Swanson Bluff South
Swanson Bluff North P500

Sun, Mar 16, 2014

With: Marty Sexton

Etymology
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Swanson Bluff is located in San Benito County about seven miles southeast of Hollister alongside SR25. It is a strip of hills sandwiched between the San Benito River and Tres Pinos Creek, primarily used to graze cattle. There is a private estate located on the southeast flanks of the highpoint, making a visit during daylight hours somewhat risky. Marty and I used the opportunity of a full moon to pay it a visit on a Saturday night, finding it a most enjoyable outing. The southern summit is little more than a rounded hilltop, easily reached via a quiet ranch road starting from SR25 where we had parked starting around 8:15p. The more interesting part of the evening was the traverse between the two summits which follows along the undulating sandy bluff that is often preciptious off the west side. We made a mistake in initially trying to follow the ridgeline starting from the south summit. There is some tall brush found on the north side of Pt. 1,290ft and although the cattle have made useable paths through it, there is no small amount poison oak we came to find among the sagebrush that makes the direct route impractical. We backtracked around this brushy section before rejoining the bluff at a saddle and following the ridgeline all the way to the higher north summit. This ridgeline drops dramatically off the left to the San Benito River. An accidental slip would not be stopped for hundreds of feet and would likely result in a 911 call. We had to pay close attention to the route as we followed along the very edge in places, all the while a very beautiful moonlit view of the impressive white cliff-face of the north summit's South Face in front of us. A dog could be heard barking at the estate below us as we passed above the well-lit ranchhome, but it was not very enthusiastic about it and eventually quieted down.

We reached the highpoint around 10p where we had a fine view looking north to the lights of Hollister. The views in other directions were nice as well, the hills and valleys of the Gabilan Range to the west and south, the Diablo Range to the east. Marty had brought a hot thermos with venison sausages that we enjoyed in the still air while taking in the views. He'd brought buns and spicy mustard as well, making for perhaps the finest summit snacks I've ever enjoyed. After our fine dining experience, we packed up and returned along the same ridgeline, marveling over the hike along it a second time, before returning to the ranch road we had started up and taking it back to the car. We were back in San Jose shortly after midnight, making for a door-to-door outing of around five hours - our first and best moonlight hike of 2014. This one will be hard to beat.


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