Ascent of Gold Mountain on 2000-10-21

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, October 21, 2000
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Gold Mountain
    Elevation:1740 ft / 530 m

Ascent Trip Report

October 21, 2000:

My goal today was the high point of Kitsap County, a low hill called Gold Mountain. I had long been interested in this hill, since I could see it very clearly as a foothill of the Olympic Mountians from my old apartment in Seattle. I had attempted it in September, 1997, but I had no map and what I guessed to be the highpoint was actually a mile or more away.

This peak is complicated by being on the land of the Bremerton Watershed, which is "Not Open for Public Use", according to the Green Mountain State Forest map I got at the trailhead in 1997. There is a sizeable antenna farm on the summit, and a good, mostly paved road up there, but this is closed and gated. I do not know how zealous the enforcement of the prohibition of access is, but my plan involved getting to the summit via a "back way" I had pioneered in 1997.

Instead of trying to hike or bike up the long access road that started southeast of the summit on the Old Belfair Valley Road (near McKenna Falls, elevation about 400 feet), my plan was to gain the road near the crest of Gold Mountain by coming in from the west, starting at the Gold Creek trailhead of Green Mountain State Forest (elevation 626 feet). Aside from being a higher start, the trailhead and first part of the way are on public land, and I thought that might reduce the change of being caught trespassing. Another part of my plan was to take my mountain bike, since I still had about 1.5 miles of road to traverse, and the hiking on the road I had done on my previous attempt made me wish I had brought it along.

So I loaded my trusty old bike into the back of my trusty old Volvo wagon and drove to downtown Seattle, where I drove on to the Washington State Ferry to Bremerton. From there I made my way out to the Seabeck Highway, took a left at Holly Road near Wildcat Lake, then left again on Tahuya Lake Road, which becomes Gold Creek Road. The trailhead was as I remembered it--a small parking lot on the east side of the road, with the ususal information bulletin board, etc. I got out my bike, went south for a few yards on the main road and tehn started off east, on the gated old dirt road marked on the USGS map. This is just south of the Gold Creek hiking trail, which paralells the road just to the north and heads up Green Mountain (a nice side hike to the second highest hill in Kitsap County that I had done in 1997).

I knew from my last trip that there was a trail to the right off the road very soon, heading to the southeast steeply toward the 1100-foot bench on the northwest side of Gold Mountain. However, I also knew that if I stayed on the road, another trail lo the right probably gained the bench much less steeply. So I continued on the flat, easy, and wide dirt road for about 1.25 miles, until a swampy area. Here a trail branched off to the right (south), and crossed the muddy area on some rough logs, and then started ascending Gold Hill by a long, diagonal southwest-heading traverse. It was your basic hiking trail, and a bit rough and narrow for a mountain bike (especially for a non-expert rider like me).

After many dismounts, carries over logs, and muddy spots, the trail, sure enough, came out to the 1100-foot flat area (contour line label on the USGS map). Here the trail split, with one branch continuing steeply downhill to near where I had just been. The other went to a large clear cut visible very close by. I took this branch, and the once in the clear-cut the trail became a rough gravel and wood-chip road. Like all clear cuts, this one was hot under the sun and ugly with all the scattered piles of logging chaff. The road curved around, and eventually re-entered forest, and soon joined the main Gold Mountain paved road.

I was never sure where on the USGS map I joined the main road, but I could now cycle easily uphill towards the crest of Gold Mountain. On my previous trip I had hiked to the towers at the 1687-foot west peak of Gold Mountain and stopped there, thinking it might be the highpoint, but now I knew better and ignored the spur road up to that red herring. Cruising easily on my bike, and glad I had it, I went over the various dips and rises of the road as it occasionally passed through more clear-cuts.

Eventually the road swung way out to the east and cut back to climb to the summit. I saw a branch road leading a short steep way up to the right to a large antenna surrounded by a chain link fence. I spent some time here, walked the perimeter, looked for an obvious high point, but found none.

I then spent the next half hour or so exploring the rest of the summit area. There were several huge antenna and satelitte dish complexes--this place has to have about the highest concentration of electromagnetic energy of any place in Washington, and loud hums from the various towers and generators made me think of my brain cells getting fried while I explored the area. I could not determine where the exact high point was, but I am sure I was at it at some point--it may have been near the generator house I sat near while I ate my snack. The area was generally forested, but a clearing provided some views to the south. I also climbed the ladder up one of the towers for a few rungs to get a view, and could make out the hazy outline of Mount Rainer in the distance.

Being able to see Mount Rainier got me to thinking that the elevation differential between that monster peak and Gold Hill (12,650 feet) might just be the greatest for any high points of adjacent counties (Pierce and Kitsap)--certainly for any outside Alaska.

After my snack, I saddled up on my bike for the largely downhill and fun ride on the tower access road--one lane, mostly paved, occasional rough spots, no traffic at all. I peeled off where I had gained it, retraced my path through the clear cut, and got back to the trail junction just into the woods. There I took the trail that went steeply down directly towards the Gold Creek trailhead. It was too steep for a timid mountain biker like me to barrel down, so I walked my bike most of the way. After about 500 feet of downhill, I came out to the dirt road, and after a left a very short distance took me back to the trailhead area. I had seen a couple of other mountain bikers while on the state forest trails, but no one on Gold Mountain at all.

For my return drive to the Bremerton ferry terminal I headed south on Gold Creek Road, past Tiger Lake, and then into town on the Old Belfair Highway, looking for the gated start of the antenna farm access road. I think I saw it at the end of McKenna Falls road, but there was no place to park and it did not look like a good place to hang out.

The next day I tried to determine which of the antenna areas was the actual summit by looing at maps, but even after looking at aerial photographs and trying to match them to the 1953-vintage USGS map I could not figure out what was going on. Maybe with a level and a GPS I could have done a better job. But was still pretty confident I was at the summit at some point in that confusing area--turned out I was wrong. Later I found out the high point is a knoll with no radio towers.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1114 ft / 340 m
    Elevation Loss:1114 ft / 340 m
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1114 ft / 340 m
    Route:Gold Creek
    Trailhead:626 ft / 190 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1114 ft / 340 m
    Trailhead:626 ft / 190 m

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