Onion Camp Climber's Log

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Redwic - Jul 2, 2012 10:10 am Date Climbed: Jul 1, 2012

Onion Camp: Good, McCaleb Ranch: Bad  Sucess!

Let this tale be a lesson to others. After summiting Mount Bolivar, Brandy Peak, and Grayback Mountain, I had enough daylight to drive to McCaleb Ranch. When I reached the lower parking lot (near the gate), an elderly man with white hair and long beard came out from the ranch above it and told me to leave. He said the parking lot was part of their private property and I had to park in the upper lot & use the footbridge (suspension bridge). He said it was OK for me to car-camp in that upper lot, too. Then his questions became much more pointed and specific, and he seemed like he was trying to dissuade me from doing my Pearsoll Peak trip. I knew that the upper lot would add hiking distance and elevation gain to an already long hike, but I drove to the upper lot without complaining and during the next hour I organized my gear for the next day's hike. One of the first things I noticed was a fresh/clean broken car window on the ground in the upper lot. A car soon arrived at the lower lot, and I could see & hear the elderly man calling down to the driver, asking if he had passed me and my car on the road. About an hour later, after dark (nearly 10:30 PM), I could see & hear the elderly man sending the young 20-something driver and another guy to drive to the upper lot to "check on" me. They quietly drove by with just their parking lights on, and I pretended to be asleep in my car. They parked immediately in front of the large trailhead sign, got out of the car, and just stared at me for a few minutes. By this time, I was already outside of my car and watching them, too. I said, "Oh! I thought I would be the only person up here tonight. I need to go get something" as I walked around them to the trail. The driver asked, "Where is the trailhead at?" I pointed to it, and I knew he intentionally had parked up against its entrance to monitor me. I walked a short distance, grabbed my bike (which I had temporarily stashed next to the trail to help keep it from being stolen), and quickly walked back. The two guys passed me and asked how to get to the footbridge. I kept walking and passed them as I replied, "Just follow this trail for a few switchbacks" as they slowly continued down the trail. I quickly got back to my car, stashed my bike in it, and then I heard the elderly man yelling out from the ranch to the two guys, about me. The last thing I heard him say was, "You know what to do!" and I jumped in my car and drove away. I do not know if they were just sent to the upper lot to harass or intimidate me (or worse), but some sort of shenanigans were going on and I was not staying around to find out.

Fortunately, this was a blessing in disguise. I drove back to Highway 199 and then went to the Kalmiopsis Rim Trailhead near Onion Camp. After sleeping several hours, I began hiking at 3:40 AM. I reached the summit and lookout at 6:40 AM, stayed for 30 minutes, and then headed back. This is a great peak and a nice little lookout (which was being remodeled). I was hoping for outstanding views, but low clouds/fog hindered visibility. However, the entire Kalmiopsis Rim Trail was in excellent condition, and would be a great way to see more of the wilderness. Plus, it is less hiking distance (13.2 miles roundtrip) and elevation gain (2900' cumulative gain) than from McCaleb Ranch. I highly recommend the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail via Onion Camp. Do not even bother with the McCaleb Ranch approach, unless you want to take a chance of shenanigans being pulled on you or your vehicle.

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