Peak 6,938ft P300
Dinkey Mountain P500
Fence Meadow Lookout P500
Peak 5,223ft P300
Bald Mountain P300

Jun 8, 2020

With: Karl Fieberling

Bald Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX

This was a short, day and half trip to the Sierra National Forest. It was primarily a scouting effort to see what roads were open given COVID-19 concerns. Unlike Stanislaus NF which had most of the Forest Roads closed at least until Jun 15, Sierra NF had cleared many roads and were open for business around Memorial Day. We had driven in Sunday night so that we could get an early start in the morning. I had expected most of these to be near drive-ups, but each one turned into an actual hike that took about two hours, on average. Consequently we didn't get to some of the other summits I had planned, but we both enjoyed the collection we did, each summit a somewhat different than the others.

Peak 6,938ft

Marcus Sierra had recorded an ascent of this peak from the northeast a year earlier. He had reported some nasty brush on his route so I thought I would see if a route from the southwest might be better. It wasn't. Future visitors should note that 4WD vehicles can drive to the summit and perhaps study the satellite views better to discover their route, even if just hiking to the top. There are some sections of private property too, so these may or may not be a problem if using other routes. We drove in on FR10S49 which ended a bit earlier when brush encroached heavily onto the old road, no longer maintained. We follow the road on foot a short distance before starting up cross-country. Our ascent route ran into some heavy brush, then smack into the cliffiest side of the mountain. We redirected to the left to get through the cliffs, finding the brush relented for the last 300ft of gain, and actually quite nice. The summit is open to views, with Shaver Lake to the northwest and Bald Mtn (our last summit) prominently to the north. A few Forest Service signs just south of the summit indicate the boundary with private property on that side. Our descent route (to the northwest of our ascent route) worked much better, but still some bushwhacking.

Dinkey Mountain

Dinkey Mtn lies a little over a mile south of Dinkey Meadow and Camp El-O-Win on Dinkey Creek. A good Forest Road, somewhat paved, gets one to the east side of the mountain where a road fork is found. A lesser road can be used to get higher on the mountain, but it appears to see little maintenance. We spent 10min sawing branches so we could drive under one tree that had partially fallen across the road, but we didn't get all that much further. The road can be followed to the southeast side of the mountain and in combination with old logging roads and easy cross-country, we managed to get to the summit in about 20min with no real bushwhacking. Karl did manage to trip on some of the forest detritus and took a spill, but no permanent damage. No views from the summit buried in trees. This was the only summit on which we left a register today.

Fence Meadow Lookout

Our next effort was a long drive south from Dinkey Creek Rd out to Fence Meadow Lookout. This was mostly on another semi-paved road that most any vehicle can navigate. A spur road leads the last mile and a half to the summit, but it was gated shut when we arrived well within the posted visitor hours. Seems the lookout may no longer be manned and the gate permanently closed. We took 40min to hike the easy road to the summit where the boarded-up lookout sits atop the highest point. A set of large solar arrays powers a more modern microwave relay tower just north of the tower. An old outhouse sits with a grand view on the west side. The hatchway to the observation deck was locked shut.

Peak 5,223ft

This unnamed summit lies about 2mi north of Fence Meadow Lookout. The topo map shows a 4WD road getting close to the summit, but we found it no longer maintained and heavily covered in downfall, leaving us about a mile of footwork from the summit. We'd have abandoned even trying to follow the road through the mess if the alternative cross-country hadn't looked so abysmal. As we dutifully climbed over or under one large trunk after another, we wondered if it was even possible to get to the top. Most of the pine trees in the whole area around the summit look to have succumbed to some sort of insect infestation (thus all the downfall). Only the relatively few cedars seem to have escaped the pestilence. With so much sunshine available, the brush has grown thick, and combined with the abundant downfall, the cross-country seemed out of the question. By the time we got to the southeast side of the summit wer were about a quarter mile away and the cross-country looked more reasonable though still most unpleasant. We hesitated for only a few seconds before plunging in, perhaps so as to leave us little opportunity to change our minds. We found the going better than expected, but a slow haul, still. The heavier brush had given way to a spongey, knee-high plant with white flowers and a pungent odor, covering large tracts of the landscape and allowing decent progress. With only a few hundred feet to go, the slope turns steep and the manzanita takes over, presenting a significant wall. We took separate paths through it, myself tunnelling under, and Karl finding a circuitous but clear path. We were both surprised to find ourselves on the summit ridge after about 45min's effort. A short walk through more of the spongey ground cover got us to the highest point. There were no views, but just getting to the summit of this one seemed reward enough. A peak only a peakbagger could appreciate.

Bald Mountain

This was the highest of the day's summits. There are several reports on PB describing a hikers' trail from the south starting at the Summit Meadow Campground. There is also a jeep road called the Bald Mtn OHV Trail to allow one to drive to the summit. The satellite view shows a dozen vehicles at the summit, a large granite dome overlooking Shaver Lake. Though not the most difficult OHV route in the area, it is not for the faint of heart. We drove about half of the 2.5mi distance to the summit, the toughest bit of driving I'd done in the jeep yet, banging the undercarraige on half a dozen road sections. Plenty of large rocks and strong roots to keep you jouncing about in your vehicle. With a little over a mile to the summit, I figured we could walk about as fast I could drive it. At the summit we found two young guys, a small child and another jeep almost identical to mine - 2018, white, soft top. But he had 40" tires giving him another 3.5" of clearance over mine. The jeep had Colorado plates and the owner was in the middle of a several months-long roadtrip across the Western US. He originally hailed from the area and had brought up his local friend with his young son to their old stomping ground. They looked like they had been up there for much of the day, drinking, relaxing, playing with a pair of remote-control toy jeeps that the 6yr-old seemed to love. Nearby, the lookout tower has been converted to a covered observation deck about three stories high, open to the public. We climbed to the top to better take in the views that stretch over a huge swath of the national forest and west to the Central Valley. After saying goodbye to our new friends, we headed back down the OHV Trail to our jeep and returned back to the pavement along Rock Creek. We found a creekside place nearby to make camp, the large fire ring amply supplied with firewood that would keep us warm that evening. A very nice day...


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