Hoover BM P900

Sun, Mar 15, 2015
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There is a vast stretch of coastal summits between SR1 and US101, straddling Sonoma and Mendocino Counties that I'm not overly fond of. Most of the region lies in private hands, a mix of ranches, vineyards and timber interests. The hills are low, often covered in fog and lacking in views. On the other hand the fog makes for some lush terrain and the hills are far greener than parts of the state further south. I happen to be in Forestville near Santa Rosa for my daughter's club volleyball so I stayed in the area for a few days after Mom and daughter went home. I had picked out a number of CC-listed and P900 summits, all of them with access issues of one kind or another.

I left Forestville around 4:15p and spent several hours driving to the coast on SR116 along the Russian River, north along Hwy 1 and then inland towards the small community of Annapolis. I thought I might see if I couldn't get a little hiking in today after sitting around most of the day watching others get their workouts in. Hoover BM is a P900 with a telecom tower and an old USFS lookout at its summit. The hike wouldn't be too long, depending on how far up the road I could drive. A good dirt road forks off Soda Springs Road, climbing to a 4-way junction (where Google Streetview ends) and then another half mile before coming unexpectedly to an electric gate. This was a bit of an unfortunate development. It was after 6p and I was almost 4mi from the summit. I figured I could get there before darkness, but probably not return without a headlamp. More importantly, what lay behind that gate? At this point, there was only one way to find out...

I walked around the gate and hiked up the road to find myself on the edge of a small vineyard. It appears that the road is not owned by the vinter, otherwise there would not be a fence bordering the two. On the other hand, the fence may have only been to keep the deer that roam these woods from the grapes. There are two buildings found on the vineyard. The smaller first one appears to be abandoned but the second, a ranch home, is equipped with outside lights. This one, too, seems to be unused, or at least uninhabited, as I saw no vehicles outside. Later when I returned, I noted that the lights were outside only - there were no interior lights on to indicate it was habitated. The topo maps shows a dirt runway just above the vineyard but it has been decades since a plane last landed or took off from it, overgrown as it was. The road was decent enough - had there not been a gate I might have been able to drive the van all the way to the summit. It passes mostly through forested areas making for weak views along the way. A dull gray sky didn't help much. With about a mile to go I spotted a truck coming down the road. I had no time to duck out of the way unseen, so I simply moved to the side. The driver gave me a friendly wave as he passed by without bothering to stop or roll down his window. I waved back. With a sigh of relief I took a deep breath, happy to have dodged a hike-ending bullet. Perhaps he was just a technicial returning from a day's work at the tower, but his truck did not bear the markings of a corporate vehicle. I continued up.

I reached the summit not long after 7p under overcast skies. I marveled at the lookout which reached about six stories into the air (though less than half the height of the nearby telecom tower). I climbed the metal stairway, stopped from reaching the observation platforn by a locked hatchway. The height of the lookout was necessary in order to be able to view above the height of the trees that surrounded the summit. A dilpidated residence for the lookout stood to the side below. Its doors were locked and it appears to have been some time since it was last occupied. I did not manage to find the benchmark anywhere at the summit - I suspect the modern tower was built atop its location without preserving it. I spent much of the next half hour jogging my way back to the start without having to break out the headlamp, but just barely. There were places under the forest canopy where it was so dark I could easily have tripped on a stray, unseen rock. I got back to the gate in one piece before 8p. Though it was overcast with temps in the 50s, the cool shower I took wasn't all that bad because the air was absolutely still. Afterwards I drove back down the hill to the base, finding a place to spend the night at the end of the pavement. I didn't want to be higher up the hill on the dirt portion since it was forecast for possible showers during the night. It had been a quick outing of less than two hours, but at least I got a workout in and the next day promised a good deal more...

Continued...


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