Cuesta de Los Gatos
Peak 1,540ft
Mt. Roberta
Skyland Ridge
Sugarloaf Mountain

Tue, Sep 2, 2014
Etymology
Sugarloaf Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX

I wasn't very enthusiastic about this outing when it was conceived. My daughter was playing in her first HS Varsity Volleyball match in the Santa Cruz area so I was going to be in the area that evening. My wife suggested I might go hiking beforehand, but I had been battling homeowner landscaping issues the past three days and was frustrated. What started out as "I'll trim a few shrubs this morning" soon devolved into plumbing hell. I happen to look in the sprinkler valve box next to the shrub I was trimming and noticed a small leak. Just a few drops, really, but enough to attract all manner of roots to wrap themselves around the valve to suck up the precious liquid - something that had undoubtedly gone on for many years and probably would for many more if I had just left it alone. But one thing led to another and I was soon cutting roots, digging trenches and puncturing several water lines in the process. More digging, more accidental punctures, a severing of the buried low voltage electrical line, a broken main sprinker gate valve, more digging, installing a new ball valve on copper lines, shutting off of the water main to the house and more general mayhem than I've managed at home in a long time. Perhaps secretly I'm trying to teach my wife to send me off hiking more often. In any event, with all this going on (the backyard still looks like a WWI entrenchment as I await delivery of plastic root barriers) I had a hard time motiviating myself to find something to climb in the Santa Cruz Mtns. There is plenty of fine hiking to be found in numerous State and County Parks, but I'd cleaned out all of the publicly accessible summits. What were left were a few dozen small bumps on private property. I picked out a handful on either side of SR17 cutting through the mountains and actually had a pretty good time of it. If you're strongly offended by my trespassing ways, I suggest you stop reading and go immediately to the bottom of this page to add your comments reminding me of this.

Cuesta de Los Gatos

This little summit lies at the center of a small mountain community, one of the newer ones with well-manicured landscaping and well-to-do owners. The highpoint has been bulldozed for one of these homes, currently for sale, that doesn't look to have been fully completed. There's a pool in the backyard, but the rest of the landscaping has yet to be done. The view from this smallish home overlooks the Santa Cruz Mtns to the south, with a view of Monterey Bay and the Santa Lucia Range on a clear day. Only about 20ft of "hiking" required.

Peak 1,540ft

This unnamed summit, sporting just over 350ft of prominence, is located near the junction of SR17 and Glenwood Cutoff Rd. This is an older, scarier part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where residents seem to live on the fringe of society on the down-low. Many yards are littered with decades-worth of debris and junk. I drove up a private road off Glenwood Cutoff just west of its junction with SR17, serving a few homes. Just before reaching the end of the right fork home, I noted a dirt road spurring off. I parked here and started up the road, just above the aforementioned home and out of sight. This old logging road led to a water tank, an old parked RV and then some steep slopes leading up to the summit from the north. I spied another home through the trees, kept my distance, and soon came upon a small abandoned encampment. It looked like 2-3 individuals had at one time been living in tents. The tents were partially collapsed, apparently abandoned. I was afraid to look inside them least I should find decomposed bodies. Outside were collections of stuff also abandoned. One of the tent "residents" appeared to have been studying to be a chiropractor judging by the books and CDs I found nearby. It was really kinda creepy. It didn't do anything to improve my respect for chiropractic either. I tiptoed through the forest, avoiding more homes and the cars I could see parked nearby. How one drives to these homes was lost on me, but probably somewhere from the east side of the peak. I eventually reached the highpoint after about 1/3mi effort, with a partial view looking to the southeast. Yay. But I was two for two when I thought I might be prevented from reaching any of these, so my spirits were rising. Back to the car I went, quietly driving back out of the neighborhood.

Mt. Roberta

There is no Mt. Bob, Mt. Burd or Mt. Robert in CA, so my closest chance of climbing a namesake peak might be Mt. Roberta. This one is located about a mile SE of Peak 1,540ft and after more backroad driving I found myself on Northridge Dr. off Glenwood Dr. A newer area of development and decidedly less creepy, it nonetheless was not possible for me to find a way to drive to the summit from the north side. But some exploration found another unused dirt road that I managed to use to reach my target. The dirt road winds its way west, traversing the north side of the mountain, though the topo map shows it eventually winds back up to the top from the west. As the distance was short, I simply clambered up the steep north slopes through dense forest to reach the top. I was happy to find no poison oak in the understory. There is a large, wooden water tank occupying the summit, with a good road present as well. Looking west down the road I could see a home with some landscape construction going on - it may or may not have worked had I stayed on the road. There were no views due to the redwoods covering the terrain, but at least I had found the summit. I went back down the same way. More backroad driving ensued. The roads are in poor shape, probably only driven on by the local residents, the mailman, and the delivery guys from UPS and FedEx. The UPS guy gave me a dirty stare as I paused to take his picture. I then realized he was about to leave a package at the entrance to an open security gate. My observation was going to make him have to do more work to deliver it to the house.

Skyland Ridge

I had to drive SR17 back up to Summit Rd and then east for about three miles to find Skyland Ridge. The area is home to more development, both new and somewhat old, a collection of ranch homes, some with horses. The top can be seen in the satellite view as a scattering of brown lumps. These turn out to be heaps of old tree bark, what may have been a failed attempt at a landscape supply business. It was a short walk of a maybe 50yds off Adams Rd just to the north. More homes surround the area, so I didn't stay longer than to snap a photo and beat a retreat. No views on this one.

Sugarloaf Mtn

The best summit of the day turned out to the lowest at under 1,300ft elevation and less than 300ft prominence. The summit is part of an active quarry that occupies the eastern side of the mountain. Sand and gravel extraction have cut deeply into the face, creating a huge, open cliff. As it was 5p by the time I reached it, the quarry was closed for the day with nary a watchman on duty. I parked outside the gated entrance and walked up the road through the quarry grounds, to the main excavation site. Here I hiked up the steep roads leading across the open gash in the earth and up the left side to the summit from the southeast. The top was open to views for more than 180 degrees, with fine views overlooking Soquel and the Santa Cruz beach areas and off into the Pacific. I found a safer route back down leading off the north side and back around the mountain in a clockwise fashion - this is the route that the workers take to reach the diesel equipment resting at the summit. The ascent route I had taken wasn't particularly dangerous, but it was little used with steep, poorly compacted soil to deal with. The descent route was well-traveled and easily used to jog back down. Adjacent to the quarry on its north side is the Soquel Demonstration State Forest, with signs indicating non-public access routes to reach it. It might be possible to reach the summit more discreetly from these lands and nearby Niscene Marks State Park, but I'll leave that as an exercise for another visitor. My more direct route was about a mile each way. It was nearly 6p by the time I had finished and time for me to head to Aptos High School for the volleyball match. I was happy to manage five for five in a little over three hours time.

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Brian Browning comments on 09/04/14:
Hey, at least you hiked the five summits in alphabetical order!
More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Thu Sep 4 13:14:19 2014
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