Panoche Hills HP 4x P1K
Peak 1,940ft P300
Panoche BM
Nonada Hill
Peak 2,061ft

Tue, Dec 15, 2020
Etymology
Panoche Hills HP
Panoche BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3
Panoche Hills HP previously climbed Sat, Mar 21, 2020

With a free day, I decided to head to the Panoche Hills for some unfinished business. I had last visited in March with plans to do some of the same peaks, but was stopped by horribly muddy conditions that made driving unsafe even with 4WD, and hiking unpleasant. When I came back a month later, they had closed the area for the summer season a day ahead of schedule, just as COVID concerns were causing the first of the state's lockdowns. The hills are still quite brown (or "golden" as we like to say in the Golden State), but the rainy season was upon us, and it had already rained a bit only two days earlier. New green shoots of fresh grass were poking up in many places, though not yet enough to change the golden color from a distance. I hoped this rain wasn't enough to set in the muddy conditions and was happy to find them nearly ideal - damp enough to keep the dust down, but no mud sticking to the tires. I would end up driving almost 20mi on the dirt roads throughout the range, a thoroughly enjoyable time with cool temps and blue skies.

Peak 1,940ft

There are several ways to reach this one. David Naylor used a route from the west starting at the picnic view area. One could drive P2 towards the FAA tower to get closer, but it still involves a drop deep into a gorge. Marcus Sierra used a route from the south that follows a ridgeline to reach it, a much longer hike, but all on road and use trail. I used this latter option, driving the rougher road section that Marcus had hiked. This made for a roundtrip effort of only 3.5mi with about 1,200ft of gain. The starting point was almost 400ft higher than the summit (as all three hikes today would be), the hike still involving a deep drop, just not quite as deep as the western approach. The use trail appears to have been made by motorcyles at some time in the past, perhaps kept active by hunters and deer. I was a little concerned that the tall grasses would be home to ticks, but was happy to find none all day. The peak is a little island among the various canyons that flow easterly to the Central Valley. The final approach is quite steep, but the footing was good on loose soils. I left a register at the summit before returning the same way.

Panoche BM

This one is found just off the roadway I was following towards Nonada Hill. It has little prominence, but it does sport a benchmark. I figured I better tag it in case someone puts it on PB and causes me regrets. Better yet, I put it on PB when I got home so that I could be the source of frustration for others. Hah!

Nonada Hill

I hadn't planned to do this beforehand since it has less than 100ft of prominence. The name itself is spanish for "a triviality" or "mere nothing", which is quite appropriate. I was following a jeep road that I was hoping would take me down to about 1,100ft to approach Nonada Hill from the north, but encountered a locked gate while I was still within BLM lands. I then backtracked to a turn in the road about 3/4mi northwest of the summit and started from there, again with a large drop to start things off. No real trails this time, though grazing cattle had left useable tracks over the years. I ended up making a loop of it because I mistook the higher Pt. 1,622ft for the peak, about half a mile southwest of Nonada Hill. I could have easily avoided this detour if I'd looked at the GPSr, but I had thought it too obvious to consult the electronics. It was a nice hike regardless, taking me to the edge of the BLM lands where the summit is located. There were a few BLM signs found just south of the summit, marking the boundary between private ranchlands and BLM lands. After leaving a register in the large cairn adorning the summit, I dropped northwest into Marca Canyon before starting back up to the jeep half a mile to the west and 600ft higher.

Peak 2,061ft

Though only a few miles to the south, there was much driving for this next summit due to Capita Canyon, a deep gorge separating it from Nonada Hill. I parked off P1 at a gate at the start of the ridgeline I would follow. The gate marks the boundary of a Wilderness Study Area and vehicles are prohibited (though it looks like a few motorcycles have gone this way in the past few years). This would be the longest hike of the day at almost 4mi, but not much more than 1,000ft of gain. Again, my starting point was almost 400ft higher than the summit I was visiting. I had hiked about half the distance of this ridge six years earlier when I was visiting the higher Peak 2,281ft, less than a mile further south. The ridge made for a pleasant hike, taking about an hour and three quarters for the roundtrip effort. I left a third register at the summit.

Panoche Hills HP

This was the fourth time for visiting this summit, the highest in the range. It's a short 1/4mi from the main P1 road I was following on my way back out, and pretty much a freebie. Unlike last time when the mud made it too dangerous, this time I was able to drive the spur road all the way to the summit, making it a drive-up. I wouldn't recommend it without high-clearance and 4WD, however.

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This page last updated: Fri Dec 18 09:32:40 2020
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