Maderia Hill
Main Ridge

Fri, Jul 1, 2016
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profile

This wasn't supposed to be a hiking day. I was on my way to my cousin's house where eight of us were converging for a 5-day bike ride from Monterey to Santa Barbara, but couldn't resist the opportunity to tag a few summits in Alameda County while I was on my way. It was hot and oppressive July weather and not really the best time to be out hiking in the area, at least in the warmest part of the afternoon, but what can you do? Take what you can get.

Maderia Hill

This exceedingly minor summit is found in the heart of Castro Valley near the interchange of Interstates 238 and 580. Every square inch has been paved over and developed as the Mesa Verde Homeowners Association, a gated community not open to the public. And yet, Laura Newman had somehow found her way to the top as reported on ListsofJohn. Could I manage a second ascent? Yes, as it turns out. I parked at the south end of Gary Drive and scaled the wall to the right of the electric gate. Someone drove in while I was doing so (I could have just waltzed in if I'd waited 30 seconds), but didn't bother to stop to see what I was up to. Perhaps they were afraid. Perhaps, very afraid. As I walked up Gary Drive I wondered if a private security car was going to be alerted to my presence, but nothing came of it, much like the "summit". I wandered about the highest area which was too large to find a precise location, not wanting to draw too much attention to the lost-looking individual walking about with no obvious purpose. Really, a complete waste of one's valuable time. Fortunately for me, I have lots of time to waste and don't consider much of it valuable...

Main Ridge

This is the highest point in the northern part of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, SW of the 580/680 interchange. One can legally hike to the top from within the park, but it is a long, 14-15mi roundtrip effort that I really didn't want to entertain this afternoon. Instead, I thought I might be able to use some ranch roads from the north to reach the park and Main Ridge. My first effort was to drive to the south end of Blessing Drive in a newish neighborhood where I found a gate and No Trespassing signs as expected, leading into the adjacent ranch. The road did not look little-used as I'd hoped and I could see a gazebo up on the hill to the west and a maintained building to the southeast. This was more a nighttime effort, I thought, and drove off with the intention of giving up. On my drive down the hill, I discovered The Preserve Staging Area off Laurel Creek Drive and thought maybe this would work. It did.

The Preserve Area is a natural (non-developed) park managed by the city of Pleasanton. It may or may not abut East Bay Regional Park District lands. The reason for the uncertainty is that the agency has property in a landbank not yet open to the public immediately northeast of the Pleasant Ridge park boundary, and they don't really advertise this as a way to discourage trespassing. I followed a high trail above dry Gold Creek on the north side, heading west. This took me very close to end of Blessing Drive where I had first tried to start. Before reaching a point where I might have noticed it, the trail makes a U-turn and drops down to Gold Creek. Here I found a use trail climbing up a steep slope to the west under oak forest that eventually intersected a ranch road heading southwest towards my goal. This road may or may not be private property, but one branch certainly leads down to the area I wanted to avoid. Instead I followed the higher branch upwards, found a dead end, and returned to use yet another branch that headed south. The maintained part of this branch soon ended at an unsigned property boundary that probably marks the edge of the landbank. The continuing road hadn't been driven on in years, overgrown and beset by some downfall, but still easily navigated on foot. A couple of old watering troughs along the way told of prior use for ranching. I followed the road, deteriorating to an overgrown use trail with no small amount of poison oak to avoid as I continued up. I climbed out of the Gold Creek drainage, eventually popping out on a good road on a subsidiary ridge within the landbank. This shortly led to Main Ridge and the public access part of the park. It was no great surprise that I saw no one at this remote part of the park on a very warm afternoon (about 90F). I found the highpoint about a quarter mile inside the park boundary, at the top of the North Ridge Trail. The trail continues north, but a sign indicates it ends at the park boundary in another half mile (this was in fact the trail I had planned to take initially, a much shorter and more straightforward route if it weren't for the pesky private property). I (very) briefly considered going back down the originally planned route but thought better of it. It was good that I did, because otherwise I might have missed the bobcat that wandered across the road and a gopher snake I found slithering through the grass. In all I spent about 2hrs on the 5.5mi effort. Time to hang up the boots and climb on the bike...


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