Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mission Peak, Accidentally (Sat Jan 27)

I have been wanting to climb Monument Pk again (I've done it a few times years ago).  But everytime it had been a pretty unpleasant experience starting out at Ed Levin County Park.  That trail sucks, it was always a hot day, etc.

I had also wanted to hike the stretch of trail (more like roads, actually) between Mission and Monument Peaks.  While thinking about doing an afternoon hike this weekend, I got the idea to head up Mission Peak, bear right, and take the trail along the ridge to Monument Peak.

Off we (me and Raleigh) Sat afternoon.  It had rained but looked to be clearing up.  I wore my rain hat and took a windshirt.  If the weather got nasty, I figured I'd just turn around.

We left the Stanford Ave. parking lot around 2:45 and immediate turned right onto the Peak Meadow trail (unsigned, I think).  This trail crosses the creek and then heads uphill in a steep and steady climb.  At 1100' you reach a creek crossing.  Here I usually take the use trail straight up the hill.  This is really steep, climbing 400+ feet in 1/4 mile.  That took me 14 minutes (I timed it).  I only stopped to catch my breath once (I also paused a couple of times to let a group of hikers coming down pass us).

One then follows the ridge (much less steeply now) to where you meet the Horse Heaven Trail.  I don't think the map is very accurate about the placement of this trail.  It seems to be routed much further to the east than shown; you kind of contour to the right and follow along a steep drainage which seems to be on the edge of the open space boundary below Mt. Allison.

Anyway, eventually you come to a horse trough here; there's a spring on this hillside and you can see a large section of the hillside slipping down below the watering hole.  The trail kind of trends left (west) here and we went right, and up, following the creekbed (which at this point was just a dry gully).  After a 1/4 mile or so, we came to the top of the ridge to the right of this gully and picked up a nice wide use trail which had the look of an abandoned road bed.  Up we went on that for a while until it petered out, at which point we struck off straight up the hill, pretty much.

At this point we were south of the midpoint between Mt. Allison and Mission Peak.  This is on the park boundary and there's a fence.  The last time I was there (2 years ago) the fence was pretty dilapidated and you could step over/through it anywhere.  But now there were 5 strands of new barbed wire securely strung along it.  I could see a gate towards the east so we followed the fence line, stepped through the open gate, and across a faint roadway (double-track).

The last detail (the road) escaped my notice, which would help account for the confusion about our location that ensued.  At any rate, I knew I had to contour around the other side of Mt. Allison so we headed cross country (level) towards the northeast.  Eventually, we crossed a double-track but obvious roadway.  Thinking this was the road between Monument and Mission Peaks, we went right on the roadway (which was a relief because the cross country was somewhat awkward due to cows leaving the hillside very uneven with their footprints in the soft turf).

Oh.  I forgot to mention that as soon as we topped out at the top of the ridge, the wind (from the northeast) kicked up and we were completely enveloped in fog and clouds and mist.  I put my jacket on.  Visibility was maybe 100ft.

Anyway, at this junction one road went right and slightly uphill (at least the little bit I could see) and the other went left.  These weren't right angles, of course; the route to the left was more in line with the road we were on.  Thinking I was on the road heading away from Mission Peak, I figured the road to the right went up to Mt. Allison and the one to the left would curve around and lead to Monument Peak.

The road did curve around, but just for a brief stretch before it curved back towards the west and Mission Peak.  But being completely enveloped in fog, I only had a vague feeling that I wasn't going in the right direction.  And since I had just left the road from Mission Pk (or so I thought), surely this one would either go to Monument Pk or head downhill.

After a while I came to signposts marking the Eagle Loop trail and Peak Trails.  That didn't sound right to me, but I kept pressing on.  Eventually, I thought the trail looked familiar; kind of like the trail to the top of Mission Pk (from the east).  Soon enough, we were on top, and saw the little signpost with "Mission Peak" spelled out with nails.

Needless to say, we didn't hang out there long.  You couldn't see anything.  And there was nobody else there, due to the weather and late hour, I presume.  We returned the way we came (taking care to make the right turns to end up where we started).  The cross country stretches were interesting since it was impossible to see where we were headed (unlike on the way up).  But eventually we hit the Horse Heaven Trail at about 2000' elevation and from there ran down much of the way back to the car, arriving at 5:45 (around 1:15 for the return trip).

I've been thinking about "being lost" on this trip and have come to some conclusions:

  • A map is useful, even if you don't think you'll need it.  If the weather had been clear, then I would have know exactly where I was and where I was going.  But with zero visibility, the map would at least have given me a chance to reconcile the trails with where they headed.
  • This situation is where a compass is useful (I had a compass, just didn't think to take a reading and see I was headed north, then west, rather than south towards Monument Pk).

