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I arrived at the park HQ at 6am, paid the $8 fee at the pay station as requested, and started out shortly afterwards by headlamp. The eastern sky was already lightening with a crescent moon hanging in the sky, and I would only need the headlamp for the first fifteen minutes or so. The weather was cool in the morning, but would prove to be nearly ideal under blue skies and almost no wind until the afternoon when it was most welcomed.
I followed the Northern Route to a trail junction near Frog Lake, then up to Middle Ridge and down to the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek. The sun rose at 7am, and twenty minutes afterwards I was contempating the fording of Coyote Creek. The waters of the mildly swollen creek were clouded with dirt runnoff from the recent rains. I removed my boots and socks and waded across, the water reaching above my knees at the deepest point. I then hiked up to the top of Blue Ridge, the toughest leg of the day, where an overlook bench is located next to a trail junction. It had taken 2hrs to reach this point and was now just after 8a. Mt. Sizer is located only a mile to the southeast and I'd been to this spot three or four times now in the past. If I had time later in the day I planned to visit Sizer, but at the moment I was focused on getting to Bollinger. The route would now take me to new territory as I turned northwest along the ridge. Though less traveled, the road was easy to follow with only minor downfall along the way. Judging from the topo map I carried, I had to go about a mile and a half to reach the subsidiary road leading down the northeast side of Blue Ridge that I had seen on the satellite view. After 20 minutes I came upon a first junction that I judged was too soon which I verified with another perusal of the map. Indeed it showed another road leading down about half a mile before the correct one. Fifteen more minutes along the main crest brought me to the road I was looking for.
I was a bit worried because it had some significant downfall at the start and was afraid I might be in for a thrashing. Because the road leads only to the park boundary, there was no reason to expect it would be maintained. Thankfully the route grows better almost immediately and I was happy to find the rest of the way easy to negotiate. Like many of the old ranch roads in the area, this one simply followed the subsidiary ridgeline down in a steep descent - no messing with switchbacks or other means to make it easier on vehicles. Those pioneering ranchers must have had some tough trucks. Halfway down the hill I came across the battered remains of a gated fence that likely marks the park boundary, though there were no signs to indicate this. The gate was wide open and looked to have been that way for many years. There was a good view of Bollinger Mtn to the north, now not so far away. I could also see most of Bollinger Ridge and the old road that leads up from the creek below. I was growing optimistic that my day would involve little or no bushwhacking.
Shortly before 9a I found myself at the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek for the second time. The creek wraps around the northwest side of Blue Ridge and the southeast side of Bollinger Ridge in a remarkably meandering path that stretchesfor 18 miles before joining the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek. There is a small manmade lake (as are all lakes in the Diablo Range) at the bottom of the road not shown on the maps but visible in the satellite view, one of three in this short stretch of the creek. As I walked along the southwest shore looking for a way to the opposite side, I came across an old camoflaged tent along the shore with an aluminum boat upside and stuck among some trees near the small dam at the northwest end. There was nothing in the tent save the dirt floor. The worn and faded fabric suggested it had been there a number of years. The boat looked to have been swept into its awkward position during a high water event.
I was able to cross over the rocky outlet next to the dam and started on the road up Bollinger Ridge. The evidence I found suggests it has seen no vehicle traffic in a long time. There were no discernable tire tracks and the brush was growing vigorously in the middle. Still, the drier nature of this south-facing slope left the road easily navigable on foot. Two barbed-wire fences were encountered on the way up Bollinger Ridge, the second not far from the summit. As one climbs higher the views open up, northeast to San Antonio Valley, east to the range crest on the Santa Clara/Stanislaus county boundary, and south to Henry Coe Park and Mt. Sizer. Snow was even visible almost 80 miles to the south atop Junipero Serra Peak.
Bollinger Mtn lies a short distance west of Bollinger Ridge. It has little prominence as the main ridge continues higher to the north where it merges with Castle Ridge and eventually Mt. Isabel, just south of Mt. Hamilton. It was just after 9:30a when I arrived at the summit. There were no trees to block the views, but it was somewhat brushy and not so impressive. There was no benchmark, no register, not even a cairn to mark the location. I took a few photos from the top (N - S - SW - W), then went back to Bollinger Ridge where I sat in the road to eat my lunch. It was sunny, calm, and bug-free, making for an unusually long and enjoyable break in the Diablo backcountry.
I had managed to reach my main goal without bushwhacking and without plowing through thickets of poison oak which made for a very pleasant outing and had me ahead of schedule with some extra time. I decided to pay Mt. Sizer a visit. On my way back down to the small lake I took in the green hills and noted that the area had burned some years in the past as evidenced by the bleached remains of some of the larger manzanita bushes scattered about. However long ago the fire had been I had no idea, but it was recovering quite nicely. I crossed Coyote Creek yet again, then took about 50 minutes to make my way back up to Blue Ridge. The west-facing slopes were a vivid green from the fresh grass that covered much of the ground under the scattered oaks and pines. The summit of Mt. Sizer is similarly unremarkable, no marker of any sort, just grass and trees which block much of the views south and west. To the north could be seen Bollinger Ridge with a long stretch across the range to the east. There is a small solar-powered antenna station just south of the summit among the trees.
With some jogging, I was down at the deeper crossing of Coyote Creek between Blue and Middle Ridges in about half an hour. Once again I had to take off my boots to make the knee-deep crossing. The area was cool and refreshing and I had been making such good time that I decided to hang out at the creek for a half hour or so, first taking a rinse in the cold water and then sunning myself on a large rock. It was almost 2p by the time I had climbed back over Middle Ridge and down to the trail junction near Frog Lake. I was surprised to see a girl in her 20s sitting on a rock adjacent to the nearby creek. Her boyfriend was photographing her from different angles and I felt like I was intruding on their private moment so I kept moving. There were probably equally surprised to see me.
I stopped by the Henry Coe Monument atop Pine Ridge on my way back to the headquarters. The overlook bench found there no longer had a view as the trees to the east had grown up to block the view in that direction. A small sapling was even growing immediately behind the bench and would no doubt eventually upend the bench if nature is allowed to take its course. It was 2:30p when I returned to the TH at park headquarters. With an hour's drive home, I would just manage to back before the kids had walked home from school. Excellent timing, I thought...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Sizer
This page last updated: Sat Apr 9 09:38:55 2011
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