Mailbox 19

Thu, Jun 15, 2017
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I'd returned to an empty home after a 6-day roadtrip to Nevada. My wife was in Florida reffing volleyball and my daughter had gone on a Senior trip to Oregon with her friends. In very short order, I had my gear put away, the van washed, vacuumed, added some fluids, got the front-end aligned, showered, dined, grocery shopped, uploaded the remaining photos and other files from the Nevada trip, done some yardwork and slept for eight hours. Less than 20hrs after returning home, I was bored. I had plenty of TRs to write but I really wanted to go hike something to get a fix while the family was away. I drove to Pleasanton to hike an unnamed summit in the hills south of town that I've had my eye on for some time. It is located on private ranch lands, a set of rolling, grassy hills with oaks shading the ravines and canyons. Cattle wandering the hills have shaped them and left their mark (and considerable poo) everywhere. Squirrels, lizards, snakes and birds share the landscape with them, but the cattle rule supreme. There are better times to visit this area, notably in the spring when the hills are a lovely green, the grasses young and bendy. After a long rainy season this year, the grasses have all turned brown after growing quite tall and producing a bumper crop of thistles and stickers. Long pants and gaiters helped quell the onslaught of stuff I would pick up, but I still spent 15min when I returned pulling the stickers out of my boots and other items.

The peak had been previously climbed by a quartet of the usual Bay Area suspects and my route was another variation starting from the Callippe Preserve Golf Course. I'm not sure what they are "preserving" here, other than some acreage for Trump-sized golfers to ply their hobby (I know, not all golfers are obese, but for some reason most of the ones I saw on the course today seemed to be. Maybe the fit golfers come out on the weekends?) There is a hiker & equestrian trail around the periphery of the course that seems to have been reluctantly allowed, with access to it not obvious. The upscale homes around the area are unhappy with the golf traffic (I've never seen so many signs, speed bumps and other traffic calming items on one stretch of road) and have restricted parking. I parked at the golf course but had to wander around a bit to find the trail unmarked or signed in any way until you actually stumble upon it after following the golf cart path down from the clubhouse. The trail passes behind a couple of very tall fences at the edge of the driving range. One can find hundreds upon hundreds of errant golfballs in the grasses on both sides of the fence.

I used the trail for less than a hundred yards, eventually leaving it when it turns north around the edge of the tall fence. There is a barbed-wired fence to be crossed here. If one looks carefully, there is a gate with a lever-action latch that can be used to pass through without doing it the hard way. I continued east up a shady ravine, a cool respite from the afternoon heat that was in the mid-80s. The ravine also offers cover from view from both the golf properties and the ranch properties that lie on the hill above and south of the golf course. The route goes generally east up the ravine to a saddle before dropping down into an intervening valley running north-south through the hills. A final climb up the ridge is then followed by a modest half-mile hike along the summit ridgeline. Nicely, there are no ranch roads to be seen anywere in the vicinity of the route. Various cow trails can be used for easier walking. I met several herds during the hike. One mooed displeasure, another mostly ignored me, a small group of three on my way back followed me a short distance, perhaps hoping for salty snacks or other goodies.

Near the summit is found the old, rusty and mysterious "Mailbox 19" as reported by Andrew Kirmse on PB. The mailbox is located just below the highpoint on the north side. I noted at least 4 other mailboxes at various points south and west of this one - apparently the rancher got a great deal on mailboxes and put them to use with a quirky sense of humor you can't help but appreciate. I visited one of the other ones, finding it labeled "18". Not sure if there are 19 total mailboxes, but it's a pretty good guess. Much of the summit is consumed by a thicket of very tall thistle, almost like a scene from Day of the Triffids. Looking over them, one spots Monument Peak overlooking Fremont to the southwest, Sunol Peak to the west, Mt. Diablo to the north, Brushy Peak to the northeast, and Mt. Rose to the south. Between Mailbox 19 and these peaks are the communities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Sunol and Dublin. On my return I paid a visit to nearby Vern BM, a third of a mile to the northwest and 25ft lower. I was surprised to find the benchmark was not buried in the grass as I expected, taking a photo before starting back down. There is a better view here looking north than found on Mailbox 19. I managed to get back to the golf course without arousing anyone's ire for misusing the trail to trespass. The outing took about 2hr and covered some 4.5mi at a fairly leisurely pace. Now for some refreshment...


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Anonymous comments on 06/15/17:
The mailboxes are no longer in use but were placed there by the Vallecitos Atomic Facility. They would place some sort of testing device to moniter the air for radiation back in the day. You also see the mailboxes when driving out Hwy 84 toward Livermore. This was told to me by a county building inspector when doing some work on Little Valley Road between your hike and the Valecitos plant.
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