Pigeon Point
Peak 1,780ft P500

Thu, May 3, 2012

With: Steve Sywyk
Bruce Ramstad

Etymology
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The more famous Pigeon Point is on the California Coast in San Mateo County, the site of the wreck of the clipper ship Carrier Pigeon in 1853. It's not much of a peakbagging point of interest, however. The Pigeon Point we visited is in Santa Clara County in the foothills of the Diablo Range, just northeast of Gilroy. The nearby unnamed summit of Peak 1,780ft is higher and has 680ft of prominence, making it worth visiting while in the area. There are shorter routes to reach the summit than the one we chose, but they involve parking near, or passing near to occupied homes. The route we used has no such issues, passing through a portion of Henry Coe State Park, and partially on private property. The roundtrip distance was just over 8 miles with about 900ft of gain, making for a leisurely outing.

Starting around 8:45p, we parked just off Canada Rd, about 45 minutes' drive from San Jose. Before leaving San Jose we had stopped at the local Starbucks for drinks. Steve had ordered a floral tea with 'a splash of lemon', and I had to joke, "Do you remember when we used to buy a couple of six packs and drive to Tahoe, running things over on the way? Look what we've become 25 years later..." A gate found where we parked indicates the property is part of the State Park, but not open to public use until 'made safe'. The dirt road goes past an old barn before starting up a shallow ravine towards higher ground. The entire area is oak-studded grasslands with very little chaparral found anywhere. After about 30 minutes one gains the broad, indistinct crest of the hill where the lights of Gilroy and Morgan Hill become visible. The forecast had been for overcast skies and 20% chance of rain, but the weather had cooperated quite nicely, opening up the sky to a nearly full moon with thin clouds on either side. Temperatures were in the low 50s, making for a comfortable hike.

We crossed a number of property boundaries along the way. The dirt road depicted on the topo map was not the continuous stretch of road we expected, much of it no longer discernable as a road. We walked through tall sections of grass for about a third of the distance. Luckily the grass had not yet ripened, keeping the thistles in our socks to a minimum. There were perhaps a dozen toads that we came across on the hike, hopping out of our way sometimes less than a foot from certain injury. Stepping in the occasional soft cow pie, it initially felt like stepping on an unfortunate toad. Though we weren't certain, we didn't think we killed any of them on our ramble. We disturbed two white cows with very young calves along the way. One looked to be maybe a week old at most. They took off as we approached and didn't appear again for the return. We took about an hour and a half to reach the unmarked and unremarkable summit of Pigeon Point. The views were nice however, with the city lights reflecting off the thinly layered clouds and the moon lighting them from above. To the east, about a half mile away, was the silhouette of the higher Peak 1,780ft. We spent probably 20 minutes at the summit, taking various long-exposure photographs of our surroundings.

After returning to a fork a quarter mile from Pigeon Point, we took another road that led near Peak 1,780ft, the finally 100ft or so an easy cross-country climb up the grassy hillside. The views were poorer from this summit, partially blocked by trees, but we found an interesting hole that had been drilled quite deep at the very summit. A dirt clod dropped down it reverberated for more than ten seconds as it bounced off the sides repeatedly on its descent. We couldn't guess why the hole had been drilled, but thought it odd to have simply been left as it was, perhaps 30-40ft in depth.

We took another hour and half to return via the same route. About halfway back we found ourselves in a thin layer of fog. It was chillier here and I dug out my fleece to stay warm. In the short time that the fog had come over the hill it had brought moisture to the grass and our boots and pants legs would be nearly soaked in the mile we hiked without benefit of the road. It was 12:15a before we got back to the car. We could see lights to the south coming up the road in the fog, so we hurriedly tossed our packs in the trunk and got started in the car before the other vehicle had reached us. It seemed odd that someone would be out on this isolated road at this time of night, but then the other driver was probably thinking the same thing as we passed in the night...


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