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Larios Peak later climbed Wed, Dec 31, 2014|
Steve wanted to get an early start since this one was going to take us on the order of 6-7hrs all told, so Bruce and I met him at his house at 7p. We didn't get going all that early as Steve was having great difficultly in locating his wallet that he had misplaced. While Bruce and I chatted amicably with his wife and daughter, Steve looked frantically about the house in all the possible places he might have left it. The rest of us paid him little attention, but it was obvious that this sudden loss of his identity was bothering him a great deal. After about ten or fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, Steve finally resigned himself to giving up the effort, declaring, "Ok, I guess it's lost." As if on cue, Bruce walked over to a nearby bookshelf and lifted something off the top of it. "Are you looking for this?" It was Steve's wallet, of course. This episode provided much amusement on our hour-long drive south to Gilroy and then east towards Coyote Reservoir.
Larios Peak lies atop a collection of ridgelines in the foothills of the Diablo Range, above the reservoir. From my scouring of Google maps earlier in the day, I could see that there are ranch roads leading all the way to the summit, but the start is guarded by several buildings just across Coyote Creek, one of which appears to be a residence. So I found an alternate start about a quarter mile downstream that looked to have a mostly brush-free route up a steep hillside to join with the road above the buildings. The biggest unknown was the creek crossing, and with recent rains it might be a considerable effort. With daylight fading, we parked at this alternate start to investigate the creek crossing. It was not encouraging as we found thick brush blocking access to the near side of the creek, undoubtedly rife with poison oak. I then noticed the "No Trespassing" marker was of the type usually put up by public land agencies, notably CA state or county parks. It dawned on me that the land we were planning to trespass on was not private as we expected, but public. This suggested that the buildings were not likely to be occupied and we then relocated the car up the road a short distance where the junction with the entrance road is found.
We had some trouble in actually getting started to no great surprise to Bruce or I - Steve just takes a bit more prep work before he can get his act together and we'd grown used to that. For a second time Steve found himself searching for an item he couldn't find, this time his gloves. He rifled through the trunk of the car and the back seat, frustrated in his inability to keep his stuff together, exclaiming, "I thought I'd brought my gloves, but I can't find them." I pointed to a pair lying atop the roof - "These?"
There was no bridge over Coyote Creek as I'd hoped, so we still had a creek crossing to manage, but that was trivial compared to romping through poison oak. A sign at the locked gate told us the land was owned by the regional Open Space agency, but closed to public access. Tall grass in the road showed that little traffic is seen beyond the gate, leading down to the creek. The road had no pavement or concrete across the creek, just a bed of gravel and rocks. We stripped down to our underwear and carried our boots and pants across the creek with us. Where I crossed in the middle of the road the water was half way up my thighs, much deeper than I expected - good thing I was wearing briefs. Going second, Bruce found a better way across to the right with the water less than a foot deep. We dried off with towels Bruce and I had brought just for this purpose, put our pants and boots back on, and left the towels hanging on a branch to dry before starting up the road again.
About 100yds further were the buildings we expected. One was a large, open barn that was empty and in the beginning stages of disrepair. Across from it was a ranch home made of wood and stone, boarded up to keep out the curious, most likely when the land was purchased for Open Space. It was pitch dark by now, almost 9p, and it was necessary to use our headlamps to navigate by. Fortunately we were no longer concerned about disturbing, or being discovered by landowners, and the roads were easy enough to navigate.
We spent almost two hours negotiating about five miles of ranch roads. I had the coordinates of the various junctions and the summit loaded into the GPS, so there was little chance of us getting lost. It was handy too, as we started off on the wrong fork at one junction, only to be pulled back when the GPS indicated we were off target. Larios is not the highest point around, so simply going by what looked to be the summit was practically impossible. Add to that high clouds obscuring the moon and a layer of fog we encountered in the upper 500ft of elevation, and it was safe to say we'd have never found our way with only our map and compass. Not that it would have mattered, really. The summit was rather mundane, deep grass amidst an array of oak trees that effectively blocked most of the views. There were views to be had, however, along the roads that wound their way up the spine of Timber Ridge that we were following. We were treated to the city lights of Gilroy and Morgan Hill for the middle third of the hike. It was windy and cold higher up, making it necessary to don all the clothes we had brought with us - one of our coldest night hikes yet, to be sure. I'd brought a small bottle of Jack Daniels that I'd pilfered from a summit in San Diego County, and between the three of us it was just about enough to warm your belly and catch a slight buzz. But only a slight one.
Our return was via the same route we had taken, the only significant difference was a pause we had to make while a herd of perhaps a hundred cattle thundered across our path, spooked by our presence. The ground actually rumbled as we watched the ghostly figures dashing across the path in the inky darkness. It was 1a before we got back to the car and nearly 2a before we were back home in San Jose. Late as it was, it was actually just about spot on with our estimate beforehand, a marked improvement over the last few outings.
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