There are 24 summits in San Mateo County with an average prominence of 300ft or
more. I had slowly collected 2/3 of these over a number of years dating back
more than a decade. I was going after these in a slow fashion in part because
most of the
summits involve poison oak in some concentration, and I would need some
time for my body and psyche to recover from the abuse. I was poking around
online and noticed that a small handful of Bay Area peakbaggers had finished
this collection - Al Sandorff, Andrew Kirmse and David Sanger. I figured it was
time to put more work in and did some daytrips to finish it off. David had
noticed my progress after the first three days and wrote me an email to give me
some beta on the remaining 4 and had uploaded GX tracks to PB to help me. With
such genuine encouragement, I went back for a fourth day to finish them off.
As before, fog and moisture ruled the day - wet boots & no views. I got up at
4:30a so that once again I could get an early start. This, combined with the
4th of July holiday, was planned to avoid any ranchers who I hoped were taking
the day off, or at least the morning.
Irish Ridge is found about 5mi south of Half Moon Bay and less than 2mi from
Of the four, this one caused me the most concern. Al had done this six years
ago, choosing to walk right by a residence north of the summit to avoid the
poison oak. David and Andrew did Irish Ridge in 2015 with a section they
described as "a gnarly brush-choked gully". They tried to return via the
house property Al had used, but barking dogs drove them back down through the
poison oak-filled gully. Via email, he relayed "there's bad poison oak in the
gully but once you get down and up and out it is easy." I was already
breaking out in poison oak rashes
from the first three days and wasn't relishing more.
I did some more studying of the satellite and street views online and came
up with an alternate that I thought might work better. The others had all
approached from Irish Ridge Rd to the north, making for a fairly short hike. My
route from the south would start from the junction of Lobitos Creek Cutoff and
Tunitas Creek Rd, and roughly follow the left side of the SE Ridge where it
appears to offer an all-grass route. Starting around 6a, I found the route
worked quite nicely. There are only a few narrow sections along Lobitos Creek
Cutoff to get through the initial wall of impenetrable brush, but once through
this the hillside opens up. A doe with fawn looked surprised to see me
heading up the steep slopes, watching for a short time before bounding off. The
tall grass was tamped down some by deer and cattle but my boots and feet were
wet well before I reached the summit. Near the top there are some fences
that come together, marking property boundaries. Some cuts in the barbed-wire
made it easy to get through and in less than 40min I was at the summit.
The top was
much as I expected, foggy and flattish and nothing to write home about. The
return, I found, was a little trickier because the fog makes it impossible to
accurately choose the right direction. With the help of the GPSr I kept close
to the original track and got back a little more than an hour after starting.
Another 5mi south can be found another minor summit in the way of Pom BM. Stage
Rd runs across a small saddle less than half a mile west of the summit. A small
turnout can be found to the north of this saddle on the east side of the road.
On the west side of the saddle, just off the road, is the
Pomponio SB HP, another PB special. Unlike the Half Moon Bay SB HP I visited a
few days earlier, this one actually has a recognizable highpoint. I took a few
minutes to make my way through mild brush to reach the point before
returning to the road to tackle Pom BM. The crux for this one is getting off
the road. A wall of heavy brush with an embedded barbed-wire fence is found
along the roadway for some distance. I chose to climb the steep embankment
where the road cut has left a loose scar because the brush above that looked
to be minimal. An animal track rises diagonally from the road to aid the ascent.
After that, it was just a matter of following the slope and GPSr through the
fog and grass to find my way to the summit where the benchmark
is located. Once again, the GPSr was quite useful to find my way back down the
correct route to return to the road.
The last two summits are located on Penninsula Open Space Trust (POST) lands
that are leased out for cattle grazing. Both are signed for No Trespassing.
There is nowhere to park at the gate leading to Peak 576ft off
Cloverdale Rd, but one can find a wide turnout halfway between the gate and the
entrance to Butano State Park. This was the longest hike of the day, about 2.5mi
each way and also the most picturesque. Ranch roads lead from the
pavement all the way to the summit, going by the pretty Reservoir de los
Frijoles (Hollow Bean Lakes). Just upstream from the higher lake is a
beautiful wetlands with forested slopes in the background enhanced by
the fog drifting among the treetops. Tall reeds line the wetlands and
road, most now going to seed. Many birds can be heard and seen throughout the
area. Just north of the wetlands is a large, old barn still used by
the leasee. At another location a small pond can be found with a small
solar panel - perhaps for a wildlife camera? After passing through a series of
gates, one branch of the road eventually winds its way up to the summit amidst
more fog. The top features a half dozen green water tanks enclosed by
making for another somewhat disappointing finish. My return followed the same
route and after two hours I was happy to get back to the start without finding
another soul in the area.
The last summit of the day was fairly easy, taking about 45min. I parked next
to the access gate which left me a little exposed, but luckily the duration
was short. David had lost a pair of expensive glasses on his descent from this
same summit a year earlier, and to help out, I tried to follow the cross-country
route he'd taken among the trees, bushes and grasses, but found nothing. I found
nothing much of interest at the summit, either. I did notice another ridge to
the west that looked possibly higher and took a few minutes to pay it a visit.
The GPSr showed it to be about 10ft lower, which closely matched the spot
elevations I found on the topo map later. I finished up
around 11a and headed
home to spend the rest of the day with the family. One county down, 56 to go...
I know, there are 58 CA counties. But Sacramento County has no summits with
300ft of prominence - a county freebie, as it were.