Gulnac Peak
Kaufman Ridge

Thu, Jun 4, 2009

With: Steve Sywyk

Etymology
Gulnac Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

The weather report was calling for a 50% chance of thundershowers in the area, highly unusual for this part of the state, even more unusual for June. Steve and I decided to ignore this bit of meteorological advice and went out for our (almost) monthy moonlight hike in the Diablo Range anyway. Gulnac Peak is located near the SE corner of Santa Clara County, less than five miles from SR152. Named for a prominent local rancher in the 1800's, the name almost sounds like it would be better pronounced backwards. "Canlug" - OK, it sounds odd either way.

The hike was very straightforward, with dirt roads running almost the entire distance. It was not yet dark when we parked outside the gated dirt road leading up Cedar Creek shortly before 8:30p. The clouds, not particularly threatening, were glowing in shades of orange, red, and purple with the setting sun. It took us only a few minutes to be far enough down the road to be out of sight from the highway. I had searched google maps beforehand for signs of habitation, but found no buildings, no homes of any sort along the route. This would make for a relaxing outing. The moon was hidden behind cloud cover for most of the night, but would make appearances now and then. Still, there was sufficient light to hike without headlamps for most of the evening, unless we passed under trees or needed to get a better view of our immediate surroundings.

At the junction of Hurricane and Hagerman Canyons about a mile up the road, we took the fork leading up Kaufman Ridge which divides the two canyons. We passed through one unlocked gate, then hopped a second, locked one indicating we were moving on to the property of Cedar Creek Ranch. The owners, past or present was hard to tell, had a quirky sense of humor that we found charming and gave us some photo opportunities. Half a mile after crossing the fence, we came across a small flat spot along the ridge with signs, new and old, labeling it Big Horn Gulch. License plates from three states adorned a barbed-wire fence. Horse shoes and antlers were tacked to the trees below the signs. Another half mile further we came to a spot with a couple of rocky outcroppings alongside the road. An old cash registered adorned one, along with a mailbox, complete with a little red flag and an address painted on it. A mile further we came to an overlook area. Dozens of cows were huddled about the trees found here, their eyes reflecting like specters in the inky night. We shooed them away, then found additional signs indicating a private picnicking location. The table with two stools were a very nice touch.

Not long after this point we hopped another fence exiting the Cedar Creek Ranch. There were no more fun or interesting signs, just the usual No Trespassing sort. We hiked up the ridge for another mile before finally seeing our peak off to the right. The road bypasses the peak to the west, and after ascertaining that the road went no higher, we struck off cross-country for the top. Much of the last hundred feet was covered in brush, but fortunately the cattle had beaten useable paths through it, allowing access without much thrashing. Using the GPS to guide us to within 50ft of the top (it was not obvious in the dark with the brush), we found the summit crowned with a large tree (some type of oak, I believe) whose branches spread out not far from the ground with the folliage enveloping the whole view. The result was a sort of igloo effect, we could walk around upright under the middle of it, but were stopped by branches and leaves hanging down at the periphery. The cows evidently enjoyed this location a great deal, probably to avoid the hot summer sun. We took a few quick photos, and satisfied we had reached the summit, left by the same way we came.

The return route was identical to the approach with a few minor short cuts. It had taken us two hours on the way up, but less than an hour and a half on the way back, about what we had planned for. No rain, no wild animal attacks, no property owners, no notes from the CHP on the windshield upon our return - all in all a very enjoyable and easy outing.


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