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Palo Escrito Peak is the highpoint of the Sierra de Salinas Range, a relatively small range nestled between Carmel Valley to the west and the Salinas Valley to the east. Views to Ventana and the Santa Lucia Range can be had to the west, the Salinas Valley and the Diablo Range to the east. Most of the land in this range is private, including access points to the peak and the land surrounding it. Evan Rasmussen had described access problems trying to reach the peak from Carmel Valley, whereas others reported success from the east via Sanchez Rd. I chose to approach from Sanchez Rd, leaving San Jose around 5a.
I arrived at the end of the road around 6:30a. The weather was cool with a fog layer over the Salinas Valley, but even after it had burned off the weather remained delightful. I took just a water bottle and camera with me on the hike. There is a large gate at the end of the road to the left that was open. I hiked through here, up the road about a mile with orchards on either side, and past a new home under construction. After passing the home (and seeing no one) I felt better and began to relax about being spotted and asked to leave. The road follows up a canyon that was surprisingly lush. There seems to be a spring at the head of the canyon somewhere, possibly several, that keep the canyon green and shady. About a half mile past the home I encountered the only locked gate. I climbed over and continued up the road, soon working my way out from under the fog layer to blue skies above. As the road turns to climb out of the canyon, views to the Salinas Valley and the Diablo Range begin to open up. The lush canyon vegetation gives way to the more familiar open ground of oak trees and brown grasses. At the ridgecrest I turned left, continuing up for a short ways, then down another short distance to a fork where a cattle enclosure is found. I turned left (south) here and followed the road for the last mile to the summit of Palo Escrito, just over two hours total.
The summit is a small rounded knoll with a modest antenna on it (not the larger microwave relay tower that is first encountered). It is enclosed with a small, dilapidated fence intended mostly to keep the cattle out (there were two cattle grazing at the summit when I arrived, the only ones I saw the whole outing). On the west side of the enclosure is the small rocky highpoint, with a glass jar holding the register found inside. There were about ten parties since the register was placed in 2000. Mike Larkin in 2007 was the last visitor to sign it before I arrived.
There was a fire blazing in the Ventana Wilderness to the southwest, in the vicinity of Black Cone and South Ventana Cone. I was surprised to see Double Ventana Cone and other peaks in the area looking so close to the west. Mt. Toro, which I had attempted to climb a few months prior, could be seen hazily in the distance to the north, a lower peak in the same range. To the east the fog was beginning to dissipate in the Salinas Valley. Mt. Johnson, another prominence peak on the other side of the valley was visible, but exactly where on the mostly flat-looking crestline I couldn't tell.
I jogged most of the route on the descent, taking just over an hour to return to the car, less than 3.5hrs for the total outing, getting me home to San Jose before noon. Turned out to be easier than I expected, not something I'll be complaining about anytime soon. Overall, a very nice outing.
This page last updated: Mon Jun 23 17:31:54 2008
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