Peak 1,593ft
Peak 1,634ft P300

Thu, Dec 17, 2020
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With another free day this week, I returned to the Panoche Valley area, this time to visit a few summits in the Griswold Hills. They sit in a low, rolling hills area at the intersection of the Panoche, Griswold and Tumey Hills. Panoche Creek flows just north of the peaks, separating them from the Panoche Hills north of the creek. Marcus Sierra had visited the higher Peak 1,634ft a year earlier, using some old ranch roads from the east, following Panoche Creek upstream. It's a longish route, but makes the most of BLM lands before crossing into a land preserve upon which the summit is located. He returned south on a good dirt road through the preserve to reach Panoche Rd, followed by five miles along the latter road to return to his starting point. I decided to make a smaller loop, going over Peak 1,593ft enroute (it has just under 300ft of prominence, likely why Marcus ignored it), and returning through a drainage to avoid hiking along the road. The weather report called for light rain overnight, tapering off in the earlier morning. I left an hour later than I had on my previous visit, to give the rain time to finish up and the ground to dry some. The rain was still working its way across the Diablo Range as I was driving in on Panoche Rd from Interstate 5, but the road was in good shape and none of the terrible mud one encounters in wetter conditions. I parked just off the road where it goes through BLM lands, and started off around 8:20a.

I went over a fence on the north side of the road (I'm not sure why it there as it's BLM land, but I suspect there are grazing rights and this keeps the cattle off the road), then started up the gently sloped hillsides heading northwest. Peak 1,593ft was a little over a mile away in that direction, about 900ft above the road level. The cross-country travel here is very easy as the hills are almost entirely grass-covered with very little brush and no trees. Some old bottles, shell casings and other detritus can be found, evidence of hunters who most commonly visit these areas. Some rain showers hit me within about 10min, a last weak effort of the overhead clouds to lighten their load before moving across the Central Valley and into the Sierra Nevada. I quickly donned a rain jacket and covered my pack, but my pants and boots got pretty wet. My boots began to pick up some sticky mud, but thankfully that didn't last very long. My pants would be dry by the time I reached the first summit, but my boots would stay wet for most of the outing.

The highpoint of Peak 1,593ft is an open, rounded bump, one of many along the ridge I traveled towards Peak 1,634ft. I reached the summit an hour after I had started out, the sky now beginning to clear, with dark clouds retreating off to the east. There are fine views of the Tumey and Griswold Hills to the south, Panochoe Valley to the west, Peak 2,389ft in the Panoche Hills to the north. A short distance north of the highpoint, I passed by an old, wooden marker left by surveyors to mark the intersection of four townships, their section numbers written on the four sides of the post. I continued following the divide between two drainages, with several intermediate bumps between the summits, separated by about 2mi. I dropped down ravine to the drainage on my left before starting the final climb up to Peak 1,634ft. There are two points vying for highpoint honors, the further one a quarter mile to the west proving about 10ft higher. A transmission line runs to the north through the Panoche Creek drainage. A spur line on telephone poles taps off this running south across the lower east summit. The poles follow along the ranch road heading south, the same one Marcus used to return to Panoche Rd. After taking in the views from the highpoint (not significantly different than those from the first summit), I returned to the east summit and turned southeast to start my return. I intended to follow the southwest side of the drainage that abuts Peak 1,593ft on the west side as it flows southeast back towards my starting point along Panoche Rd. In hindsight it would have been better to follow the road south from the east summit for about a mile as my route had me crossing several spur drainages with some minor drops before landing on the descending ridgeline I had intended. Still, this was a pretty easy and enjoyable route, following cow trails through the drainage, eventually dropping me into the bottom of the drainage with about a mile and a half to go. Motorcycles had been driven here sometime in the past, though infrequently. More often, cows made improvements in straightening the route and pushing back the encrouching brush. As such, it made for a very pleasant walk. I took my time, examining some colorful rock that fell from a small cliff above, picking up various interesting rocks of quartz, mica and other minerals. The mica in particular is ubiquitous throughout the region, flashing brightly in the sunlight when reflected at the right angle. A fenceline with a wire gate crossed over the drainage. Though both sides are BLM lands, it likely marks the boundary between grazed and ungrazed BLM lands in this area. The motorcycle track gets better on the other side of the fence, leaving me with a very nice trail to follow for the remainer of the way out. The drainage opens up shortly before reaching the roadway, with the jeep parked a short distance down from where the drainage crosses the road. It wasn't yet noon, but time to head home. A most enjoyable time exploring this remote corner of the range at the tail end of a small storm...

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