Peak 7,322ft P300
Peak 7,536ft P300
Peak 7,897ft P300 PD
Peak 7,887ft P300
Peak 7,830ft P300
Peak 8,271ft P300

Mon, May 11, 2020

With: Karl Fieberling

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2

The heatwave that had spread across the southern half of the state was being replaced by a cold front and a weak Pacific storm that would bring some rain and snow to the northern part of the state. I noted the Southern Sierra would remain dry, cool and windy, not a bad combination for a few days of peakbagging. Recently retired, Karl was as eager as I to take another break from COVID-19 shelter-in-place, and separately we drove out to the Kennedy Meadow area for three days of fun. We slept the first night just off the paved Kennedy Meadow Rd, near the trailhead we would use for a loop around Scodie Meadow in the Sacatar Trail Wilderness north of the pavement and west of the Sierra Crest. Our route would entail about 12mi and more than 3,600ft of gain, taking us 7.5hrs. Afterwards I went off on my own for a last summit before calling it a day.

Scodie Meadow Loop

William Scodie was an early pioneer who lived where the small town of Onyx now lies along SR278. The Scodie Mtns above the town were named for him. So apparently was this 6,000-foot elevation meadow almost 20mi to the northeast. The large meadow is surrounded by eight summits, most of them along or near the Sierra Crest. I had been to three of these on previous occasions, so today's outing was designed to collect the remaining five. All of the peaks lie within the Sacatar Trail Wilderness though the meadow itself does not. I had thought we would be able to drive a dirt road into the meadow for a shorter outing, but the road was gated only about half a mile from the pavement, leaving us an extra two miles of hiking each way on the old roadbed.

We started out from the locked gate at 6:40a, reaching the southern edge of the meadow and the foundation of an old homestead in about 15min. A good deal of local quartz stone and cement were used to make steps and walls. A concrete foundation was surrounded on one side by what once was a courtyard. All other traces of the home that once stood here have been removed, probably by the BLM. Picturesque Scodie Meadow stretches for several miles, green but drying quickly now that the snow in the region has all melted. There are petrified cow patties telling of past grazing, but there seems to be none in recent years. A mile past the old homestead, we came to a 4-way junction and turned right on a spur road. This spur road forks again, with one branch going north and the other south of our first summit, Peak 7,322ft. We took the north branch then cross-country up to our summit. In what would become a habit of sorts on each summit, we rested up for about 10min, took in the views and left a register before going on to the next one. This summit and the next sit off the west side of the crest so we couldn't yet see down the eastern escarpment of the range, but the sun was washing out those views in the early morning hour anyways.

Having ascended Peak 7,322ft from the northwest, we descended the northeast side and made our way cross-country to Peak 7,536ft a mile and half to the north. This took us over easy terrain, in and out of three minor drainages on the west side of the crest. There were a few small groves of joshua trees growing around the 7,000-foot level, surprisingly high. More amply represented were the pinyons, junipers and mountain mahogany. Scattered about much of the low-lying sandy areas were thousands upon thousands of obsidian chips that told of centuries of Indian hunting in the area. As the crow flies, it's less than 7mi to the Little Lake area in the high desert region to the east where obsidian can be sourced. It seemed like this part of the Sierra would have been a convenient hunting area, often snow-free for nine months of the year. If there were arrowheads to be found we were unlucky, though I spent much time scanning the ground and poking at many of the chips as we walked through the area. We reached Peak 7,536ft in an hour's time, the highpoint atop a pile of broken granite rock. Jonathan Mason had left a register here in 2017 while doing an impressive traverse of the Five Mile Canyon drainage from the desert floor to the east. Bob Sumner was the only other visitor, just eight days prior to our arrival. Another hour would be spent continuing north to Peak 7,897ft, this time close to the Sierra Crest. We would periodically have cell service during this time, giving us an excuse to take a break and send our wives a "we're still alive" text. Mason had left another register atop Peak 7,897ft (though my poor camera work caught nothing of what was written there). An old Budweiser can from the 1970s had been inscribed on the bottom with Dick and Bob from 1976. The can was remarkably heavier than today's more modern, and much thinner beer cans. Peak 7,897ft was the only summit actually on the crest, though we didn't have much of a view into Five Mile Canyon and down to the desert floor as we might have expected, thanks to the more gentle roll-off of the upper part of the mountain before it plunges down into the deep canyon.

