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The hike is a pleasant one, initially along single track trails that traverse the steep, grassy slopes. Fog covered the valley floor in the early morning, making for a pleasant scene with the Santa Cruz Mtns forming a backdrop to the sea of clouds below. Directly below to the south is Alum Rock Park which can be used as an alternate TH, but it requires a fee and is a longer route. The trail passes by an overlook bench and across a neat little bridge before joining an old ranch road now serving as a trail. I found a gopher snake sunning itself in the middle of the trail here, only moving off when I gave it a few nudges. The route drops down to an historic ranch site, complete with barn, stable and a home, all boarded up for No Entry. Dropping further to Penitencia Creek, the Lower Calaveras Fault Trail joins a paved private road for a quarter mile before forking and climbing to a scenic overlook (and further to Haskins BM). My route turned left at the pavement, clearly signed for No Trespassing, crossing Penitencia Creek on a very cool wooden bridge before forking off on an abandoned ranch road that begins to climb Peak 2,071ft. This road and a few others I followed were badly overgrown with brush and poison oak in abundance. I had to jump over, thread through, and keep a very cautious eye out for the stuff that grew on both sides as well as in the middle of the road. I could have used a better road that had none of this, but it would have left me more exposed to discovery should someone drive by.
I eventually came out upon the open, grassy summit area where I found a small gravesite (or perhaps just a memorial) as well as three friendly horses grazing nearby. Upon my approach they came towards me, perhaps hoping I had a treat for them, disappointed when I shooed them away (they paid no heed to my shooing, actually following me a short distance). Just before I reached the highpoint a family of wild turkeys took off into the brush. I found a picnic table and a half dozen chairs under the shade of an oak tree that provides a lovely picnic site with a view. The summit is open to views all around, with higher summits in three directions - Poverty Ridge to the east, Haskins BM to the south and the Los Buellis Hills to the north. To the west stretches out the South Bay with San Jose at the heart.
I returned via the same route. Once back in the public preserve, there were more cyclists and hikers on the way back than I had seen earlier. It was warming up as I climbed the trails back up to Sierra Rd and the TH - this would not be a very fun hike in the heat of the summer, but it makes for a wonderful hike in the other seasons of the year.
This page last updated: Thu Jun 18 08:47:41 2015
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