With some unusually cool weather over state, I decided to head to some lower
elevation summits in the Sierra foothills around the Pine Flat Reservoir east
of Fresno. Today's outing was as much about exploring Forest roads in the Jeep
as it was reaching summits, most of which were short hikes. Most of this area
is oak woodlands with grassy understory, a golden brown this time of year.
It was nice to have a relatively short drive from home, about 3hrs, which left
me almost a full day to play around in the hills.
As Marcus Sierra discovered, there is up the
starting . Though it is outside the
National Forest, there are no fences or signs indicating it as private property.
The good trail ends at the lower southwest summit where views are best, but
through the grass leads to the highpoint. Views stretch
to Cats Head Mtn, across the reservoir, and
to Hog Mtn. A little less than 40min for the round trip effort.
This peak lies on the inside of a bend in the Kings River (now reservoir),
within the . There to be
found, but they don't go to the summit. I started on one going around the east
side before striking off to the summit ridge. There are
two points vying for the highpoint. The northwest one,
, is highest. Nice views of the surrounding
, though water levels were historically low. 25min for
the round trip.
This summit is located in the Sierra NF above the Big Creek arm of the
reservoir on its northeast side. The area sees regular cattle grazing, though
none today. I ascended on the south side before
onto . A modest granite
block marks where I left , the only
one on the day. There is a good view of Cats Head Mtn to . On
the way back, I took a more direct route down ,
an hour and a quarter after starting out.
Cats Head Mountain (failed effort)
This P1K in the Sierra NF had been on my radar for many years. I had done other
P1Ks in the area eight years earlier, but had skipped this one. I drove up
Forest Rd 9 to 10S04, then a spur road leading to the saddle on the north side
of Cats Head. I had a promising use trail , but it petered out
in less than five minutes into a sea of heavier brush. When I found myself
ducking, then crawling under , I finally called a halt as the
route ahead looked simply awful. Maybe this one would have to remain unclimbed.
I drove higher into the NF on 10S04, then west and southwest on 11S09.
is an easy from on
its SE side. All grassy slopes, no thrashing on this one.
More driving southwest on 11S09 saw me to Bobs Flat and then east on a spur
road to the north side of Branford Mtn. A first effort quickly ran into brush
problems, so I drove a bit further east to the saddle on the NNE side. This
equally badly, but I then stumbled upon
which would nicely to
in half an hour's time. There was quite a bit of poison
oak to avoid on , but not an unreasonable amount.
from the summit.
This was the highest summit of the day and mostly a driving exercise. I
approached from the northwest and left the Jeep parked on the narrow road for
the short 15sec hike to . Nice and some
on this one to mix with the oaks.
Cats Head Mountain
Back at the Jeep, I continued driving down the SE Ridge and down to Blue Canyon
and Big Creek. As I was driving around the east side of Cats Head, I observed
slopes above on this side that looked steep but doable, with more grass and less
brush than I'd found on the north side. Maybe I could give this one a second
shot? This was not an easy route, a mile each way with more than 2,200ft
of gain, about a 1,000ft more than the north side route would have been. It
was now 4:30p and I would have to hustle to make it before sunset. The first
hour went much as hoped, but no real bushwhacking. I had reached
and was getting my hopes up as I made good
progress, but things slowed down considerably as I found the upper reaches
. I would try one side of the ridge or the other, backing off
when the brush got dense or presented with too much poison oak. In places I was
under the stuff, now too close to turn back. That last section
wasn't very long, but it took me an extra half hour. was a
tangle of dry, dusty brush under a tree canopy with little to offer aside from
a few views to and west. For the return, I decided to try a
descent down which had some problems, but overall
than the ascent route, and quite a bit faster, too. About
2hr20min for the roundtrip effort.
I took a much-needed shower back at the Jeep before driving back down to the
reservoir and then east to Balch Camp at the junction of the North Fork Kings
River and Dinkey Creek. I then drove up Forest roads above Balch Camp to find
a place to spend the night at a saddle on the north side of Peak 3,249ft. It
was quite dark by the time I had parked, but it made for a very quiet and