I needed a hike because I hadn’t done anything in 2 weeks. The closest Prominence Peak that I hadn’t climbed was down in California, so I got up early (7:15AM is early isn’t it?) and drove down to Chanchelulla Peak. I had scouted Chanchelulla before and found the north, south, and west sides to have problems with access. I headed to the east side “trailhead” near Deer Lick Springs. On the drive down I saw a little bear off of Stewart Springs Road. He was a cute little fellow who scampered away as soon as he saw my truck.
I headed south through Weaverville. The air here was full of smoke because of the fires they have been battling for the last 6 weeks. They probably won’t control those fires until the first good rain in October. I hoped Chanchelulla wasn’t covered with this smoke.
I continued on and found my way down the long, long, long access road from Hwy 299. Deer Lick Springs looked like a nice place to camp if it was cool. I found Chanchelulla Creek and followed a little drive back into the trees about 500ft to a camping spot filled with empty beer cans.
I had arrived in time for lunch. I quickly put my boots on and headed up the creek. The road ended all too soon and I was soon following game trails through the forest. The game trails were nice and wide and looked well used. I thought there must be a lot of deer in the area.
It didn’t take long to work up a sweat and get into a rhythm for this climb. My plan was to continue up the creek about 2 miles and then follow a creek up to a saddle east of the peak. I had been hiking for about a mile and all was going well when I noticed something off to my right up the hill a ways. That’s funny, it looks like a bear. It must be a stump because bears always run away as soon as they see you. But, that sure looks like a bear. I have to get a closer look. I climbed up another 50 ft and was only about 100 ft away from a BIG bear. He was staring directly at me. Cool, I took out my camera so I could take a picture before he ran off.
Why was he still staring at me? He looked pretty big. Maybe if I yelled at him, he would run away. I yelled “What are you staring at bear?” and he didn’t budge. Oh, oh, this may be trouble staring at me. All I’ve got to defend myself are 2 trekking poles. This bear was big enough to use them as chop sticks for his lunch.
I had enough pic’s so I decided to leave the area before this bear decided to chase down his lunch. As I moved off to my left, he got up off his haunches and slowly moved back up the hill into the brush. I guess he was more interested in berries for lunch than some white chicken meat. He was BIG. I’ve seen about 12 bears in the last year and he was a lot bigger than any of them. I estimate 400-500 lbs. Chanchelulla must be an Indian word meaning “BIG BEAR”.
I continued my hike up the creek. My senses were on heightened alert and I kept looking back to see if I had a following… I kept the creek on my left and could hear it down below. Bears make good trails and the trails are easy to follow.
I made my way about 1.5 miles up the creek when I came over a little ridge and got a good view of Chanchelulla Peak off to my right. I changed my plan there and decided the ridge I was on looked good enough to go up to the main ridgeline and the saddle I was shooting for.
My main objective was to avoid as much brush as possible. I’ve hiked through a lot of miserable brush in the past and I’ve learned that I enjoy the hike better if I can avoid it. The ridge was steep but easy to follow. Ahead, the top of the ridgeline seemed to be brush covered so I started traversing over to the saddle east of Chanchelulla Peak. Some of the traverse was across scree and rock slopes, but they weren’t difficult or dangerous.
I finally got up to the saddle and could see the final ridgeline up to the summit. It looked brushy. I decided to stay out of the brush and see if the way through the trees on the right or north was easier to traverse. I made my way through the trees and up the ridge. No great difficulty on this part of the hike either. It took me about 3.5 hours to reach the summit. I was surprised to find 2 registers on the summit. I signed one and took some pic’s. It was a nice day for a hike and there was a nice cooling breeze on the summit.
All too soon it was time to head down. I wanted to get down before dark and didn’t have to hurry, but I did want to have a little cushion in case another bear wanted to have his picture taken. Going down seemed to be steeper than going up for some reason. I love my GPS because I can follow the track I made on the way up. I followed the track and made good progress back to my truck. I didn’t have any problems going back down the ridgelines and got back to my truck with about ½ hour to spare before sunset. Total hike was about 7.4 miles and took 6.5 hours. There were lots of minor ups and downs along the creek route that added some elevation to the hike. I estimate the total elevation gain was about 3,600ft.
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