A SOUTHERN SIERRA PEAK BAG--COOK PEAK (5,404'), SHERMAN PEAK (9,909'), LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN (9,722'), BALD MOUNTAIN (9,382'), PORTUGUESE PEAK (7,914'), TOBIAS PEAK (8,284'), AND BAKER POINT LOOKOUT (7,753')
June 24-26, 2000
Recommended Reading: Exploring the Southern Sierra,
West Side, by Jim Jenkins and Ruby Johnson Jenkins
My climbing buddy Fred (73) came to my assistance with his plan for bagging several easy peaks about the Sequoia National Forest in the Southern Sierra Nevada. His 4WD truck would expedite the driving to the remote trailheads.
Carpooling, we came to Lake Isabella, CA, to motor up Cook Peak, a drive-up. A five mile, narrow and precipitous dirt road leads up to a five minute rock hop to the top. Concrete foundations mark this summit, with a spectacular view of the reservoir below.
Returning to the town, we enjoyed the food and drink at a Mexican restaurant. A public campground, managed by private industry, made a comfortable night's sleep, but we had talked late into the evening. One of my current missions is to get my climbing companions on-line, and up and running into the 21st Century.
The next morning, after a satisfying, regular breakfast, we drove north up the Kern River Canyon Highway, and then continued up, on paved road, east to Sherman Pass, where we parked. A two mile trail leads to Sherman Peak. It winds through forests and then to a 4WD road. This, and Tobias Peak, are two prominent highpoints, a bit too accessible for me, but fine for Fred. The views were O.K., though. We came back to the truck, then motored along for more easy peaks.
We planned to go for Lookout and Schaeffer Mountains. Since Lookout is higher, and the other a longer, cross-country hike, we opted to just do Lookout. Logging tracks and a ducked trail led to the rocky top. I left another set of register cans and book, since the ones there were full. The ridge between the peaks seemed overly long for Fred's pace. I also had concerns that he would fatigue or his knees would fail.
Coming back to the truck, Fred wisely chose to drive a few miles further east to Bald Mountain Lookout. The guidebook stated that this had a great view. It did! The trail leads 0.3 mile to the staffed lookout tower, with views of the distant High Sierra and the Domelands Wilderness. This area is reserved as a Botanical Site. I chose, on the spot, to count this as my 1,100th peak ascent. I try to maintain some standards, but I wish to encourage people to visit and enjoy this fine view.
Since we had to drop down back into the Kern River Canyon, anyway, to proceed to the other peaks, we motored back south the 22 miles or so to Kernville for more dining and camping.
On our third and last day, we took CA 155 to Greenhorn Summit, and then, a dirt USFS road to the trailhead for Sunday Peak. We both had done this peak, but now were after neighboring Portuguese Peak. This was a brushy, but short, cross-country ramble from the trail saddle. We determined the highest point, and found no register, so placed one.
Onto the next peak! Snubbing a short ascent of Bullrun Peak, we expected to do a two mile hike to the top of Tobias Peak. Instead, the rocky road continued to its summit area, and a very short trail leads to the lookout tower.
The view was again good. The attendant told us that we were now in the new Giant Sequoia National Monument. The southernmost big trees grove was pointed out to the northwest. We could also see our next planned peaks, Baker Point and Baker Peak, to the east.
Leaving, we drove down a dirt road and over to the trailhead for Baker Point Lookout. This was also said to have a fine view.
A narrow, sidehilling trail, with three, big, fallen logs across it, leads 1.2 miles to the lookout. I stayed slowly back to keep an eye on Fred. He has knee problems which dictate about a mile-an-hour pace. But, the sights north, of the Kern River Headwaters, with billowing clouds, made a great photo op.
We came to the old lookout tower, and scrambled over rocks to come to the nearby benchmark and register. The highest point is a few minutes further, back west along the ridge, and again I chose to claim a peak ascent.
We stayed, enjoying the views, for about 45 minutes, then slowly walked back to the truck. It was beginning to get later in the day. Dark clouds formed overhead, and I thought to call it for this trip. Having more cold drinks, we sat about and then decided to head home.
Taking the paved USFS road north, we came to a main road that leads west through California Hot Springs and then, in 27 miles or so, to Highway 99. Huge vineyards and lemon groves lined this road to Earlimart.
After a bit of food in Selma, we speedily came back to our meeting spot and drove our separate ways home.
The hiking stats were about 11 miles and 3,500 feet gain total for the three days. No peak was at all difficult. I wore a ventilated fabric shirt, and nylon shorts all weekend, and though I brought a jacket and tent, never used them. There was absolutely no snow and few mosquitoes on any part of the driving, hiking, or camping. While it was hot in the Central Valley, the higher elevations made for pleasant temperatures.
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