I was in the Sierra foothills on either side of the Kings River, the second
of two days taking advantage of unseasonably cool September weather to visit
some low elevation summits. It was as much a chance to explore new USFS roads
as it was to peakbag, the hikes being modest in length.
This was the highest summit of the day, not saying much at just over 3,000ft.
It is located on the north side of the river, above Balch Camp to the west. I
had spent the night camped at a saddle just north of the summit. In the morning
I drove the rough road to its end, close enough to make it less than a
10min hike to the summit up the SW Ridge. Clouds and haze were lingering from
the previous day, marring views, but one could see down to the
Kings River and even some sunlight peeking in shortly after
sunrise. Some lichen-covered granite blocks hold the high ground at the
I drove down to the Kings River, then east from Bailey Bridge on the dirt/gravel
E. Trimmer Springs Rd until I was below Peak 2,683ft. It's a 1,500-foot
climb in half a mile up the SW Ridge, taking me a little under
an hour. The area had been burned in the 2015 Rough Fire, one of the largest in
the range up to that time. At these lower elevations the trees are not densely
packed, allowing some of the trees to survive while others weren't so lucky.
There is little brush to contend with on the south-facing slopes, just
lots of grass and thistles which become entangled in shoelaces and socks. Lots
of nice views of the surrounding Sierra NF to the north and the Sequoia
NF to the south. I returned back down the same route, taking
an hour and a half in all.
I drove back to Bailey Bridge and crossed to the south side of the Kings River.
A lesser road then follows the south side of the river to the east, past Rodgers
Crossing and further to the Mill Flat CG. I turned south at the campground and
followed the Forest road up Mill Flat Creek past Crabtree (where a few
homesteads are found) to a junction where the main road climbs up to the south.
I parked here for the outing to Peak 2,589ft. The main obstacle is the
crossing of Mill Flat Creek, dry at this time of year, but still brushy
and rife with poison oak that must be avoided. Once across the creek, the hike
is much like the previous one, up steep, grassy slopes for more than 1,000ft.
There is much cow grazing here, and the cattle paths can be used to
ascend most of the steep section. A barbed-wire fence is encountered on
the summit ridge, not in the best shape, but probably still able to
keep cattle on one side or the other. I crossed over the fence a few times on my
way along the ridge, depending on which side seemed to offer easier
travel. I reached the summit about 50min after starting out. I had
considered continuing east on the ridge to Peak 3,345ft, but the
distance of almost 2mi dissuaded me. I had hoped I might find a use trail along
this ridge to make it more appealing, but alas I found none. I would save that
one for another time. Heading back down, I chose to descend the
South Slopes more directly to Mill Flat Creek, hoping to pick
up the trail shown on the topo map that follows the creek. Sadly, the trail sees
little or no traffic, and I found no signs of it until I was nearly back to
my starting point. No advantage to the descent route that I could find.
I drove a short distance uphill along the road branch following Davis Creek,
looking for a junction that no longer exists. The topo map shows 12S02
climbing halfway up to Peak 2,830ft before veering east and dropping to an
abandoned Rancheria site along Mill Flat Creek. I parked at the bottom of the
hill overlooking Davis Creek and went off in search of the old road on
my way to the peak. I found it soon enough, much of which was still useable
for hiking though no longer vehicles. Where it branches east, a
cow trail takes one higher along the NW Ridge, nearly to the
summit. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake until I got to the final
200ft where a tangle of talus, brush and poison oak combine
to give one pause. I was too close to let the poison oak stop me, so I pushed
through (carefully), figuring I'd dump my clothes when I got back to the Jeep if
necessary. After a few false starts, I finally found a route up the west side
that worked without serious thrashing. I left a register under the
rocks at the summit, figuring it won't see much traffic over the next few
decades. The register is more likely to get torched in a fire before it gets
another entry. I found an alternate way off the south side, got startled by
a rattlesnake while working through the jungly talus, then circled back
to collect my trekking poles where I'd left them when the brush got
thick. I worked my way back down the mountain via the cow trails and
old road, returning to the Jeep my 1p. I drove down to the
Kings River and stopped
at one of the deserted dayuse areas to take a quick dip in the river. Chilled
but refreshed, I changed into some clean clothes and headed for home...