Slate Mountain P900 PD
Gooch Mountain PD
Dow Butte P500
Buck BM P300

Sep 26, 2019
Buck BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX


The third and last day of a short roadtrip to Northern California started off well enough, but ended as a bit of a bust. I was camped along SR139 which runs from Susanville in the south to Klamath Falls, OR, in the north. My first stop was a P900 in the northeast corner of Lassen National Forest, but the main event was to be a collection of three similar prominence peaks further north between SR139 and US395. They are located in a patchwork of BLM lands that unfortunately have private property with locked/gated roads and No Trespassing signs. I ended up calling it a day earlier than planned and headed back to San Jose.

Slate Mountain

I used Google Maps and Cleghorn Rd, a decent dirt road that heads west from SR139 into Lassen NF. The area is mixed with private logging lands but most of the roads are open to the public. I was able to drive within a short distance of the summit where a road goes north over a saddle northeast of the highpoint. From there, it was a short ten minute hike through forest and minimal brush to the open summit atop some large rocks mixed with a tangle of brush. It was only about 15min after sunrise, so the lighting was quite nice looking over a large expanse of forest, hills and valleys on the edge of where the Cascade Mountains meet the high desert of the Great Basin. I left a register here before returning via nearly the same route.

Gooch Mountain

This exceedingly minor summit with only about 40ft of prominence is located on the same ridge as Slate Mtn, a few miles to the south. It was more or less a freebie on my way back from Slate, again a short hike from the road, less than a quarter mile. The interesting feature of this one is a very large summit boulder, about 15' high and difficult class 5 by any fair means. A smaller boulder on the east side and a dead tree leaning against the larger rock made for an easier, but somewhat nervous class 3 way to get atop it.

Dow Butte

Like Gooch, this bonus peak lies along the same high ridgeline as Slate Mtn. I noted that Barbara Lilley had claimed an ascent of this peak in 2015, somewhat odd considering its remote location and lack of any meaningful elevation or prominence stat that would grab her attention. It seemed worth checking out, if only to sign her register. I came to find that half a mile south of Dow Butte is the site of the Dow Butte Lookout whose cab was removed some years ago, leaving only the foundation atop a fine overlook spot. Frederick Johnson put this on PB as part of his 500+ collection of CA lookout sites, and it was undoubtedly this that Barbara had visited when she was 86yrs-old. The actual highpoint is to the north and several hundred feet higher. Where the road that goes over a saddle on the south side, it's a short walk to the summit through modest brush. The summit is somewhat flattish and elusive, with no views and devoid of any real interest. And no Lilley register, either. The lookout site is much better.

Buck BM

I drove back down to SR139 and then north for 13mi to the edge of the Modoc National Forest. South Knob, a P900, rises up to the east. I had hoped to use dirt roads from the north and east to get close to the summit, but found it locked and gated about a mile from the highway where a private inholding is squeezed between the edge of the forest and the start of BLM lands. This would not do. I didn't have a back-up plan at this point, though later I learned that an all-BLM route can probably be used starting right from the highway on the west/southwest side, a little more than a mile and 1,400ft of gain. Not knowing this, I opted instead to pay a quick visit to nearby Buck BM, located within the national forest, half a mile from the highway. There is an unsigned, unlocked gate located adjacent to the Modoc NF sign along the highway. One can park along the highway or a short distance inside the gate for the hike to Buck BM. There's nothing tricky about it, modestly brushy under mostly forest cover. Finding the summit is a little challenging as it gets brushier at the top where its not easy to pick out a highpoint among various competing small rock outcrops found there. The benchmark isn't the usual USGS variety, but one from the CA Dept of roads (precursor to Caltrans), probably when surveying for SR139. I didn't find an actual disk attached to the rock, but rather a survey sign. I found this good enough and called it a day. I still had something like 6.5hrs of driving to get me back to San Jose, but it was not yet 11:30a so I had plenty of daylight...

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