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I was in Northern California to climb some P1Ks in the Coast Ranges found along SR36 between Red Bluff and Eureka on a four day roadtrip. I had spent the second night parked around 5,000ft near Horsehead Mtn which had been the last summit I'd visited the day before (and incidently, is the triple point where three National Forests meet - Mendocino, Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity). I was up early, breakfasting while I drove the van back down the mountains to the Waterspout TH near the end of the pavement on Forest Road 27 at a saddle. There were several USFS Hotshots trucks parked there, taking up pretty much all of the parking at the small turnout area. I parked up the road a short distance and headed off on the trail shortly after 6a.
The trail begins to climb up Doe Ridge, which eventually connects with the NW Ridge of Shell Mtn. The trail travels variously through forest and brush, more of the latter as one gains elevation. Lupine and other flowers were found blooming in abundance in places where the forest had left large openings. A few large junipers can be found adding accent to the ridgeline as views open up with increasing elevation. The trail follows the ridgeline until it reaches a shallow saddle just northwest of the summit. Here the trail traverses the north side of the peak, requiring a last short stretch of steep cross-country to reach the summit. No register, but a small cairn and views open in all directions. As I was heading down from the summit I heard voices and caught sight of half the trail crew marching off along the trail below me, already on the section traversing Shell's north side by the time I reached it. If they saw me coming down, I had no indication of it as my wave was not returned.
I returned back through a nearly deserted Sulphur Camp after 10a, save for the camp manager who was busy tidying things up. It was 11:30a by the time I returned to the Waterspout TH and the van (the name "Waterspout" refers to a spring found on the west side of the road and TH, in the headwaters of the Mad River, not along the trail I followed across the Eel River).
I found the highpoint is not so easy to find. There is a point to the north that LoJ had identified, where the topo map shows a spot elevation of 4743. I visited this point first and noted the elevation on the GPSr before exploring a second, similar contour about half a mile to the south that seemed to be 10-15ft higher (this is the spot that LoJ now identifies as the highpoint). I explored this long stretch of ridgeline before satisfying myself that there weren't any hidden, higher spots that I might have missed. I returned to the van to guzzle some Gatorade before riding west to Hettenshaw Peak. This road, Forest Road 2S30, is not suitable for all vehicles, but easily ridden on the bike. I rode only half a mile before realizing that past a saddle the road traverses the north side of Hettenshaw. I left the bike on the road and headed cross-country up steep but manageable terrain to the top of Hettenshaw in about 20min. The rocky summit provides good views for 180 degrees, much better than those from Mad River Ridge. There is also a 1948 USFS survey marker embedded in the rock.
I headed back to the van and proceeded to drive south on the main road along the crest, tagging two easy bonus peaks along the way that I had passed by earlier. The first of these was Smith Peak, a cross-country jaunt that took all of 20min roundtrip. No views at the forested summit. Peak 3,949ft proved nearly identical in terms of effort and views. Following this second summit, I drove back down via 3S05. At the bottom of the grade I should have turned right to return to the pavement, but instead I turned left and drove north to explore a small summit called Perrys Knob along the Mad River. I gave up without really trying when I discovered the base seems to be all private property. Needing to get over the Mad River to return to the pavement, I went over a wet, rocky crossing that nearly left me stranded in the middle of the river. I was surprised to find it as deep as it was and the van nearly lost traction as it bumped and ground its way across. I left at least one splash guard in the river on that effort, only discovered a few days later when I was surprised at the damage I'd caused.
After returning to the van I showered and did some more driving to position myself for the next day's hike on Buck Mountain. It was much cooler at the higher elevation and I would sleep quite well...
This page last updated: Mon Jun 20 18:18:18 2016
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