LA PORTE ROAD AND PILOT PEAK (7,457') October 18, 2003

Anxious to take advantage of the fine fall weather, I chose to make a drive to do Mt. Fillmore (7,716'), for my 4X. Knowing that this climb didn't take too long, I left home at a leisurely hour.

Unable to interest my former peak partners, I stopped along the way to check in with a ranger. In case of some freak accident, I might then have search and rescue called if I didn't check back in at the ranger station. I was well equipped, with warm clothes, in case I broke my leg or something. I could easily survive the night, and it wouldn't be a big thing for the teams to risk going quickly in a life-or-death emergency situation, as with ill-prepared hikers during freezing nights, say.

The fall colors were pretty good, with plenty of red and pink dogwood, with maybe 30% turned. Some oaks and maples were also good yellow. The County Road E21 to La Porte, CA, offers a few small pullouts to snap away.

I stopped briefly in La Porte for photos of the historic sights. The big hotel was open for business, but without company, I had no need for a social drink or food. Motoring past this town, I then saw that a new, paved highway had been built since my last visit in 1992. The new, La Porte to Quincy Road, 120, was excellent, but my old notes were no longer applicable as far as driving the former dirt road to Mt. Fillmore. My Plumas NF map was old, and helped little.

Motoring up this new stretch of blacktop, I saw it may be considered California's newest section of a Trans-Sierra highway. Although from Quincy, you must drive over Beckwourth Pass or Fredonyer Pass to get to the Great Basin. Traffic was very light, and driving through the forest, I was pleased I made this trip. I was enjoying what may never have been seen, before this road was put in. The trees are tall, and the vistas good enough. The pass doesn't have a name.

I needed to explore this a bit, and found no unmistakable, named or signed road goes over to do my peak of choice. Photographing some aspen groves on the eastern side, I turned around. Seeking some hiking, I drove back to the signed side road to Pilot Peak. The sign here said, "1 1/2" miles, so I deemed to make this short walk.

Slowly driving up this rough road, I stopped at a narrow section after 0.3 mile. It was difficult to turn around, but I parked facing downhill, turning my wheels inward, and set some rocks under my tires to prevent the consequences of an unfortunate parking brake failure.

I began my short climb by 11:50 a.m. Two ATV'ers and a caravan of jeeps came by, headed out. The rough spots further were just too much for a passenger car, and I was glad that I decided to walk. Basically following the rocky road to the lookout, I topped out at 12:30 p.m. The last few hundred feet to the lookout is a foot trail, so this makes it "count" as a peak, by me. This is a major high peak for the area, so I will add it to my records.

The structure on top was a bit unusual, and the view was grand. It was windy, and I worried about the decrepit tower blowing over! I walked around the wooden balcony, snapping plenty of photos. The view south included Sierra Buttes, and my intended peak, Mt. Fillmore.

Drinking some of my water, I shortly left for the car, taking some 32 minutes to get back. Good enough for my daily exercise!

Back on road 120, I noted a signed side road to Gibsonville and Delahunty Lake. That would have been the ticket to the approach road to Mt. Fillmore. Well, maybe next time!

Returning to La Porte, I tried to think of what to make of the rest of this day. I made stops to photograph the fall colors. Some nice dogwood and then maples made for good close-ups. I stopped at the businesses of the small towns, for pictures and drink, too.

Checking back with the ranger, I saw from the USFS map where I could have gone. Even their 2001 map doesn't show this new highway.

I drove back to Marysville Road, then Highway CA 20. A short walk about historic downtown Marysville, CA, made for some more photo interest. Coming here, again, for a short winter afternoon would do me well for something to beat cabin fever. The large brick buildings and shops are well used and maintained.

Gaining a new, distant view of the Sacramento highrises from Interstate 5, I was home early, for once.

I hiked some 2.5 miles, with maybe 900' gain on Pilot Peak. I added a half mile or so in Marysville. I shot some 260 digital images, and spent some $20 for fuel (@1.599 in Marysville) and drink.

My apologies to anyone who has tried to climb Mt. Fillmore or Blue Nose Mountain from the west, by my outdated peaks guide directions. Presumably, a determined peak climber would figure out the difference, and navigate his or her own way to climb the peak. Being alone and without a good vehicle, I declined to risk the day doing this, this time. Good sense is helpful in all this peak business!