Peak 4,234ft P300
Peak 2,625ft P300
Peak 2,675ft P300
Spellacy Hill
Portal Ridge P300
Peak 5,726ft P300 PD
Sawmill Mountain 2x P300 ex-HPS / PD
Peak 5,482ft P300 PD

Thu, Apr 4, 2019
Sawmill Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2
Sawmill Mountain previously climbed Tue, Dec 27, 2011


I'd spent the night camped in the Temblor Mtns, with intentions to tag a few more summits in the range before heading to the Liebre Range. Morning found the highest elevations socked in with clouds, leaving the first summit without any views whatsoever. Things improved somewhat as the day went on before turning to heavy overcast and light rain in the late afternoon for the last few summit.

Peak 4,234ft/Crocker BM

The Temblor Range stretches for well over 100mi from SR46 at the northwest end to SR166 at its southeast terminus. The southern half of the range, much of which I had driven through the previous day, is BLM land with open access. North of Peak 3,775ft (the last summit I visited the previous day), the BLM lands become mixed with private lands, eventually becoming almost entire private ranches. There are many more roads north of Peak 3,775ft, none of them signed and it would be difficult to navigate them without studying maps beforehand or following a GPX track. There are several places where one has to go through wood & wire gates, easily done by unhooking the wire loop at one end. I found my way to the top of Peak 4,234ft, about a mile southeast of the range highpoint at McKittrick Summit, encountering no No Trespassing signs along the route. There were three summits to this peak, two of them sporting telecom towers. The highest is to the northwest and just a grassy knoll with the road going within a few feet of the highpoint. I couldn't see McKittrick with the foggy conditions, or much of anything else for that matter. I had climbed McKittrick on a previous visit by a very different route, going through private property. The landowner at that time told me there might be a way to reach it from the south which is the direction I was approaching today. I didn't continue on the roads to find out, but it appears that it might be possible. After returning to the southeast from Peak 4,234ft, I stopped for a short hike to Crocker BM, a PB-only point that was on my way out. I parked at a water tank on the main road but could have driven a rougher road up to the summit had I realized it sooner. I found a benchmark and some USGS instrumentation along with zero views.

Peak 2,625ft/Peak2,675ft

After returning the jeep, I continued south, visiting two lower peaks in the range, well below the cloud cover and offering better views. A spur road off Hurricane Road can be used to access both of these, each about a mile one-way. Peak 2,625ft is accessed from the west at the spur road's end in a large flat area. There are old well caps found here, not currently operational. The route is open grasslands, not a tree to be found. The grass was quite tall and lush, going to seed but not yet to the annoying stage of filling one's socks and shoes. There is a fenceline to be crossed, not all that difficult and I saw no signs regarding trespassing. The views from the summit take in the surrounding Temblor hills to the west and the vast oil fields around SR33 to the east. These fields, taking up hundreds of square miles, were all but dead about 15yrs ago. The advent of fracking revived them, the nearby towns of Taft and Maricopa and a host of oil-related jobs. The other summit, Peak 2,675ft is most easily approached from the northwest nearer to Hurricane Rd, at a turn in the spur road. There is a fenceline to cross here, too, but again no signs forbidding trespassing. I used cow trails to contour my way around the north and east side of a nearer, lower point, eventually gaining a saddle and climbing the peak from the west. Views are similar to those on Peak 2,625ft.

Spellacy Hill

Back on Hurricane Rd, I followed it southeast to SR33 and then to the town of Taft. Spellacy Hill is found on the southwest side of town, an active oil-producing field. The area is a maze of roads fingering out to the many, many pump sites, not all of the roads getting you from A to B. Paved 25 Hill Rd is a public road while all the spur roads appear to be private access road managed by Chevron and other oil entities. There are few gates and I found it easy to wander about the facilities, never encountering a security truck or someone questioning what I was doing there. My defense would have been that I had gotten lost which was partially true. After finding my way to the rather boring highpoint of Spellacy Hill, I had trouble getting out of there when I chose to take a different return route. For some reason I didn't note that there was another nearby named summit called Twentyfive Hill - I should have tagged that one while I was in the area, too.

