Fire road adventure

Mountain Secrets

Tony KrizanFebruary 1, 2012 

Now that winter is upon us, let's try hiking a few fire roads within our mountains surrounding Oakhurst. If you check our local map, there are many forgotten roads leading into remote areas only minutes from our down town area.

The other day Fred Cochran and I decided to hike from the forestry gate at Road 223 and the unpaved Thornberry Road. Then trek across Thornberry Mountain toward Mudge Ranch. If time would permit, follow toward the forest gate along Veater Ranch Road in the Coarsegold area. Note: Be sure and get permission to cross the Veater Ranch property.

This steep but scenic dirt road was carved across this mountain range as a fire break, but as a hiking trail the distant views of both Oakhurst and Coarsegold are rewarding.

Within the first hour we can see Oakhurst Valley extending westward toward Ahwahnee. Even the cell towers on Deadwood are visible. On the opposite side of this valley is Bissett Station Road (620) wandering across the banana belt. Looking north are the mountains surrounding North Fork. The peaks of Shuteye, Little Shuteye and Fresno Dome are in the distance.

We took a few side bar trails which led to those abandoned Agate Mines. All that remains today are huge areas honed into the mountain side or deep holes blasted and dug directly into the earth. After a closer inspection of these man made scars, these ancient diggings have been abandoned for decades.

Continuing along the crest we have the choice of staying on the road or attempt the side trails which in-turn shortens this hike. Dropping in elevation we passed the back gate to Camp Oakhurst and the lowest point of this hike. We could terminate our trek and walk through the camp, but decided to continue following the road climbing above its location.

We passed another forest gate and continue to the next summit. Again the views of Coarsegold are opening up but the ridge extending south is blocking the distant views. Once again we followed the road as it dropped down to a third gate, then another short climb to an opening that gave us a 180 degree view of Coarsegold and the Chukchansi Casino in the direction of Indian Lakes.

We had a brief discussion if we should turn back at this point or continue hiking toward Veater Ranch Road? Turning back was the logical decision with our second vehicle parked on Thornberry Summit Road, just below Camp Oakhurst. Veater Ranch Road was not an option at this time.

Instead of returning to the back gate which allows access into the Camp, we took a cross country route. This remote trek will by-pass Camp Oakhurst and cross another remote dirt road leading to the area where our vehicle is parked.

I have hiked off trail in this area many times. For those of you who are attempting your first challenge into this area, stay on the dirt roads or bring your map and GPS. There are many brushy canyons and they all look alike. After three and a half hours we completed an adventure that was remarkably challenging and of course we were rewarded with views of our local area.

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