I’d hiked the Lone Pilot Trail in 2015, not too long after it had been brushed out of old ranch roads by the Siskiyou Mountain Club. The Lone Pilot was (and still is) about the only way to visit the interior of this wilderness’ western half without having to thrash your way cross-country. I did the Lone Pilot counter-clockwise starting from the Pilot Rock Trailhead, returning along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The last two miles of the trail before it reaches the PCT run along an old road atop Lone Pine Ridge. Maps show this old road also running down the ridge, into the Dutch Oven Creek drainage, and on east to the Skookum Creek drainage. I got curious as to how far down the ridge you could go on that old road before running into a nasty wall of Ceanothus. Today, with The LovedOne busy being a volunteer treasurer, was my chance to find out (I doubt she would have joined me for a potentially tick-infested bushwhack regardless).
The closest access to Lone Pine Ridge is where gravel Baldy Creek Road intersects the PCT and the start of the short trail to Boccard Point. The trailhead here is just a pull-off (the road itself ends emphatically a short ways west near the former site of Bean Cabin), with parking for 3-4 vehicles.
From here, the PCT heads northeast toward Hobart Bluff and southwest toward Pilot Rock. I took it southwest and soon passed the spring at the former site of Bean Cabin.
One of the best features of this section of the PCT, aside from its gentle disposition, is the near immediate gratification it provides with views across open meadows to the south and west, mainly of the towering colossus of Mount Shasta.
I was up here early enough in the wildflower season to enjoy the Western Trillium (Western Wake-Robin) that were fresh and crisp and creamy, having just bloomed (usually I don’t see them until late season when they’re purple and limp).
In less than 2 miles along the PCT, I came to its junction with the eastern end of the Lone Pilot Trail, with its sign still extant (the one near Pilot Rock went missing a while back).
From its junction with the PCT, the Lone Pilot descends the prism of the old Baldy Creek Road,
then climbs a switchback to reach a saddle on Lone Pine Ridge. This up and down was necessary to get the road around a loose cliff on the west side of Point 5403. About a mile south along the ridge, past small clumps of fritillaries,
I came to where the Lone Pilot Trail drops west off the ridge into the Scotch Creek drainage. The trail signs are still extant here too.
As soon as I turned south along the ridge (on what some maps call Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 41-2E-10.1), it was obvious that the road was still in use as a trail. Because this is a popular hunting area, I’m guessing that hunters have kept it open (informally) over the years. I decided to see how far I could get before I either ran into too much brush or ran out of exploratory enthusiasm. After leaving the Lone Pine Trail, the old road contoured for a short while along grassy sections,
sections that were obviously a road,
and then started down more strongly at the south end of Point 5076.
Below Point 5076, the road/trail alternated between grassy,
but there was no significant brush blocking it (and only one tick sighting). From an opening in the brush, I could just make out the road prism running down the west side of the ridge above Scotch Creek.
There was also a view of the usual suspects to the south and west.
I continued down to a saddle just below Point 4630. Beyond here, it looked like the brush was more seriously encroaching on the road. The day was also warming up some and I started thinking about the hike back up to the PCT (a hike seems less daunting if you get to hike down after reaching your objective). While I was pretty sure I could continue down the road at least to where it crosses Dutch Oven Creek, I let the brush and growing warmth “encourage” me to put that hike off for another (colder) day. So after a snack, I headed back up the ridge. There had been views of Pilot Rock from when I first gained the ridge but, going back, there was a view of the Rock and Point 4881, which I climbed during a hike of Scotch Creek in 2016.
I followed the road up to where it drops east to circumvent the cliffs to the west of Point 5403 and then, just because, continued up the ridge above the cliffs.
Along the way I came across a Brandegee’s Spring-Beauty (usually only found in California) growing on the open slopes below Point 5403,
and enjoyed huge views to the east, south, and west. Hiking up the ridge here was not hard – and doing so took me directly to the PCT – and the views were great!
Just past the summit of Point 5403 I connected with an unmapped piece of very old road and followed it for a short distance east to the PCT, which I then followed back to the trailhead. A good exploratory hike of Lone Pine Ridge (8.5 miles round-trip; 1,200 feet of elevation gain). Continuing on to Dutch Oven Creek from where I turned-back would have added 6 miles (round-trip) and some 1,700 feet of gain to this hike. Perhaps an adventure for another day.