The interesting thing is that I can look back and see exactly why I thought I knew where I was headed.  Here's the official map and our route (in blue).  I've drawn in the fence line that we walked along and the unmapped road that we joined up with before making the wrong turn.

And here's what I thought was going on:

Again, I've drawn in the fenceline.  In this second map, I've redrawn the roads/trails according to where I thought they were layed out.  Basically, things were rotated 90 degrees or so from what I thought they were.  It's easy to see my mistake in hindsight.  But it's easy for me to look back and play over in my head what I was thinking at the time.

Bottom line: check your assumptions using a map and/or compass.  My GPS would have done the trick, too (provided I had the foresight to record the waypoints for the peaks and/or trail junctions).

Lesson learned.  It did make the trip more exciting.  Nothing like not knowing where you are to spice things up.

Hike: 7 miles, 2300' elevation gain

2007 totals: 38 miles, 9400' elevation gain

Not bad for the first month.  On a pace for 450 miles, so I should be to 200.7 around Memorial Day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pimkolam (Junipero Serra Peak) - Mon Jan 15

Ok; I need to write about this before I forget anything...

Abandoning a snowshoeing trip to the Sierra because it was really cold, I decided to instead head to the Ventanta Wilderness area down Monterey County way and climb "Pimkolam" (the native's name for it, which I tend to favor), aka "Junipero Serra Peak."

Some random notes:
  • The road to the trailhead is great!  Nicely paved, not too many twists and turns.  No traffic.  It took me 2:40 driving time to get there, a few minutes more on the return.
  • The trail is in danger of being overgrown with brush on the explosed slopes and in the manzanita forest, in places.  The Ventana Wilderness Alliance clears it now and again, thank goodness.  Not much poison oak (the trail is wider where that grows).
  • Little or no water along the way.  I carried 3 liters for me and Raleigh and there was one stream crossing where Raleigh drank.
  • The trail is a pretty nice steady grade, all in all.  Unrelenting, though.  It reminded me a bit of the climb up Mt. St. Helena in terms of distance and climb.  The terrain was very similar to Wildrose Peak (in Death Valley), although not quite as steep a climb as that one.
  • It took me 4 hours to go up, 2 hours down.  I kind of bonked the last half mile on the way up.  I needed something to eat, but I didn't want to stop before reaching the summit.
  • Saw one guy (military, he was studying Korean at the language school in Monterey) at the top.  Two guys heading up while I was on my way down.  Once was carrying a full pack but said he was just training.  The other guy was carrying nothing.  I told them it was still 1000' to the top (this was at 2:45) and I had doubts they could make the top and return before dark.  But off they went.
  • A couple other cars in the lot (I saw two people on the sandstone cliffs near the trailhead).
  • The ocean was a bit hard to discern.  There seemed to be a cloud bank over it.  It did reflect the sunlight pretty brightly, but that might have been off the top of the fog, too.
  • The Sierra (I think) was barely visible in one gap towards the east.  I had to use my monocular to see it, and it might have been a band of clouds.  I'll have to go back on a clearer day (although it wasn't too bad).  I need to visit other areas so I know what I'm looking at.
  • I took my real camera but the battery (freshly charged, I thought) was dead.  So all the pictures are from my phone.  Not too bad; I'm pretty happy with it as a backup camera.
I won't go over the details of the hike.  Reading the captions on the pictures should give you a good idea of what transpired.

I felt great; I had some concerns about such a major effort but I made great time until the lunch came due.  And I about ran back to the car.

I'm going to have to get back here to climb some other peaks.  Looking at the topo, I see Ventana Double Cone, Cone Peak, Anderson Pk, Pinyon Peak, ...

Hike: 12 mi, 3900' elevation gain(!)
2007 totals: 31 mi, 7100' elevation gain

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Parker Ranch Trail - Sat Jan 13

I was planning to make a routine trip to Mt. Eden Preserve (one of the locations I most frequently visit for short weekend afternoon walks with the dog).  I sat down at the computer and started off looking for a map (so I would know how many miles I hiked).

The internet being what it is, I ended up hiking Parker Ranch Trail.  I bet I've driven past the "trailhead" 100 times in the last 10 years (maybe 200 times) and never knew it was there.  This trail meanders through the Saratoga foothills from the foot of Prospect Rd. (where you turn off from Stelling) up to Fremont Older Open Space Preserve.

It is a bit close to civilization, but not bad given that it is only 10 minutes from my house in West San Jose.  It provides a more strenous climb than starting at the Fremont Older parking lot (plus,  there is no problem finding a parking spot :-).

The trail starts off between houses.  After a quarter of a mile or so, it heads steeply uphill (300' climb in the next quarter mile).  This opens up nice views of the entire Santa Clara Valley (see pics).  The trail then follows the ridgetop up another quarter of a mile before you cross and follow some residential streets.  Following the trail is a bit tricky.  It isn't marked well at all.  I think the residents would just as soon you didn't visit at all.

