SPANISH PEAK (7,017') AND LOOKOUTS June 13-14, 2004

Being generally frugal and deferring to global warming concerns, I waited till an offer came in from my old buddy Fred. He wished to do a drive to two lookout points, and hike one easy peak, about the Plumas National Forest. Having a great new 4WD, he would drive. And he insisted he had the best directions (I heard that one before!).

Picking me up from my residence in the afternoon, we carpooled up north to Chico, CA, and took the Cohasset Road northeast into the mountains. I recalled the same drive years ago in which we did a hiking loop into the Ishi Wilderness. Now, I rode this rough road in seated comfort, with natural scenery all around. We stopped for pictures of Deer Creek, the last major California or Sierra (?) free-flowing river that salmon spawn in.

I snapped away with my digital camera of the views. I am testing another three memory cards, doubling my larger card capacity in the last few weeks. High clouds came overhead, adding to the beauty and drama. Fred had it in mind to visit McCarthy Point, a USFS recommended destination. There, by about 5:30 p.m, the hazy vistas to the backlit west included pristine canyons and distant glimmers of the Northern Central Valley. The building here, with a magnificent window view, is available for rent, by the day, for a tidy sum.

Continuing east, we came to Highway 32, a road I admire for its appealing forests, with stands of beautifully tall trees around most every curve. We headed past Lake Almanor, and came to Quincy, CA, by dusk. I wondered whether to camp or get a room. We checked an RV park, and found no bugs there, with pleasant conditions. Getting a fine feast at a higher end eatery, I felt good enough to spend the night out. With no motel signs advertising room rates, I knew they would be high.

After a nice sleep, we got up early Monday and found a nice enough place, open at 7 a.m., for breakfast. Taking the Buck Lakes Road, we motored west to the Silver Lake Road. Gaining elevation, we came to the Silver Lake campground and trailhead at about 5,900'.

We began our hike and peak climb by 8:10 a.m. The trail is well signed. Thick clouds of mosquitoes hovered over the lake dam. I was glad I didn't camp here!

Fred is pretty slow, being of advanced age, so I kept an eye on him to make sure he followed the right way. The trail leads up an old glacial moraine, past blue lakes, and up to the snow. We had some steep hiking crossing the snow, and I slowed to allow Fred the time to hike without rushing.

Coming to the rim, the Pacific Crest Trail here was under snow. I was able to find the way, and found where the trail went. The guidebook and my maps were helping. The PCT here has many markers, and I always re-found the trail after it's being covered by short stretches of snow. My old buddy is not very agile, and what is nothing for me could cause a slip, and even severe injury or death, for him.

We came to another signed junction with the peak trail clearly pointed out, and then shortly reached the summit by 11:50 a.m. I began using up memory, with over a thousand pictures capacity, and took many telephotos of distant Lassen Peak, as well as the Northern Sierra. This being the highest point of the Bucks Lake Wilderness, I expected a great overview, but trees blocked the view to the west.

The register in an ammo box went back a few years, and with the book nearly full, I placed another bound notebook which should last another few years. With more to do this day, we started down after a shorter stay, and followed our trail route flawlessly back to the cars, returning at 1:36 p.m.

Motoring back to Quincy, we had some food and drink, then took Highway 89 south.

Eventually to Highway 49, we motored west to then take the dirt road north up to Saddleback Mountain Lookout (6,690'). This is a steep, 9 mile, rough road to a manned fire lookout, with interesting views. I don't count these drive-ups as peaks, but the views were nice, and gained without much effort.

We did have to change a flat tire going back down, but we were back to Downieville, and then southbound along CA 49, with a 20 minute delay due to road work, then to Interstate 80.

I had hiked 7.5 miles, with maybe 1,200' gain. Hardly any exercise, for me comparatively, it was as much as Fred could handle. His favorite activity, after having climbed hundreds of peaks, is to fourwheel to the summits of accessible lookouts. For me, if he has the vehicle and will, I have the money (sharing fuel costs) and time. I spent $75, with a good allotment for fuel. I snapped 430 digital images, with a few frames of Kodachrome.