Much of the mountainous terrain between Trinity, Shasta and Whiskeytown Lakes is
taken up by the Chippie Shasta OHV area managed jointly by the BLM and USFS.
These hills do not rise much above 5,000ft and are sort of the poor cousins
to the much higher Trinity Alps. There are three CC-listed summits in this area
along with several P1Ks which I was interested in. I had spent the night at
3,500ft in the center of this region without another soul around for miles. That
would change with the weekend influx of OHV enthusiasts, but as I awoke,
breakfasted and got started before 7a, all was quiet.
This is the highest summit in the region with more than 1,400ft of prominence.
It lies outside the OHV area to the north, part of a patchwork of USFS and
private lands. Ownership of the private sections is unclear and there were not
the usual No Trespassing signs and fences that someone who cares about such
things would install. Though I had a mountain bike with me, I would not use it on
this first excursion of the day as the trails/roads are extremely steep,
essentially running down one ridgeline and up another. Schell Mtn is roughly
5mi north of where I parked and on the
my route is marked as trail number 35, Most Difficult.
It was easy to see why.
Even on foot it was a tough affair. In descending 400ft down the loose dirt route
in short order I managed to slip several times. After reaching the saddle, a
750-foot climb up the other side
follows immediately. After half an hour I had
completed the Most Difficult section to reach Pt. 1,222m where the route becomes
more moderate and consequently more enjoyable. A sign
atop this point indicates
the ridge dividing the Clear Creek and Sacramento River drainages was once part
of an old pack trail used to supply the many mines that once dotted the
landscape. I spent the next hour continuing north along the undulating ridgeline
to the summit of Wild Cow Mountain. Open views along the way take in Shasta Lake
to the east and the Trinity Alps to the west. The summits around
Whiskeytown Lake can be seen to the south as I climbed above 4,500ft.
Though Wild Cow is the second-highest summit in the area, it is just an easy bonus
peak on the way to Schell, no more than a half mile diversion to the west to
reach the highpoint almost completely devoid of views due to
trees and brush.
After returning to the junction of trails 35 & 36, I turned left and
continued north towards Schell.
At the east end of Wild Cow Mtn the trail drops
to a saddle and mostly ends here. I say "mostly" because at least one
motorcyclist has attempted to forge a trail further north along the ridgeline
through forest and over rock. How they kept from clotheslining themselves says a
bit about their motorcraft skills or lack of critical thinking, I'm not sure
which. Shortly, even the rudimentary trail ends and a mile-long stretch of
cross-country travel ensues. Some of this involved a share of
rocky scrambling, but mostly just a lot of dodging trees. At one time
a firebreak had been cut along the length of the ridge
but it has been more than a decade since, perhaps twice that. On the last section
climbing up to Schell the firebreak becomes more open
with evidence of OHV travel coming in from the north.
It was 9:40a by the time I reached the summit of Schell with views open
in all directions. Mt. Shasta to the north, Shasta Lake to
the east, west to the Trinity Alps and south
to Bohemotash and the Chappie Shasta OHV area I had started in.
Three miles further north is Dog Creek Mtn, another CC summit, but I wouldn't be
continuing in that direction - Dog Creek Mtn can be more easily reached from the
north and I would save that for another day. It would take another two hours to
return to where I started, largely along the same route. OHVs, mostly
motorcycles, could be
heard to the west and south periodically, but it was only on the last mile of the
return that I crossed paths with several of them. I stood aside,
a few of them tackle the steep, loose slope rising up to Pt. 1,222m. It was
obvious that there was a great deal of skill involved in climbing such routes -
I have no doubt I'd have dropped the bike a dozen times and been left wallowing
in a puddle of tears had I been tasked to try it.
It was nearly noon when I returned
to the van. The second outing of the day
would not require more driving, however. The route to Bohemotash was more
straightforward than Schell with less elevation gain and just under three miles,
one way, to the SE from where I was parked.
I took the bike for this one though I walked much of the distance of the
initial section up to the summit of Peak 4,166ft.
Beyond this the maintained
route ("Easy", on the OHV map classification) becomes more rideable. I met up with
a pair of gentlemen around my age at the Bohemotash Campground
north of the
summit. They were riding rugged 4-wheel ATVs and like me, had stopped to check out
the campground and views. The main road continues south, bypassing Bohemotash
to the west, but spur roads and trails lead to the summit from the north and west.
I left my bike at the side of the road to follow one of the steeper routes up to
the summit from the north. Another 15 minute's effort got me to the
undistinguished summit that looks something like the kitty litter left
over from a logging effort. Who would have guessed a summit with more than 850ft
of prominence could be so crappy? It does feature views north to
Schell Mtn and further to Mt. Shasta (then again, almost
every summit within 100mi of Shasta has a view of it) and east
Lake and the Sacramento Valley, but otherwise has little business being on a peak
list. I returned to the bike
and then rode the remaining distance back to the van
by 1:30p. It was an early finish but that was by design - I had a long 5hr+ drive
back to San Jose. It was a good first visit to the Trinity Alps and I had gotten
a pleasant taste - I would be back within a few weeks for a second trip that
would get me to some of the higher peaks in the region. So much to explore, so