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.
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.
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...
This page last updated: Mon Nov 6 18:21:15 2023
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