November 18, 2005 I started from my home in Medford, Oregon heading south down to California to chase down some prominence peaks. Among them was Butt Mountain. My job here was to see if Butt Mountain has the access point for the California enema. Seriously, I wanted to check #47 on the prominence list off my “To Do” list. I drove down to Redding and then caught Hwy 44 going east. I found a road that cut between Hwy 44 and Hwy 36 and then followed Hwy 36 to hwy 32. I was getting close.
As I headed down Hwy 32 I got my first sight of Butt Mountain off to the left. I continued down Hwy 32, passed my turn, and arrived at Elam Creek Picnic Area. I turned around and found road 28N12 on my right. 28N12 started climbing right away and I felt like it was heading in the right direction. I consulted my Lassen National Forest Map and I could see my road as it switchbacked up the mountain. The road was easy to drive in 2WD, so I kept following it up hoping that I wouldn’t get blocked by a snow drift from the storm we had at the beginning of the month.
As luck would have it I drove right up to the trailhead with no problems at all. It was cool and there were patches of snow around, but I could see the trail and it looked good. It had taken me 5 hours to drive here, so I might as well see how far I could go before I got lost in the snow. I brought my headlamp, just in case…
The Carter Creek Trail was wide and easy to follow under a forested canopy. Before I knew it I had reached the PCT and only there were still only patches of snow. The patches were hard and consolidated, so I was hopeful that I could continue to the summit. As I followed the PCT it continued to climb and soon the snow patches were gone and only snow remained. The footing was surprisingly good so I continued and followed the trail as it switchbacked a couple of times. One of the switchbacks was kind of icy and I almost fell.
The trail here was interesting because there were a lot of bear footprints in the snow on the trail. They weren’t real fresh, but maybe a day or two old. I followed these tracks for a couple of miles until I reached the ridgeline again. On the ridgeline the tracks weren’t as numerous, but once in a while they would show up. I was happy that my boots were making loud crunching noises in the snow.
Continuing, the trail followed the ridgeline up and down for more than a mile. I could finally see Lassen Peak and Butt Mountain. I knew I could make it now because I didn’t have much more elevation to gain.
I took the trail junction with the Butt Mountain summit trail and followed this out to the summit area. As the vegetation ended the trail did also. It looked like a talus rock hopping final ¼ mile to the summit. I took my time to make sure I didn’t twist and ankle and was soon standing on the summit. What a beautiful day! ! ! Clear blue sky, magnificent views of Lassen Peak, Brokeoff Mountain, and Lake Almanor. I was wearing a T-shirt and was very comfortable. I ate my lunch, took pictures and relaxed for a little while knowing that this might be the last warm hike of 2005.
Soon, I headed back to my car. I didn’t have any problems finding my way back down except for almost slipping again at that icy switchback. I got back to the car about 4:30PM and didn’t have to use my headlamp. Total hike was about 4 ½ hours, 11 miles, and gained about 2,000 ft with the ups and downs along the ridge.
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