Yolo is a four letter word that is synonymous with any of the unprintable four letter words that earn a movie an R or X rating. Yolo is X rated. I studied others trip reports and knew the topo’s by heart. I was ready to tackle Yolo in April 2004. After all, how hard could it be? Dingus Milktoast had cut a superhighway through the brush and the trail would be easy to follow.
I drove down from Oregon on the 23rd of April with the intention of coming in from Hwy16. Unfortunately, the Hwy16 access is closed all winter and spring because there are low water bridges that have creeks flowing over them. I had to drive all the way around to Lower Lake and come in from that direction. I arrived after dark and car camped near the Yolo/Lake county line at a saddle. It looked like this was a popular camping spot and there were several places to pull off the road.
At first light I was up and anxiously hiking towards my objective the summit of Little Blue Peak and the highpoint of Yolo County. I carried 5 liters of water with me, just in case it got hot and took longer than I anticipated. The trail was easy to follow along an old 4WD road heading directly toward Little Blue Peak. This was going to be easy. I followed the road and soon could see a mobile home off to the left on a ridge overlooking Davis Creek. That must be where the private property is located, so I was in the right area. Everything was going well.
I followed the road and it became rougher with washouts, but I worked my way around them and continued as the road was heading down towards the creek at the bottom of the valley. Soon the road disappeared all together and I had to tackle the brush. I headed down through the tall bushes, sometimes crawling under the brush because it was easier than going over it. I was following a creek that is just south of the Twin Sisters on the topo and after descending 200-300 ft found myself at Davis Creek. Now where is that superhighway?
I started picking my way upstream following Davis Creek. Sometimes I was directly in the creek because the brush was so thick on the banks. This was slow going and a lot of work. There must be a better way. After about a half mile following this superhighway, I saw what looked like an easier path east of the creek up on the side of the ridge that leads to Little Blue Peak.
I climbed up the ridge some ways and could see down into Davis Creek. I could see that the Creek route was all brush as far as I could see. I decided to take this high road on the east side of the Davis Creek valley. I tried to traverse and climb at the same time and worked my way north towards Little Blue Peak. The only problem here was that every little draw was choked with brush and I had to work my way through these. As I continued I noticed movement ahead and below me and it was a large brown bear heading down off the slope I was on towards Davis Creek. I was sweating pretty good and decided to take a break. I watched the bear for about 15 minutes as he ambled down to Davis Creek. He probably wanted to find a cool shady spot for a nap near the creek. At this point I was glad I wasn’t near the creek bottom.
I continued my slow agonizing bushwhacking expedition to Little Blue Peak. On the way, I ascended to the ridge top at the point marked by the little 3,000 ft contour on the topos and also went over point 3,081. I was getting close. More bushwhacking straight up the west face of Little Blue Peak brought me to the summit where I stumbled onto the summit register as I broke out of the brush. It had taken me 7 hours to go these few miles and my body and clothes were shredded by the brush.
I knew I didn’t want to go back the way I came. I had 2 choices, find the upper end of Davis Creek and follow that back and hope to avoid the bear, or find the private property route. I decided to try to find the private property route. There actually was a trail heading north from the summit and I decided to see if this would lead me anywhere. I was in luck. It went north for a ways and then swung southwest down across the headwaters of Davis Creek and along the west ridgeline heading back to the trailhead.
Just south of Butte Rock the trail lead up to a point and dead ended above some grazing areas below this point. I didn’t see any way through the brush so I back tracked off this point (missed the trail again that traverses around the east side of this point) and followed a grassy grazing area to the west. I theorized that it must connect to the area I could from above. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Soon this area descended into Bosch Canyon and this was the worst brush I had seen today. It took all the strength I could muster to continue pushing my way forward. After another 2 hours of breaking brush, I finally broke out into the grazing area that I had seen from above. I collapsed under a tree, drank most of the water I had left, and rested for a while.
Now the way to the trailhead was clear. I slowly made my way towards the mobile home I had seen early in the day. Even if they shot me and their dogs ate me for dinner, it would be better than going back through that brush. As I approached the mobile home, the dogs heard me and started barking. One of them came out and found me. I just sat down and talked to him. He didn’t attack and I was thankful. Soon the homeowner came out to see what the ruckus was all about. She saw me, called off the dogs and had pity on this miserable hiker. I must have looked in terrible shape, bloody scrapes on my arms, clothes tattered, obviously exhausted. I was no threat to anybody. She offered me water and food and gave me directions back to the trailhead. She said she sees a few groups of people every year who get stranded in the brush down by Davis Creek and they usually help them out and send them on their way.
I staggered back to my car at the trailhead and felt fortunate that it only took me 5 hours to return from the summit. Yolo gave all I could take on that day. How did Dean convince me to return again in December? When I was done, I had hundreds of bloody scrapes on my arms, hands, legs, and face. I also developed a fine case of poison oak on my arms, legs, stomach, and back. I was miserable for 2 weeks. The only things I didn’t see were ticks and rattlesnakes. I know they are there, the homeowner told me she had dogs bitten by rattlesnakes. Next time when I take the Yolo superhighway I will drive a D-9 CAT.
Doggone it Dennis, you made this one sound too good to be true. Now all kinds of people are going to want to do this piece of cake hike That was really a good write up though and I give it 5 stars. You don't need pictures with this trip report because you painted them so well with words.
One thing though, I can't believe you said "Next time when I......." A next time? are you nuts? Hmmmm, it would be fun though with a D-9 Cat, which is the proper county highpointer vehicle of choice for this highly sought after California vacation spot.
Wow - you guys are true animals! Excellent report, Dennis. I'm looking forward to doing this baby but I'll be stopping on the way to pick up an economy sized bottle of Tecnu (for the poison oak - you apply the stuff after exposure and it really does work)
So now I know what happened to "The Oregonian"! My hiking buddy and I bagged Little Blue that same day, and all we saw of Dennis was his vehicle with Oregon plates and a few footprints ahead of us. We did the Milktoast highway, both up and back, and couldn't figure out how we would have missed you, at least coming or going in one direction. The route, whichever way you take it is hellish (see my trip report on the COHP website.) But the mystery of the man from Oregon has now been solved. p.s. No bear in the creek, but the way we went, I'm not sure even a bear could have penetrated that brush!
I saw your truck parked at the trailhead and wondered how I could have missed you. I made several bad decisions that day. A true learning experience for sure. I should have stayed in the creek and fought it out there. At least there was water.