to find myself on an old road, no longer open to vehicles. This led a short distance up to the main road which I then had to walk back, almost 2 miles. I was hoping someone might drive by to give me a lift, but alas, it seemed I had many square miles of mountainous terrain to myself. It was 8:45p before I got back to the jeep only minutes before sunset - seems my return route was actually longer. Oh well, always nice to make a loop when I can.

I showered in the chill of the wind and setting sun, before changing into some fresh clothes and driving a few more miles towards Doe Flat before finding a suitable flat spot off the road. It was nearly dark before I got settled into my campsite where I took a hurried hour to download photos and tracks from the day's efforts, eat dinner and clean up before it was time for bed. A long, but enjoyable day...


Chris Valle-Riestra comments on 09/07/19:
Hello, Bob. It was interesting reading all of your reports of this year's adventures in the Klamath Mountains. There's a lot of useful information here, such as the fact that it is now possible to drive to the farthest trailhead up the Little North Fork of the Salmon River.

I want to talk, though, about the photo you posted of the summit of Doctor Rock. This is a "seat of power" constructed and used by native Americans, probably Yurok, for spiritual purposes. I believe that publishing such a photo on a public forum would be considered disrespectful. Those who visit this and other sites for spiritual purposes consider these to be very private, solitary activities. Putting up images like this is kind of an invasion of privacy. Of course all are free to visit these locations to see them for themselves. Making the effort required to visit in person is an admirable investment of time and energy. It is important that visitors understand that others they may see in the area are probably seeking solitude, and should not be approached.

I ask you to consider removing this one photo from the site.

I also think that it would be best that you not place summit registers at any of the known pilgrimage sites, including Chimney Rock and Little Medicine Mountain, as well as others in the Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps.

You may be interested to know that there is an ongoing project to relocate all of the communication facilities off of Red Mountain, as that is also an important spiritual site for native peoples living nearby. I'm not sure, but I imagine that the old lookout will also be removed--an exception to the usual efforts to preserve lookouts as historic artifacts.

Chris Valle-Riestra
Kirk D comments on 09/09/19:
Surprised it took this long before someone chimed in re. this Trip Report -
Chapter 6 (The High Country) from Peter Matthiessen's 'Indian Country' (1984) describes this area, it's spiritual aspects and the controversy surrounding the G-O Road in detailed, elegant and graceful words.
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