Hull Mountain P2K CC
Monkey Rock CC
Bald Mountain P1K CC
Little Baldy CC
Dicks Butte
Coyote Rock
Swallow Rock
Haydon Rock P300
Buzzard Roost
Etsel Ridge P500
Poison Rock
Peak 5,580ft P300
Leech Lake Mountain P1K
Buck Mountain P1K

Mon, Sep 15, 2014
Bald Mountain
Coyote Rock
Buck Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Profiles: 1 2
Hull Mountain later climbed Fri, Nov 8, 2019


On the second day of my tour of western Mendocino NF I awoke high on the northeast flank of Hull Mtn where I had driven the previous evening to spend the night. The road, M1, was not in great condition but I managed to get my low-clearance van up the steep route from Lake Pillsbury, climbing some 5,000ft over perhaps 8mi - that's one steep road. I found the engine's plastic splash guard had been torn from the undercarraige and left lying on the road not far from where I'd spent the night. I collected it into the back of the van and drove a short distance to the road fork leading to the summit of Hull Mtn, parking here to start my day's adventure. My plan was to drive the rest of M1 north to its terminus, tagging a few P1Ks, a handful of CC peaks and a whole bunch of convenient bonus peaks nearby. It nearly ended before I could finish the first hour.

Hull Mountain

A P2K and CC-listed summit, Hull Mtn rises high to the northeast above Lake Pillsbury. A lookout tower once stood at the summit, but today only the foundation and a handrail remain. A rough 4WD road leads less than half a mile from M1 to the summit where views are unobstructed and outstanding. Big Signal Peak lies prominently to the west, Snow Mtn and St. John Mtn to the southeast, with the lower Bald Mtn to the north along the M1 crest. When I returned to the van 40min later I found the car wouldn't start. This was a problem.

Even if I had a cell signal, AAA would be of no service off the pavement, and in this case some 10mi from the nearest asphalt down by Lake Pillsbury. This was not a pretty place to get stuck. I might find another car come by once or twice during the day. Then what? Get a ride back to town somewhere (if they were even going that way) and arrange another $650 tow? I wasn't alarmed initially. I had just driven a short while ago to reach this spot and knew the battery was hardly likely to be drained. More likely, there was some electrical issue keeping the car from starting. I wondered what switch I might have knocked accidently and considered other possibilities, like the steering wheel locking mechanism, but could find nothing. I pulled out the owners manual and perused it, but it had no trouble-shooting section and was of little help. I was becoming more alarmed after the first 15min. I noticed the courtesy lights were no longer working, nor the electric side doors. I opened the hood and examined the battery and cables, but noticed nothing unusual. Back inside I found the courtesy lights and doors worked again, but when I tried to start the car all went dead a second time without even engaging the starter. It looked like I had a poor connection somewhere, perhaps jiggled loose by all the hard driving. I went back to the engine compartment and noticed the negative cable to the battery could be moved by hand. I worked it back and forth to seat it better, then tried to start the engine again. Success! A few moments earlier I was working through how I was going to get back to civilization, and suddenly my journey was to continue. Life is funny that way. I sure would have been embarassed to call for a tow truck to the middle of nowhere to find my battery cable was loose.

Monkey Rock

A few miles NNW of Hull Mtn is CC-listed Monkey Rock, just west of M1 and inside the Yuki Wilderness that encompasses a large swath of forest on that side of the road. I didn't realize the Yuki Wilderness HP was only a hundred feet off the road near Windy Gap on my way to Monkey Rock or I would have paid it a visit as well. Monkey Rock is a large rock outcrop that is prominent from the west and though looks like it might be formidable, is an easy class 3 scramble. I parked on the edge of M1 due east of Monkey Rock and took less than 10min to find my way to the summit. A USFS benchmark dating to 1944 is found there. The views are similar to those on Hull Mtn.

Bald Mountain

A P1K and CC-listed, Bald Mtn can be nearly driven to the summit by 4WD or within half a mile for low clearance. There is a major fork in M1 just south of Bald Mtn. I took the right fork signed M61 and parked at a side junction with a rough road climbing to Bald Mtn from the southeast. 10min was suffice to hike to the summit. As the name suggests, the summit is mostly void of vegetation, offering good views.

