Our hiking adventure required some specific ingredients. It needed to be somewhere close by. We wanted to get a workout in . . . and be back in town by mid afternoon. We found it on the Spring Cove Trail at Bass Lake! Not only did we get some elevational gain, we got some bonus exercise in as we climbed over, under and around down trees.
Where: Sierra National Forest
Distance: 5.23 Miles
Elevation Range: 3,388′ – 4,967′
Date: December 7, 2017
Maps: Ahwahnee Topographic Quad Map
Dog Hike? Yes, depending on your dog
There are several options on how to hike the Spring Cove Trail area but we staged a vehicle in order to do a through hike and it was a brilliant idea. Although we started on the Spring Cove Trail near the Spring Cove Campground on the southwestern side of Bass Lake, we left a vehicle off of Road 223 where the gated dirt road heads to the repeater vaults on Goat Mountain and the old Goat Mountain Lookout, just north of where Road 223 meets Thornberry Road. We made sure to pull off the road to not block equipment that might need to access that road. As we drove along Bass Lake, the view was quite different than the last time I had been in this area. The dead trees had been removed, leaving an much more open forest. The trail that we headed up was well marked on the side of the road opposite of Bass Lake.
But Bass Lake was not always here, as you probably already know. It was a meadow that had been occupied by Native Americans for far longer than our records record these things. When the Mariposa Battalion came to the valley in 1851, they saw flocks of birds that they thought were Sandhill Cranes and they decided to name the big meadow area Crane Valley. Those big birds were actually Great Blue Herons which still live in the area. In 1895, a plan was devised to use the waters of Willow Creek to generate hydroelectric power for residents of the great San Joaquin Valley. The San Joaquin Electric Company was formed and the first earthen dam was built in Crane Valley in 1901. In 1902 the San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation was formed to purchase the electric company and later the electric operations of the rival gas company. The dam was enlarged in 1905 and the present Dam was built in 1910.
The lake was called Crane Valley Reservoir for many years but the name was eventually changed when a small Bass Lake lumber operation polluted the lake, killing all the fish that were in it. The lumber company was ordered by the government to replace all the fish that were lost. The chosen fish was Bass, hence the new name – Bass Lake.
Bass Lake is now owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the waters of the lake are still used today to generate electricity, irrigate farmland in the Central Valley and for numerous recreational activities.
You are probably wondering how Goat Mountain received its name. Well, as I was researching this, I came across a great article written by Sierra News Online back in 2012 about this very item.
This mountain got it’s name back when Bass Lake was being created in the Crane Valley above Oakhurst. Goats were brought in to stamp down the dirt in the lake basin around the dam area. After they had done this, the goats were released and they migrated to this mountain to the west of the lake. Because they have been eradicated by natural predators and humans you won’t find them there today.
The article also has great information on the trails in the area and you can read it here . As we started walking up the trail, it was shady and well maintained.
But it wasn’t too long before that changed. Quite a few recently down pines were across the trail. Some had been dead for a while but many looked like they may have come down in our recent winds. It was pretty easy to climb over or walk around the down trees.
We had to crawl under some of the trees.
After about 1.5 miles, we intersected the Goat Mountain Trail that came up from the Forks Campground, then another .7 miles til we reached the dirt road that goes up to Goat Mountain and the radio and repeater vaults. The top of Goat Mountain was where we headed for our lunch spot. Another option when we reached the dirt road would have been to continue out the 4.5 miles to the Goat Mountain Lookout and that is a fun hike but we didn’t do that on this hike.
Goat Mountain Lookout is no longer staffed or used for fire detection but there is a radio relay site there. There isn’t very much information available about the early days of the Goat Mountain Lookout and it is said to be a pre 1915 lookout. The lookout is located at an elevation of 4,634 feet and is found at map reference T7S, R22E, S34. The 1915 cabin building blew down in winter 1915-16. There is no record of use until 1934 when it was reconstructed. In fall 1935, winds shifted the tower on the base, and it had to be reconstructed again, though it appears that they utilized the same cab and the base was replaced with a Pacific Coast Steel tower. The tower is a 20 foot, H-B Steel L-4 Hip-2 built by Pacific Coast Steel Tower. The Lookout was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register on April 21, 1999 as Lookout No. 303.
As we headed up the sometimes steep dirt road to Goat Mountain, there were quite a few recent down trees were across the road and after about .8 miles we reached our lunch spot at the top where the communication equipment was located. Now this wasn’t the most beautiful lunch spot view that we have had on our adventures, but it did the trick. After a quick bite, we headed down the road about 2.3 miles toward Road 223 and our other vehicle.
Not every hike or adventure needs to be a full day or an exotic location. Sometimes just getting out for some exercise can result in a short vacation for your brain.
Dog Hike? Maybe
I didn’t bring Sally on this hike, but she would have been welcome on it. Here are the Sierra National Forest rules for pets from their website:
Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.
We ask the public to remember these rules when taking pets into the wilderness.
- Bury feces.
- Do not tie up dogs and leave them unattended.
- Do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
- Leave unfriendly or loud dogs at home.
For additional information from Sierra National Forest regarding pets, please click the following link: Canine Camper
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