Eventually you head off into the open hills, past a green water tank, and eventually up to the far southernmost edge of Fremont Older.  I'd actually been to that spot a few times over the years (following trails in Fremont Older).  I always wondered about the unmarked "use trail" that headed downhill from the edge of that park.

So now I know.

On the way back, I veered left before the "green water tank" (see the map).  This seemed to be a pirate bike trail.  I followed this all the way down to where it crossed the upper end of Parker Ranch Rd.  There was some interesting mountain bike "stuff" along the way here.  The official trail was parallel to what we (me and Raleigh) were walking, I think.

Once we hit the road, I went right a ways looking for the trail.  Didn't see it.  Reversed and went left and a short ways down Prospect Rd.  That didn't pan out.  Reversed course yet again and followed Parker Ranch Rd. until a trail sign marked a turnoff way down the road (half a mile?).  The map shows the trail on the east side of the road but I didn't see it (although maybe it was accessible a ways down).

Anyway, the last bit is along the creek (Prospect Creek).  At the bottom of this branch of the loop, cross the road and enter the subdivision (Stauffer Ranch?).  There is a sidewalk that heads east, enters Seven Springs subdivision, and comes out right at the trailhead for the other branch of the loop (where my car was parked).

All in all, it was a nice walk.  Usually I have to wander off-trail and bushwack to get to places I haven't been before.

BTW, it was cold!  I can't remember being downdright cold in the bay area but I had on a tee-shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, and a soft-shell jacket and I was chilly.  Eventually I removed the jacket, but this cold wave is something!

Hike: ~4 miles, 1000' elevation gain
2007 totals: 19 miles, 3200' elevation gain

Friday, January 12, 2007

Arastradero Preserve - Sun Jan 07

On Sun I called Michael and agreed to go out in the afternoon to Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto (never been there before, although we both had ridden bikes past it on Arastedero Rd).

Left home at 3:30; hit the trail around 4:00.  Crossed the road from the parking and sort of went clockwise around the perimeter trails and fire roads (lots of short interconnecting trails there).   Came back across the road and did the Redtail Loop back to the parking.

Saw lots of interesting birds (Northern Harrier, egret, ducks).  At one intersection we crossed paths with a coyote (I thought we we're going to collide but the coyote jumped off trail to go around us; closest I've ever been to one, maybe.  Some deer  (4 or 5) across the road on the hillside, two right near the trail up top of Redtail Loop.

Finished at 5:30 and enjoyed a GB (Gordon Biersch; our brewski of choice at the moment) in the parking lot (nothing in the rules against it; Michael checked :-).

Hike: ~5 miles, 500' elevation gain
2007 totals: 15 miles, 2,200' elevation gain

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Quick stroll in Fremont Older

Raleigh and I made a really quick trip to Fremont Older this evening.  Sunset is at 5:04 and we got there at 4:40.  So we had just less than an hour.  We ended up leaving around 5:25 so plenty of time to spare.  There were still 3 or 4 cars in the lot.

Took the Creekside trail up to the junction with the trail that goes right to Hunter's Pt and left up to the top of the ridge (I'm not sure about the name for this fire road).  There were 12 deer on the hillside to the right of the trail just past the Cora Older trail.  I tried to take a picture with my new cell phone camera but screwed up so I don't have it :-(.

Saw two deer higher up.  Also an interesting bird, which I think was a Northern Harrier.  I think we saw the same one at Windy Hill.  They are much lighter colored than the typical Redtailed Hawk.

It was cold.  57 degrees on the way there, 46 on the way home.

Miles: 2
Elevation gain: 200'
2007 totals: 10 miles, 1700' elevation gain

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy New Year

I decided to log all my steps along the trails of 2007.  My first thought was to entitle this "2007 Miles" but Anne and Michael immediately called me on that.  After doing the math, I decided to shoot for one tenth of that.  Works out to around 4 miles per week, which I think I can manage.

The year started with the "traditional" W.A.I.S.T. Management New Year's Day hike, which was at Windy Hill in Portola Valley.  We went up Hamm's Gulch Trail and down Spring Ridge Trail (I think it's called; the fireroad down).  Attendees were myself, Raleigh, Anne, and Michael.  That's it.  WM is fizzling out.  We need to fan that flame if we're going to remain viable.

We saw only a couple of groups heading up, lots going up the fire road on our way down.  I have no idea why people go up that way.  It is way steep and boring.  The other way (up Hamm's Gulch) is much better.  This marks my 4th visit to this park (and same route, basically) in the last 4 months or so.  They allow dogs, and the route is just the right length and difficulty.

A beautiful day (comfortable except at the top, where it was pretty windy and cool) and a fine start to the year.

Trip: ~8 miles, 1500' gain.
2007 totals: 8 miles, 1500' gain