I had recently received an email from Jerry Kohn with some information
regarding the "missing" peaks from the CC list
. He also pointed out a few
changes I had made to the list and forgotten about, including the swapping of
Potato Hill for High Point in the Napa County area above Calistoga. I could not
remember why I had made the change (other than perhaps Potato Hill appeared to
have so little prominence that it seemed a mistake) but given the mental
prodding I remembered that I wanted to go back and visit this area in the
daylight. I had thought it was mostly private property when I had paid it a
nighttime visit, but came to find most all of the route is on public lands or
those managed by the Napa Land Trust. The latter doesn't allow unfettered
public access, preferring one get permission to visit beforehand. I had tried
to get such permission in the past to Mt. George, but found that access was not
granted lightly. They prefer that you join a scheduled, docent-led trip, and
then after volunteering for work days. Luckily they don't put big fences around
the properties and patrol them. The outing would be a long one, primarily
because I wanted to include a host of additional, minor named summits found in
Having spent the night tucked away on a side road just south of Calistoga in a
typical fog, it was 7a by the time I got to the at
of Silverado Trail and SR29 on the northeast side of town. This trail makes its
way for 8-9mi from Calistoga, up and over the mountains to Aetna Springs in the
adjacent Pope Valley. Side trails lead north to Robert Louis Stevenson State
Park and south through
Napa Land Trust properties. It is very popular with cyclists
and hikers. The main trail, an old mining road, has various single-track threads
connecting at various points to the main trail. I had not noticed these in the
dark but found them much more enjoyable trails to travel as opposed to the old
road. It took only about ten minutes to climb layer
covering the valley floor. came before 7:30a but the sun was
behind higher clouds that hung around all day. In fact a Pacific
storm system was on its way into the state and this road trip was just a single
day to get some hiking in before the rain started.
Upon discovering the , I began to explore these as
I made my way higher, climbing about 1,300ft to the first summit, Bald Hill. The
trails have had some work put into them, clearing of brush and even some
. Short spur trails lead to
along the ridge.
Bald Hill is really just a on the SW->NE rising
ridgeline that I followed. The highest rocks are easy class 3, taking about an
hour to reach from the TH. Clouds and haze marred the views, but one can see
to Mt. St. Helens, north to The Palisades and southwest to Napa
Valley. About half a mile further up from Bald Hill, the main trail traverses
left around the northwest side of the ridge to reach a saddle at the base of
. This saddle is where the main
are located. The Palisades are a area of volcanic rock
that extends over a longer portion of the crest than is indicated by the map
label. The terrain south of this saddle is interesting, made picturesque by
brought on by the December rains. The
combine to make for that resembles
(in my mind) the Scottish highlands (which I've never been to). Rather
than take the main trail to the saddle, I
followed various thin use trails through this section, sometimes just
cross-country, scrambling over rocks and generally enjoying the place to myself.
At one location I found a series of carefully
constructed of rocks. It
looked like an ancient druid religious site perched on the hilltop overlooking
the valley. On the shadier northern aspects of the rocky terrain grew an
which added to the ancient feel of the place.
Just east of the more interesting terrain around the Palisades is Browns Hill.
I had bypassed this on my previous visit because there is no trail leading to
the summit and it seemed it might be too brushy to do by moonlight. Turns out
I was right. Even in daytime this is one brushy mess. The summit is loaded with
and other thick brush that took a good deal of looking around to find
a reasonable way up. The last part I got up via the northwest side but one has
to watch out for poison oak hidden amongst the brush. Yuck.
turned out to be decent, the summit featured a small and
not buried in over-the-head brush. You have to enjoy a good brush fight to
visit this one.
