Horse Ridge Lookout P1K
Peak 5,640ft P300
Pickett Peak P500
Pine Butte
Mad River Rock P1K
Black Lassic P2K
Red Lassic P300
Mule Ridge
Signal Peak P300
Senteney Rock
Peak 4,812ft P300
Jones Ridge
Mikes Rock
Four Corners Rock
Peak 5,396ft P500
Horsehead Mountain P500

Wed, Jun 1, 2016
Pine Butte
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Profiles: 1 2


With an early start, I would have plenty of daylight to tackle a handful of P1Ks in the area. I spent the night camped in the van about six miles south of SR36 along Forest Road 23 atop South Fork Mountain. "South Fork" refers to the South Fork of the Trinity River which runs along eastern edge of the 40mi-long South Fork Mountain. The highpoint is found towards the southern end of the ridge at Horse Ridge Lookout, a 6,000-foot summit with more than 1,700ft of prominence.

South Fork Mountain

I had driven about as far as I dared in the van the night before, still some 6.5mi short of the lookout. I had brought my mountain bike for just such instances, and not long after 6:30a I set off up the road. The puddle that had stopped me in the van might have been drivable, but not too much further up the road was a large log that blocked the road and would have stopped any vehicle - seems the forest service has not yet cleared the road for the season. Much of it was in good shape, though, and I managed 4.5mi on the bike before getting stopped at a burned section with a large amount of downfall. I had no idea how far this section lasted, but it seemed like it could be terribly tedious to try and carry the bike over it all. I decided to leave the bike and do the last 2mi on foot, though after finding that the section lasted about 150yds, it might have saved time had I carried the bike. Nevertheless, I found my way to the lookout by 8a. Though closed, the tower was not fenced off and I was able to climb the stairs to just below the locked hatch door, offering far away views that would otherwise have been blocked by the trees surrounding the summit area.

It took an hour and a half to return to the van on foot and bike. On my way back out to SR36 I stopped by for quick visits to Peak 5,640ft and Pickett Peak. The former was a short, easy cross-country jaunt through a burn-scar section of forest to reach a non-descript summit with no views, taking less than ten minutes. Parking at the end of the pavement on the southeast side of Pickett, I used the bike to ride the mile-long dirt road to the summit where a forest lookout is located (I might have been able to drive this one, certainly a high-clearance vehicle would have no trouble). Like the one on Horse Ridge, it was unfenced but locked at the hatch leading to the cab and viewing platform. An ascent of the stairs provides a view across the landscape that would otherwise be blocked by the trees. There is a second point to the south of nearly equal height that I visited "to be sure". There is a moderate solar installation here, the highpoint of which is a 15-foot class 3 boulder that can be climbed by several routes. This southern summit has a fine view off to the south where the trees have been cleared or burned.

Mad River Rock

I spent another hour driving back to SR36, west a short distance, and then south along Mad River Ridge which separates the Mad and Van Duzen River drainages. The highpoint of this 20mi-long ridge is Mad River Rock, a monstrous rock outcropping with more than 1,000ft of prominence. Only a short section of road at the beginning is paved, the rest of the 7mi-long Forest Road 1N03 in decent shape for low-clearance vans. I stopped at the 2/3 point in order to pay a visit to Pine Butte, the highpoint found only a few minutes' hike through the woods off the road. Nothing to see there.

Mad River Rock turns out to be a different sort of beast altogether, easily the most interesting summit I visited on the day. I had no idea of its history beforehand, nor of its technical difficulties. I was surprised to find the remains of an old trail built on its northern aspect, the shortest route to the summit. The trail ends where one comes across the remains of what were once wooden stairs. Old wood is found scattered about in several places. A forest lookout once stood atop Mad River Rock, but it has long since been dismantled. It appears a few intrepid souls have mounted climbing efforts since then, but it seems to have long been forgotten. A few fixed nylon ropes, long in disuse, were tied to rusty iron stakes in a loose class 3 section above the initial stairs. I scrambled up this and then higher still on crappy rock to reach a perch about 12ft below the summit. I had seen another old rope dangling from the summit down to the right (north) of the perch I stood on. I downclimbed to a crappy gully where I could just reach this rope to use, perhaps, to haul me up the scary side I was pressed against. Not looking altogether safe, I tested the rope before actually depending on it to climb higher. With maybe 40lbs of tug the rope broke loose from above and came tumbling lifelessly down to my side. I was glad I had tested it first. I backed off from this and went back to the rocky perch above. A manky, but useable hanger was bolted to the rock about three feet above me. I put a carabiner in this and tested it - it seemed solid, or at least semi-solid. As I pulled up on the carabiner to grab a handhold above, my camera popped out of its carrying case that I had regrettably left unzipped from its last use. I watched it bounce a few times before coming to rest near the edge of the abyss where a further fall would surely have left it in small pieces. Camera aside, the move I'd just made was both reachy and frightening and left me in no small measure of mini-panic, knowing I would have to reverse that move somehow. I looked around the summit (nice views, to be sure), noted a few remains of the old tower and then almost immediately focused on getting myself out of this predicament. It turned out to be easier than I had imagined, lowering myself from above and then grabbing the carabiner to keep from tumbling out of control, easing myself the final distance. I retrieved the camera with some effort, not surprised to find it completely unresponsive. Luckily the SD card was intact and unharmed. After losing my camera a year earlier, I've since carried an identical backup one in the van. The broken one, sadly, would only be good for spare parts now. Only after I was back down and driving did it occur to me that Mad River Rock may in fact be the most technically difficult P1K in the state. I had assumed Clarence King, at class 5.4, would retain this title, but surely Mad River Rock was harder than this, even with the aid of the bolt. How had I never heard about this, I wondered...

