Monday, July 23, 2012

Hike 2012.047B -- Smith Ridge

Hiked Tuesday, July 17, immedi-ately after my hike to Lewis Falls. See that post for directions to trail head.

From Lewis Falls, I hopped in my car and continued up CA-39, staying straight where the road to Crystal Lake comes in from the north. I parked in the large clearing near mile marker 38.4.

From there, I walked around the "Road Closed" gate, and on up CA-39. I think I'd like to take my bike up here one day and explore more of CA-39, but, right now, the bike I have access to won't fit in my car, and don't want to buy a bike rack. This standoff will have to end one day, but it has not yet come to pass.

Today, on foot, my goal was "Smith Ridge." I don't see that name on a map, but it would make sense. It's the dirt road I got on to when I walked from Smith Saddle north (rather than south, to Smith Mountain).

The trip from the south to the top of Smith Ridge was a steep climb, much tougher than summitting Smith Mountain. On that hike, I walked north a bit past the high point and could see that this jeep trail would eventually merge with CA-39. Clearly, it would be easier to reach the high point from the north rather than the south.

On this day, having done my little hike to Lewis Falls, but needing additional mileage to make the day count as a hike, I settled on answering the question of how this hike from the north to Smith Ridge might go.

From the end of the road, it turns out to be just about exactly one mile to the meeting with the Smith Ridge jeep trail. Buckwheat grew densely along the south shoulder of the highway. Meanwhile, along the north shoulder, much of the way was semi-riparian in nature. A small seep of water came off the mountains to the north, and ran as a rivulet for well over half of the distance between points A and B, before disappearing down a drainage culvert.

Once at the ridge and road, I was disap-pointed to see no sign designat-ing a name or number to this road. But, about 100 yards into the hike, I passed a partially embedded water tank with the word, "SMITH" painted on the top. Hence, I deduced this ridge to be "Smith Ridge."

Incident-ally, there's also a "lower" jeep trail that splits off from the one that runs along the ridgeline. I walked on part of that one during my hike up from Smith Saddle. It's not as heavily used and more overgrown and less stable than the ridge route, though it does give a better view south than you can see from the top of the ridge.

That's getting ahead a bit. From the CA-39, the ridge jeep trail undulates up and down, though generally does gain altitude as it makes its way to a small flat area before dropping over in thicker brush towards Smith Saddle. Nice views in all directions the whole way, though, it being evening by the time I got here, the views to the southwest were pretty much hazed and glared out.

I'd guestimate (by feelinng and looking at a map) that it's about 3/4 of a mile along the ridge, from the highway to the last flat area before the brush and steepness make further progress doubtful. There's a "SMITH" Caltrans surveyor monument embedded at this end. Weather station equipment is a bit lower, in a less accessible location (No doubt by design).

Overall, this hike is among the easier hikes in my collection. Yes, there's some altitude gain involved getting from your car to the ridge, and some gain and loss there. But, over all, I'd estimate no more than 150 feet of vertical gain. It's mostly level, and pretty impossible to get loss. Definitely dog- or kid-friendly, if they're inclined to want to walk outdoors. Not much shade, though, a hat or sunscreen may be a consideration. An Adventure Pass is required.

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