Buck Mountain P900
Larabee Buttes East P1K
Chalk Mountains HP P1K
Chalk Rock

Fri, Jun 3, 2016
Buck Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4


It was the last of four days spent in the Coast Ranges of Northern California, tracking down P1Ks on both sides of state route 36 between Red Bluff and Eureka. I had spent the night parked less than a mile from the summit of Buck Mountain, sleeping at an elevation around 4,400ft. It had been in the 90s at lower elevations, so I was happy to get extra cooling with what elevation I could manage, and slept comfortably undisturbed off the side of Forest Road 1N08.

Buck Mountain

Buck Mtn actually comes up short of a P1K at 985ft of prominence, but it was close enough to be on my radar. I drove Forest Road 1N10 from SR36 west of Dinsmore, then 1N08 branching off that to the northwest side of Buck Mtn where the road begins to traverse around the west and south sides of the mountain. These two roads are navigable by any vehicle. Spur roads branching off from this point can be used to get one closer to the summit with a high clearance, but the last 1/3mi is cross-country through the woods. As with most of the summits in this area, the top was pretty blase, consisting of a small clearing with poor views. I wandered back through the woods via a different route just for the change of scenery, the whole outing taking but 45min.

Larabee Buttes East

Back down to the highway, I drove further west to Larabee Valley, then southwest on Hidden Valley Rd to reach BLM lands on the SE side of Larabee Buttes. There are two main summits, the SE being higher with just over 1,000ft of prominence. I used roads not shown on the topo map (but nicely depicted in the satellite view) to get within a quarter mile of the east summit on its southeast side. The cross-country route goes rather steeply up from the road through forest understory and modest brush to reach a rocky summit surrounded by trees and brush. I scrambled to the highest one for another partial view that was as uninspiring as that on Buck Mtn. Roundtrip time was about 35min.

Charles Mtn

Located about 6-7miles southeast of Larabee Buttes, Charles Mtn has 940ft of prominence. I had identified a road off Hidden Valley Rd that I might use to reach it, but I found this gated as private property on my way down from Larabee Buttes. I might have tossed the bike over the gate and rode up anyway, but it did not seem to be lightly used and I didn't want to take my chances on this one. Later I found there may be a much longer, but slightly more legal way to reach it from the roads I used for Black Lassic a few days earlier. I would leave this for a future project.

Chalk Mtns

So far, I had done a lot of driving for very little actual hiking and was not having a great day. The Chalk Mtns, a small sub-range that lies entirely on private property, has a highpoint with nearly 1,800ft of prominence but I did not hold out much hope of being able to reach it. It seemed like this was going to be a bust of a day, pretty much. But I gave it a shot anyway and come back far from disappointed. Back on SR36, I drove west to Bridgeville and then south on paved Alderpoint Rd. After a few miles I found the turnoff for Chalk Mtn Rd to the right. Though signs on both sides of the road said Private Property, another sign seemed to indicate some sort of easement, so I figured maybe the road would take me higher to public lands. Up I drove. The dirt road was well-graded but steep, and the van chugged up it like a trooper though temperatures were hovering around 90F by this time. I got a few miles up the road, passing by a few buildings and signs of recent activity before confronting a silver pickup truck heading down the road in the opposite direction. Busted. Or so I thought.

I rolled down the window and paused to talk with an elderly man who I quickly learned was the owner of the mountain. Les, the fourth generation of the original settlers here (aside from the native americans, of course), let me know that I was trespassing on his road and land, but didn't seem upset. We discussed briefly my confusion (real, this time) on his signage which he acknowledged. The easement doesn't refer to public access, but to his inability to sub-divide the land for development. He wasn't really upset that I was there and offered to let me continue my visit if I let him tell me about his land. Some of this was historical information of interest, but much was a diatribe against the various state and federal agencies that he has butted heads with over the years. The water agency didn't like his well-graded road because it doesn't meet their erosion mitigation requirements. The Forest Service was somehow responsible for driving off all the deer (though later he explained that he used to sell $40K worth of hunting permits on his land before the deer disappeared). He logs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in what seems to be a responsible manner, but had to stop selling rock and sand from his quarry because it isn't a renewable resource which drew the ire again of the Forest Service. His gravity fed gas pump had another agency's panties in a bunch. He went on for about 15min all told before I was able to continue on my way.

As I continued up the road via the directions Les had given before we parted, I noted an interesting rock outcrop that I came to find was Chalk Rock, about a mile east of the highpoint. Les had told me I'd be unable to reach the highpoint, but that didn't discourage me from trying. Perhaps I could get Chalk Rock as a consolation? I passed a high, manmade lake that Les had described and ten minutes later found my was to the south side of the highpoint. A five minute hike over easy cross-country terrain saw me to the highpoint where again, there were no views. That was much easier than what Les had led me to believe, but then maybe he thought I wanted to drive to the top. I drove back down towards the lake and headed northeast over more cross-country about a half mile to Chalk Rock through heavy forest. If I didn't have the point marked on my GPSr, I'd probably have had a lot more trouble finding it. The forest gives way to heavy manzanita along a ridge leading to the highpoint. An old trail cut through the manzanita kept me from having to do some stiff bushwhacking. A short bit of class 3 got me to the top of the highest rock with a superb view overlooking the countryside in all directions - what a surprisingly cool find. A 1981 USGS survey marker is found here as well, but no register.

I drove back down the mountain, stopping at his home about half a mile south of Chalk Rock. I wanted to thank him for letting me tour his mountain and we spent another 40min or so talking - mostly Les talking, that is. I learned more about his quarry, his Mad Max truck (still uses it), his dog Rally, wife Janet, and other family members that work the mountain with him. The home is two stories and quite large. At one time they tried to run a bed and breakfast, but county health rules made it too expensive to put in the equipment deemed necessary for such a business. Les was quite friendly by this time and invited me in for lunch. I declined, kinda worried his wife would look at me like, "Les, what have you brought home this time?" Before we parted on the best of terms, I asked him if it would be ok if I gave his name and phone number to others who might be interested in visiting his mountain range. He seemed most happy to - "We don't get many visitors, can you tell?" he said with a big grin. It was obvious he loved talking to people. So for anyone wanting to tag this range highpoint and P1K:

Les and Janet Barnwell
Chalk Mt Ranch
Home: (707) 777-3416
Cell: (707) 499-8293

Following my most interesting and unexpected visit to the Chalk Mountains HP, I decided to call it a day around noon and begin the long drive back to San Jose via US101 - a very long drive, but very scenic...

Sean C comments on 05/22/19:
Unfortunately Les passed away two months ago. To ask for permission to visit Chalk Mtns, please reach out to his son Brandon 707-777-3616.
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