Black Lassic

I tried driving south from Mad River Rock, knowing it would be a shorter route to Black Lassic than returning to SR36. But the road began to deteriorate after a mile or so and I decided to play it safe and return the way I'd come - I'd taken enough chances for the day already. It would take more than an hour to drive back out to the highway, west for a mile, south on paved W Van Duzen Road and then up Forest Road 1S07 leading to Black Lassic. The forest road is well-graded and suitable for any vehicle. Red Lassic and Signal Peak (highpoint of the Mount Lassic Wilderness) are two nearby summits that are often climbed in tandem. I parked at a saddle about 1/2mi southwest of Black Lassic and started off around 1p. Others have reported finding brushy conditions, but a recent burn has left the approach and summit completely scorched and denuded of any brush. If there was a use trail I didn't find it, but in less than 20min I was at the summit - one of the easier P2Ks in the state. Even without the recent burn, the summit would provide good views since it is devoid of trees and almost all vegetation. Fold after fold of forested ridgelines stretch out in most directions. Both Red Lassic to the south and Signal Peak to the north appear to have been saved from the burn. Finding no register, I headed down.

Upon returning to the van I drove further south along the road to tackle Red Lassic. There are vestiges of a use trail which is helpful since there is significant brush near the top. The trail goes steeply up the north side before growing fractured, thin and overgrown. Like Black Lassic, Red Lassic has nice views though I don't really see how it got the "Red" in its name. On the way back I wandered by a small pond just off the road that I had missed on the way up. It would probably make a much prettier setting if all the trees around it weren't torched. Before tackling Signal Peak, I drove further south yet for something LoJ identifies as Mule Ridge. This is perhaps the lamest summit I visited on this 4-day trip. Besides being a trivial hike taking all of five minutes, there is a higher point only a quarter mile to the northeast that somehow doesn't qualify as being part of Mule Ridge. I'll not try to figure this one out.

I drove back north to stop at a trailhead for the Mount Lassic Wilderness found about half a mile southeast of Signal Peak. A forest service truck was parked here, the only other vehicle I'd seen in the area. I found a ranger/naturalist installing small wire cages over certain flora found on the sparsely-vegetated hillside some distance closer to the summit. It seemed a laborious effort to protect some native species from grazing animals. I wondered if it would really have any effect or if the cages would simply be found littering the hillside 20yrs from now because someone forgot about their science project. That may be an entirely unfair assessment, but I've been tainted by seeing similar efforts forgotten in the Wilderness before. Nevertheless, the hike along the trail was a good one, albeit short. Because the trail skirts around the south side of the summit, the last bit is cross-country though no serious effort. The summit has a large concrete block that appears to have been constructed for a more serious surveying effort. A register jar was stuffed with loose pages that I didn't bother to unpack or sign. It was the only register I found on the day. I managed to tear some skin open while moving the rock that had been left atop the register, my only injury on the trip, the humor of which was not lost on me.

Senteney Rock

Found about a mile and half north of Black Lassic, this minor summit can be reached via a spur road about 3/4mi to the south off 1S07. The intial part of the road had the scorched earth look, but only a few minutes further on were some delightfully green meadows with lupine and fine views that I hardly expected to find. Another section saw me zigzagging through forest. An oddity I came across was what looked like a jet airplane hood ornament. A later search online did not find an exact match, but these types of hood ornaments were quite popular in the 1950s following WWII and the introduction of the jet engine and commercial air travel. The summit of Senteney Rock is not the outcrop I expected and barely a rock, really, just another local highpoint along the 15-mile ridge separating the Van Duzen and Little Van Duzen Rivers. It was 3:45p by the time I finished this 45-minute outing.

