Sugarloaf Peak P500
Schneider Hill

Sun, Mar 2, 2014
Etymology
Sugarloaf Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX

Sugarloaf Peak is one of several summits in Monterey County with this name, common throughout the state and indicative of the 1800's when sugar was sold to grocers in large, lumpy "loaves" that found their way to descriptive names. I was in Salinas with the family for another volleyball tournament and had several hours to burn in the early morning before the first game was to be played. Near the north end of town is a low Sugarloaf Peak, less than 1,000ft in height but featuring more than 500ft of prominence. The hike to reach the summit was less than a mile, but went up more than 700ft for a short, but worthwhile workout.

The entire peak is on private property, grazing cattlelands. Old Stage Rd runs along the base of the peak on the northwest side, but is very brushy for most of this length with the exception of the west end where it is open grass. Parking is restricted along much of the road's length, but not apparently at the west end. A set of farm buildings and greenhouses are located across the road and I was bothered by a couple of yapping dogs that came out to greet me, or rather attempt to frighten me away. Luckily they didn't arouse the attention of their owners somewhere inside the small complex on a Sunday morning. Fresh poison oak was evident along the fenceline that follows the road and some care was taken to avoid contact while going over the fence. Once on the other side it was leg-burning workout to hike straight up it without stopping. I was not eager to draw any more attention to myself than necessary and wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. I was visible from the road and farm for most of the ascent and it would have been hard to miss me on the open grass slopes if someone happened to glance up that way.

There was a small herd of cattle near the summit that took off at a slow trot when they collectively spotted me heading towards them. There were four young ones at the very top when I arrived a few minutes later, lazing about like a band of teenagers who no longer need the comfort of their parent nearby. The flattish summit offers a good view to nearby Fremont Peak, less than five miles ESE, as well as a view of Salinas and Monterey Bay to the west, though low clouds obscured the distance views. Among the scattered rocks and a few bushes at the summit, I found a small collection of spent votive candles lying about, undoubtedly as part of a tribute to a lost loved one. The ascent took about 15 minutes with the descent taking less than half that time.

I also paid a visit to another named summit, Schneider Hill. This one is located about 3.5 miles west of Sugarloaf Peak, just east of US101. It has almost no prominence but is home to the Queen of Heaven Cemetary, tucked away in semi-rural neighborhood. The chapel lies at the very summit framed by mausoleums on either side. Burial plots cover the grounds around the chapel and offer some very serene views for visitors. I spent more time here than on Sugarloaf, walking around the various gravesites about the hill, having the place to myself. I'm always struck by the graves of those who've died young, some as children, too many as teenagers and young adults. Their stories are not provided to help in understanding the causes - accident? illness? violence?, but simply knowing the early age at which they left this earth somehow makes our own lives feel that much more precious. For all I might complain about the pains of growing older, I have so much more to be ever thankful for...


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