Little Baldy/Dicks Butte

A mile to the northeast of Bald Mtn is this CC-listed summit with modest prominence. It probably has no real business being on a peak list. The more adventurous can hike from Bald Mtn, but I chose the more circuitous 4mi drive that ends with a short quarter mile hike to the top (4WD can drive nearly to the summit). Not as bald as Bald Mtn, Little Baldy's summit offers good views looking north. Three quarters of a mile SE, across Buckhorn Creek is Dicks Butte, and easy bonus peak that can be climbed from the road for less than a mile. I made a small mistake here in going cross-country to a false summit SE of Dicks Butte, while the easiest route (which I used on the return) simply follows the road from where I'd parked. A short bit of scrambling with modest brush gets you to the rocky summit. There are nice views north to Anthony Peak and west to Bald and Little Baldy.

Coyote Rock/Swallow Rock

These two named summits are located on the west side of Bald Mtn, not far from M1. I drove back out to M1, then northwest a short ways to find a parking spot between the two. I made a completely unnecessary cross-country hike north to Coyote Rock through forest only to find a good road reaching to within 200ft coming around from the north. Coyote Rock is a modest outcrop and an easy class 2 scramble. On the west side of M1 in the Yuki Wilderness is the more interesting Swallow Rock. The side roads branching west from M1 have been blocked to mark the Wilderness boundary, but I used one of these, still quite serviceable on foot, to reach near to Swallow Rock. This is a large outcrop that makes a fun class 3 scramble, either from the north or southwest sides, the best bit of scrambling on the day. Its not very prominent from M1 as the other summits were, but well-worth a visit.

Haydon Rock

About three miles further north, just off the northwest side of M1, is Haydon Rock, a prominent outcrop that takes all of 10min to summit. It, too, lies in the Yuki Wilderness and the older road going near its summit has been decommissioned. Like Monkey Rock, it features a USFS benchmark from 1944. Views are not appreciably different from those atop Bald Mtn. The summit rocks are class 2-3 with some minor bushwhacking.

Buzzard Roost

Two and half miles further north along M1 is Buzzard Roost, the shortest and easiest of the day's summits, taking but a minute from the car. It sports little vegetation, making for open views, even if not very high. Whitish coating on the summit rocks suggests it might even be a favorite hangout for some of the many turkey vultures found in this area.

Etsel Ridge

With more than 700ft of prominence, it was a little surprising to find this summit the least interesting of the bunch. At the turnoff west of the highpoint is the Grizzly Flat Campsite, where I found 4-5 tents and gear set up but no people. Out hunting, I guessed. I parked by the new-looking bathroom and hiked up the deteriorating road no long suitable for low clearance. The hike gained little altitude along a road that melted into the forest, then about half a mile across a forest floor littered with downfall. The highpoint was impossible to find without a GPS and even with it became a randomized walk through the forest. No views, nothing of note to find anywhere near the highpoint.

Poison Rock/Peak 5,580ft

Another three miles to the northwest, along a lower section of Etsel Ridge is the named feature of Poison Rock, my last stop on M1. This is an exceedingly small outcrop, a class 1 hike from the southeast, but good views. Just northeast of the benchmarked highpoint is the foundation of what may have been a lookout at one time. After visiting, I wandered east along the low ridge just above the roadway looking for the highpoint of unnamed Peak 5,580ft with just over 300ft of prominence. Not much to find here, but better than Etsel Ridge, to be sure. Following my return to the car, I spent the next hour driving down the length of Etsel Ridge to its terminus at the Middle Fork of the Eel River, also the northern end of M1.

Leech Lake Mountain

5,000ft above and about 7mi north of the Middle Fork of the Eel River is another P1K. A not-so-bad dirt road leads up from Mendocino Pass Rd for 3,000ft over about 8mi. The road continues for another 7mi to areas higher in the Eel River drainage, but I parked where the road starts a downhill stint in order to hike the 3mi side road towards the summit from the south. This road is gated shut so even 4WD will get you no further. A large fallen tree across the road just past the gate ensures this. The hike is a leisurely one, a nice gradient rising more gradually after the first half mile where it crosses Pine Ridge (the South Ridge of Leech Lake Mtn) and traverses the west slopes up to the 6,200-foot level. Fire damage from years past is plentiful on the west side of the mountain. Leech Lake is a small body of water below the summit, completely dry this time of year. The road bypasses the summit on the west side as it continues around the north side. The last 400-500ft to the summit are cross-country via a number of possible routes. On the way up I followed a loose gully for no other reason than the interesting blue-gray color of the rock found there - it wasn't the best of choices due to the looseness.

