Reconnaissance Peak P1K
Crocker Mountain P1K
Black Mountain P1K PD
McKesick Peak P900 PD

Aug 22, 2018

With: Jackie Burd

Black Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2


Day 2 in the Northern Sierra had us visiting a trio of P1Ks and a P900. The first of these was the hardest hike of the trip which Jackie found a bit too much. Brush and thistles in her boots and socks does not make for a happy Jackie. She had asked in the moring at the motel if she'd be ok in shorts to which I suggested she bring her pants along, in case they're needed. "Do I have to?" she asked, imploringly. I couldn't see how bringing them along had any mearsureable cost, but she's an adult and can learn from mistakes rather than take sage advice, if she so chooses. "No, not if you don't want to," was my response. The other three hikes were shorter and had less brush, but after successfully making the second summit, she decided she'd had enough and waited things out in the car for the last two. Can't say I blame her - it's not a particularly scenic part of the Sierra and the work it takes to get to some of the summits is hard to justify for all but the fanatics.

Reconnaissance Peak

Reconnaissance overlooks the Sierra Valley on its northern perimeter, just above the small community of Beckwourth, about 9mi northeast of where we were staying in Portola. Forking off from the paved Beckwourth-Genesee Rd, unsigned Forest Rd 24N32 is a decently maintained dirt road climbing up to Dotta Saddle. From there, a rougher road, unsigned 24N02, forks off and can be driven another mile and half to its end to get one within a mile and a quarter of the peak. Though the distance isn't far, the navigation is a bit tricky, especially if one is wearing shorts. Now, if Tom had been with me I would have picked a route based on what I was wearing (long pants) rather than him (shorts), but since it was my daughter I paid closer attention to where I was going and did my best to pick the least brushy route. We started up the slope, zigzagging around the brushy areas, trying to stick to the grassier spots. It dawned on me that my definition of "brushy" can be very different from others. The thistles and seeds from the mature grasses were attacking her socks and getting into her boots, causing some measure of annoyance that required periodic stops to deal with. To her, the grass areas were quite brushy. To me (and because my pants kept most of the thistles out), it was a walk in the park. "Brushy" is when you have to claw through stuff above knee level and often over head level - manzanita, buckthorn, that sort of stuff. And we did have a bit of the latter when I could no longer find openings through the brush in a few places, but they lasted no more than about 20-30yds before the route would open up again. We carried on for about half an hour, covering about 2/5 of the distance to the summit in that time, before Jackie decided to stay put, hang out on a rock, and wait for my return. I didn't fault her and felt a bit guilty for dragging her off on this chase.

I was able to pick up my pace once on my own, to no real surprise. I made good time up to the main ridge where the summit comes into view, then struggled some to fight my way through a heavy patch of forest with thick understory of alder and immature aspens. Jackie had picked a good time to call a halt, it seemed. There was more open country after this, but there were more brush sections to get through, making for a pretty tricky bit of navigating to keep from bogging down and getting my clothes shredded. I finally made it to the open, rocky summit around 9:40a, an hour and a half after starting out. There was a small memorial to an outdoorsman that died at the age of 45 in 1996, that included a hunting bow and a selection of broken arrows. As there was no register to be found, I left one of my own. With less smoke, there were better views today, overlooking Sierra Valley to the south, Dixie Mtn (which we visited the day prior) to the east, and other summits to the north that I hadn't yet learned. I retreated soon after arriving so that I wouldn't be too late for my return which I'd told Jackie would take about an hour. I did a much better job of navigating the terrain this time, finding a far less brushy and more direct route back to where I'd left her. She was waiting patiently for my return, having enjoyed here quiet nature time, save perhaps for the black ants that would periodically climb onto her. We took an alternate route on the descent that I thought would be more direct and less brushy - it proved to be the former but not the latter. It was nearly 11a by the time we returned to the Jeep and I promised her the rest of the day would be easier...

Crocker Mountain

Crocker Mtn lies just east of Davis Lake and north of Portola, about an hour's drive from our TH for Reconnaissance. The rough road we took from the pavement on the east side of the peak was only about 2.5mi in length, but fairly slow going for much of it. The road becomes overgrown towards the end and I called a halt when we got within about 1/4mi of the summit. We followed the continuing road for about 1/4mi to reach the south side, getting us about 200ft higher but still 1/4mi from our goal. We then had to cross-country through a mix of moderate brush and more open terrain along the South Ridge to reach the top. We found a John Vitz register from 2011 at the summit, a mix of the usual suspects and local visitors, signing our names to it before tucking it back where we'd found it. After weighing our options, we decided to head directly east off the summit back to the car by the shortest path. We could have run into serious bushwhacking trouble but were happy to find it was even less brushy than our circuitous ascent route. Sometimes taking shortcuts pays off.

Black Mountain

Another hour's driving ensued following our visit to Crocker, taking us almost 20mi north into the Diamond Mountains on the edge of the Sierra escarpment overlooking Honey Lake and the northern desert lands of the Great Basin. The highest peak in the Diamond Mtns is the SPS's Adams Peak, at the south end of this Sierra sub-range. The two peaks I was after are in the central part of the range, overlooking the south side of Honey Lake. Black Mtn is the higher of the two and our first stop. There is a lookout tower and radio facility atop Black Mtn, though neither are found at the highpoint, located about 1/4mi from the telecom towers. We drove in on very good roads for most of the distance, becoming rougher for the last few miles to the telecom towers. We found two trucks with technicians working at different sites and it was only upon reaching them that I realized the highpoint was across the way. We drove back down a short distance, stopping at a turn in the road near the saddle between the two points. Though the distance was short and there was no real brush to contend with, Jackie chose to sit this one out. It took me less than ten minutes to make my way across the shallow gap to the higher summit, finding no obvious highpoint among the stunted trees growing in the broad summit area. I continued to the southeast to the last possible rock outcrop overlooking the desert regions before satisfied I'd checked all the possibilities. I found no register, but was later emailed by Jerry Kohn that there was another Vitz register to be found here, too. Drats - finding that would have made it more worthwhile. We had a view of the lookout on the drive out, just off a spur road, but neither of us cared much to visit it and so continued on our way.

McKesick Peak

This summit lies about 4mi SE of Black Mtn, also along the crest of the range. There was about 10mi of driving between the two trailheads, about six miles of good roads and the four miles of deteriorating ones until we were using 4WD to reach our starting point where the road was blocked by a large fallen tree. Though less than a mile to the summit, Jackie declined to join me on this one as well, preferring to explore the abundance of interesting-looking rocks on the adjacent hillside. I told her I'd be about an hour and headed off up the road on the other side of the log. The area is used for grazing and there is ample evidence of cattle though none were seen here today. It seems I may have been able to drive around the log and further up the mountain to the saddle between the two summits, though it would have been a bit rough. It took me 20min to reach the saddle where the old road continues over the south side. I turned right to climb the higher western summit, brushy for the first part before turning to a class 3 rock scramble. There are probably class 2 ways up as well, but those appeared to have more brush to deal with. The summit had several cairns, evidence of a survey tower and the expected benchmark. After taking a few photos of the surrounding views, I briefly considered dropping off the north side as an alternative descent route, but thought better of it (the brush factor was hard to predict) and returned back down the way I'd come - a little bit of known brush and a road seemed the wiser choice. I was back by 3:30p, finding Jackie perched on a rock up the hillside to the east, enjoying the solitude during my absence. We then drove back down to Portola, a longish drive, where we cleaned up before heading into town for pizza. "Into town" really just meant driving a few blocks, crossing the river and finding the empty Pizza Factory in the old part of town next to the railroad yards. Decent pizza though...


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