A Homeric Epic

16 May 1999 - by Debbie Bulger

Not wanting to battle the brush described by Aaron Schuman in the 1996 Steve Eckert led climb of Homer's Nose, Richard and I decided to approach on dirt roads from the north where the East Fork of the Kaweah crosses the Mineral King Road, avoiding the brush as described by Mark Adrian. Despite the rather indelicate title of Mark's report, the directions were detailed and accurate except for one omission. That omission cost us three miles of cross country.

As Mark reported, the climb is extreme class one. If his directions hadn't been so detailed, we would probably have spent more time looking at the roads on the map and checking UTM coordinates. What was missing from his narrative were two road intersections. As a result, we took the wrong road fork, climbed Salt Creek Ridge too early and traversed its entire length, paralleling the dirt road below us which we discovered on the way back.

Since the climb was 22 miles and began at 2500 feet, we decided to do it as a two-day backpack, camping by a creek about 6 miles from the trailhead. We left Santa Cruz at 6:00 a.m. and were on the trail by 1:00 p.m. having issued ourselves a self permit at the Foothills Visitor Center.

At the lower elevations the redbuds were in bloom and the wildflowers spectacular. There were many I had never seen before: blue fiesta flower, purple Chinese houses, rosy fairy lantern, two subspecies of common madia, whisker brush, Indian warrior, and wally basket. And lots of old favorites such as baby blue eyes, lupine, fiddle neck, poppies, penstemon, golden brodiaea, western wallflower, and white ceanothus. It was a glorious display.

As we climbed, we traversed several habitats: chaparal, oak woodland, grey pine/sugar pine, pondorosa pine and finally red fir at the 9023 foot summit. The snow level was at 7500 feet, but we did not need the showshoes we carried. Few people climb Homer's Nose. We were the first party this year. I think only three groups had signed the register last year including Mark.

The historic aspects of the climb were very interesting: an old logging camp surrounded by enormous sequoia stumps and a few remaining living giants, and in another place, four circular bowls carved in the granite bedrock, each about four feet in diameter and at least a foot deep. What were they? Does anyone know? They looked like acorn grinding mortars but much, much bigger.

The extra cross country slowed us down and, as a result, we spent another night in camp before hiking out the next morning just as the road grading crew were erasing the critter register signed in the wet weeks before by mother and baby bear, deer, mountain lion, Douglas squirrel, coyote, and others.

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