I have to travel to Milwaukee this week for my son's graduation, not leaving
me much time to visit the mountains. For a quick fix,
I took a long daytrip to the Lake Oroville
area in the foothills of the far Northern Sierra, primarily to visit
Chitterden Ridge, one of two county prominence points in CA that I had yet
done. With a bit over 700ft of prominence, it didn't quite rate high enough to
make the long drive on its own, but I found a small handful of similar peaks in
the foothills that I could string together, most of them around Lake Oroville,
all of them well below snow levels that had frustrated me on the previous
outing. Half of the peaks lay on private property so I expected access issues.
Though on private property, the land is owned by timber interests and others
had reported success. The ridge is found on the west side of paved Willow Glen
Road, south of the reservoir. A network of spur roads from the pavement leads to
the summit in about a mile and a half. Finding the gate locked was no
problem since the distance was fairly short, plenty of parking before
the gate to not block traffic. Much of the route follows what looks like a
freshly updated road, with crushed rock layered over the dirt to keep
mud issues down while heavy logging trucks drive up and down it. I turned off
lesser-used road as I neared the summit, eventually leaving it to search
the forest understory for the highpoint. The summit is heavily forested
and flattish, making the search both futile and silly. I found there were other
roads that came very close to the top that I used for the return, obviating the
need to thrash through poison oak-laden brush. Lots of the nasty plant
all over most of the hills I visited.
Driving north towards Lake Oroville, Sunset Hill is an easy stop off paved
Forbestown Rd. The spur road leading to it has a locked gate but a short
hike. There is a lookout tower at the top and Laura Newman has been
there - what's not to love? There's a nice view of the lake from the
summit, but today's views were heavily muted by heavy overcast and haze.
This summit overlooks the South Fork of the Feather River, now inundated with
the waters of Lake Oroville. Narrow but paved Stringtown Rd goes over a saddle
on the south side of the mountain, about 3/4mi away. There is a home not far
off the road on the north side and my first thought was that this wasn't going
to work. But I noticed a Cal Fire truck parked there and a set of
pink ribbons and a trampled path of grass wandering off into
the woods. I was glad I investigated further, because what I found was a stroke
of luck. A trail had been freshy cut (or rather, groomed) going up the
mountain. It was cut through heavy brush by a team of firefighters who were
still up on the mountain working on extending it down the north side of the
peak. I could hear chainsaws and voices a few hundred yards off when I got near
the summit, but never saw anybody. The main trail seems to bypass the summit on
the west side, but a cruder trail was cut through to
the summit, some
modest bushwhacking still needed. Perhaps they cut this last part on a lark,
who knows. I found sections of older trail, too, which leads me to believe they
were only reestablishing a trail, not forging a new one. To what purpose? It
doesn't seem to have a recognizeable TH and not advertised to the public. Most
of the peak is BLM land, so perhaps they use it for training firefighters in
trail-building skills. Whatever the reason, it made reaching the summit (with
marginal views, btw) a fun little exercise. I was especially happy that
I didn't have to wade through the poison oak. I wonder if the crew knew they
were cutting through heaps of the stuff and hoped they were properly protected.
Shute Mtn/Stephens Ridge
With 860ft of prominence, it was Shute Mtn I as after as I drove up the
Oroville-Quincy highway. Located near the town of Mountain House up the highway,
the topo map suggests two ways to reach close to the summit.
I found the northern one scarily signed as it passed
near someone's property and the other gated. It's a mix of USFS and private
lands around here, so it's not obvious how to do this. My heart wasn't in the
trespassing aspect today so I left it untrammeled. On my way back to Oroville
I stopped for a couple of consolations. Stephens Ridge is found just off the
highway. Laura had been to this one as well, so it seemed a safe bet. There is
a home adjacent to the highpoint
so it felt almost like trespassing even though
I didn't cross any fences. A quick grab-and-go with no views.
This was the second consolation peak on my way back from Shute Mtn.
This impressive-sounding summit overlooks the Canyon Creek Bridge and Lake
Oroville. I found a place to park near the bridge and went steeply up
the East Ridge to the summit area. The going was mostly through
grass/forest, no real bushwhacking and minimal poison oak. Not having
researched this ahead of time, I didn't realize there was a home at
the summit until I was up there. Yikes. I
actually retreated about 100ft from the summit since that would have left me in
full view from the house. Really not worth the trouble unless you're invited to
a nice Christmas party by the owners.
As I was driving around the west side of the dam towards Peak 1,846ft, I
noticed that Laura had visited this as well. It appears to be in a residential
area, but at the very end of Kelly Ridge Rd where the highpoint is located
is the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. How nice! The summit is located
in a clump of rocks adjacent to the Visitor Center. There is a 3-story
viewing platform to let one see over the trees and
much of the surrounding lake. A sign at the Visitor Center said "Welcome
Home Schoolers." It seemed to fit with many of the other interesting sights one
sees in these parts, including the occasional confederate flag, State of
Jefferson signs, a sign reading "Vaccines kill and injure" and such. Not much
love for the government (or blue people) around here, it seems.
After Chitterden Ridge, this P900 was my second main goal in the area. Located
on the west side of the lake and north of the massive dam, the narrow, winding,
but paved Cherokee Rd gets within a few miles of the summit. A spur road through
Oregon City with an historic covered bridge gets one closer.
Unfortunately, the Oregon City Trail I followed was gated at ranch
property. I gave up the venture. Later,
I discovered there may be a way to reach it by boat without disturbing the
ranch. That will be a future project.
Big Bend Mtn
This summit is located at the north end of the lake, on private timber lands.
Found not far from the town of Paradise that was virtually razed in the Camp
Fire the previous summer, much of the route along SR70 and the Big Bend Rd I
traveled suffered in the same blaze. There were sobering properties
burned to the ground and others miraculously saved. The last few miles
of the road I traveled had been spared from the fire. The last mile went through
the private timber lands, the road very dusty from recent, heavy use.
I parked a few hundred yards from the summit and walked up some
bulldozer tracks to the flatish summit. A white truck drove
by my car while I was up there, but they didn't seem to care that I was about.
Despite more than 800ft of prominence, the mountain was mostly a dud with very
This was an easy bonus on the way back down SR70 from Big Bend Mtn. I parked
off the side of the freeway and quickly went up and down the
burned-over slope to claim the summit. It was interesting to
see numerous holes where the large manzanita bushes had been burned
completely down to the roots.
This one is a long drive up with a suitable vehicle, an hour north of the
other summits. I drove to Chico, then up the long Cohasset Rd which turns to
gravel halfway up and finally rougher dirt. Not a good place to drive when its
muddy, from the looks of it. At the summit is a concrete platform in a
large open area, all that remains of a lookout that once stood here. The area
near the summit
is the site of Campbellville, what was probably a thriving lumber district
until the first growth in the area was exhausted. There are several rustic
communities on the drive that still manage to survive, though from the looks
of it, barely.
Steve H comments
Here I thought I would be the only guy to ever go out of his way to "climb" serpentine point and big bend. Lived there in Yankee hill for 10 years before the fire took us out. Believe it or not it was a very pretty area before the fire.