I drove back down to W Van Duzen Rd and continued south through Hettenshaw Valley. There is an interesting formation called Hetten Rock on the west side of the valley that looked to make a fun scramble. I had done no research on this one and thought it might be private property. Turns out it lies within Six Rivers National Forest (same as Black Lassic, Mad River Rock and the other peaks) so maybe I'll come by again sometime in the future to check it out. Instead, I drove east across the valley and up the other side to a saddle across Mad River Ridge on the paved Ruth Zenia Rd. The highpoint of this ridge is another P1K, about a mile from the saddle to the northwest I had driven to. A ranch road runs up from there and along the ridge for many miles, but unfortunately the first half mile of so goes through private property. The road is gated and signed for No Trespassing, a home just visible up the dirt road in the trees. Rats - I thought this was going to be an easy one. I continued over the saddle and down to Ruth Lake found on the other side. A quick perusal of the GPSr showed another road that I might be able to use from the NE side, but this proved to be gated and signed similarly. Double Rats. By now it was nearly 5p and I had hoped to get in this last summit before calling it a day.

Jones Ridge, et. al.

I started poking around on my road atlas and recalled that there was another P1K, Shell Mtn, located deep in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. As it so happens, it was not really so deep in the Wilderness, but only about seven miles from a TH that could be reached with about 20mi driving from where I was. The paved Forest Road 27 (also signed for 27N02) climbs out of the Mad River drainage south of the town of Ruth, then circles the southern edge of the drainage along a high ridgeline around 4,000-5,000ft in elevation. I needed a place up high to spend the night and avoid the heat and it seemed like a good place to explore. I would then do the hike to Shell Mtn the following morning. It was a fine plan made rather spur-of-the-moment, and to boot there were more than half a dozen short excursions to minor summits I could do on the drive in.

I drove south the town of Ruth for fuel and cold drinks since I didn't think my current stock of either would last for the trip. The pump was of 1970's vintage, an analog readout and no vapor recovery on the spout, possibly the last one still operating in the state (and somehow I suspect, illegally). The "store" actually had three doors - one for the convenient store, one for the bar, and another for the cafe. I never did see what was behind door #3, but the bar and convenient store are connected inside by a doorway, allowing the proprietor (a burly, rough-looking character, exactly the sort you would expect) to man bar on one side and the cash register on the store side. I got $20 in gas and $4 in soda before leaving town, satisfied I could survive in the wild for the next 24hrs.

My first stop was Peak 4,812ft, an easy 10-minute hike from the pavement. No views among the pines and manzanita at the top. Ten minutes further along the road I pulled over at a TH east of Peak 4,770ft. An old logging road, somewhat overgrown, leads gently upwards from TH. But instead of going to the summit it traverses the northeast side of the peak. The cross-country looked like awful bushwhacking and I declined to give it a try. I was looking for easy stuff at this point, not something to leave my clothes and skin shredded and bleeding. A mile to the east is the highpoint of Jones Ridge, just inside the Wilderness boundary. Parking just southeast of the summit, I found an easy way through the forest up the east side and an even easier way down the southeast ridgeline where the forest gives way to grassy slopes and views south into the Wilderness.

A mile and half southeast of Jones Ridge is Mikes Rock. The location is somewhat confusing as older versions of the topo map have the feature half a mile further east at a slightly higher point. Neither seems to resemble anything rocky from the satellite view and the one I visited was little more than a partial clearing on a ridgetop with weak views. A better pick was Four Corners Rock found a mile and half further east. An old, unmaintained TH can be found along the road NE of the summit. The trail had lots of downfall initially, but eventually became the easy-to-follow Boundary Trail (runs along the ridgeline on the Wilderness boundary). This took me to a rock outcrop with sweeping views that falls off somewhat dramatically to the south. A USFS survey marker is found here. It was 7p when I reached it, the start of the magic hour before sunset, and I found the breeze and temperature about perfect for sitting there a short while to contemplate the magnificent surroundings. This would have made a good finish to the day.

But I still had a few more places to visit. A mile NE of Four Corners Rock is unnamed Peak 5,296ft. An old logging road helps with the otherwise brushy part of ridgeline leading to the highpoint. A fire had burned most of the trees here some years ago, but new seedlings are springing up all over the place - it won't take long to reestablish the place. My last stop was Horsehead Mtn, another 3mi to the north. I drove past the Waterspout TH that I would use the next day, driving to the end of the pavement and then up a gravel/dirt road that skirts the west shoulder of Horsehead. I found a flat parking spot off this road that would serve as TH and camping spot for the night. An old spur road, still driveable, starts from my parking spot and traverses the north side of Horsehead. A short cross-country stint got me to the summit around 8p. On the decent I opted for a shorter alternate route through the woods to the northwest, watching the last of the fading daylight penetrate weakly through the trees. Back at the car I took a sunset shower before settling down for dinner and a movie, a nice way to wind down a long day on the road and trail...


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