Peak 5,383ft
Peak 5,523ft P300
Peak 4,566ft P300
Canyon BM P500

Sat, Oct 28, 2023
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I was in the Trinity National Forest for the last of a short three day roadtrip. Much of the peakbagging was being done with the Jeep, but today would be more hiking and less jeeping. I'd spent the night camped at a quiet turnout along Big Creek Rd, near where it goes over the Hayfork Divide.

Peak 5,383ft - Peak 5,523ft - Peak 4,566ft

I slept until after 7a and didn't get started on my first hike until nearly 8a. These three peaks are all located north of Big Creek Rd. The Jeep Trail I had hoped to drive had been closed to vehicles by some bulldozing work, so I set off on foot for a 6.5mi hike with about 2,700ft of gain. Had I done more homework, I would have discovered there was an alternate road, 35N05Y just a short distance to the east that I could have used to get close to the first two peaks. Instead, I followed the closed section of the Jeep trail north along the Hayfork Divide for about 2/3mi to reach a saddle southeast of Peak 5,383ft. Here I met the still useable road that I might have used. I left the road system to climb the ridge heading northwest up towards the summit, turning west and southwest in the upper reaches to arrive at the first summit after 40 minutes of work. Haze and fog filled much of the valleys visible below. To the west were Limestone Ridge and the Hayfork Divide HP that I had visited the previous day. Much of the surrounding terrain had been consumed in the large fire complex from 2021. I left a register here before heading NE along the summit ridge towards the next summit, Peak 5,523ft, less than a mile in that direction.

It took about 30min to get between the two summits, both along the Hayfork Divide, separated by a saddle with a 300-foot drop. I used a combination of cross-country and Forest roads to make my way to the small outcrop found at the highpoint of Peak 5,523ft. A road not shown on the topo map continues over the summit to the northeast, but does not continue very far. After leaving a second register, I followed the road as much as I could until it devolved into the forest understory, then turned SE to follow the connecting ridgeline through Rattlesnake Gap to Peak 4,566ft. This summit is 1,000ft lower than the other two, leaving me with a long cross-country descent through a mix of burned and unburned forest for about a mile. Luckily the forest understory was mostly clear of debris, making for easy walking. I found the forest unburned and somewhat brushy when I reached Rattlesnake Gap (saw no rattlesnakes), but once I started up Peak 4,566ft, the route had been mostly cleared by the fire. It took about 40min to reach the summit from the previous one, a good deal faster than I had guessed it would take.

After returning to Rattlesnake Gap, I ascended about 300 vertical feet of the ridge I'd descended from Peak 5,523ft, then started looking for a traversing route to the southwest to help me avoid going back over the first two summits. With the help of some animal trails, this worked nicely to bypass Peak 5,523ft, getting me to 35N05Y a short distance below Hayfork Divide. I should have just followed this good Forest road south to bypass the first summit easily on its east side, but pilot error had me ascending back up to the saddle between the first two summits before then bypassing the first one. This made for some extra unnecessary gain (and then loss), but I eventually rejoined my original route and followed that back to the Jeep at Big Creek Rd, a little over 3.5hrs for the outing.

Canyon BM

It wasn't yet noon when I returned to the Jeep, leaving me with some extra time before I had to start for home. I drove down the east side of Hayfork Divide on Big Creek Rd to the Trinity River, hoping I could then return south to SR3 where I had some other short summits left undone. I found that the roads do connect to SR3, instead spilling out to the north to SR299 at Junction City. A quick perusal of the Peakbagger app found the nearest summit to this junction to be Canyon BM, a summit with more than 600ft of prominence just north of the town and adjacent to the Trinity River. Sean Casserly had been to the summit in 2020, but had left to TR or track that I could use to save some effort. As I was driving west (really north at this point), I could see that Canyon BM was very steep on the west and east sides, no easy one, this. The peak lies on BLM land with a campground on its west side. This seemed as good a starting point as any. It turns out the campground has no Day Use, camping only, meaning a fee must be paid to park inside. I parked outside along SR299 and then headed into the campground on foot to give the West Ridge a go.

From the highway, this seemed like the most straightforward route up. There is no trail, but the mountain had partially burned in the 2017 Helena Fire, the brush not yet having returned to full strength. I had to weave my way along the steep ridgeline, dodging brush areas and using weak animal trails where I could. I was happy that I did not get cliffed out near the top where it gets steepest, reaching the airy little summit after 30 minutes' effort. There are very nice views of the Trinity River, its drainage, and the town of Junction City below. This would have been a very good summit on which to leave a register, but I had forgotten to restock my pack after the earlier hike. Sensing the end of my fun, I decided to take an alternate way back for the added adventure. I followed the summit ridge north down to a small saddle, then dropped steeply down through forest and loose talus, not really dangerous, but probably less fun for an ascent route. I returned to the campground (that looked to be completely empty) and the Jeep, finishing not long after 1p. Now for the five hour drive back to San Jose...

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