I found my way off Browns summit, down an interesting
and onto the Land Trust that winds its way south and east along
of the mountains. The old road serving as a trail is cleared
and easy enough to follow with located at the few
potentially . I bypassed both Grassy Hill and High
Point as I followed the trail for about an hour. Potato Hill marks
between the Duff Ranch and Dunn-Wildlake Ranch boundaries,
though both are now managed by the Napa Land Trust. is a
small rocky bump with
about 80ft of prominence found just off the trail. It takes only a few minutes
to climb to from the west side. The east side appears a bit
difficult, but mostly due to steeper terrain rather than brush. Thankfully, the
brush is light on this one. Is it deserving of being on a peak list? Probably
This was the highest summit visited on the day, found to the east off the main
The road continues east and south from Potato Hill along Rattlesnake Ridge. On
the north side of Old Baldy is found a convenient posted at
the edge of the road.
The map shows a Three Peaks Trail along which is found the Three Peaks Vista
Pt. I followed this trail but never noted the vista point. The three summits
that make up the Three Peaks are not clearly discernable. The westermost one is
the highpoint and has a small to afford decent views.
no trail reaching to the highpoint, but I found a fairly brush-free route
approaching it from the east. Another summit to the east is 30ft lower and
devoid of views. I didn't bother to visit the third summit located to the north
across the trail and lower than the other two. Three Peaks was the only summit
of the day with more than 500ft of prominence.
Back on the main trail, the old road runs almost to the summit of this point
along Rattlesnake Ridge. A signed spur trail leads to
where one can find a small cairn and a
for Mr. and Mrs. Roy Waynick. The
summit is only partially bald, with trees found blocking views to the east, but
decent enough views looking off the crest to the west.
This poorly named summit is half a mile south of Old Baldy,
. There is a nice found here
with a gas BBQ grill kept under a tattered cover.
The picnic tables are nicely situated with a to the
southeast. The highpoint is found just east of the tables atop
of rocky earth. Three Peaks can be seen to with The
Beehive about 1/3mi to .
This conical-shaped summit seems aptly named. The road continuing south bypasses
the summit around the north and east sides, requiring some cross-country through
forest understory and to reach the .
due to the surrounding trees. One needs to be careful to avoid
here as well.
Returning back the way I'd come, I had intended to bypass these last two summits
since I'd already visited them. But as I was passing by
on the trail
around its north side, I noted what looked like a thin use trail heading up. I
couldn't resist following it to see if it offered a better way to the summit. It
was a decent enough route and mostly brush-free, but not really any better than
the route from the west I'd used previously. A few others had signed into
since I had been here a year and a half earlier,
who had inspired this outing. I returned to the trail via the western route
which follows along the ridge before dropping down through a gap in the brush
to the south followed by a traverse west to the road.
Having climbed High Point, I felt I couldn't leave Grassy Hill untouched. I
climbed the small hill ,
descending to the trail off the south side. had nearly
the same sequence of names as the High Point
register, to no great surprise. Unlike High Point, Grassy Hill has poor views.
It was 2p as I was passing by the base of on my way back.
I decided to stop and pay a second visit to the abandoned I
had discovered in the dark on that first visit. The structure is built into the
side of a cliff
around an oak tree, not much to look at and not all that safe, either. On the
cliff side is a
where fires have blackened the ceiling and names
have been scratched into the soot. More interesting was the small
found just beyond the treehouse. In it were several dozen
waters. Most of these were males with about three females among them. Two or
three males would be
with each female as they manuevered for mating
From an anthropomorphic view it looked like gang rape, with the smaller
females struggling to keep off the oversexed advances of their counterparts. It
was a fascinating little microcosm in this otherwise dry landscape and I must
have spent thirty minutes watching the action before returning to the trail.
I still had an hour and a half of hiking to return, and with the peakbagging
part dispensed with I took to exploring more of the
ridge below Bald Hill. Along the way I came across two separate long-term camp
was rather tidy with few possessions lying around. A tarp
over a flat spot on the hillside provided shelter from the rain with a
looking north. A found lower on the
ridge was more disheveled
looking. It had prayer flags, buddhist books and a brass bell to suggest the
occupant's religious leanings, but
was not in evidence. It was 3:30p by the time I returned to ,
having taken some 7.5hrs to cover nearly
20mi. A very good day, by my measure. The only detraction was the drive home -
I thought the East Bay drive would be bad enough, but southbound traffic through
15mi of Napa Valley was simply awful on a Wednesday afternoon. Ugh.