Fri, Sep 17, 2021
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I was camped at the TH up By-Day Creek in the New Range, with an alarm set for 6a. I was to meet Kristine at 7a in Buckeye Canyon to arrange a car shuttle for our hike through the highest summits in this small sub-range found west of Bridgeport, part of the Sierra Nevada. At 5:15a I got a text from Kristine apologizing for having to cancel, her foot quite sore from the previous day's adventure. With the shuttle route off the table, I figured I could still do a part of the loop we had planned, returning back to my starting point on By-Day Creek. As it turned out, the terrain was as good as I could have hoped - easy class 2 travel with very little brush to contend with - and I ended up getting all three of the peaks we had planned in addition to a bonus fourth.
I had already slept more than 9hrs when I got Kristine's text, so I decided to get up and get on with my day. It was still dark as I packed away the sleeping gear, dressed, and breakfasted, but it would be light enough to go without headlamp when I finally started off just before 6:30a. The area immediately on the other side of the locked gate is part of a state wildlife area. There are many restrictions on its use by the public, including No Hunting, the obvious one. But it also restricts off-trail travel, which concerned me a bit until I learned the area wasn't all that big, and I wouldn't need to leave the roads/trails until I had passed into the adjacent National Forest. It would seem by looking at the maps that the state had purchased two private inholdings from ranchers, neither particularly big. Hiking on the road to start, I could see that there had been occasional vehicle traffic and the road was kept clear of downfall and rocks. I hiked a little more than half a mile before coming to a junction. I took the lesser-traveled road to the right for another half mile, then looked for the trail forking right shown on the topo map. Well, sort of. In fact, the topo map shows the mythical trail starting much further up the canyon at a tiny lake, but this makes no sense. My GPSr maps showed the trail as continuous from the road below, so what was the reality? It seems that there used to be a trail going up the upper half of By-Day Creek (as a side note - that's a very odd name). I wandered off the road and covered about 2/3mi on and off the ever-so-faint trail, or what remains of it. I even found an old duck marking the route, but only that one. It wasn't unpleasant travel, essentially cross-country, as the forest cover kept the forest floor mostly free of brush, except right near the creek. I eventually left the drainage as it turned southwest, climbing west onto the lower slopes of Peak 9,403ft. The east slopes of the peak have significant brush in the middle elevations, but this was avoided by staying close to the southern edge of the brush extent, eventually gaining the SE Ridge. The last 400ft, most everything above 9,000ft, had only low-level brush, making for easier travel. I reached the top just after 8a, having spent an hour and a half on the effort. The views are open in all directions, but heavy smoke kept visibility limited to about 10mi all day. Several fires in Sequoia NP were sending smoke this way, making for both poor air quality and poor photos. I took a short break at the summit to catch my breath and leave a register.
After climbing almost 2,000ft to reach Peak 9,403ft, the hardest part of the day was behind, more fun ahead. I was now on the main crest of the New Range and would have more relaxed hiking for the rest of the day and far more scenic, as most of it was above treeline. My next stop was Rickey Peak, about a mile and a half to the southwest. I dropped almost 400ft down the northwest side of Peak 9,403ft, aiming for the saddle in that direction. To shorten the distance of my route, I dropped lower than the saddle on its south side before climbing onto the long, gentle NE Ridge of Rickey Peak. It was easy enough to bypass two intermediate points to the side, saving me a bit of unnecessary elevation gain. It took less than an hour from the first peak to reach the summit of Rickey Peak. I found a Lilley/MacLeod register from 1991 tucked under the summit rocks, with 16 pages over the past 30yrs. Most pages were by a single party, so not too many visitors over the years. Mark Adrian had visited in 1999, noting it as a possible highpoint of the New Range. The other possible highpoint is the one I had identified years ago, my next stop about a mile and a half further to the southwest. The confusion is caused by the subjective nature of a range's extent. For many, especially desert ranges, the boundaries are fairly obvious, but for sub-ranges like this one, it can be left to interpretation. The USGS simply provides the designation and writes in on the the topo map, but nowhere do they define the boundaries of such ranges. And so it goes.
I continued west and southwest along the ridge, finding an old fenceline starting at the saddle just west of Rickey Peak. It continues up and over Pt. 10,065ft, but much of the barbed-wire is lying on the ground and no longer serving a useful purpose. I went over Pt. 10,065ft and the adjacent Pt. 10,110ft before turning SSW for the final leg to the New Range HP. It took just about an hour to get from Rickey to the range HP. There was a cairn but no register here, so I left one. It was now 10:30a, much earlier than I had expected it to be beforehand, thanks to the easy terrain. I had plenty of time to add Peak 10,025ft, another mile to the southwest, a bonus of sorts, though it comes up shy of 300ft of prominence. It took less than 40min to make my way from the range HP over to Peak 10,025ft, most of it through forested terrain with open understory. There was some heavy brush on the west side of the range HP, but I was able to find game trails through the nastier parts that let me off mostly unscathed. The highpoint of Peak 10,025ft is found at the northwest end of a large summit area, with views overlooking Molybdenite Canyon to the west, framed by Hanging Valley Ridge on the other side. This put me within about a mile of our route up to Flatiron Ridge the previous day. I left a last register here before turning back towards the east.
Time for the return. As I had been hiking along the crest to the southwest these past few hours, I could see a series of high meadows and drainages off the southeast side, and thought that connecting them might make for an easier, more interesting loop on the return. And so it was. I started by returning to the saddle southwest of the range HP, then began traversing across the south side of the HP between two rock bands. I then descended to a saddle on the HP's SE Ridge, with views east to the next challenge. I dropped about 100ft into the next drainage before climbing back up through another saddle on the next subsidiary ridge to the east. There were small meadow areas traveled through, with much evidence of deer. From this new vantage point, I could see east to Rickey Peak and the large meadow areas to its southwest. I contoured high around this drainage, following deer paths and finding even more evidence of them. It looked like there might be many dozens or even hundreds of deer hiding out in this area at certain times of the year, though I saw only a single deer all of today. I went through several larger meadow areas as I continued east towards a low saddle on the South Ridge of Rickey Peak, reaching it around 12:30p. From here, I could see an old road about 1/3mi distance to the northeast, descending down a slope in that direction. This was part of the original route I had planned for Kristine and I to ascend Rickey Peak. I traversed northeast then descended to meet the road, having only to follow that original route in reverse. Though mostly unused, the road is still maintained with downfall removed. It might be USFS or state wildlife folks that use it a few times a year. I followed the road for about half an hour before pausing to examine the map more closely. It showed the road descending 200ft or so, then traversing around the south side of Pt. 8,442ft, before regaining the lost elevation. I decided I could shortcut the road a bit with some cross-country to the northeast, a route that worked nicely. The road I connected with in about 1/3mi was not the same as the one going around Pt. 8,442ft, but an old, overgrown alternate that has seen no vehicle travel in at least a few decades. It was badly overgrown but still useable on foot, and I followed it down to a meadow marked with a spring on the topo map. This reconnected with the maintained road which I could then follow back to By-Day Creek and the original road I had started off on. It was after 2p by the time I finished up back at the TH, making for an 8hr45min outing. That was about all I had time or energy for today. I showered, changed into some fresh clothes, sent off a few texts, and headed for home. It would be near sunset before I arrived back in San Jose...
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