Haskins Hill
Mt. Ellen

Sat, Jul 26, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Map

I volunteered to drive an hour out to San Mateo Memorial County Park, an old park set among some of the giant redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in order to check out the water availability for a planned outing with our Scout troop the following weekend. The campgrounds in the park have been closed all summer due to drought conditions and a shortage of potable water. While there I planned to visit five small summits along the ridgeline forming the northwest boundary of the Pescadero Creek drainage. As it turns out, all but one of these, Mt. Ellen, are on private ranchlands which I discovered after visiting the first of these, Haskins Hill. This first one is found just off Pescadero Rd on the boundary of Sam McDonald County park (I suppose the poison oak-ridden approach from the northeast is legal enough, but for other reasons is not recommended), a short hike along the Burns Chalks Fire Trail. There was a locked gate but no legible signage at the pavement, so I didn't pay it much heed, but once near Haskins Hill I found there is an active ranch just up the road and I went no further than to Haskin's summit before beating a retreat in the early morning hour. The hike is up easy grass slopes, the summit open to views towards the south but otherwise blocked by trees.

I next drove down to the Visitor Center at Memorial Park, finding three rangers in conversation, but no visitors. Seems the closure of the campground and the shutting off of the water spigots has discouraged even the day visitors to this lovely park along Pescadero Creek with some old-growth redwoods that were saved when most of these mountains were logged in the late 1800s. There is a $10 fee to park inside the park (even with the water turned off) and no parking on Pescadero Rd that runs along it. But nearby Wright Rd and the Hoffman Creek TH can be used to park for free and visit the trails inside the park. I hiked up the Mt. Ellen and Pomponio Trails to reach Mt. Ellen (no views at all) and then attempt to reach Goat Hill and Lane Hill along the Burns Chalks Fire Trail. I found signs at the connector with the Pomponio Trail warning of dire consequences should one trespass onto the Fire Trail. It wasn't the sign but the abundant poison oak growing on this unused section of old road that kept me away. Few hills are worth a romp through poison oak.

I did find what I orginally came out to discover - there's still water flowing in Pescadero Creek, so we'll have a source for our backpacking trip next weekend. You might think I could have saved two hours of driving by making a simple phone call, but as I've come to find over the past few months, there is no such thing as a simple phone call to the county or state park systems. Getting ahold of a real person, let alone a ranger, let alone a ranger who actually knows if there's water running in the creek 200yds from the Ranger Station is all but impossible. Still, it wasn't a complete waste as I had a nice six miles of hiking in the shade of the redwoods while most of the South Bay was boiling under 99F temps...

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Ben Tanaka comments on 08/08/14:
The view from Ellen looks incredible!
More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Ellen

This page last updated: Fri Aug 8 13:41:08 2014
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