Backtracking: The Sierra Buttes, via the Pacific Crest Trail

Backtracking: The Sierra Buttes, via the Pacific Crest Trail

Aug. 13, 2016

The plan: The lookout atop the Sierra Buttes in the Plumas National Forest. There’s a few routes here from different places. We were camping at Sardine Lake for the weekend with friends and decided to attack it from the Packer Lake saddle, near the top of the famed mountain bike trail that heads into Downieville.


I have been homebrewing for more than five years now and thoroughly enjoy the hobby, especially from a creativity standpoint. As my brewing has evolved, I sometimes enjoy naming the beers as much as any other part of the process. Friends know that a funny anecdote or joke might find itself attached to a particular batch of homebrew. I keep a list of potential names on my phone and as we finished this hike, I added a newcomer to the list: Unrelenting Ascent.

This hike is very much a stair-stepping workout as the you gain nearly 2,000 feet of elevation just just over two miles to the lookout. From the Packer Lake saddle all the way to the top of the Buttes at the fire look lookout, you are moving upward.

The road leading to the trailhead was busy, even at 9 a.m. already. Dozens of mountain bikers were preparing to epically shred, or something like that. There was a small group of backpackers who had spent the night at the trailhead.

We wasted little time getting on the trail, which opens with a steady climb. I had taken a couple of pictures of my man Mike White’s book and about a mile or so in, we took a quick break and I re-read his description aloud: “The unrelenting ascent continues …”

Shannon looked up the Buttes and nodded in agreement.

But you don’t just have to get to the top for a payoff as views abound all the way up to the top. In fact, my favorite picture from the hike isn’t from the lookout atop the Buttes. Rather, it’s about two-thirds the way up, above Young American Lake, with the Sardine Lakes beyond.

As we got closer to the Buttes, the trail intersected a few times with a jeep road. Eventually, they merge to bring one wide trail to the base of the lookout. On this particular Saturday, the jeep road had a decent amount of vehicular traffic. And there were a number of folks coming and going on the stairs up the fire lookout.

As we got near the lookout, we could hear an odd buzzing. It got louder as we neared and soon we engulfed by swarms of flies. A little more than a nuisance, we didn’t hang out for long at the top – just enough to take in the terrific views and shoot a few pictures.

Upon returning to the campsite, we were rewarded with a swim in the perfect waters of lower Sardine Lake before a trip with friends to Downieville.

Because of the camping trip, no Moose on this hike.

I started this post shortly after the camping weekend and now, in May of 2017, am just getting around to finishing it. A long and hectic nine months has passed and I’ve neglected this and many other facets of life in that time due to a fairly stressful time at work.

Looking back, that was a pretty awesome weekend overall and it capped a really good summer as we camped with new friends in the Korbulics and the Harrisons, amongst others. Some fun memories from last summer and many more memories to come with those folks.

Gear: Low-top Columbias and the Osprey day-pack with bladder. No hiking sticks.

Post-hike beer: Too many to list here as we moved on in the afternoon to the annual Downieville Brewfest. Many were sampled, a number were good. Standing out from the crowd were Device Pale Ale and Eureka Peak Sour. I’ve driven past Eureka Peak Brewing dozens of times headed to or from Graeagle on Highway 70 but have never stopped in. That needs to change.

The pics:


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