Fri, Feb 20, 2015
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Mike White's Trinity Alps & Vicinity describes a loop hike to Kanaka Peak which can no longer be done. The eastern trail was part of a burn some years back and the trail was never rebuilt (which mostly involves removing tons of downfall), according to a knowledgeable ranger I talked with at the Visitor Center later in the day. Luckily I had planned to do the west side of the loop first and did not get lost before I had even started. The gate to the TH was closed for the winter at the Peltier Bridge Campground, so it was necessary to park here. I placed my Federal Lands Pass on the dash and started up the road from the gate at 7a. Some downfall would have made driving to the trailhead moot even without the locked gate. I reached the signed TH 20min later and spent the next hour and a half hiking the trail to the summit. Most of this trail is an old logging road that climbs to a saddle west of the summit, with just the last portion of the trail an actual single track. After intially crossing Paige Boulder Creek, the trail passes over a few smaller water courses and one minor cascade. Poison oak grows along the trail in the upper reaches where more sunlight filters down. For the most part views are lacking until near the top, though one can get fleeting views of Whiskeytown Lake and Monarch Mtn. A nice bench is located just below the summit, but it offers poor views. The summit features views stretching off the south side as far as the air quality allows. Those views to the north are partially blocked by trees. To the west rises the ridgeline leading another 2,500ft higher to South Fork Mtn and it was to this that I next devoted some attention.
My first effort was to return to the saddle west of Kanaka (where I had cached a Powerade bottle) and explore following the ridgeline directly. I didn't get three feet from the trail before I judged the brush simply too much for the distance involved (a mile and quarter to reach an old road higher on the ridge). I went down the trail to where the single track starts and noted the old logging road continuing upwards but heavily overgrown. The NPS has placed Area Closed signs here. Undeterred, I followed the old road about 50yds before the easy part ended in a tangle of thicket. Looking around me, I could see poison oak just about everywhere underfoot. This wasn't going to work and I soon gave up. South Fork Mtn would have to wait for a "Plan C". I returned to the campground shortly before 10:30a to consider a more serious effort for the remainder of the day.
As expected, the hike is not a particularly good one. A pair of motorcycles came roaring up the road soon after I had started out, not to be seen again. I surmised they had descended the west side access road back to Coggins Park and Buckhorn Summit. Much of the hike is through forest sans views and I found the road dusty and often rocky. After about an hour, views begin to open up towards the north to Whiskeytown Lake with Mt. Shasta poking up in the distance more than 60mi away. Higher, the views open up towards the east and south. In the last mile and a half the forest gives way to thick manzanita that thins only at the top. It took over two hours to reach the antennae at the east end of the summit plateau. A sign here warns of Engineer on Duty as a deterrent to would-be trespassers, though I doubted its effectiveness. I've always thought, Dangerous Radio Transmission Levels was a more effective deterrent, though ironically, not to engineers who understand the harmlessness of most electromagnetic radiation.
Bypassing the antenna area, I headed to the western summit, wandering across snow and manzanita without the help of a road but rather some breaks in the brush. Reaching each of several likely highest points I found no real summit, no benchmark and no register. Looking northeast, the antenna area appeared to be higher so I returned to pay it a visit as well. I found no engineer on duty as I walked past a green building to scramble up the large rockpile marking the highpoint (the GPS indicated it was some 10-15ft higher than the west summit). While the west summit has a better view looking west to Bully Choop and across the range, the better views are from the east summit where one can look down on Whiskeytown Lake and east across the Sacramento Valley to Mt. Lassen. Skies were a bit hazy today so the views weren't all that far-reaching. With some jogging on the way down, I managed to get back to Sheep Camp before 3p, the descent taking just over an hour.
I stopped at the Visitor Center on my way back to SR299 where I found the helpful ranger mentioned earlier. The place was empty on a Friday afternoon so I was able to monopolize her attention. She had all sorts of useful information about trails and conditions, far more than I've usually found with NPS personnel. She even knew some things about the BLM OHV area north of Whiskeytown that I was interested in and produced a most helpful map from her collection under the counter. The Chappie Shasta OHV area is jointly managed by BLM/USFS and contains several P1Ks and three CC summits. With the help of this map I spent the rest of the afternoon driving to the westside entrance off East Fork Rd. Though steep with some loose gravel, I managed to get the van to a saddle at 3,600ft where I would start my hiking the next day. I had the place to myself, far from civilization, it would seem. With a sky full of stars overhead and a cold chill in the air, life was good and I slept well that evening...
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