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Junior BM is a P900 located about 10mi northeast of the town of Napa that can best be accessed from SR121. A good paved road, Longhorn Ridge Rd, runs nearly to the summit but it is private and signed for No Parking. There are several estate homes off this road, easily visible from the summit ridgeline. I chose to start off SR121 where it goes over a saddle directly across from another ranch home located on the west side of the highway. A gated dirt road heads east up towards Peak 1,529ft which would be a bonus summit on my way to the main goal. The one-way distance for the route is around 3mi. The temperature was about 45F when I started, a full moon high overhead with thin clouds over much of the sky. The area appears to be primarily used for ranching, a good thing in this case, as the cattle have kept much of the thick chapparal that might otherwise cover these hills at bay.
I followed the dirt road up the slopes heading east, leaving it where it turns to the north to climb a steep, grassy slope before picking up another road higher up. This second road leads to a saddle just southwest of Peak 1,529ft. Another short climb up grassy slopes leads to the summit, crowned by a large oak. Having climbed some 400ft to reach the bonus peak, I then had to drop that same amount to reach a meadow at another saddle with the main summit. Up until this point, roughly half way, I had been confident that the route would be easy. At the summit ridge I would be able to pick up more ranch roads for easy travel, but the 800-foot climb to reach it from the saddle was an unknown. The satellite view shows oak forest, but the understory was uncertain. I was happy to find that the cows have grazed these slopes to keep them mostly brush-free. The biggest concern I had while climbing it was the possibility of running into poison oak in the dark. In a few places where I suspected the stuff, I turned on my headlamp for better vision - there was indeed some poison oak, but it did not appear to be widespread and I think I was able to avoid it (keeping my fingers crossed as I write this the next day). Somewhere on the slope I had to cross a barbed-wire fence (one of several on the evening), but it was poorly maintained and it was easy to crawl under it.
Once at the summit ridge I immediately found the road running towards the summit along the ridgeline. The lights from the nearest home close to Junior BM is visible for much of the remaining distance (in fact the lights are easily visible from Peak 1,529ft and much of the descent to the meadow). I kept an eye on them but wasn't much worried. A sturdy fence separated the paved road and the properties to the west from the ranch road I hiked on the east side of the fence. I passed by several ponds enroute, noisy with the croaking of dozens of frogs which quieted upon my approach. One of thesel I paused at on the return to take an extended exposure photo. It was very peaceful sitting there, even if a bit chilly. Further on towards the summit I came across feral hogs in several locations. One was so large I mistook it for a calf before it got spooked and ran off snorting. A small herd of cattle were found on the west side of the fence. They seemed quite friendly and not afraid in the least. As I stood there futzing with my GPS they walked up to the fenceline to get a better look. I think they were hoping for a handout. About 1.5hrs after setting out I found my way to the summit of Junior BM. My route was a little circuitous, taking me around a pond and to another, lower summit to the north before I realized my error (that's what I get for not consulting the GPS sooner). The grassy top has views to the east and south. Fog filled the lower valleys in all directions, blocking any city lights that might have been visible. To the east could be seen the long north-south crest of the Vaca Mountains, a few bright lights visible atop them. My return route was much the same, taking about 20min less. I found the evening delightful - good visibility, no bushwhacking, no troubles and fine hiking weather. I drove down to Napa Valley and parked off a side road a few miles from Calistoga. Bedding down sometime before 1a, I would get only about 6hrs sleep before the noise of cars and trucks would have me up and starting the new day...
This page last updated: Fri Feb 6 12:46:41 2015
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