Well, the smoke has been blown away (mostly) and the wildfires that generated it are being brought further and further under control. However, it will take a big, wet storm to finally quell them all. Speaking of storms, the state’s October to December seasonal climate forecast for our area predicts stronger-than-usual storminess – with the first installment coming as early as later this week. Having had them deferred because of heat and smoke, we’re trying to squeeze in a few hikes before we’re hit by wet and cold. Thanks to the Hike Mt Shasta website, we’ve had China Mountain in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest on our list for awhile and today seemed like as good a time as any to go hike it.
This hike, as does the one of Mount Eddy, starts at the Parks Creek Trailhead on Forest Road 17 west of Weed, California. This would, however, be our first time going north on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from this trailhead.
Very soon after leaving the trailhead, we turned a corner and our objective, China Mountain, came into view on the far horizon.
Despite whatever weather was in store for us in the days ahead, today was a bluebird perfect one for a hike – cool, clear, sunny, light breeze, no bugs. Absolutely wonderful!
This is a dry forest, with minimal undergrowth, widely spaced trees, and lots of rocks. This is natural here but is what other Western forests might now look like absent the overly-enthusiastic fire suppression of the last 100 years. It’s like walking through a well-tended park.
About 1.2 miles from the trailhead, we came to a low saddle, veered north off the PCT here, and climbed up to the crest of the ridge. We were immediately rewarded by a big view of Mount Shasta to the east.
The ridge itself is rocky but open and very easy to hike. There are only a couple of spots where we needed to drop off it (slightly) into the forest to avoid mazzanita thickets. The ridge is also pretty colorful, cut as it is by different types of rock – including bands of shiny, highly polished serpentine. The serpentines of the Scott and Trinity Mountains are some of the oldest rock in the Klamath Mountains, estimated to have been accreted over 300 million years ago. Formed at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, their concentrated metals are restrictive to plant growth and survival.
We kept going up the ridge,
across an almost flat expanse just below Point 8096,
and on up to Point 8096. Here the LovedOne took off her pack thinking that this was the summit. When I pointed out that China Mountain was another 0.75 miles along yet another ridge, she declared victory, broke out her Field Knitting Kit, and said she’d wait for me. So, pressing on alone (sigh), I did several hundred feet of what might count as a “scramble” before reaching walking ground that continued all the way to the summit. The summit doesn’t have a benchmark but it does have a huge cairn!
The summit also has a huge view in all directions – one not encumbered by walls of smoke on this bluebird day!
On the way back to the LovedOne, I stopped to marvel at a huge (with a DBH of at least five feet) lodgepole pine that was dead on one side and alive on the other.
I was less admirous of the prospect someone had blasted (likely years ago) a few feet north of the summit of Point 8096.
Judging from the “color” on the pile of rocks near the prospect, the metal being sought was copper. This hole may explain why there is (or was) a trail up Houston Creek to this ridge.
As expected, the LovedOne had added a few inches to a scarf in my absence.
After packing away the knitting and having a snack, we decided not to go back along the ridge but rather descend almost directly down to the PCT. We had read on Peakbagger where someone had gotten to and from China Mountain by going UP and down this slope. The going down for us was tedious but otherwise easy but going UP this thing – our capacity for masochism isn’t THAT great!
After side-stepping down and side-hilling over, we reached the beloved PCT and cruised south (actually east) on its almost level tread back to the trailhead.
A nice short hike (7.8 miles; 2,300 feet elevation gain) on open terrain with great views almost all the way. Going up the ridge is fun – with just a hint of scrambling – and the view from the top of China Mountain is great. Descending the slope to the PCT is a sorta quicker way back – if you don’t want to re-traverse the ridge – but no way we’d suggest you go UP this slope! It would be wrong for us to do that…