Crag Peak
(a manzanita maze)

29 May 2006 - by John Dunagan

I had a few days off, and living in Bishop, I decided to go and back Crag Peak. My flexible schedule allows short notice trips. This was a big weekend and lots of people were out, which is fine by me. I was asked to take some photos of a father and son group at the trailhead of Kennedy Meadows. The group said they were camping next to the first river crossing. I did [take the photo] and in return, the young man showed me several pictures of very large rattlesnakes. He said he had taken the pictures next to the Kern River, not far from their camp. I myself did not see any on the PCT. I might add I am a snake attractor when on the trail! The young man said the snakes were close to the water in the underbrush, so be careful if you are looking for water or cooling off in the warm weather.

The weather was fine, clear, with no wind and not a cloud in the sky. I did this as a day trip. It was five miles in, across Clover Meadow, then up 3000 feet to bag the summit, and walk out. That was the plan. The five mile walk was fine, mild undulation, easy walking, I though, just across the meadow. Everything was going as planned.

Up the slope there was manzanita everywhere. Webster's defines manzanita as a small shrub or tree. I think Webster's was talking about small trees; a different situation. So for the next few hours, I was doing what poor deer have been doing for the last several centuries, finding my way through a manzanita maze. The heavy growth forced me to the south peak proper by the time I made the ridge. I traversed the ridge to the north, but still encountered heavy growth. The heaviest growth was just below the base of the rock. The manzanita must like the light there. Anyway, I summited, turned tail and ran. The summit is the north group of rocks, together in the center, 60 feet higher than the south peak according to the map I was using.

Descending was worse through the maze than ascending. I made it back to the PCT in good time, but was very tired. How do deer do it? The last five miles back to the trailhead seem to take forever because I was so tired. All in all, the view from the summit was cool. You could see beautiful Beck Meadows and the southern exposure of Langley still covered with snow at about the 10,000-foot level. I made it back to camp around 4:00 in the afternoon, ready for a nap. Not bad for a little day hike!

Watch out for snakes. Take enough water. Long pants are a must. Do yourself a favor and wear pants and boots fit for the heavy brush. The manzanita will thank you!

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