Portal Ridge

After gassing up in Taft, I headed to the Liebre Range, almost two hours' drive away. The San Andreas Rift Zone cuts through the northeast edge of the range forming Oakgrove and Pine Canyons through which runs paved Pine Canyon Rd. Portal Ridge is the highpoint of that portion of the range to the north of the road with a sweeping overlook of Antelope Valley in the western end of the Mojave Desert. Old USFS roads allow access to the ridge at several locations, though a mix of private property with the intentionally confusing positioning of No Trespassing signs make legal access hard to ascertain. I used Forest Road 7N07 at Bushnell Summit to drive a short distance off Pine Canyon Rd. The road becomes quite rough and I decided to park and hike the remaining 3/4mi to the summit. The road becomes better once the ridge is gained, leading me to suspect the alternative access road from the east is probably the better choice. The road skirts south of the highpoint, necessitating some mild bushwhacking to reach the summit. At first glance, it would seem the bushwhacking through stuff well over head level could be brutal, but it turns out to not be bad at all with careful route-finding. The highpoint is buried amongst all the brush though it had a surprisingly nice view to the north overlooking the Antelope Valley State Poppy Reserve.

Peak 5,726ft

This summit lies on the Pacific Divide between Liebre Mtn and Sawmill Mtn. Forest Rte 7N23 climbs from Bushnell Summit up to a saddle on the crest that any vehicle can drive. High-clearance is needed to continue west for another 3mi+. The saddle is used to access two HPS summits, Burnt Peak and Sawtooth Mtn. I continued west past Sawmill Campground to a junction. The road continuing west up the crest was gated shut. The Atmore Meadows fork continues to the southwest, but as I found, it does not get one closer to Peak 5,726ft. I returned to the junction and hiked the road from there, a distance of about 2mi, one-way. I knew the PCT runs across the crest somewhere in the vicinity, but I was unable to find it on the ascent. The hike up the road is not particularly memorable, though there are some good views to Antelope Valley. Clouds hung low in the sky, threatening rain, and I wondered if I'd be able to get to the summit and back without getting wet. The last 1/3mi to the highpoint took me off the road, following a combination of old firebreaks and motorcycle tracks. I found the highpoint in a collection of granite boulders with a decent overlook, but poor views this afternoon. I found the PCT crossing near the summit and took this back for the descent, a nice hike through oak forest and chaparral. The junction of the PCT near where I started is a bit obscurred which explained why I couldn't find it earlier.

Sawmill Mtn

This summit used to be on the HPS list but was deemed too insignificant. It is a mere 100yds off the forest route I traveled on my way back to the main saddle, so I stopped to run up and tag it as a light rain began to fall. I'd been to the summit once before, so this was just gratuitous stat-padding. I found the benchmark and snapped a quick picture before running back to the jeep.

Peak 5,482ft

This summit also lies on the crest of the range, this time east of the main saddle, about a mile each way. The road is gated shut here, so I would have to walk in the drizzle that was now coming down steadily. I put on my rain pants and jacket, wool gloves and balaclava, and thus dressed was quite comfortable for the cold, wet weather. I used a combination of Forest Road, firebreak and the PCT to make my way to the summit and back. There wasn't much to the flattish summit where a wide firebreak goes over it. When I got back to the saddle and the jeep I was surprised to find two other vehicles there in such crappy weather. A pair of gentlemen walking about were as surprised to see me, asking what I was doing up here in such conditions. I laughed as I explained myself, after which they were wondering where to find a campground. I pointed them in the direction of the Sawmill CG but they didn't like the looks of the road to reach it. I then suggested they could camp right there at the saddle since I doubt anyone else would be up here this evening and no one would really care if they did. I had planned to spend the night there myself, but decided to drive back down the road towards Bushnell Summit to see if I could find a place with cell reception. I didn't find good cell coverage and ended up driving east to the Lake Hughes area where I planned to hike the next day. No cell coverage there, either. The cold shower in the rain was a bit trying, but it helped me sleep more comfortably that night...


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