Black Hawk Mountain

23-24 Sep 2000 - by Aaron Schuman

Black Hawk Mountain felt lonely; we set out to give it our company. Stefane Mouradiane, Kirsten Mouradiane, Barfin' Joan Marshall and I made up the whole party. Saturday morning we headed up the trail from Kennedy Meadows, a few miles below Sonora Pass, and walked deep into the Emigrant Wilderness. It's a long trail, steep and switchbacked in places, and dusty from heavy equine usage. We passed high above Relief Reservoir, across Grouse Creek and up to Summit Creek. We passed numerous mounted hunters, including one cheery party of four who all held their rifles in one hand and cans of beer in the other. Deer hunting, we discovered, is permitted in the Emigrant during its season.

We entered the long, broad Lunch Meadow. Stefane explained how his father was walking the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in France and Spain. I observed that every pilgrimage is like a trek, and every trek is like a pilgrimage. We chatted about the spiritual intent of mountaineers. Joan reminded herself to teach me, later on, that I am a mushy headed sentimentalist.

We camped at the head of the valley, near the location that Rob Langsdorf had suggested to us. I pointed out the ridges around us that displayed the inverted topography for which the Sonora area is so renowned.

In the morning we ascended the peak. From Lunch Meadow, there are an endless supply of plausible class two routes to the summit. We picked one we liked for the climb and another for the descent. We were on the summit at 8:00 a.m., taking our time and admiring the view.

Joan felt great on the mountaintop, and on the whole climb. Our moderate pace and her thorough hydration warded off the nausea that often plagues her. We had made a two day weekend out of a trip that some people do as a day hike, and I'm glad of our trip plan. There was plenty to do for two days.

On the way down, Joan and I did some bouldering on an attractive granite outcrop.

On the hike out, we saw a rider fall off his horse. Did he drink one Budweiser too many? Kirsten, an experienced nurse, helped the fallen cowboy back onto his feet, and worried about his injuries.

Great scenery, good companionship, clear weather, lots of exercise and an early return ... a perfect weekend!

Rob Langsdorf advised:

When I day hiked Black Hawk a few years ago I hike the trail as far as Lunch Meadow and they went crosscountry from there. From about 1/3 mile west of the Mosquito Pass Tr jct there is a drainage that leads almost directly to the peak. It looked doable as I looked down it from near the summit.

To cut off milage on the way out I dropped NW to the lake at the SW corner of section 6. From there I decended slabs and use trail to the main trail about 2/3 of a mile south of Saucer Meadow. There are some nice campsites along the stream in this area.

Nine miles is a long way for beginning backpackers. So I would consider stopping before Lunch Meadow and doing a longer day hike. You could still take the trail route in to the point you had planned to go up the mountain. Above Lunch Meadow the route is in sage with no timber and it looked dry, so it is less interesting than down the hill aways. There was water at Lunch Meadow.

The direct route down from the peak does go across a few ledges that might be more than a true beginner is ready for. Also there was a friction slope that might be uncomfortable for a beginner.

By the way, are you aware that the parking for backpackers is about a mile or more down the road from the end of the pavement? So it may be wise to drop packs and most people off at the resort, park the vehicles in the backpacker parking and shuttle the drivers to the end of the road. This leaves one person having to hot foot it up the road, but will keep your group a little fresher for the walk up the old jeep road.

Margaret Beetle Barbour wrote:

Sorry, Aaron, I can't join you for the hike and climb into the Emigrant tomorrow. I have a gross display of poison oak on top of my foot. I tried to wear just my tennis shoes this morning, and it's unbearable. We got a new pup and I believe he must have smeared the poison oak onto me. I've never had it in that particular place and can't imagine how else it would have gotten there.

For the last two weekends, I drove out Eagle Meadows Road (5N01) to nearly the end, then onto 5N01D (a very rough road, but my Outback handled the first mile okay). It's a major shortcut. You walk less than an hour to the top on a jeep trail and can almost reach across Upper Relief Valley and touch Blackhawk. Other, bigger 4-wheelers make it to the top; both times there were hikers parked at the trailhead.

However, Eagle Meadows Road is a mecca for deer hunters and driving out and back I had to be on the lookout for huge pickups parked in the middle of the roadway with no one watching the road, espacially not the driver.

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