We spent 45min making our way to Peak 7,887ft about a mile to the northwest, again a short distance west of the crest itself. Mason had not visited this summit, so we left one of our own registers before leaving. The last summit, Peak 7,830ft, lies almost 2mi to the southeast, on the west side of Scodie Meadow. It was necessary to drop 1,000ft to the valley below before reclimbing the same distance to the summit. There are some remnants of old ranch buildings, rusting tins and other detritus found near a fork in the old road I rediscovered enroute. Before descending to the base of Peak 7,887ft, Karl and I had split up, preferring different options. We wouldn't regroup again until we were both atop Peak 7,830ft. The weather continued to be near ideal, a bit warm but with a cold wind that blew across the range. Only on the lower leeward slopes did the wind fail to reach us, but these were only for short durations. It was 12:30p as we sat atop the fifth summit, admiring the snow far to the north around Mt. Langley. Upon descending, we took different routes, Karl preferring to explore the South Ridge while I chose to descend east down sandy slopes to reach the old road in the shortest time possible. Karl eventually gave up the ridge and dropped down to the road, too, apparently more efficiently than I had. For much of the next hour I kept thinking he was behind me, only to discover him well ahead as we entered the more open terrain through Scodie Meadow. It was 2:15p by the time we got back to the TH. Karl decided to be done for the day while I went off to tag another summit.

Peak 8,271ft

This unnamed summit lies to the west in the Domelands Wilderness. The Kennedy Meadow Rd skirts the northwest side of the Wilderness and comes within about a mile and a quarter of the summit. I parked at a small turnout on the south side of the road and went cross-country from there. The 2000 Manter Fire killed off most of the trees, leaving much brush to grow back in its place. Even 20yrs later, there are few new trees growing on the slopes. Still, the news isn't all bad - the cross-country travel isn't too bad if one doesn't rush through it but looks for the open pathways. The more open slopes leave more room for flowers including plenty of phlox that I saw on my way up. It appears from the maps that the land immediately adjacent to the roadway is private, but there were no fences encountered anywhere on the hike. There were signs of cattle grazing along the roadside creek and further up the small drainage I followed to begin, but nothing to make one feel unwelcomed. It took just over an hour to reach the rocky summit marked with a spot elevation of 8,262ft. I left a register here but noted that another point a quarter mile to the east looked like it may be taller. I checked the elevation on my GPSr and then went over to the other point. It proved a tougher scramble though no harder than class 3, and the elevation measured 5-10ft higher. I would get LoJ to move the summit location to the newly named Peak 8,271ft upon my return home. Maybe the next visitor can move the register from the old location to the new one. If not, I don't think there will be any long-term consequences that the world needs to be concerned with. There is a nice view looking into Domelands across the South Fork of the Kern River and north to Olancha, Langley and even Mt. Whitney in the far north. I was back to the jeep by 4:40p, still with more than three hours of daylight but not much more energy. Time to call it a day.

I drove back down Kennedy Meadow Rd to the Sierra Crest where I had left Karl earlier. On the south side of the road there is a dirt road leading to a number of primitive campsites in the forest directly on the Sierra Crest. The wind kept all the insects at bay and a campfire helped warm us some from the wind as we sat around it as the late afternoon faded to sunset and twilight and then merged into night. Cold and tired, we would be in bed by 9p and have more than enough hours to sleep until morning. The wind kept up through the night, sounding more like the ocean surf than the usual wind noise, oddly enough. It was a very pleasant background to fall to sleep by...

Continued...


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