State Line Peak P2K GBP
Three Cairns Peak P500
Seven Lakes Mountain P1K
Porcupine Mountain P300
Granite Peak P300

May 9, 2014
Granite Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


State Line Peak / Three Cairns Peak

The Fort Sage Mountains occupy space in both California and Nevada, about 35mi NNW of Reno. The highest summit in the range is State Line Peak, a P2K located on the Nevada side. In his quest to reach all the California range highpoint, Evan Rasmussen had visited this range, but was looking for the highest point within California which turns out to be an officially unnamed summit a few miles to the west. He dubbed it Three Cairns Peak for its summit features, and it has been referred to as that in several online citations since. I'm not sure why he chose to forgo the extra effort to reach State Line Peak, but it seemed a straightforward effort to get both in one shot.

I had spent the night camped off the dirt access road, instructions that I had gotten from both SummitPost and Evan. The route is a good one - high clearance 4WD can actually drive within a mile of the summit. I was happy to get within five miles, starting off at 7a. I followed the road for an hour until it reached a saddle before starting a short downhill section. My instructions told me to leave the road here to start up the SE Ridge leading to State Line Peak. While it may be the shortest route, I'm not as convinced that it is the easiest. Though the cross-country is not difficult, there is extra elevation to be gained and lost going over a few intermediate bumps along the way. This is roughly equivalent to the gain lost when staying on the road and dropping from the saddle, but in this case once can stay on road much longer which is generally easier than cross-country. In any event, it was somewhat more scenic with better views from the ridge than could be had from the road. The range is home to a large number of wild horses and they have left there mark (most often in the form of poop piles) all over it. They have also made some pretty good trails in places and I would use these whenever convenient. Just about an hour after leaving the road I had reached the flattish summit.

There are a pair of modest communications towers found at the top with a MacLeod/Lilley register dating to 1999. Its 21 pages were filled with many of the usual suspects that a P2K attracts. After a brief visit, I headed northwest off the summit, utilizing more horse trails along the rocky NW ridge. I had spotted a jeep trail leading up to a saddle on this ridge and thought I might utilize it for making a loop out to Three Cairns, my second stop on the tour. Well before I had reached the jeep trail I spotted what I at first took for a small herd of cattle but quickly realized was a large herd of horses, perhaps two dozen all told. I was heading down the jeep trail before they spotted me, one group taking off up the hill a short distance to the protection of some trees, another taking off across the slopes to the north. A lone black horse took up the last position (whether stallion or mare I couldn't say), periodically turning circles and snorting as if to let me know not to mess its clan. It seemed more afraid than brave, however, taking off as I neared in my descent of the road. Looking up towards the north I spotted a small pod of four antelope near the horses, even more spooked by my presence than the horses were.

Where the road reached a junction at the base of Pt. 6,995ft, I once again headed cross-country uphill, this time heading southwest and then south. I reached the top of Three Cairns an hour and a half after leaving State Line. As the name suggests, there are three modest cairns constructed at the summit. Exactly why there might be three is probably unknowable, but I suspect boredom had something to do with it. One of them held the remains of a survey tower as well as a register that appears to have been left by Dingus Milktoast in 2008. In contrast to State Line, this one had only a few entries in the past six years. Along with the register was a collection of papers I recognized as coming from my website - they were the write-up and maps that Evan had created as part of his quest to visit all the CA range highpoints. In addition to a fine view of State Line Peak to the east, the summit provides a good vantage point from which to view Long Valley and the Sierra crest to the south and west as well as the vast Honey Lake Valley to the north.

I descended to the east off the summit, picking up the road I had started in on in about half a mile. I took some time to photograph the few flowers I found in bloom. Though not as plentiful as one might find in CA deserts, they had their own charm, some unusual ones I hadn't seen before, others familiar, and some so tiny they are easy to miss. It would take about an hour to get from the summit back to where I had parked the car, making for a 4.5hr outing.

Seven Lakes Mountain

I spent the next 45 minutes driving back out to US395 and then south to the next range of mountains. Though the name conjures up suggestions of trickling alpine creeks and delightful lakes, make no mistake this is a desert range. The seven lakes referred to are all dry ones - present for fleeting amounts of time after a rain, but normally barren. Today was no exception. The highpoint is a P1K which had gotten my attention and I chose to approach it from the south off Red Rock Rd. Red Rock Rd, btw, is a wonderful alternative to US395 for a 25mi stretch north of Reno. Both routes are scenic, but if you haven't driven the good pavement of Red Rock Rd, it's worth finding. In the area south of Seven Lakes, there is a patchwork of desert development, generally low-cost housing on even lower-cost land, connected by a network of dirt roads. I found access to the BLM lands that comprise most of the mountain at the end of dirt Clydesdale Dr. Better cars than mine can drive to the summit on rough roads, but from where I parked it was only about two miles one way.

A small green/brown snake crossing the road was the wildlife highlight of the short outing taking less than two hours. I used one slope on the south side to climb the 1,300ft necessary to reach the summit ridge, and another just to the west for the descent. A number of fires have burned over portions of the mountain in 2008, 2009 and most recently in 2013. The slopes I climbed had been burned in this more recent fire, with a sad collection of blackened juniper snags covering large swaths. Few of them escaped the fire. At the summit ridge one gets a nice view north to the Fort Sage Mtns, with one of the seven dry lakes visible half a mile away. A register at the summit dated to 2003 and had 12 pages of entries, mostly by folks who had ridden motorcycles to the top. A loose sheet of paper had half a dozen names predating the register as far back as 1994. That held a few familiar names like Brian Kalet and Pete Yamagata.

Porcupine Mountain

Back at the van before 2p, I still had a number of hours before I'd meet my wife and daughter driving up in a separate car to Reno. Without any additional pre-planned summits in the area, I went to the back-up plan - finding named summits on my GPS. The nearest proved to be Porcupine Mtn, only two miles due south of Seven Lakes. The mountain is outside BLM lands and appears to have more rural desert development around its base, but the majority of it has been left unmolested by bulldozers. I found a location to the west along Fetlock Dr to start from, where a property was For Sale, but had not yet been developed. This allowed me to thread between two homesteads on either side, making a beeline for the summit from that side. I was confronted with only modest brush, but none of the scorched earth from Seven Lakes. I found the summit rounded and not terribly interesting. I took a few pictures looking north to Seven Lakes and southeast to Sand Hills (where I would head next). This one took all of 50min car to car.

Granite Peak

Granite Peak is the highpoint of the Sand Hills found east of Petersen Mountain across from Red Rock Rd. Where Red Rock Rd goes over a saddle to the south before dropping into Lemmon Valley, there is a BLM access road reaching nearly to the summit. I managed to drive three miles of this road, passing through a gate near a corral along the way, before being stopped by some rocky conditions (high clearance should have no trouble with it). I barely managed to turn the van around, but there was nowhere nearby to park off the road. Since I was within a mile of the summit and it seemed a very lonely stretch of road, I deemed it ok to just leave it in the road. I was happy to find no dissatisfied off-road enthusiasts to chew me out upon my return. I spent about 40min on the outing, hiking first up to Burned BM, just off the road, then the side detour to Granite Peak, about a third of a mile distance. The GPS gave them to both have about the same elevation. Like Porcupine, neither location had a register, to no great surprise.

It wa 4p by the time I finished up and 5p before I got to Reno. The family had gotten stuck in traffic leaving San Jose and wouldn't arrive until after dark, but I'd had enough for one day. I checked into the nice hotel room my wife had booked and revelled in the luxuriousness of it all - hot shower, comfy bed, cable TV - the apex of civilized society...


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