I reached the top around 4:20p, a large redish-brown rock outcrop with outstanding views. A collection of six memorial plaques for various members of the Moore family have been installed just below to the west of the highpoint. The 1943 benchmark has the spelling as "Leach" which makes one wonder if the lake and mountain were misspelled on the maps (the blood suckers are not endemic to this area as far as I know). Tucked away under a rock was a plastic container serving as a geocache. It was the only register of any type I found on any of the day's summits. The last person to sign it back in May was John Vitz, to no great surprise. On the descent I hiked north a short distance before dropping west to pick up the road near where it goes over a small saddle, a much easier route than the one I'd used on the ascent. I tried to take a shortcut on the way back, attempting to shorten some of the meandering the road does to keep the gradient reasonable. It ended up being no faster dropping down a steep, narrow gully for about a quarter mile, but it wasn't bad, either. I got back to the gate around 5:20p, the whole outing taking less than 2.5hrs.

Buck Mountain

With a few hours of daylight remaining, I headed back down to Mendocino Pass Rd and followed it west to Round Valley. North of Round Valley are two P1Ks near the ends of two long, dirt/gravel roads. Heading north on Mina Road out of Round Valley, the pavement soon gave way to very good dirt roads. Narrow and winding, they are compacted and appear to be oiled to keep dust to a minimum. Various homesteads are found along the roadway for many miles. I took a right fork on Hull Valley Road and followed this for a number of miles until I was at the base on the southwest side of Buck Mtn where the road meets Hull Creek. I was sort of winging it at this point. Though the summit is on NF lands, most of the route appears to be in private hands, at least by perusing the maps. At the creek crossing where I started I found a locked gate, but none of the No Trepassing signs I expected. Just a single sign indicating No Campfires and other fire restrictions. Judging from other signs, at least some of lands I crossed appear to be part of a hunting club, but I saw no one during my two hour visit and no signs that anyone had driven through recently. I followed a good Jeep road up for almost 3mi as the sun made its way to the western horizon before I could reach the summit. Around 7:20p I made it to a 4-way junction on the southwest side of the summit with about a quarter mile to go. This last part was cross-country up steep, forested slopes with mild bushwhacking and some poison oak to watch out for. It was after 7:30p when I reached the summit where a benchmark is located and only partial views to the southwest to be had. I knew I'd be racing darkness to get back so I wasted no time in descending, following a different cross-country track (the ascent route was better) back to the road, and then the same road back to the start. It would be after 8p by the time I got back, but just light enough that I didn't need to dig out my headlamp.

After rinsing, I spent the night where I'd parked as it seemed a pretty remote, quiet and flat location. I would be surprised by several large trucks rumbling by in the early morning hours while it was still dark - no idea what they were up to or where they were going - I wouldn't have guessed there was much commercial business of any kind out here in the sticks. I had hoped to visit the other nearby P1K, Bald Mtn, the next day but was low on fuel and thought I might not have enough to get back to US101. As it turns out there is cheap gas in Round Valley at the Indian casino and I would easily have had enough - good information to know for a future visit...

Scott Hanson comments on 09/25/14:
I had a somewhat similar battery issue where it went dead twice and I had to get a jump to start my Ford Ranger truck. First time was my fault. I had heater fan on without truck running and that will drain battery fairly quickly. Second time I was listening to the radio without car running at my remote tree farm. After about 10 minutes the radio went off and I could not start the truck. Most batteries last 5 to 6 years and this battery was only four years old. I had the battery checked twice by dealer and he said it is fine. Finally, I told dealer I wanted a new battery, regardless of his evaluation. As he changed to new battery, he sheepishly told me the positive strap/cable was frayed so he replaced that. So for sure, if you are out in the middle of nowhere and your car won't start; check out all cables and straps going to or coming from battery. Finally, I am paranoid now and turn vehicle on while I listen to the radio.
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