Haskell Peak P1K OGUL / PYNSP / ex-SPS / WSC
Babbitt Peak P2K PD

Tue, Jul 7, 2009

With: Ryan Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2

Ryan and I started a four day road trip by pouring him into a sleeping bag in the back of the van at 2a, then Dad driving on for five hours across the Central Valley and into the Northern Sierra. When I pulled into the trailhead parking for the Haskell Peak Trail he was still asleep at 7a. Apparently he had stayed up later than I had recommended the night before, as I had gone to bed early to prepare for the drive. I woke him only long enough to gather that he'd rather continue sleeping than hike, so I left him in the van and started off.

Haskell Peak is on the OGUL list, located near the far north end of this peak collection. It is just east of the far more impressive Sierra Buttes which we had views of during the drive in. The trail, running through open forest pocketed with small meadows, is less than two miles in length and took little more than half an hour to reach the summit. There was one patch of lingering snow, but otherwise the trail was dry and pleasant. There is a huge stone cairn erected at the top, some eight to ten feet in height. A register was tucked among the stones there. Don Palmer's was one of the more familiar names that I happened upon while perusing the pages.

I snapped pictures of the surrounding views including Sierra Buttes off to the west, then jogged my way back down the trail. Ryan was awake and at the wheel of the van, fantasizing himself in some video game car chase. He said he got up a few minutes after I took off, and there was little doubt that he wasn't as tired at that time as he led me to believe - he just didn't feel like hiking. Fair enough.

We got back to the highway heading east, driving through Sierraville and Loyalton before turning off on a dirt road heading south. The next goal was Babbit Peak, a prominence peak and highpoint of the Bald Mountain Range. The info I had gleaned from the Internet suggested a trail on the northwest side of the peak but I was unable to figure out the side roads and match them to the map I had with me. After a few aborts, I drove back to the main road and found a USFS station to ask for directions. They were helpful in explaining the roads and trails were in poor condition since a fire several years earlier, but offered that our best bet was to drive the road to the summit. Ryan liked this option a great deal. After get assurance that the road condition was no worse than what we'd just been driving on, we set out.

From Pats Meadow a bit further south we hung left on the Babbit Road, taking us through Jones Valley and then up to the lookout approaching from the south. No trouble negotiating any of the roads. When we arrived at the top there was a CLOSED sign hanging on the lookout, but the caretaker was just coming out to remove it. She seemed a little inconvenienced by our presence at first, but she soon warmed up when I went gaga over her view. One could see to Mt. Rose in the Tahoe area, west to Sierra Buttes, north to Lassen (and sometimes Shasta on a clear day), and many, many miles east into Nevada and the Reno area. She had a rescue dog to keep her company, a lame sort of thing that she said had been abused for failing duck-hunting school under a former owner. She was surprised I knew her name when we walked in (the ranger at the CDF had clued us in) and she told us "her boys" (in the CDF that regularly supplied her) were the best. We learned a lot about the lookouts in the area from her and it was clear that these dying outposts were very dear to her. We signed her visitor register and took some USFS material that she plied us with (I think she may get credit or something based on visitors to her lookout - perhaps another statistic to help convince the government to keep the lookouts open) before heading back down.

The natural highpoint is actually a short distance north from the tower past an old outhouse, so we wandered over there, finding a 1954 benchmark, but no register that we could find among the rocks. Before leaving she had let us in on a secret just down the road - a bird had made a nest in the gate post. Ryan and I stopped to check it out, mother bird flying away as the van approached. Four light blue eggs were in the nest. We left fairly quickly to keep from upsetting momma bird too much.

So far Ryan's luck had held out - two peaks and he hadn't had to do any hiking. "You know," I said, "this doesn't count as one of your two hiking days you signed up for, since you haven't done any actual hiking today." He looked at me with a slightly injured look, but he knew it was only fair. We stopped at Stampede Reservoir on our way out to I-80 to have lunch. There were two families of geese with half-grown chicks that were plying the water's edge. It looked like they were used to handouts and people because they didn't scare off as we approached. We gave them no food, but we did get some nice pictures.

After lunch we headed to Reno where we spent the next three nights. As a bit of a surprise for Ryan, I'd booked us a room at the Circus Circus Hotel rather than the usual motel room. Casino, game rooms, circus acts, a twenty-five story building - this was high living for Ryan and he was loving it.


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