Thursday, June 2, 2016

Flat Black Peak

Hiked: 5/30/2016
Distance: 9 miles round trip on dirt road, use trail, and firebreak
Summit Elevation: 2580'
Elevation Gain: 1905'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.52
Round trip time: 3 hours
Recommended water: 56 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Black Star Canyon Road
Difficulty: Moderate

Many small peaks dot the ridge lines on both sides of Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains. The canyon and its seasonal falls are far more popular than any of the surrounding peaks. This trip started as a scouting mission to check routes to Peak 2600 and Peak 2710 on opposite sides of the canyon. After a few miles, I found the most direct routes were restricted. The trail to 2600 was only open to the public one weekend a month. A utility road to 2710 had a No Access and No Trespassing sign. Black BM (Peak 2710) can also be accessed from Black Star Canyon Road on a far ridge, well past the peak, so I continued up the road to see what I could find.

There were more than a hundred cars parked at the trailhead on this Memorial Day forcing me to park farther away than usual. I started late in the afternoon, so most of the crowd was returning along the road. A handful of people and bikes were parked at the access point to the canyon for traveling to the falls. A wooden post has been added since I was last there directing people toward the falls. I continued parallel to the canyon on a mountain bike trail that shortcuts a long switchback in the road. I connected with the road and took a second shortcut. From there, the utility road was visible to the west, but across the north fork of the canyon. I continued on the road, being passed by mountain bikes in both directions until I entered the Marisposa Reserve. Just across from the Mariposa sign was a third mountain bike shortcut. This one led to a large oval dirt area. From there, I spotted a use trail heading up a ridge to the local high point I called "Flat Black Peak". I concluded every peak along this canyon should have "black" or "star" in the name. The peak was protected by a row of cliffs on this side. I chose to follow the use trail not knowing if it would get me past the obstacles. The trail climbed directly up the ridge to the cliffs, skirted about 40' to the right, then, continued up a class 2 section of dirt and rocks.

Black Star Canyon from the first shortcut

Mariposa Reserve

Use trail to the cliffs, the second bump on the ridge
had a mysterious BT8 made of rocks

Starting up the short cliff section

Just below the top, I climbed a small boulder on the left and found the use trail cutting through 20' of brush to a flat dirt area. This was the first of several bumps that offered nice views. I marched up the ridge through light brush on the firebreak. The second bump had a set of stones arranged to read "BT8" -- a mystery. The next couple of bumps held no surprises, then I reached the top of Flat Black Peak. I didn't find a register or any marks and didn't expect any. According to the GPS, I was only 0.4 miles from Peak 2710. I drifted that direction through a grass field looking to see if the firebreak continued. It didn't as far as I could tell. Without time to bushwhack to the next ridge, I decided to return another day and get Peak 2710 the long way. Even though the routes I scouted were a bust, I was pleased to find this consolation peak.

First bump

BT8 rocks on the second bump

Flat Black Peak summit, Black BM in the background

Looking down the ridge, comm towers barely visible on the horizon from Pleasant's peak

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